Why Campus Inclusion Matters
Inclusion is an important and interesting word. It’s a commitment that we have made as a university to reach out to the broadest possible range of talented people. But it’s a word that rests somewhere between diversity and belonging. Harvard was founded in 1636. Just a few years after the Puritan settlement of Massachusetts. And its was created to educate a learned clergy. It, therefore, was meant for Puritans, for men, for white men at that time. In recent years, we’ve seen a tremendous broadening of access to Harvard in a variety of realms. Many more international students, students from other minorities with many more Asian American students, Latino students. We have much more diversity in an economic sense with 20% of our student body in the college coming from families with incomes under $65,000 a year. In the last several years, the emphasis and urgency of this inclusion agenda has become even more forcefully expressed in a wide range of ways. The whole issue of Black Lives Matter, of course, has put the issue of race in American life front and center, and so we’ve been working very hard in that domain, but another domain of interest and attention in recent months and over the past couple of years has been on the full inclusion and participation of women in undergraduate life. Harvard has a long tradition of something it calls Final Clubs, and these are exclusive clubs, male-only. They own considerable property right in the middle of the campus. They are legally independent of Harvard because of their refusal to go co-ed in the 1980s. When the drinking age was raised to 21, these clubs became places that students could gather to party, to drink illegally, and they became a kind of magnet for undergraduate social life. Controlled by men, controlled by a rather exclusive group of men. A disproportionate number of sexual assaults were happening in the Final Clubs as well. Therefore this spring, we created a policy that says students may continue to join these clubs, but if they do so, then there are certain privileges of college life that they don’t have access to. Any student who chooses to be in one of these organizations may not hold a position of leadership in the organizations within the college that are supported with college funds and college identity and also may not be eligible for recommendation for the highest levels of fellowship like the Rhodes and the Marshall. There’s been criticism. I think people are resistant to change. The whole situation could be resolved in a second if these clubs admitted women. That seems to me in the 21st century not a big ask. The educational element of experiencing diverse individuals. People who are different from you, people who challenge you, people who expose you to new perspectives on the world. That’s what Harvard College is about, and that’s what we’re trying to sustain.