Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Harvard women's clubs face ban too

The usual "unintended side-effects" of Leftist regulation attempts.  There's some nasty little authoritarians in the Harvard administration. Like the Puritans of old, they seem to resent that other people are having fun

CAMBRIDGE — Just blocks from the multimillion-dollar brick mansions owned by Harvard University’s legendary all-male final clubs is a separate world.

Here, drab office building basements and former storefronts have been retouched with white lace curtains, comfy couches, and brightly decorated walls. Scattered around Harvard Square, these rented spaces are home to several of the university’s sororities and women’s final clubs.

There are no taxidermy collections here, passed down over generations, or grand staircases, and there’s barely enough room in some of them to throw a boozy party. Instead, it’s where Harvard’s undergraduate women say they pad around in their socks, gather to binge-watch Netflix shows, prep with their friends for job interviews, and compare notes on birth control.

But as Harvard attempts to crack down on all-male final clubs, a proposal to ban membership in exclusive clubs could have a disproportionate impact on women, who belong to such organizations in greater numbers.

“These sanctions unfairly punish women’s groups,” said Pauline Ryan, who graduated from Harvard this spring and was a member of a sorority and a women’s final club. “The administration often highlights Harvard’s mission of preparing its students for the ‘real world,’ but what they fail to acknowledge is that the real world still has ‘old boys clubs’ and that therefore women’s organizations remain necessary balancers and spaces that empower women.”

Earlier this month, a university panel recommended that Harvard bar students from joining private, off-campus clubs — a plan that would ultimately need the approval of university president Drew Faust. While the main target of the proposal is seven all-male final clubs, which administrators blame for unruly parties that have led to underage drinking and sexual assault, and for fostering a divisive culture, the recommendation calls for phasing out all elite social clubs, including fraternities, sororities, and female final clubs by 2022.

That has angered many sorority and female final club members, who say they have been swept up by the university’s efforts to crack down on these all-men bastions that draw some of the wealthiest male students on campus.

There are four sororities and four all-women final clubs for Harvard students. Membership is hard to calculate, because the groups keep their rosters private and some women join both sororities and final clubs. But Harry Lewis, a computer science professor and former dean at Harvard College and vocal opponent of the proposed policy, estimates that 900 women belong to such clubs — as opposed to 675 men.

“A lot of the conversation has been around male clubs; that’s particularly frustrating,” said Camille N’Diaye-Muller, 21, a rising senior and the undergraduate president of the Delta Gamma sorority. She said she and many women support the university’s aims to create a safe and inclusive space for students.

“We don’t believe this will deal with sexual assault and exclusivity,” she said. “A policy like this will do more harm than good.”

Harvard officials declined to comment on the committee’s recommendations.

But in its report, the committee acknowledged that there are distinctions among the single-gender clubs and that many of them formed as “well-intentioned antidotes to the effects of the final clubs.”

But the final clubs and other such exclusive organizations create a “pernicious” influence on undergraduate life, according to the report.

“In order to move beyond the gendered and exclusive club system that has persisted — and even expanded — over time, a new paradigm is needed, one that is rooted in an appreciation of diversity, commitment to inclusivity, and positive contributions to the social experience for all students,” the report states.

While sororities say they have an open recruitment process and try to match women with an organization, not everybody gets in. The Harvard Crimson reported that 280 women signed up for sorority recruitment this year, but only 193 received invitations to join.

The women’s final groups, La Vie Club, the Bee Club, the IC Club, the Pleiades Society, are even smaller and invitation-only. Many rent space from the men’s final clubs and hold joint events.

Several women at Harvard said the sororities and women’s final clubs have been their refuge at a hypercompetitive school, where power is still held primarily by men.

While women outnumber men on US college campuses, accounting for 57 percent of enrolled students, at Harvard men make up about 52 percent of students. Though Faust became Harvard’s first female president a decade ago, the tenured faculty remains predominately male, with women accounting for between a quarter and just over a third of the tenured or tenure-track faculty, according to Harvard data.

Many of Harvard’s sororities and women’s final clubs started more than 25 years ago as an alternative social space to the male final clubs and fraternities.

For Rebecca Ramos, 22, a Delta Gamma who graduated in May and plans to be a high school teacher, her sorority was the place where she could relax most at Harvard.

The high-achieving students who get into Harvard have spent most of their high school lives participating in a gamut of activities and are eager to re-create that experience when they arrive on campus. But getting into many of Harvard’s extracurricular organizations, whether it’s the debate club, dance club, or social-service organizations, can be competitive.

Students have to go through a “comp” process, which either stands for competency or competition — the origins are in dispute. The requirements include essays, interviews, multiple tryouts. Many try, few succeed.

Ramos said she applied to join more than a dozen groups as a freshman but got into fewer than a handful, and was struggling to find her place on campus, when she joined the sorority.

“Harvard can be a very difficult place to be a student,” she said. “A lot of people at Harvard have this mask, that everything is great. It’s about, ‘Did I get the perfect internship that will land me the perfect job?’ But the sorority is a place where women feel comfortable taking that mask off.”

She said she has confided in her sorority sisters when she was stressed about how she was doing in college.

Sororities and single-gender clubs also help women form networks that can help them land jobs, provide recommendations for graduate school, and offer support if they move to a new city, members say. Members and graduates say that the ban may push the bad behavior of the men’s final clubs that Harvard is hoping to rein in further underground and make it more difficult to monitor.

Ariel Stoddard, who graduated from Harvard in 2010 and was a member of The Sabliere Society, an arts-based women’s final club that went coed this year, said having women’s social groups is important. She belongs to a women’s networking organization in Los Angeles, where she now lives.

