Harvard College has had private, undergraduate, male-only clubs for a very long time. The Porcellian Club, the oldest club, dates from 1791. Harvard can’t legally force the clubs to admit particular kinds of members, arranged by gender, sex, race, or other attributes. Instead, Harvard has found a stick to beat the clubs with, and that stick is to discriminate against members of clubs that it calls “unrecognized single-gender social organizations (USGSOs)”.
“Starting with Harvard’s Class of 2021, undergraduate members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations will be banned from holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They will also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.”
If Harvard were a purely private institution, it would have a right to discriminate against all-male clubs. Harvard could be as prejudiced as a KKK member. As a large-scale recipient of federal money, certain federal rules come into play with respect to “diversity”, “affirmative action”, and all such witless devices that claim to achieve social ends by not recognizing basic rights, one of which is to discriminate ad libitum. Under federal rules, Harvard can still discriminate and be as prejudiced as any anti-Semitic zealot, if it discriminates in the politically correct way.
If Harvard were openly to claim that it has a right to discriminate with its scholarships, recommendations, and leadership positions, we could respect that and find it consistent with libertarian reasoning. But then Harvard would find itself having to tolerate private discrimination arising from freedom elsewhere in America as in the making of wedding cakes, the supplying of restroom facilities, the offering of jobs, the openness of motels and restaurants and dozens of other situations. This approval Harvard cannot render. So it must resort to specious justifications other than the assertion of its right to discriminate.
The foremost of these phony arguments is that freedom of males to choose or not to choose associations with others in all-male clubs must be curtailed because it harms the Harvard community’s social life. Such association doesn’t harm those who voluntarily join. How does it harm others? Does it incite their jealousy? Does it rankle them, inciting their resentment? That cannot be laid at the doorstep of an exclusive club. Freedom, exclusivity, and private property all go together. The excluded have had a right for hundreds of years to create and form clubs of their own, along any lines they desire. Harvard’s anti-USGSO policy restricts that right. It is Harvard that is now harming the social options and the social life of Harvard by its illiberal attempts to enforce diversity.
Harvard wants “to create a community where students have the fair opportunity to engage in curricular and extracurricular activities regardless of their gender, socioeconomic status, or other attributes unrelated to merit.” This is not an argument based on Harvard’s right, an argument Harvard cannot make without contradicting its politically correct beliefs. This is an argument that clubs are unfair and unfairly discriminate, something that Harvard cannot demonstrate. If Harvard believes this, it shouldn’t seek to remedy it by unfair discrimination of its own. It should encourage students to form new and more diverse clubs. And if generations of students believed this, they could have formed clubs or associations of their own.
Harvard is blacklisting the all-male clubs. There are no two ways about it. The futile, destructive and unjust attempt to make life “fair” by regulating the micro-behavior of every person, business, family and group in America has reached the Harvard clubs.
6:16 pm on December 5, 2017
Email Michael S. Rozeff