Harvard College social clubs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Harvard College has several types of social clubs. These are split between gender-inclusive clubs recognized by the college, and unrecognized single-gender clubs which are subject to College sanctions. The oldest, dating to 1791, are the traditionally all-male final clubs. Fraternities were prominent in the late 19th century as well, until their initial expulsions and then eventual resurrection off Harvard's campus in the 1990s. From 1991 onwards, all-female final clubs as well as sororities began to appear. Between 1984 and 2018, no social organizations were recognized by the school due to the clubs' refusal to become gender-inclusive.

Beginning with the Spee Club in 2015, a number of formerly single-gender organizations began to admit new members regardless of gender.[1] In 2016, Harvard announced sanctions on members of remaining single-gender clubs, aiming to push them to become coed.[2] Eventually, on September 8, 2018, Harvard announced that it would recognize an initial list of fifteen social organizations that either already were gender-inclusive or had committed to becoming gender-inclusive.[3] Eleven clubs remain single-gender, and remain unrecognized by the college.


The historical basis for the name "final clubs" dates to the late 19th century, a time when Harvard had a variety of clubs for students of each class year.[4] During that period, Harvard College freshmen could join a freshman club, then a "waiting club," and eventually, as they neared completion of their studies, a "final club."[citation needed] Hence, students of different years joined different clubs, and the "final clubs" were so named because they were the last social club a person could join before graduation.[citation needed] Harvard's final clubs for women date to 1991 with the founding of the Bee Club.[5][6]

Many of the clubs were founded in the 19th century, after Harvard banned traditional fraternities in the 1850s.[citation needed] Of the final clubs still in existence (see below), only the Fox was initially founded as a final club. The Phoenix SK is the amalgam of three separate clubs: the Phoenix, the Sphinx, and the Kalumet.[7]

The Clubs[edit]


The Harvard men's final clubs trace their roots to the late 18th century, while the five formerly all-female social clubs were founded more recently.[citation needed] Another women's organization, the Seneca, distinguishes itself as a "501(c)(3) nonprofit women's organization that is often misidentified as a final club."[25][26][27] Several other clubs are also 501(c)(3) organizations and engage in some community service. The Bee was founded in 1991,[citation needed] IC in 2000,[citation needed] Pleiades in 2002,[18][19] Sab in 2002,[citation needed] and La Vie in 2008.[28] (The co-ed Signet Society, The Harvard Crimson, The Harvard Advocate, Hasty Pudding Theatricals, and The Harvard Lampoon also have selective membership, but their charters define them as something other than social organizations, based on their literary or artistic characteristics.[citation needed])

Nine of the historically all-male clubs own real estate in Harvard Square, with the clubhouses usually including dining areas, libraries, and game rooms.[citation needed] Most are staffed with chefs, stewards, and other paid personnel, and serve lunch and dinner meals at regular schedules.[citation needed] The Delphic house boasts a regulation-size squash court.[29]

The Fly Club owns additional property at 45 Dunster Street, in a building that is currently home to the Hasty Pudding Club. The building was originally home to the D.U. Club (the "Duck") before its merger with the Fly Club in 1996,[30] and it hosted the Bee Club until its subsequent merging with the Delphic Club.[31] The Delphic has since dissolved its relationship with the Bee. The D.U. Club closed, in 1995, after an assault of a football recruit occurred at its clubhouse.[32] The D.U. Club's graduate membership merged with the Fly in 1996. In a controversial move, the Fly did not allow former D.U. undergraduate members to integrate,[33] and subsequently the undergraduate D.U. membership formed The Oak Club.[34] La Vie Club rents a colonial style house on Garden Street.[citation needed] [35][citation needed]


In the fall of 2015, Harvard President Drew Faust criticized the clubs for—as stated by C. Ramsey Fahs of The Harvard Crimson—their "gender exclusivity and the potential for alcohol abuse and sexual assault on the off-campus properties."[36] The Spee Club began admitting women in later 2015,[37] and the Fox Club followed suit but was then temporarily shut down as graduate board members sought to re-evaluate what it meant to be a "member of the Fox".[This quote needs a citation]

