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The Fox Club has voted once more to keep its group all-male.
The Fox’s graduate association converged on the final club’s yellow meetinghouse at 44 JFK St. Tuesday morning to decide the fate of a gender-neutral membership proposal brought by its undergraduate members. But the measure failed after 52.9 percent of voters — less than the two-thirds necessary to change the club’s membership policies, per the club’s governing documents — assented.
A total of 346 graduate members voted either in person or through a mail-in absentee ballot, according to documents obtained by The Crimson. Of the 346 total voters, 183 voted in favor of gender-neutral membership, 160 voted against it, and 3 chose to abstain.
The vote comes less than three months after the Fox’s undergraduate membership voted twice to go co-ed this spring. The motion passed with more than the required two-thirds vote each time.
The graduate board followed up on the undergraduates’ second vote with a two-hour discussion about the proposal on April 6, according to an internal email.
As a male final club, the Fox is subject to the College’s sanctions against single-gender social organizations. The social group penalties — which debuted with the Class of 2021 — bar members of single-sex Greek organizations and final clubs from captaining athletic teams, receiving College endorsement for prestigious fellowships, and holding leadership positions in student organizations.
But even if the Fox had gone co-ed, it likely would have still remained subject to the sanctions “based on the [Graduate] Board’s understanding of Harvard policies,” according to a letter Fox Club Graduate Board President Hugh M. Nesbit ’77 sent to the club’s graduate affiliates on April 4.
Nesbit could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday night.
In voting against going gender-neutral, the Fox remains one of several all-male groups that have forgone the status of a Recognized Social Organization. Such organizations are exempt from the sanctions due to their co-ed membership policies and cooperation with the University. They reap benefits like access to University spaces and College funding for their events. All but one all-female social group and four all-male groups have chosen to pursue RSO status.
The May 14 vote is the latest decision about the Fox’s membership policies after several years of vacillation between tradition and co-ed proposals.
The club first voted to go co-ed in October 2015, when nine women joined the organization. But in July 2017, the Fox terminated the women’s “provisional” membership status, effectively eliminating them from the group.
In fall 2016 — the last time a proposal to go co-ed came up for graduate approval — the count of affirmative votes came just short of reaching the two-thirds threshold: 63.5 percent. A total of 548 members voted in that iteration of the referendum, 58.4 percent more than the number of voters in this month’s referendum.
Unlike in 2016, when all graduate affiliates could vote, only dues-paying members of the Fox could cast a ballot in Tuesday’s referendum. Member dues are based on class year, with recent graduates generally paying less than older members, according to internal emails.
In September 2018, the Fox announced its plan to become gender-neutral as an RSO — only to reverse its decision 11 days later when the College said the club was no longer pursuing RSO status.
The failed vote comes as Harvard faces twin state and federal lawsuits alleging the sanctions policies violate students’ freedom of association and discriminate against students based on gender. Opponents of the sanctions are also lobbying federal lawmakers to protect members of single-gender groups. Last month, hundreds of fraternity and sorority members from across the nation traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with more than 450 Congressional offices as part of their lobbying efforts.
—Staff writer Sanjana L. Narayanan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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