“There are groups and clubs that exist across all ages and affiliations,” she said. “They provide a huge social support.”


Campus Rape: Revisiting the 'Dear Colleague' Letter

When dealing with sexual assault, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is working to bring Rule of Law back to college campuses   

Responding in 2011 to a false narrative that sexual assault on college campuses was out of control, Russlyn Ali, at the time the assistant secretary for civil rights in Barack Obama’s Department of Education, penned what became known as the “Dear Colleague” letter. It was a 19-page “significant guideline document” for colleges and universities to follow, but its major effects on campus life were to make it extremely difficult for a student accused of sexual assault to defend himself and to lower the standard required for disciplinary action to a simple preponderance of the evidence. Even with the reduced standard (or perhaps because of it), campus rape incidents continued to make headlines, including fake news like the University of Virginia story retracted in 2014 by Rolling Stone.

One of many lawsuits resulting from the “Dear Colleague” letter was filed last year by a recently graduated law student from the University of Virginia (not connected to the Rolling Stone case), while another case was settled earlier this year after it was revealed that the accuser was upset because the defendant stopped dating her. By this time, though, the accused had long since been expelled from the school; details of the settlement were unavailable.

And while states like California and New York developed affirmative consent laws intended to make sure that, if things became physical, both parties knew what they were getting into, the problem arises when alcohol becomes involved and one or both participants no longer are in a position to give informed consent or stop the process.

As The New York Times reported, Candice Jackson, who is the acting head of the Department of Education’s civil rights division (a successor to Russlyn Ali), opined that “the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was just not quite right.’”

Jackson has since apologized for the “flippant” tone of the remarks, but no apology will ever placate a hardcore leftist who’s been [triggered]

According to on such unhinged leftist, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jackson “crossed a serious line and highlighted her clear biases in this area in a way that … should disqualify her from service in the position of top Department of Education protector of students’ right to be safe at school.” While Jackson may have exaggerated the number to some degree, it’s far closer to the truth than the Left’s oft-repeated lie that “one in five” women on campus are sexually assaulted.

The senator also leaves out the context of other statements made by Jackson to the Times. She noted the investigative process has not been “fairly balanced” between accuser and accused in recent years, and that students are deemed rapists “when the facts don’t back it up.” In fact, she said, sometimes there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.” But Murray, as a senator who will eventually vote on her confirmation, is one of those who holds the fate of Candice Jackson in her hands.

And while Murray was a vociferous opponent of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, it’s DeVos who is considering revisiting the subject of campus sexual assault and due process as “an issue we’re not getting right” after six tumultuous years. But DeVos isn’t just writing a long letter and making it stick — she’s out speaking with several of the parties involved, including rape survivors, college administrators, and — gasp — even those who were wrongly accused.

Some would like things to go even more quickly. David French, writing at National Review, suggests the “Dear Colleague” letter be immediately rescinded and colleges be compelled to turn these matters over to the civil and criminal court systems already in place. This would certainly be an improvement in due process for both parties, although aggrieved leftists will surely howl that this restoration of due process will have a “chilling” effect on victims reluctant to tell their stories.

The failure of the current system, however, means that something has to be done. While sexual assault is a problem on campus, there was already in place a lawful means of handling the issue. The problem was that victims were reluctant to put themselves through the process, and schools were fearful of the prospect of negative press from such proceedings. But preserving the rights of the accused and maintaining the presumption of innocence until being proven guilty — even if only by a standard of “clear and convincing evidence” common in civil trials — should be the standard. Let’s hope DeVos can make it right again.


Australia: University funding rationalization provokes controversy

Universities have accused the Turnbull government of muddying the waters as it prepares for a fight over higher education funding.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham on Monday released figures showing what students will pay under planned changes would more closely match the benefits of getting a degree.

The federal government's overhaul of higher education includes increasing student fees by up to $3200 over a four-year degree, cutting university teaching funding by 2.5 per cent in 2018 and 2019, tying a portion of funding to performance measures, and lowering the threshold when student debts must start to be repaid.

Senator Birmingham said the report, prepared by Deloitte Access Economics, "injects facts ... into a debate that has at times been dominated by platitudes and sound bites".

It showed about 45 per cent of the benefits from a higher education were private, such as securing a well-paid job.

The government says its planned fee increase will mean students contribute 46 per cent of the cost - up from 42 per cent now - with taxpayers covering the rest.

Senator Birmingham took aim at university groups that supported the coalition's previous proposal for full-fee deregulation but oppose the package now before parliament.

They had "tried to walk both sides of the street in this debate".

The minister characterised the increase in funding to universities since 2009 as "a river of gold".

The group of six Innovative Research Universities disagreed, telling a Senate inquiry on Monday the river of gold was down to more enrolments, not any boost to per-student funding.

"If anyone's being inconsistent here, it's the government that previously embraced the concept we did need more resources," executive director Conor King told a hearing of the inquiry in Melbourne.

"In this (package) it goes down; of course we're opposed."

The Group of Eight - representing the nation's research-intensive universities - said the government's package was not coherent and would leave students paying more for less.

The government had a track record of releasing reports such as the Deloitte research to the media without showing the sector first, chief executive Vicki Thomson said.

"We find we're responding to claims about rivers of gold or vice-chancellors' salaries or surpluses which are muddying the waters when we're wanting to talk about actually what sort of university sector do we actually want in this country," she told the committee.

The Senate inquiry will also hear from the academics union, education department officials, business representatives and higher education experts on Monday and Tuesday.

It's expected to report when parliament resumes in August, clearing the way for the bill to be debated.


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