As part of an effort to marginalize organizations that "contribute to a social life and a student culture that for many on our campus is disempowering and exclusionary", a new policy provides[38] that students entering in the fall of 2017 or later who join unrecognized single-sex organizations (such as single-sex final clubs, fraternities, and sororities) will be barred from campus leadership positions such as team captaincies, and from receiving recommendation letters from Harvard requisite for scholarships and fellowships.[39] At least one club has protested that the new rule infringes students' right of free association,[39] and enforcement may be stymied by the difficulty of establishing who the members of each club are.[40] In 2016, the President and Vice President of the Undergraduate Council, Shaiba Rather and Daniel Banks spoke before the elected Faculty Council and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University to support the effort to curb gender-discrimination amongst student organizations. Their statement was the first official opinion of any elected members of the student body on the matter.[41] As administrative officials endeavored to implement and rewrite the sanctions, Rather and Banks were drafted as hardliners against any gender discrimination between Final Clubs and the Harvard student body.[42][43] However, in November 2016, a slight majority of undergraduate student voters on a referendum question were in favor of repealing the sanctions (59.8%), while 30.3% were against repealing the sanctions and 9.8% abstained from voting. The vote had no immediate effect on the policy.[44] In December 2017, the university's highest governing body, the Harvard Corporation, voted to approve the sanctions and confirm their permanence. Currently, members of the class of 2021 and beyond who are members of unrecognized (single-gender) social organizations are barred from "holding leadership positions in recognized student organizations, becoming varsity captains, or receiving College endorsement for prestigious fellowships," according to The Harvard Crimson.[2] The university has faced questions about how it will enforce its sanctions policy, and the enforcement mechanism remains somewhat unclear. As the class of 2021 had its first opportunity to join single-gender organizations in fall of 2018 (and as members of that class will begin to seek on-campus leadership positions as juniors in 2019), it is expected that Harvard will face its first real test in enforcing the sanctions in 2019.[45]

In response to the policy, the all-female Sablière and Seneca[25] societies instituted gender-neutral recruitment policies in 2016. The all-male Oak Club followed suit in January 2017 after reaching a "club-wide consensus".[46] Former sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma announced it would form a new gender-inclusive group called the Fleur-de-Lis (FDL) beginning in February 2018.[47] In September 2018, Harvard released a public list of organizations it would recognize, certifying their gender-inclusive status or their commitment to achieving gender-inclusive status. In addition to the Sab, Oak, Seneca, and FDL, this initial list included the Spee Club, the Fox Club, the Delphic Club and Bee Club Merged Group (The Delphic has since dissolved its relationship with the Bee Club), the Aleph (formerly Alpha Epsilon Pi), the La Vie Club, The IC Club, the K.S. (formerly Kappa Sigma, the Ivy (formerly Alpha Phi, the Pleaides Society, the Kali Praxi (formerly Delta Gamma), and the TA (formerly Kappa Alpha Theta).

In June 2020, following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination against LGBTQ workers, Harvard Corporation voted to rescind its approval of the sanctions.[48]

Proposed elimination from campus life[edit]

In July 2017, a Harvard committee pointed to Bowdoin College as a model for eradicating final clubs, sororities, and fraternities from campus social life. This preliminary recommendation would have taken effect with the incoming class of 2021, so all currently enrolled students would be exempt. The transition period would have extended into May 2022 before all such organizations and social clubs would be abolished.[49][50]
After the committee released its 22-page report, The Harvard Crimson reported that the committee, co-chaired by Danoff Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, had not been transparent in its deliberations or conclusions. Members of the committee, speaking anonymously, described "a process ... marked by confusion, disagreement, and opacity, resulting in a report that did not necessarily capture the full committee's views."[51] Moreover, according to The Crimson, the report misrepresented the conclusions of the committee:

According to documents reviewed by The Crimson, the decision to outlaw membership in social groups at Harvard—some over two centuries old—received only seven votes from the 27-person committee.

By contrast, two other options—one suggesting a new committee to oversee the social groups, another proposing a ban of all organizations that discriminate on the basis of sex, race, or socioeconomic status—gained 12 and 11 votes, respectively. Not every member of the committee was present at the vote.

The committee never conducted another vote after May 12. At the body's last meeting 14 days later, the decision to ban membership in the groups had become a fait accompli: Committee members spent most of the meeting debating the finer points of the proposed social group prohibition, according to two members of the committee. No student members were in attendance.[52]


Harvard severed ties with final clubs in 1984 because of their refusal to admit women.[39]

During the 2006 Senate hearings on the nomination of Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court, Senator Ted Kennedy was among those highlighting Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which had opposed admission of women into Princeton; when Kennedy's membership in the Owl Club was pointed out, Kennedy resigned from the club.[53]

That same year, Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick's membership in the Fly Club was criticized as contradictory to his image as a champion of civil rights; Patrick responded that he had left the club in the early 1980s for that reason.[54][Subscription required]


