Harvard all-male club breaks silence, admits women could increase sexual misconduct

Demi Vitkute/ WEBN-TV

By Demi Vitkute 4/14/2016

Demi Vituke/ WEBN-TV

Demi Vitkute/ WEBN-TV

The Porcellian Club, Harvard’s oldest all-male social club, almost never has granted an on the record statement to a newspaper since its founding in 1791. This week, an official with the group said that admitting women could increase the chances of sexual misconduct.

A response from the club came a month after Harvard’s report last month that linked so-called “final clubs,” exclusive, historically all-male undergraduate social clubs at the college with “nonconsensual sexual contact.”

“Forcing single-gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease, the potential for sexual misconduct,” Charles M. Storey, the president of the club’s alumni group and the president of the Harpoon Brewery in Boston, wrote on Tuesday in a letter to The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper.

Harvard has a long tradition of all-male social clubs. President Theodore Roosevelt and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes are among the members of the Porcellian Club.

The selection to the Porcellian Club was so important to young Harvard men that young Franklin Delano Roosevelt was devastated when he got rejected. Years later, Eleanor Roosevelt even claimed that the rejection had given her husband and “inferiority complex” that “had helped him to identify with life’s outcasts.”

In 1984 Harvard required final clubs to admit women, but instead, they broke official ties with the university, and remained unrecognized.

The clubs have faced pressure since to start accepting women. Last year, the Fox Club and the Spee Club opened their doors to women.

Storey didn’t rule out a co-ed possibility, but thinks that such a choice needs to be made by the club alone.

“As a club that is completely independent of Harvard, which accepts no funding from Harvard, which owns its own property, and believes fervently in the right to self-determination, that decision is ours, not Harvard’s to make,” he wrote in a letter to The Harvard Crimson.