Beliefs and Lifestyle

By Joshua J. Florence and Alison W. Steinbach

A plurality of incoming Harvard freshmen view a proposed ban on membership in social organizations unfavorably, the latest indication that administrative efforts to curb the influence of the groups are unpopular among students, according to The Crimson’s annual survey of incoming freshmen.

A committee of faculty, staff, and students tasked with reviewing Harvard’s relationship with final clubs and Greek organizations recommended this summer that the College move to “phase out” the groups entirely. That recommendation, which University President Drew G. Faust will accept or deny this fall, expands an existing policy that bars members of single-gender groups from receiving endorsements for certain post-graduate fellowships and holding leadership positions on campus.

42.8 percent of surveyed students reported having a “somewhat” or “strongly” unfavorable view of the proposed ban. 34.8 percent of respondents said they held a “somewhat” or “strongly” favorable view, while more than 20 percent of students reported having no opinion or not enough information to form one.

Students and faculty will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed ban at a series of meetings this fall.

Each year, The Crimson conducts a survey of the incoming freshman class, who are asked dozens of questions ranging from their academic interests to their social lives and political views. Of the roughly 1,700 students emailed, 853 responded, representing roughly 50 percent of the class. The Crimson did not adjust the survey results for any possible selection bias.

The final installment of The Crimson’s three-part on series the Class of 2021 takes a look at what they believe and how much experience they've had with sex, drugs, and alcohol.


Political Persuasion

Like classes before them, the Class of 2021 is overwhelmingly liberal—nearly 70 percent of respondents reported left-of-center political views. 87.9 percent of respondents disapprove of President Donald Trump, while nearly 6 percent have a favorable view of the president. Nationally, about 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump, according to major polls.

Conservatives on Harvard’s campus remain a minority. 9.3 percent of respondents described themselves as “somewhat conservative” and roughly 2.5 percent as “very conservative.” During last year’s election the Harvard Republican Club announced it would not support then-candidate Donald Trump and well-known conservative professors like N. Gregory Mankiw declined to endorse the Republican nominee.

  • Half of self described “somewhat conservatives” reported having an unfavorable view of U.S. President Donald Trump. 25 percent of “very conservative” respondents had an unfavorable view of the President.
  • Nearly 20 percent of respondents described their political beliefs as “moderate.”

As the Justice Department reopens an investigation into Harvard’s admissions process, 55.9 percent of freshmen respondents said they had a favorable view of racially-conscious affirmative action programs, while 19.2 percent had an unfavorable view on these programs.

A majority of incoming freshman respondents are supportive of the inclusion of transgender individuals in the military, same-sex marriage and sanctuary cities like Cambridge.

Harvard Policies

A Policy that Would Ban Harvard Students from Joining Final Clubs, Sororities, Fraternities and Similar Organizations

Students were less likely to approve of the proposed social group ban if they came from wealthier backgrounds. Among respondents who reported their combined family income as $40,000 or less, 40.5 percent said they held a favorable view of the proposed ban. Among respondents whose family income was $500,000 or greater, 56.8 percent said they hold an unfavorable view of the ban, and only 27.3 percent a favorable view.

In light of the proposed ban on membership in final clubs, fraternities and sororities, nearly 30 percent of respondents reported having a less favorable view of those organizations. 57.3 percent said the proposed ban did not change their views on single gender social groups.

This spring the Harvard Admissions Office rescinded the acceptances of at least ten members of the Class of 2021 because of racially-charged and sexually explicit memes and messages. Over 70 percent of survey respondents had a favorable view of the administration’s decision. Only 16.8 percent opposed the decision to rescind.

48.1 percent of respondents support proposals to change the names of Harvard buildings named after historical figures who owned slaves. Less than thirty percent of students oppose these proposed name changes.

On the topic of sexual assault, 32.9 percent of female respondents said they took into consideration the culture and policies surrounding sexual assault at Harvard when deciding where to go to college. Only 12.8 percent of male respondents said they considered this.

  • 72 percent of female respondents said they have worried about sexual assault in college.
  • Only 16.4 percent of males said they have worried about sexual assault in college.

Sex and Drugs

Sexual Activity

A majority of Harvard freshman who responded to the survey, 61.7 percent, said they are virgins, keeping with the results of all previous surveys. Roughly one-third of respondents said they have never tried alcohol before coming to college.

  • Individuals from families that make over $500,000 a year were significantly more likely to have had sex. Only 46.1 percent said they were virgins.
  • Recruited athletes were even more likely to have had sex before coming to college. Only 37.6 percent said they were virgins.
  • Over 90 percent of individuals who described themselves as extremely religious said they have never tried alcohol.
  • Less than 3 percent of respondents said they have used cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, mushrooms or other illicit drugs. Nearly 90 percent said they have never smoked tobacco.

Last year, Massachusetts residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana. In response to the changing laws, Harvard’s Faculty voted to ban the now-legal substance as well as vaping on campus. While over 70 percent of respondents said they have never tried marijuana, a majority of incoming freshman have a favorable view of its legalization.


Facebook Usage

In keeping with classes before them, the vast majority of incoming freshman use Apple products.

  • Three quarters of respondents said they used a Mac.
  • One quarter of respondents use PC or other computers.
  • Nearly 85 percent of respondents have iPhones, while 14 percent have Androids.

Facebook continues to dominate the Harvard social media scene, and only 5.7 percent of respondents said they do not have a Facebook account.

  • 56.4 percent of respondents say they do not have a Twitter account.
  • Most students also have Snapchat and Instagram accounts, with a majority of Snapchat and Instagram users using the apps daily.
  • —Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

    —Staff writer Alison W. Steinbach can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @alisteinbach.