Joe Biden Calls on Harvard to "Get Rid" of Final Clubs That Sexually Assault Women


Vice President Joe Biden is throwing his weight behind efforts to ban social clubs where campus sexual assault takes place.

In an interview with Mic, the vice president outlined what he thinks should be done to Greek organizations and other groups where sexual violence is a "specific and localized crisis":


The example Biden discussed was Harvard College, where 47% of female seniors who have interacted with single-sex, specifically male, final clubs — Ivy League social organizations, similar to fraternities —  say they've been sexually assaulted, according to the Harvard Crimson.

"Well, I think it indicates that there's a real problem at Harvard," Biden said, "and it's the responsibility of the president of Harvard University and the administration to go in and investigate it, and if it's occurring and they can show that, get rid of the — get rid of those fraternities on campus that are engaged in it."

Steven Senne/AP

Earlier in the interview, the vice president acknowledged that not all fraternities should be banned, but he called on colleges and universities to deal with those that have a track record of abuse.

It's a hard-line approach, but may prove effective considering the pattern it's responding to: One in five women are sexually assaulted while in college nationwide, while more than 90% of victims do not report their assaults, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

At many schools, these complaints are centered on fraternities, where a deep-seated culture of machismo and misogyny fuels a rape perpetration rate three times higher than that of other college men, according to some reports.

Elise Amendola/AP

Meanwhile, Harvard is embroiled in a sexual assault debate of its own. In 2015, a wave of studies showed sexual violence to be an endemic issue at social clubs affiliated with the school, and recommended that Harvard's final clubs become co-ed to promote gender equity and inclusivity.

So far, two organizations have acquiesced to this suggestion: Spee Club and Fox Club now both encourage women to "punch" — or pledge — as of October. 

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

However, the six remaining all-male final clubs still have not made the shift. The result has been a heated battle over integration, which will culminate on April 15 when the remaining clubs must tell the school whether they are going coed.

Harvard ceased to formally recognize final clubs in 1984. Nevertheless, it continues to "navigate a precarious relationship" with all of them, according to the Crimson. If clubs fail to agree to integration by Friday, observers have speculated that the school may outlaw simultaneous enrollment in the college and in final clubs — meaning you can't be in a club and attend the school at the same time.

Yes, this is all very Harvard-centric. But with debate around responses to sexual assault heating up at the school, and Biden's eye on developments in Cambridge, the implications could soon resound far beyond Harvard College.