I’m reposting this article in the New York Times. Should women be allowed to join “all men” groups? Is the argument they make about increased sexual misconduct legitimate?


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Members of the oldest all-male club at Harvard have almost never spoken publicly about the organization since its founding in 1791. This week, that silence was broken when an official with the group, the Porcellian Club, said that admitting women could increase the chances of sexual misconduct.

harvard“Forcing single-gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease, the potential for sexual misconduct,” Charles M. Storey, the president of the club’s alumni group, wrote on Tuesday in a letter to The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper.

As news of the comments, which came in the midst of an effort at Harvard to prevent sexual assault, spread around campus on Wednesday, so did criticism and satire, including an article titled “Club of Wealthy White Men Comes Out in Support of Status Quo.”

On Twitter, Representative Katherine Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts, wrote, “Or, instead of blaming women, you could focus on teaching members of your club to NOT sexually assault people.” (Katherine Clark’s statement seems reasonable and responsible)

But by the end of the day, Mr. Storey, who is the president of the Harpoon Brewery in Boston, had posted an apology to the company’s website. “I chose my words poorly,” he said, “and it came out all wrong.”

Harvard has a long tradition of all-male social clubs. In 1984, the university required these clubs to admit women. At that point, the clubs broke official ties with Harvard, and they remain unrecognized by the university.

The clubs, which still play a major role in campus social life, have increasingly faced pressure from the university administration and others to reverse their no-women policy. Last year, the Fox Club and the Spee Club opened their doors to women. But six clubs, including the Porcellian, still admit only men.

Harvard College’s dean, Rakesh Khurana — who said in a statement that the single-sex clubs were “at odds with the aspirations of the 21st-century society” — was set to meet with graduate leaders of the groups, known as final clubs, on Wednesday for one in a series of discussions he has held with club members and alumni.

“The college has a responsibility to protect our values and our students’ well-being, even in the face of perceived short-term challenges of changing the status quo,” Mr. Khurana said.

According to The Crimson, Mr. Storey said in his letter that sexual assault was not a problem at the Porcellian and that the club had become a “scapegoat.” He suggested that women could not be victims of sexual assault at the club, the paper wrote, because as nonmembers, they could not even be present in the clubhouse.

Mr. Storey also wrote that a report by a university task force on sexual assault prevention had conflated “the issues of sexual assault, gender equity and exclusivity,” the paper said.

Some students said they did not understand why the Porcellian had inserted itself into the discussion, because it does not host parties and keeps a low profile.

Emily Bishai, a junior, said the idea that admitting women might increase the prevalence of sexual assault was “pretty faulty logic.”

“I think the fact that women aren’t allowed in their clubhouse has nothing to do with it, and I think that was a pretty dumb thing to say,” Ms. Bishai said, adding that she has a number of close friends who are in final clubs.

Cecilia Sanders, a senior who is studying Earth and planetary sciences, called the comments “a really troubling sentiment, and I think it’s a really dangerous idea that men- and women-identified people can’t be in the same space and behave with equal respect and regard for one another.” (This blogger agrees with Cecilia’s comment)