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Harvard Lodge Endangered By Restrictive New University Policy

A new policy at Harvard University ostensibly aimed at so-called “rape culture” on college campuses, as well as an attempt to foster “inclusion,” seems to be a direct shot at students’ freedom of assembly. The policy change demands that students no longer be members of off-campus organizations that are single-sex groups, such as Massachusetts’ Harvard Lodge.

From the New York Times on May 6th:

The all-male final clubs at Harvard University have long been bastions of money, power and privilege. But on Friday, 225 years after the oldest club was founded, the university announced restrictions on the organizations that could ultimately be their undoing, or at least significantly change their character by forcing them to become coed. 

Starting with the class that enters Harvard in fall 2017, members of single-sex clubs will be prohibited from holding leadership positions on campus, according to a statement released by the university’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust. This would include athletic team captains; many club members have historically been captains. Members will also be barred from receiving the official recommendations required for prestigious postgraduate fellowships and scholarships, such as the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, the statement said. 

The new rules will apply not only to the six male final clubs, but also to other single-sex organizations, including five women’s final clubs and nine sororities and fraternities. An estimated 30 percent of undergraduates at Harvard belong to such clubs. Two other formerly male final clubs have already voted to admit women. 

Richard T. Porteus, a member of the Harvard Class of 1978 and graduate president of one of the final clubs, the Fly Club, said preliminary discussions were underway with lawyers to challenge the new rules under the theory that they infringe on the right to free association. 

“We value what we’ve created over time and the opportunity that it offers for undergrads to develop as undergrads and, over the course of their lives, as people,” Mr. Porteus said. “And we won’t abandon it. So whatever legal, moral, ethical means we have of sticking up for our principles, I’m sure we’ll consider and choose among. But yes, litigation is certainly not off the table.”The Porcellian Club, the oldest of the groups, issued its own statement: “We are disappointed with this unfair and punitive decision that attacks Harvard’s own students because they make a choice to freely assemble at unaffiliated, off-campus, private organizations.” 

Two months ago, a sexual assault task force said the final clubs raised “serious concerns” that required attention from Harvard. Surveys conducted for the university, as well as interviews with undergraduate women, had found that some final clubs fostered an atmosphere of misogyny, sexual misconduct and entitlement. 

Harvard is not the first university to take action against single-sex clubs. Fraternities and sororities were banned at Amherst College in 2014, and Wesleyan University announced that same year that it would require fraternities to be coed. Middlebury College is among several other small northeastern institutions that banned such clubs years ago.

 According to a message from a Massachusetts Brother:

I am aware of no advocates for these coercive policies actually singling out Freemasonry as something they oppose, but the language of the policies really leaves no room for interpretation and certainly includes Masonic lodges in the ban. I have many close friends that are members of The Harvard Lodge, and this new policy at Harvard University greatly upsets me. At Amherst College, the intention was to ban traditional Greek letter societies that had gone “underground” when the school stopped recognizing them (despite the school’s own “task force” not favoring such a ban), but the language of the rule cites membership in ANY “selective membership organization” as grounds for expulsion. 

At Harvard, it’s not grounds for expulsion but it will disqualify students from any “student leader” positions as well as the official recognitions necessary for prestigious fellowships and scholarships, and it seems obvious to me that the competitive nature of those creates an incentive for students to “out” each other as Masons or members of any other single-gender institution.

At what point will the monied alumni of these schools rise up and demand that this social engineering lunacy on college campuses stop? Only they have the power to do it, through threats of cutting off sizable donations and bequeaths to the universities until this kind of madness is stopped.

Harvard Lodge is distinct as an “academic lodge” and its membership is restricted to men who have a connection to Harvard University:  students, alumni, faculty members or employees. One of the many unique characteristics of The Harvard Lodge is that its members don their academic robes and regalia at the Lodge’s regular meetings. It was established in 1922, and counts brother Theodore Roosevelt as an honorary member.

I hope the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts steps forward and loudly and publicly protests this clearly illegal restriction on Harvard students who belong to Harvard Lodge. It is a violation of students’ rights of privacy and assembly, and the policy as passed will prevent members of these groups from being sports team leaders, student government representatives, and shuts down their eligibility for Rhodes Scholarships – all because they belong to the world’s oldest gentleman’s orgainzation.

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