In the Class of 2016’s time at Harvard, the College’s unrecognized final clubs faced unprecedented scrutiny from Harvard administrators who pushed the eight historically male groups to admit women.
In the fall, two formerly all-male final clubs went co-ed, and earlier this month, University President Drew G. Faust announced that Harvard would bar members of any unrecognized single-sex social organizations from certain privileges, starting with the Class of 2021. The policy, designed to pressure the groups to go co-ed, will also affect the campus’s four sororities and five fraternities.
The Crimson released its survey of the senior class the day before Harvard announced the policy change. Still, survey results indicate that the Class of 2016 is divided on the issue generally: Most respondents said they dislike final clubs, but as many indicated that they disapprove of Harvard’s efforts to pressure the groups as approve of them. Members of off-campus social clubs, meanwhile, are much more likely to disapprove of the administration’s actions on that front.
Overall, 36 percent of respondents reported being members of at least one off-campus social organization sometime while at Harvard—7 percent said they belonged to a male final club; 8 percent to a female final club; 2 percent to a co-ed final club; 14 percent to a sorority; 4 percent to a fraternity; and 6 percent to another off-campus social group.
A majority of seniors surveyed (59 percent) had an unfavorable view of Harvard’s final clubs. Twenty-three percent reported viewing them favorably, while 19 percent said they had no opinion or did not have enough information.
- Women were more likely to report having a negative opinion of final clubs than men.
- Respondents who said final clubs and other single-sex social organizations were important to their social experiences at Harvard were much more likely to say they view final clubs favorably. About 50 percent of those surveyed seniors said they have a positive view of the groups; just 4 percent of respondents who said final clubs and other single-sex social groups were not very or not at all important to their college social experiences said they view them favorably.
Surveyed seniors were evenly split on Harvard’s recent efforts to pressure male final clubs to go co-ed. Forty percent said they have a favorable opinion of those efforts, while 40 percent also reported viewing them unfavorably. (About 21 percent had no opinion or did not have enough information.)
- Just 7 percent of male final club members said they have a favorable opinion of Harvard’s efforts to pressure the groups to go co-ed; 32 percent of female final club members said they do.
- Roughly the same proportion of men and women reported viewing Harvard’s efforts to pressure male final clubs favorably. More men than women, though, voiced opposition to those efforts (45 percent of men and 36 percent of women).
- Surveyed seniors who reported coming from families with incomes of $500,000 or more were less likely to approve of Harvard’s scrutiny of male final clubs: 30 percent said they have a favorable opinion of Harvard’s efforts to pressure the groups, while 54 percent said they view them unfavorably.
Members of final clubs were much less likely than their peers to say they approve of Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, who has led the College’s push to pressure final clubs to change their membership policies.
- While 62 percent of respondents overall indicated that they view Khurana favorably, just 7 percent of male final club members said they do. (Eighty-six percent view him unfavorably.)
- About 36 percent of respondents who said they have been members of female final clubs reported viewing Khurana favorably.
- A larger majority of respondents who said they are not members of any off-campus social organizations—74 percent—indicated having a favorable view of the dean.
Asked if Harvard should introduce a policy prohibiting students from joining a single-sex final club as a condition of enrollment in the College, respondents overwhelmingly rejected it. Sixty-two percent said Harvard should not introduce such a policy, while 20 percent voiced support for it and 18 percent said they were unsure or undecided.
- Respondents who said they did not belong to any off-campus social organizations while at Harvard were slightly more likely to support a proposed ban on single-sex final clubs (25 percent).
- Of 58 respondents, one senior who reported belonging to a male final club while at Harvard said the University should prohibit students from joining the groups. About 6 percent of female final club members said the same.
The Class of 2016 also saw in its senior year increased activism nationwide around the issue of the racial climate on college campuses. At Harvard, protesters appealed to the Law School to change its seal, which bears the crest of the former slave-holding Royall family. Ultimately, the school agreed to change the seal. This year, Harvard College also decided to change the administrative title of “House master,” which some students saw as associated with slavery, to “faculty dean.”
In general, surveyed seniors disapproved of these changes, as well as hypothetical name changes posed in the survey.
Asked about the decision to change the “House master” title, only 29 percent of surveyed seniors said they agreed with the decision. A slim majority said they disagreed with the decision, and 21 percent of seniors said they were unsure or undecided.
- Black students represented the only racial group where a majority agreed with the decision: 58 percent of black respondents said they agreed with the name change decision. Only 26 percent of white seniors surveyed said they agreed with the decision.
- In general, students from underrepresented racial minority groups were more likely to favor the decision.
- Women were more likely to agree with the decision than men; 36 percent of women supported the name change, while 21 percent of men said the same.
A majority of seniors said Harvard should not rename campus buildings named after historical figures who were also slave owners. Only 21 percent of respondents said the school should do so.
- No racial or ethnic group expressed majority support for renaming buildings.
