Wednesday, March 15, 2017

I know it's a dumb question, but

… what does it mean when it says that USGSOs seeking to be recognized are expected to maintain “in both policy and practice … Publication of the demographic breakdown of the organization’s membership”? (2(d) on page 16 of the Report.)

At a minimum, “demographic breakdown” must mean by gender, in which case this is a way of walking back from the promise previously made to the Seneca that it would suffice to change the club’s bylaws without changing its actual membership.

But “demographic breakdown” must mean more than that, or else the demand would simply have been for the gender breakdown.

 It must include ethnic breakdown, since the parallel between gender discrimination and racial discrimination is cited so often. No all-white clubs need apply for recognition. Fair enough.

But that raises an interesting question. There is a Harvard chapter of the Jewish fraternity, A E Pi. I imagine it has a negligible number of Christian members. Suppose it decided to go co-ed and applied for recognition.

Would someone in University Hall check the “demographic breakdown” of the newly reformed A E Pi to make sure there weren’t too many Jewish members? 

Perhaps some descendant of President Lowell could be found for that unsavory job.


  1. Thank you, Professor Lewis, for questioning the stealth with which the administration operates. Two further questions: 1) Why does the administration, whose members already exceed in number those of the faculty, not already perform and publish a demographic analysis of course and section enrollments, concentrations, athletic teams, recognized student organizations, blocking groups, and attendance at college events? Why the emphasis and sole concentration on social organizations that exist outside of the administration's control? Perhaps, this is just the first step. 2) Similarly, if the current dean of the college is determined to take a stand against perceived privilege, then why does he tolerate special treatment of athletes, to offer but one example? Not only does the administration favor athletes with, first, an admissions edge, special facilities, training, competitive opportunities, and varsity recognition, but second, unique and exclusive career counseling and professional introductions administered through the Varsity Club? The current dean's insistence on binary distinctions between black and white, good and bad, ignores great patches of gray, while claiming for himself, the administrators he controls, and the committee members he appoints the sole ability to see.

  2. Hi Professor,

    I know this isn't really your point, but just in case you're interested: the AEPi on our campus is much less of an exclusively Jewish organization than other chapters - the percentage of non Jewish members is quite high. It's less dissimilar to other nonreligious fraternities on our campus than I think you may be implying.

  3. If you look at the cases that wended their way to the Supreme Court in the decade after Brown v. Board of Education, you will see that courts grew impatient with the foot-dragging of districts that refused to really stop segregating. These districts frequently enacted laws that were race neutral on their face but were in fact calculated to exclude African Americans. So, for example, some schools carefully redrew their district lines for purportedly administrative reasons, when said redrawing just happened to avoid all black neighborhoods.

    Finally, the courts grew impatient - it took about a decade - and started to impose busing. This created white flight, which the schools were then expected to remedy.

    The demographic breakdown is a monitoring mechanism to see if the clubs are becoming gender neutral in practice.

    The danger is that the requirement really isn't non-discrimination but is instead de facto integration. Two very different things. People must choose for themselves to value gender equality, it cannot be forced on them. Forcing it is a sign that they, unfortunately, don't have any better ideas.

    1. Yes, but...

      1) As Professor Lewis points out, the Report speaks of a "demographic" breakdown, not a breakdown by gender

      2) the report assumes submission to the administration of organizational rosters, which means that members are subject to the further private sanctions of administrators, faculty, and others who for whatever reason want to use such membership as a basis for withholding support of any kind from those whose ideas offend them personally,

      3) Currently, the number of genders approaches infinity as society honors individual freedom to choose. How are the Dean's going to score an apparently cis-gender white male who is contemplating a commitment to becoming a transgender woman who fully embraces the DNA of her Latina grandmother?

      4) what right allows the deans to force Harvard students to declare their innermost thoughts and feelings about such a personal issue as gender and/or sexual orientation?