Harvard University’s undergraduate dean is angering alumni by attempting to force the school’s all-male final clubs to accept women, a move that some say threatens freedom of association and diversity at one of the nation’s most elite colleges.
According to Harvard alumni and former members of all-male final clubs, Harvard College dean Rakesh Khurana, appointed to his post in 2014, is prepared to make it against university rules to join the groups.
The dean delivered a “veiled threat” to graduate members of the clubs during a closed-door meeting last fall that “students who joined any of the clubs would be subject to expulsion,” one alumnus and graduate member of a final club said.
“He has as much as said, ‘This is what we foresee,’” the alumnus continued. “If the clubs don’t agree to these changes, harsher things will happen.”
Alumni described the threat as the “Amherst option,” a reference to the way Amherst College banned off-campus fraternities and sororities.
The clubs, which operate like off-campus fraternities, have no formal relationship with the university, and some alumni are characterizing Khurana’s actions as coercion.
Khurana has attempted to justify his effort by claiming that the clubs are exclusive, elitist, and not “appropriate” for the university.
Several Harvard graduates vehemently criticized Khurana’s campaign against the final clubs in interviews, accusing the dean of trying to suppress students’ freedom of association and shut down groups he doesn’t like.