Kennedy/owl club hits local TV

7 News did a piece on Ted Kennedy’s decision to drop out of the Owl Club (it had done a piece on his membership the night before). Watch it here.

What’s fascinating to me is that something that is supposedly so controversial at Harvard, with club members and sympathizers adept at confusing the basic discrimination and ignoring the fundamentals of the issue, is so cut and dry in the broader public spheres. The interaction between Hiller (the local reporter) and Kennedy seems to exemplify this:

Andy Hiller: “And they do not allow women in that club?
Sen. Kennedy:”That’’s what I understand.
Andy Hiller: Why would you be in a club like that?
Sen Kennedy: I shouldn’t be and I’’m going to get out of it as fast as I can.

Hiller went on to say at the end of the piece that Kennedy’s defense of his continued dues-paying (that it was a long time ago that he was a member, before Harvard was coed) “ignores the principals of equality and time.” He ends the piece by saying “equality is the foundation of his career, his legacy, and the Owl Club undermines it.”

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12 responses to “Kennedy/owl club hits local TV

  1. Little simplistic analysis there. It would seem to specifically remove nuance.

    Viewed macroscopically, Kennedy’s membership in a fraternal organization (of which the majority of Congressional representatives have been members) is harmelss compared to Alito’s membership in CAP. Are people forgetting CAP’s purpose? To exclude women and minorities from PRINCETON. To deny them a top-flight education, because it made Alito and his compatriots afraid or uncomfortable.

    These are alumni of a University pushing for more aggressive discrimination, leveraging their power as alumni (Harvard students know the pull that brings) in changing Princeton’s policy.

    Furthermore, he trumpeted this organization into his mid-30s.

    Kennedy, in contrast, was the member of a Harvard fraternity (which is more their role in the 50s, when women did not go to Harvard). And he was in his late teens to early twenties.

    Does anyone else see the problem in drawing a literal comparison between a fraternity and CAP?

    I forget which one evinced an activist political agenda. Oh, yeah, CAP. And it wanted to deny minorities and women better education.

    The Owl, especially in the 50s, was hardly as pernicious.

    Very finally – if I remember correctly, Kennedy pushed Title IX, in fact was one of the leading Senatorial advocates. It woudl seem that while Alito can’t remember why he was so proud of CAP 15 to 20 years ago, Senator Kennedy has internalized his qualms about the Owl and been one of the more persistently progressive legislators. One should also point to his work on HIV/AIDS treatment, minority rights, etc. etc.

    Why would the democrats leap to attack Kennedy, a progressive, when the real problem is the ogre and social backward that is about to be installed into the Supreme Court and potentially reverse many of the positions and judicial principles we hold so dear? Assuming that “we” means liberals/democrats.

    PS – please argue my points and not the objections to Final Clubs solely.

  2. Final comment. Alito graduated school in the mid-70s. Kennedy in the mid-50s. There is a generational gap. Alito was in College when political power was heading towards the traditionally under represented.

  3. I don’t think that they’re at all the same thing, and I agree with what you’re saying. In fact, I made no comments about the CAP thing at all.

    What I’m interested in here is social/media analysis and considering whether or not the huge amounts of negative publicity (however fair the basic comparison is) will change the way current and future Harvard students view clubs.

    Again, Final Clubs and CAP are TOTALLY different. But, the critique of clubs now (not then) as an exclusive organization that is a part of perpetuating inequality is fair, which is why (as the video says), Kennedy’s defense of his continuing to pay $ and associate w/ the Owl NOW has to do with what the group is now, not the silly boys club it was then.

  4. Is the Owl club acceptable if it lets women in? I believe your objection to it goes much deeper than that, correct?

  5. No, certainly not. Sorry if I’m being unclear. CAP and the Owl are fundamentally different things, especiall the Owl in the early 50s. What I’m saying is that that’s not really the point. (If you’re curious about my beliefs about final clubs, you can click here.)

    What I’m interested in is the fact that the issue seems to become cut and dry in the public sphere- Kennedy quickly withdraws and some random news guy is even offended- while the issue is so complicated here. The CAP issue is beside the point in some ways.

  6. I think the issue does get more complicated when we’re here, at harvard, because we’ve been in the clubs and we know club members. I didn’t agree with the idea of male-only social clubs, and I definitely didn’t appreciate the male-dominated social scene here when I first stepped on campus. But since I’ve gotten to know some of the guys in clubs, and since some of my friends have joined them, they’ve become less of an issue for me. The fact that I like club members makes it harder for me to dislike the idea of clubs. But people like this reporter don’t get to meet members, they just see clubs as representatives of larger societal issues. Perhaps people like the reporter should just relax and respect students’ rights to have fun. But perhaps students like me have become blinded to the larger issues raised by the dominance of all male clubs on our campus.

  7. I’m going to guess that the reason it is such a cut and dry issue for the media and broader public is that for many people, it still seems a bit like the Greek system that dominates most other colleges/universitites.

    I’m also sure that getting into the deeper issues of Final Clubs in a media piece would seem silly. I mean, we’re already at an elite institution that many people feel, aside from academics, is a playpen for rich, spoiled brats who can buy their way in. It doesn’t having as much selling power.

  8. But while we’re at it, anonymous — I’m wondering whether anyone would be giving Kennedy such a hard time if he had just been a member of a fraternity. I’m guessing no, right? Can you imagine an anchor sitting down and saying, “And so, this fraternity of yours — it did not allow women? And why would you be in such an organization?” No, I don’t think anyone would really care, or have a problem with that (and, we should ask ourselves, is that OK? Potentially not….). But I mean, am I wrong? Maybe what’s getting people worked up is the ‘Harvard-specific’ nature of a final club — it’s something they’re unfamiliar with in title, and then since it’s Harvard only, they probably picture something sinister like the Skulls or something. But the Owl — arguably now, and certainly at the time Kennedy was a member — really was/is nothing more than a fraternity, so why is everyone making such a big stink???

  9. I disagree with those above who argue that it’s just like a Greek organization (for better or worse). Notice that Kennedy’s defense was to say that it was just “a fraternal organization.” In other words, he’s arguing “it’s just a frat!” so clearly the frat aspect is not the problem. the problem is only the bee women’s club has space compared to 8 or 9 men’s mansions. Add to that the fact that many of the clubs aren’t just places for jocks or cool kids or partiers or stoners or whatever to party (like frats at a lot of big schools), they’re places for cocktail parties and alumni networking on top of that, for hosting dignitaries and wearing expensive clothes and doing incredibly extravagant things. This is not Animal House.

  10. Also, finals clubs- as opposed to most fraternities, are exclusive in information- not just membership. What happens in finals clubs/ how much they cost/ how they select their membership/ who are the current and past member/what accusations of sexual assault they have had– and the list continues – are kept tightly under wraps! Being a SECRET all male club is quite different from being an all male club, at least in attitude. The secrecy makes the all maleness seem even more demeaning.

  11. The same information is kept secret at most Fraternities. The difference is that there are more people to spill the beans.

    Why should it matter if you know any of that information? How does that change anything? Do you have an inalienable right to know about everyone else’s business? Furthermore, if you are unable to find out about the totality of others’ activities in other spheres, outside of their social life, does that offend you?

    Your logic is wanting.

  12. All fraternities and sororities have rituals that are kept secret from non-members.

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