- Nonetheless, there was a racial gap in approval for such a move. Forty-one percent of black seniors surveyed said Harvard should rename buildings, while only 17 percent of white respondents thought the same.
“Free Harvard, Fair Harvard”
Harvard has also faced criticism this year in the form of a Board of Overseers campaign calling for the elimination of undergraduate tuition and a public review of how race affects Harvard’s admissions policies. Harvard’s race-based affirmative action admissions policy is also currently under legal challenge from a group alleging that Harvard discriminates against Asian applicants.
When asked whether Harvard should make College attendance “tuition-free,” a plurality of respondents came down against such a policy. Only 31 percent of seniors surveyed said Harvard should eliminate tuition, while 47 percent said Harvard should not abolish tuition.
- Thirty-four percent of women said Harvard should be tuition-free, compared to 26 percent of men.
- Financial aid recipients did not differ significantly from non-financial aid recipients on whether Harvard should go tuition-free.
A majority of seniors surveyed—55 percent—view race-based affirmative action favorably. Seventeen percent of seniors said they have an unfavorable view of race-based affirmative action, and 18 percent said they have no opinion.
- Race-based affirmative action is broadly popular among underrepresented minority groups. Seventy-five percent of non-white, non-Asian students surveyed said they have a favorable view of race-based affirmative action, compared to 3 percent of such seniors who said they had an unfavorable view.
- Asian respondents were much less likely to see race-based affirmative action as favorable. Forty-one percent of Asian seniors surveyed said they have a favorable view of race-based affirmative action, while 25 percent said they have an unfavorable view.
Harvard has undertaken many major initiatives, each with the potential for major impact on undergraduate life, during the Class of 2016’s time at Harvard. In the fall of 2013, the first building renovated under the House renewal project opened to students. A year later, students arrived back on campus to a new University-wide sexual assault policy. And in their last year, seniors were required to register for school affirming their awareness of the College’s first honor code. While administrators have touted all three initiatives with fanfare, respondents report not being completely receptive to them.
Forty-eight percent of seniors reported viewing the College’s honor code favorably. While only 13 percent of seniors said they view the code unfavorably, 38 percent said they have no opinion or not enough information.
- Forty-two percent of seniors who admitted to cheating in an academic context at Harvard said they have a favorable view of the honor code, compared to 50 percent favorability among seniors who said they did not cheat.
- Women were more likely to report having a favorable opinion of the policy than men, with 52 percent of female respondents saying that they view the honor code favorably and 44 percent of male respondents saying the same.
Seniors have not warmed up to Harvard’s recently-overhauled sexual misconduct policy, which took effect in 2014. Only 17 percent of seniors surveyed said they view Harvard’s sexual assault policies and procedures favorably, compared to 22 percent of students surveyed from last year’s senior class. Fifty-two percent of respondents in the Class of 2016 have an unfavorable view of the policies and procedures, a 30 percentage point increase from last year.
- Men view the policies and procedures more favorably than women; 20 percent of senior men surveyed said they have a favorable view of the policy, while 14 percent of surveyed women have such a view.
- Sixty-six percent of respondents who said they had been sexually assaulted at Harvard said they have an unfavorable view of Harvard’s policies, compared to 50 percent of respondents who did not say they had been sexually assaulted.
Unlike Harvard’s sexual assault policy, approval of Harvard’s House renewal project—which has come with a price tag over $1 billion—has increased compared to last year. Sixty-four percent of surveyed members of the Class of 2016 view House renewal favorably, up from a favorability rating of 54 percent among last year’s senior class.
- Seniors who live in Houses that have already underwent renovations were most likely to report a favorable view of the project. Seventy-one percent of surveyed students in Quincy, Leverett, and Dunster said they view House renewal favorably. Only 57 percent of seniors who live in Winthrop or Lowell, Houses that are slated to undergo renovation in the coming years, reported having a favorable view of the initiative.
As the College has overhauled several policies and faced criticisms from all angles, the Class of 2016 generally has a positive view of both Dean of the College Khurana and University President Faust. Sixty-two percent of surveyed seniors have a favorable view of Khurana, compared to 29 percent who have an unfavorable view of him. Faust, meanwhile, is viewed favorably by 43 percent of surveyed seniors, while 26 percent each view her unfavorably or have no opinion of her.
Two College administration-sanctioned decisions this school year—changing the House master title and introducing final club sanctions—may be taking a toll on Khurana’s favorability numbers. While Khurana is relatively well-liked compared to other Harvard institutions, his 62 percent favorability rating among seniors marks the lowest for a sitting College dean in three years. Last year, Khurana’s favorability among seniors stood at 82 percent favorable and 6 percent unfavorable.
Faust has seen a slight uptick in both favorability and unfavorability among seniors compared to last year. Faust’s favorability rating has risen 7 percentage points compared to last year’s surveyed senior class, although her unfavorability rating has also risen, by 5 points.
Choosing Harvard, Again
Despite remaining split on these issues and more, nearly all seniors—93 percent—said they would choose Harvard again if given the chance.