In December 2018, separate suits were filed in federal and Massachusetts courts by national fraternities and sororities which alleged that Harvard's policies against single-sex clubs were discriminatory.[55] The lawsuits filed by the organizations were settled on undisclosed terms on August 21, 2020 in the United States District Court for the District of Massachussetts.[56][57]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Spee Club Elects First Class of Men and Women | News | the Harvard Crimson".
  2. ^ a b "Harvard's Sanctions, Explained (Again) | News | the Harvard Crimson".
  3. ^ "Fox, Delphic-Bee Clubs Among 15 Social Groups to Promise Co-Ed Status, Escaping Sanctions | News | the Harvard Crimson".
  4. ^ "FACTS ON FINAL CLUBS - News - The Harvard Crimson".
  5. ^ Felton, Lena K. & Wharton, Molly E. (October 10, 2013). "Female Final Clubs: A Retrospection" (online article). The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved May 11, 2016.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ Francis, A.M. (2015). Secret Societies Vol. 3: The Collegiate Secret Societies of America. LULU Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-312-93285-2. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  7. ^ Jessica Tisch (November 29, 2001). "History final: The story and lore of Harvard's unique social organizations". The Harvard Independent. Archived from the original on June 22, 2007.
  8. ^ Mcauley, James K. (October 5, 2010). "The Men's Final Clubs". The Harvard Crimson. Archived from the original (online blog) on December 27, 2014. Retrieved May 11, 2016.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ Thorne, Gabriela (July 16, 2015). "#tbt to Going Greek" (online blog). The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved May 11, 2016.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Kappa Sigma Returns to Harvard - Kappa Sigma Fraternity". February 12, 2014.
  11. ^ "Sigma Alpha Epsilon — Mass Gamma".
  12. ^ "Rush Hour: Greek Groups Get Popular". The Harvard Crimson.
  13. ^ a b "Delphic and Bee Clubs' Three-Year Marriage Ends". The Harvard Crimson.
  14. ^ Eta Sigma Chi http://www.harvardsigmachi.com/=Kappa Eta Sigma Chi. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ "Bee Club Buzzes into Former Café Pamplona Location | News | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
  16. ^ a b "Harvard Is Without All-Female Social Groups After Last Three Holdouts Agree to Go Co-Ed | News | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
  17. ^ "Final Clubs Cancel Punch". The Harvard Crimson. October 14, 2020.
  18. ^ a b "Female Final Clubs: A Retrospection | Fifteen Minutes". The Harvard Crimson. October 10, 2013.
  19. ^ a b "The sisters are doin' it for themselves| Fifteen Minutes". The Harvard Crimson. October 17, 2002.
  20. ^ "Recognized Social Organizations at Harvard College".
  21. ^ "Ex-Members of Shuttered Sorority Delta Gamma Launch Co-Ed Club 'Kali Praxi'". The Harvard Crimson.
  22. ^ "Home".
  23. ^ "Alpha Phi Returns to Campus, Joins Lawsuit Opposing Sanctions". The Harvard Crimson.
  24. ^ "About Us".
  25. ^ a b "Seneca To Go Gender Neutral, But Membership Could Stay All-Women | News | The Harvard Crimson". www.thecrimson.com. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  26. ^ "The Seneca | Women's Empowerment | Harvard". theseneca. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  27. ^ "What is the Seneca, Anyway? | Flyby | the Harvard Crimson".
  28. ^ The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts Staff (2008). "La Vie Club Incorporated Summary Screen". Boston, MA: The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, William Francis Galvin, Secretary Of The Commonwealth, Corporations Division. Archived from the original (government database entry) on June 4, 2016. Retrieved May 11, 2016.[better source needed]
  29. ^ Beam, Alex (May 20, 2009). "Harvard's Vanishing Squash Courts". Vanity Fair.
  30. ^ Granade, Matthew (February 12, 1996). "D.U., Fly Clubs Agree to Merge". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved March 19, 2022.
  31. ^ "Hasty Pudding Institute Moves into Former Bee Clubhouse | News | the Harvard Crimson".
  32. ^ Jonathan A. Lewin (March 18, 1995). "Final Club Closed After Recruit Is Beaten In Fight". The Harvard Crimson.
