Having Slain Égalité and Liberté, Harvard Takes Aim at Fraternité

From the Harvard Crimson:

Harvard to Sanction Final Clubs, Greek Organizations

Starting with Class of 2021, members of clubs, Greek organizations will be ineligible for multiple leadership positions and fellowships


Starting with Harvard’s Class of 2021, undergraduate members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations will be banned from holding athletic team captaincies and leadership positions in all recognized student groups. They will also be ineligible for College endorsement for top fellowships like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships.

I dropped out of my one undergraduate education class when the professor opined that “middle school boys, it’s known, do not have close friendships, unlike middle school girls,” which suggested that she, and the researchers she was citing, had never met a middle school boy. Several years later, a fellow middle school teacher (and mother of two boys) remarked that what she loved most about the Lord of the Rings movies was “all the man love” among all the members of the Fellowship- an increasingly rare thing in the movies, as she correctly remarked.

A lot of the craziness on elite campuses these past couple years could be seen uncharitably as the chickens coming home to roost; the logic of ideology being applied to the institutions that originated it, with all the subtlety of stabbing yourself with a fork. It’s often ignored how the decline of community organizations and civil society documented by books like Coming Apart and Bowling Alone are in large part the decline of specifically fraternal organizations and specifically masculine modes of mutual support, fellowship, and affection.

My guess is that for better or worse, elite institutions have been often shielded from the forced tearing at Fraternité writ large (quite apart from the problems besieging Greek life.) Bankers and corporate lawyers and surgeons preserved their boys clubs and induction rituals even as regular Joes went bowling alone, and even as the formal structures of professions and the academy became more gender egalitarian. But as Roseanne Barr once said, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for thee, butthead.”

We might wish for Presidents or doctors or lawyers who are untainted by Skull and Bones or Delta Upsilon and whatever ills they’ve committed. But more likely, without these organizations- and more importantly, with diminishing time for friendship and adventure in the childhood and young adulthood of boys who become powerful men- we’ll get an elite of Gollums: endlessly hungry, grasping, and alone.


3 thoughts on “Having Slain Égalité and Liberté, Harvard Takes Aim at Fraternité

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