One of Harvard's exclusive "final clubs," traditionally the territory of men only, is pushing back this week against the school's attempts to make clubs co-ed by explaining that women would be at greater risk of being sexually assaulted if they were allowed to join.
“Given our policies, we are mystified as to why the current administration feels that forcing our club to accept female members would reduce the incidence of sexual assault on campus,” wrote Charles M. Storey, president of the Porcellian Club, in a statement to the Harvard Crimson. “Forcing single gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease the potential for sexual misconduct.”
Storey's statement comes in response to a report released last month by the school criticizing the culture of the clubs as misogynistic. Club leaders will meet with Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana and other officials today. The report found that women on campus who had attended events or had been involved with the clubs were more likely to have experienced sexual assault than the wider female student body, The Crimson wrote:
47%. This is the percentage of female College seniors “participating in the Final Clubs”—including women who attend male final club events and seniors who are members of female final clubs—who reported “experiencing nonconsensual sexual contact since entering college,” representing the highest figure among any student groups included in data from a University-wide sexual climate survey conducted last spring.
The Porcellian is Harvard's oldest club, founded in 1791. This is the first time in its history that a representative of the club has spoken out on the public record, Storey told The Crimson. Whether the school can force the club to change its admissions and–perhaps as importantly, the problems the administration sees with the club culture–is uncertain.
Storey, while saying that the club hasn't ruled out going co-ed, also pointedly said: “As a club that is completely independent of Harvard, which accepts no funding from Harvard, which owns its own property, and believes fervently in the right to self-determination, that decision is ours, not Harvard’s, to make."