  33. ^ Granade, Matthew W. (February 12, 1996). "D.U., Fly Clubs Agree to Merge" (online article). The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved May 11, 2016.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  34. ^ "History". The Oak Club. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  35. ^ CHC Staff (2009). "City of Cambridge, Landmarks and Other Protected Properties" (PDF). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge Historical Commission. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 6, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  36. ^ Fahs, C. Ramsey (January 29, 2016). "Divided Fox Club Opens With New Policies" (online article). The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved May 11, 2016.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  37. ^ Delwiche, Noah J. (September 11, 2015). "In Historic Move, Spee Club Invites Women To Punch: As final clubs face pressure, one male club moves to go co-ed" (online article). The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved May 11, 2016.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  38. ^ Khurana, Rakesh (May 6, 2016). "Untitled letter addressed "Dear President Faust" [Opening "I write today to convey the College's recommendations for addressing the problems created for our community by the discriminatory membership policies of undergraduate unrecognized single-gender social organizations, including Final Clubs".]" (PDF, letter on stationery, from college.harvard.edu). pp. 1–4, esp. 1. Retrieved May 11, 2016. [Quoting, end of paragraph 2, p. 1:] At a time when Harvard is preparing citizens and citizen-leaders to bring people together and embrace an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, these organizations contribute to a social life and a student culture that for many on our campus is disempowering and exclusionary.
  39. ^ a b c Saul, Stephanie (May 7, 2016). "Harvard Restrictions Could Reshape Exclusive Student Clubs". The New York Times. Note: Date of print appearance may have been May 6, 2016.
  40. ^ Fahs, C. Ramsey (May 6, 2016). "A Guide to Harvard's Relationship with Final Clubs: The Crimson gives a quick primer on the final clubs, institutions unique to Harvard, and the administration's actions toward them over this tumultuous year" (online article). The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved May 11, 2016.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  41. ^ "UC Leaders Support Social Organization Sanctions at Faculty Meeting - News - The Harvard Crimson".
  42. ^ http://osl.fas.harvard.edu/files/osl/files/implementationcommitteefinalreport.pdf[bare URL PDF]
  43. ^ "Harvard Faculty Debate Final Club Sanctions". November 2, 2016.
  44. ^ "Majority of Student Voters Oppose College Sanctions in UC Ballot - News - The Harvard Crimson".
  45. ^ "Stand up for the Sanctions, Harvard | Opinion | the Harvard Crimson".
  46. ^ Xiao, Derek G. (January 25, 2017). "All-Male Oak Club to Accept Women". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  47. ^ "Kappa Kappa Gamma Now Gender-Neutral Club 'The Fleur-de-Lis' | News | the Harvard Crimson".
  48. ^ "Harvard Drops Social Group Sanctions Following Supreme Court Sex Discrimination Decision | Opinion | the Harvard Crimson".
  49. ^ Krantz, Laura (July 31, 2017). "Harvard looks to Bowdoin as model in eradicating frats, but its decision had mixed results". The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  50. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella; Kaufman, Ellie (July 14, 2017). "Harvard mulls phasing out frats, sororities, final clubs". CNN. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  51. ^ Hannah Natanson & Derek G. Xiao."Seven Votes: How a Harvard Committee Came to Recommend a Social Group Ban". The Harvard Crimson. July 22, 2017.
  52. ^ Natanson, Hannah; Xiao, Derek G. (July 22, 2017). "Seven Votes How a Harvard Committee Came to Recommend a Social Group Ban". The Crimson. Retrieved August 21, 2018.
  53. ^ Hemel, Daniel J. (January 18, 2006). "Kennedy Severs Final Club Ties". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  54. ^ Phillips, Frank (August 3, 2006). "Patrick says he quit The Fly Club in 1983: Nine exclusive clubs at Harvard limit membership to men. A gubernatorial candidate's link to one renews debate on elitism". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original (online article) on August 3, 2006. Retrieved May 11, 2016.(subscription required)
  55. ^ https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/harvard-sued-fraternities-sororities-over-single-sex-rule-n942961
  56. ^ "Lawsuit Update". Stand Up To Harvard. November 5, 2020. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
  57. ^ “Harvard Notice of Settlement and Request to Hold Pending Dispositive Motions in Abeyance 08-21-20.” Stand Up to Harvard, Stand Up to Harvard, 5 Nov. 2020, https://www.standuptoharvard.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Harvard-Notice-of-Settlement-and-Request-to-Hold-Pending-Dispositive-Motions-in-Abeyance-08-21-20.pdf.
  58. ^ Wang, Amy X. "Harvard is dealing a huge blow to its secretive, male-only student clubs".
  59. ^ "Making a Movie? The Final Clubs Welcome You. - Flyby - The Harvard Crimson".

Further reading[edit]