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All-male club succumbs to Harvard threats, pledges to go coed

Can be shut down if graduate board has too much influence

Two years after it voted to admit several women to its all-male club in response to Harvard University threats, the Fox Club kicked out its “provisional” female members, daring Harvard to punish the members of the unrecognized social group.

Now a year later, the Fox Club has slunk back to its burrow with its tail between its legs.

The Harvard Crimson reports that the club is going coed (again), the only surprise on the list of 15 “Recognized Social Organizations” that was posted on the dean of students’ page Friday.

The RSOs have been vetted by the college as “primarily social” groups that “do not discriminate on the basis of gender.”

Most of the others, including every women-only club at Harvard, had already pledged to go gender-neutral following the university’s final policy that discriminates against students who are members of single-sex groups. According to the Crimson, three clubs including the Fox were formerly male-only social groups and two were fraternities.

Clubs did not want their members to be barred from campus leadership positions and athletic captaincies, or ineligible for recommendations for prestigious fellowships, because of the clubs’ single-sex status.

Originally invoked as a way to fight sexual assault in Harvard’s unrecognized Greek life and social-club scene, the penalties on single-sex club members were later justified as a way to fight “elitism.” Functionally they only killed off women-only groups at Harvard.

The Fox and the Spee, another former all-male club, are returning to formal recognition by Harvard after independence stretching back to the early 1980s, when Harvard first demanded recognized clubs admit both sexes.

The Fox’s circuitous route to coed status came because of a split between undergraduate members and the graduate board. The former had approved the women in 2015 under pressure from Harvard, but the latter forced the women into provisional status and later dumped them.

MORE: Fox dumps women forced on it by Harvard, setting up showdown

The graduate board will probably have less influence over the Fox going forward, because the new Harvard rules include the right to revoke recognition if the administration finds that clubs’ graduate boards or national organizations wield too much influence over them.

Associate Dean of Student Engagement Alexander Miller declined to specify to the Crimson how the administration judges what constitutes “too much” influence, except to say “the amount of financial control exerted by alumni” is involved.

The 15 RSOs don’t actually have to admit applicants regardless of gender just yet, according to the Crimson, because they have the lowest tier of recognition (“interim”). They simply must “demonstrate a legitimate intention to do so later on.”

The remaining all-male clubs are continuing to fight the rules by lobbying Congress to force Harvard to back down.

The Cambridge Coalition, which includes Harvard’s unrecognized Fly, AD and Porcellian clubs, and the Fraternal Government Relations Coalition together spent $90,000 on Hill lobbying in the second quarter that ended June 30, the Crimson reported this week.

They are seeking an amendment to the higher education reauthorization bill that would strip federal funding from colleges that penalize members of single-sex clubs, even if the clubs aren’t recognized in the first place.

If Democrats win back the House in November, the amendment will probably be a long shot.

Read Crimson coverage of the club changes and the all-male club lobbying.

MORE: In bid to stop sexual assault, Harvard shuts down women-only clubs

IMAGE: Syda Productions/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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