An exclusive, all-male social club at Harvard is firing back at calls that they should add women to their ranks, and the reason why is shocking.
The president of the Porcellian Club, Charles Storey, has gone on record to say that admitting women into the club increases the likelihood that they will be sexually assaulted, NBC News.
Women who haven’t been inducted into Porcellian, the argument reasons, can’t be harmed by male members.
Storey made his arguments known in a written letter to the Harvard Crimson newspaper, in which he complained about the university’s attempts to make so-called “Final” clubs (“undergraduate social clubs known for their selectivity and secrecy,” according to the Washington Post) co-ed.
“Such McCarthyism is a dangerous road that would be a blow to academic freedom, the spirit of tolerance, and the long tradition of free association on campus.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. Forcing single gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease the potential for sexual misconduct.”
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) April 13, 2016
The core of the Porcellian’s issue with these efforts is that the organization hasn’t been connected to any accusations of sexual assault, and the nature of the social group precludes such behavior. Therefore, they shouldn’t be subject to a rule requiring them to accept women.
According to the Crimson, Storey claims that the club’s members-only policy, which bars guests from the clubhouse, “greatly reduces the potential for sexual assault.”
The Porcellian believes it’s “being used as a scapegoat for the sexual assault problem at Harvard despite its policies to help avoid the potential for sexual assault.” The college has found that 47 percent of undergraduate female students who attend events at male “final clubs” report “nonconsensual sexual contact.”
However, one anonymous Porcellian member, a graduate student, said Harvard officials are trying to argue that the club “contribute(s) to the problem of sexual assault on campus,” when it doesn’t have anything to do with sex.
“We don’t host parties. We don’t allow guests on the premises of our club. How could we possibly be connected to the problem of sexual assault on campus?”
— The Harvard Crimson (@thecrimson) April 14, 2016
“The goal is really to build a community that crosses time and spans generations,” the Porcellian member continued. “We have dinners in Cambridge and all over the world. Our club is about developing deep male friendships, a level of community that is rare in today’s disconnected, bowling-alone world. We don’t want to be involved in any one else’s business, we just want to be left alone to carry on our 225-year traditions in peace.”
The Porcellian Club was founded in 1791 and is considered one of the country’s oldest social groups. Veiled in secrecy since its founding, the group has had many famous men as members: President Theodore Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge.
The Porcellian is also a separate, independent entity from Harvard, although individual students are subject to university policies and jurisdiction.
“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,” Storey said.
And in its defense, the club apparently doesn’t discriminate among its exclusively male members, who are “elected without regard to socioeconomic background, religion, national origin, race or sexual orientation”; the club “reflects the diversity of the male population of Harvard College.”
But the university apparently doesn’t want its associated clubs to admit only the “male population.” As other clubs become more gender neutral, and former “boys only” groups accept women, the Dean of Harvard College’s office Rakesh Khurana said that “single-gender social organizations” like the Porcellian are “at odds with the aspirations of 21st century society.”
[Image via Jorge Salcedo/Shutterstock]