Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Hostile Cultural Environment

Harvard President Drew Faust has now earned her place in the pantheon of cultural tyrants. In the name of her high-minded principles, she has issued a dictate designed to bring more gender diversity to what are called Harvard’s final clubs. They are off-campus organizations and have no official connection to the university.

Students can join these social clubs during their last year at Harvard. The problem is that many of them are single-sex. President Faust has taken serious exception to this great social injustice.

By the terms of her dictate, any student who belongs to a club that excludes members of the opposite sex will henceforth, and without  due process, be deprived of the support needed to apply for leadership positions on sports teams or post-graduate fellowships. They are to be punished for being men.

Faust seems to believe that she has an advanced knowledge of human experience and human nature. Thus she has condemned those who belong to such clubs because the clubs discriminate on what she called “arbitrary grounds.” She was attacking students’ freedom of association, because, as you know, we cannot have that.

Richard Epstein tells the sad story:

[Faust] eagerly accepted the recommendations contained in a Harvard College letter, also from last week, by the college dean, Rakesh Khurara, which argues in harsh pernicious stereotypes that the final clubs are the “exclusive preserves of men” and create a power imbalance on campus, making it impossible for Harvard to move forward in the twenty-first century. He twists the knife in deep by insisting that any student who is a member of one of these clubs will be denied positions of leadership “in recognized student organizations or athletic teams,” and will not receive Dean endorsement letters that are needed when applying to prestigious scholarships such as the Rhodes and Marshall awards. Khurara only stops short of insisting that membership in a final club should be grounds for expulsion from Harvard.

The punishments are draconian, but Khurara himself thinks that these clubs choose members based on “harsh pernicious stereotypes.” He, like Faust believes that real world organizations never discriminate on the basis of gender, so anyone at Harvard who chooses to belong to a final club that does needs to be punished.

As Epstein notes and as I have often pointed out, Harvard continues to perpetuate its own harsh pernicious  stereotypes  by refusing to allow women to play on men’s sports teams. For my part I believe that the cause of justice will be best served when we force the NFL to have women on the field in every play from scrimmage and when men and women overcome their “arbitrary” differences and share the locker room as true equals. If women can join the combat military, only harsh, arbitrary prejudice is keeping them out of the NFL.

I would point out that the current hysteria about rape culture divides the sexes in a perfectly non-arbitrary way.

In any event Faust and Khurara want especially to punish men for wanting to belong to male-only clubs. It should not come as too much of a surprise. The American educational system has for quite some time now been openly biased against boys and men.

What the proponents of such policies fail to understand is that they, by their executive fiats, are producing a hostile cultural environment. They are imposing their arbitrary their will on boys and punishing them for being boys. They have not in any way taken the interests or concerns of boys into account. At Harvard, people are sensitive to contradictions, so Faust has applied the same dictate to all-girl final clubs. Having gone to an all-girls college, she has no understanding of why young women might prefer not to have boys in their clubs. One suspects that she would also take serious offense to consciousness raising groups and to lean-in groups. If you believe that the presence of the opposite sex in such groupings changes nothing, you know nothing.

The problem here will be the blowback. As long as men and women fraternize and socialize, as long as they mate and date, these tyrannical dictates, designed to oppress men, are likely to produce conflict and contention between men and women. They are likely to produce abuse. The victims of that abuse are most likely to be women. If you think that you can simply beat men down without someone, somewhere suffering the consequences, you know very little about human nature.

What can be done? For now, we are entering the lawsuit phase of the problem, as the clubs sue the university and the lawyers have a new way to gin up their fees.

Epstein is not very optimistic about the influence of the alumni, perhaps because Harvard has so much money that it can easily survive a drop-off in alumni contributions. And yet, the alumni can do more than stop giving. They can stop sending their children to the school. Again, one finds it difficult to imagine that any parent will have the power to prevent a child from going to Harvard, but it is time that people reconsider the mystique that attaches to the Ivy League. One also recommends that corporate recruiters look elsewhere for the best new talent.

The reaction of the alumni and parents to the protests at the University of Missouri might not be applicable in all situations, but it certainly shows one way of responding to cultural tyranny.


sestamibi said...

You nailed it. Harvard and the Ivy League are prestigious because the market says they are prestigious. Perhaps if the market comes to think otherwise, Harvard will think otherwise as well.

