Annenberg Hall, on Harvard's Cambridge campus.

Credit: sacmclubs/Flickr Creative Commons

Harvard May Ditch 'Final Clubs,' Fraternities and Sororities

July 13, 2017

Harvard's infamous "final clubs" may soon be a thing of the past.

A faculty committee has proposed forbidding students from joining fraternities, sororities, and the so-called "final clubs" — secretive student organizations that were primarily restricted to men until the last few years. The committee says such clubs, which are officially unrecognized by the university, go against the college's mission to promote diversity and inclusion.

It's not the first time Harvard has moved to regulate such organizations. Last May, students who were members of "unrecognized, single-gender organizations" were banned from holding leadership positions on campus. Some of the all-male "final clubs" began admitting women, but in at least one case their membership was later rescinded.

Harvard's latest proposal may face an uphill battle, however.

"It's going to be very controversial," said Paul Reville, former state Secretary of Education and professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.

"There's a tension here between rights and freedom of association and people to join what they want to join on the one hand, and on the other hand a campus that's working very hard to establish a social atmosphere that is equitable and where people don't feel excluded and left out and not part of the mainstream," he explained.

Reville said the university may face legal challenges over the move, as most of the buildings are located off-campus and are owned by the clubs themselves. 

"There's a constitutional protection for freedom of association, so no doubt some of this is going to get contested," he continued.

Click the audio player above to hear more from Paul Reville.


WGBH News is supported by:
Back to top