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.