It’s punching season at Harvard! You probably don’t know what that means, so I’ll back up a bit. If you’re “punched” at Harvard, it means you’ve been invited to rush a final club. Final clubs are social clubs that are traditionally all-male, exclusive organizations that have gone unrecognized by the university. They’re basically high-key fraternities.
The history of final clubs dates back to the 1700s. Now, there are a total of 13 final clubs as well as nine fraternities and six sororities that are unrecognized, yet associated with Harvard. The clubs range from the Spee, which is a coed club, to the Phoenix S.K., one of the more popular male final clubs. All-female clubs also exist, which includes the Bee and La Vie.
The all-male clubs own real estate in Harvard Square, with most houses including dining rooms, libraries and game rooms. Most houses are also staffed with chefs, stewards and other paid personnel that serve meals at regular schedules. The Delphic Club has a regulation-size squash court. When an entire house of men values the game of squash, that’s how you know you’re at Harvard.
Final clubs have always been the focus of controversy with partying, sexual assault, exclusionary methods, hazing and other unsavory accusations. Recently, Harvard administrators implemented a new policy that states that students who enter in the fall of 2017 or later who join unrecognized single-sex organizations (including final clubs, frats and sororities) will be barred from campus leadership positions and from receiving recommendation letters from Harvard requisite for scholarships and fellowships. So far, this policy has been loosely enforced, based on what clubs or organizations have chosen to question it. For the Seneca Group, an all-female club, administers advised that the organization “could continue to operate as it always has.”
Now that you have an in-depth look at the history of final clubs, you can now understand the somewhat confusing plot of the film “The Social Network,” but back to this whole punching thing. As I said, if you’re “punched” by a final club, it means that you’ve received an invitation to rush the club. It usually comes in the form of a physical letter, or at least that’s what my Harvard friend said. One of my best friends recently got punched by a prominent final club at Harvard and has decided to accept the invitation to rush, much to the dismay of her parents.
My friend talked to me about the ongoing difficult discussion she’s been having with her parents. Her mother contests that final clubs promote exclusivity, that they’re a waste of study time and that they’re way too expensive to be worth it. On the other hand, my friend believes that the networking opportunities and experiences the club provides are priceless. Personally, I agree with my friend. I am biased though, since I am a member of a sorority here at BU.
In terms of price, final clubs are extremely expensive, with heavy dues. While financial aid is available to members, the vast majority of affiliates pay the full price. This is part of the reason why Greek life and final clubs are labeled as exclusionary — they appeal to the wealthy elite of Harvard.
To some degree, I do agree with my friend’s mother. Final clubs do take up a lot of time, but what they give back is invaluable: lifelong friends, an organization that has your back and opportunities only available to final clubs members.
However, to get into a final club, most potential new members are hazed. Like, really hazed. In “The Social Network,” Saverin was accused of animal abuse of a chicken, as documented in the Harvard Crimson. Fittingly, it’s currently National Hazing Prevention Week. Hazing should never be tolerated. Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with an organization that targets my weaknesses and bullies me to test my loyalty to the group. Why would a friend do that? Unfortunately, many final clubs view hazing as a necessary step towards maintaining the group. This, too, is a reason why final clubs should cease to exist.
Thankfully, I’ll never have to go through the punching process and know what it’s like to rush a final club. However, the mysteries behind these organizations have always interested me and I’ll continue to wonder what goes on behind those closed doors.
Former U.S. presidents (including Franklin Roosevelt) and other prominent figures make up the alumni of several final clubs, a list that continues to promote a good name for these organizations. This pros and cons list is endless and this blog could go on forever. I guess what I’m trying to say is: at what point do you draw a line? At what point is it worth it? Is a squash court worth the hazing?