Frankly, I don't know why anyone would waste big bucks on Harvard undergrad education when one can do almost as well at a high ranking state university flagship school like Texas, Michigan, or UVA. Harvard's prestige comes from its grad and professional schools, which still have a great deal of clout.

priss rules said...

Ares Olympus said...

It is strange that Harvard President Drew Faust can be so sure that being a gender-exclusive club is bad idea. I guess Stuart is right - ideology blinds people to alternate ways of seeing the world.

I suppose the logic against private clubs is the fear that young men will "get used to excluding women" and if a part of the clubs is not just about socializing, but networking future career relations.

So its clear the whole thing is about fear.

I wonder what Ben Franklin would say with his Junto club? It wouldn't seem to have any gender requirement, and is civicly oriented. OTOH, a club for "mutual improvement", assuming we accept men and women have different sorts of challenges for improvement, it would make sense that some men might be less comfortable in the company of women, admitting their weaknesses, perhaps like with alcohol, if women were more judgmental about that.
The Junto, also known as the Leather Apron Club, was a club for mutual improvement established in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia. The Leather Apron Club's purpose was to debate questions of morals, politics, and natural philosophy, and to exchange knowledge of business affairs. They were also a charitable organization which created a subscription public library consisting of their own books.

Franklin organized a group of friends to provide a structured form of mutual improvement. The group, initially composed of twelve members, called itself the Junto. The members of the Junto were drawn from diverse occupations and backgrounds, but they all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others. Among the original members were printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk, and a bartender. Although most of the members were older than Franklin, he was clearly their leader.

I know Toastmasters International was originally male-only, changed in 1973. And it looks like it would be against the rules now for a male only club. Or at least you can't vote against a new member by their gender.
Toastmasters International has a policy of non-discrimination based on age (except those persons under 18 years of age), race, color, creed, gender, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. Although Toastmasters was initially formed as a male-only organization, membership was opened to women in August 1973.

Certain clubs (referred to as "closed clubs" or "in-house clubs") organized within businesses restrict membership to people in the organization; Clubs may also restrict membership on any other criteria they choose, as long as the criteria does not conflict with the non-discrimination policy.

I wonder about AA. Could someone make a men only group? Maybe, at least this talks of women-only groups, whether men are formally excluded, I'm unsure.

Exclusion will always be a tricky thing, and it seems better if we can avoid the lawyers and find common ground. Find out what people are afraid of, and how to reduce those fears.

The simplest answer is voluntary selectivity, and a group could simply say they prefer men-only (or women-only), and if a woman want to go somewhere she is not formally welcome, she should be able to clearly state why she would like to be included, and maybe hearts and minds will shift?

And for that matter, we know some homosexuals have interests more common in the opposite gender, so perhaps a woman-only group might welcome a gay man, while more reluctant for men in general.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

There are few American institutions that are more arbitrary in their admissions standards than Harvard.

Freedom of association is no longer a core value at Harvard University. Curious, since it is a private university.

Veritas = truth.

Sam L. said...

Faust is against diversity of thought. Because SHE knows best.

priss rules said...

This is a game that Harvard and other elite institutions play.

They are extremely exclusive and reject most applicants.
So, they pretend to be 'inclusive' by making silly noises about 'diversity' and etc.

If Harvard really believes in egalitarianism and inclusiveness, then get rid of all admission standards and have open admissions. Choose students by lottery. That would certainly be 'fairer' than choosing by grades and test results that are naturally hierarchical since studious/smarter students will do better. And even when affirmative action comes into play, it still favors smarter blacks(often African immigrants) over other blacks. Hierarchy!

So, Harvard policies are really a ruse. Harvard makes noises about 'inclusion' over some silly clubs to mask the fact that it is the most exclusive institution in America.

Likewise, if it is so important to have egalitarianism and inclusiveness in the military, get rid of all age requirements. If military shouldn't discriminate against women and homos in combat roles, why shouldn't middle aged people join the military? Why discriminate by age? Plenty of middle aged men and even older men are stronger and faster than young women.

Also, aren't ranks hierarchical? Get rid of them all. Make all military men equal in rank as there should be only one rank. And get rid of boot camp training since it is 'bullying' and 'triggering'. Imagine all the people who don't sign up to serve out of fear of drill sergeants?

But of course, military makes all the noises about 'egalitarianism' to mask the fact that it is a war machine that polices the world.