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Kennedy belongs to exclusive club
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy belongs to a social club for Harvard students and alumni that was evicted from campus nearly 20 years ago after refusing to allow female members.
According to the online membership directory of the Owl Club, the Massachusetts Democrat updated his personal information — including the address of his home, which is in his wife’s name — on Sept. 7.
The club has long been reviled on campus as “sexist” and “elitist” and, in 1984, was booted from the university for violating federal anti-discrimination laws, authored by Mr. Kennedy.
Mr. Kennedy has spent much of this week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings interrogating Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. about his ties to the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group that had opposed the admission of women in the early 1970s and is now defunct.
Judge Alito’s “affiliation with an organization that fought the admission of women into Princeton calls into question his appreciation for the need for full equality in this country,” Mr. Kennedy said Wednesday.
Kennedy spokeswoman Laura Capps said there is “absolutely no comparison” between the Owl Club, a social group, and an organized effort to “exclude women from getting an education” at Princeton.
“It’s a social club. It’s like a fraternity,” she said. “He has been fighting to break down barriers for decades.”
Ms. Capps said she doesn’t know how many minorities are members of the Owl.
But the university views organizations such as the Owl — called “final clubs” — quite differently from fraternities and sororities, which are considered a form of housing and therefore not coeducational.
In 1984, “Harvard disassociated itself from the nine all-male clubs in accordance with Title IX of the 1972 Education Act, which prohibits federally funded institutions from discriminating on the basis of sex,” according to a 1986 article in the Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper.
Mr. Kennedy is widely regarded as the father of that education bill, which has been used for decades to enforce precise equality on college campuses.
Student opposition to the Owl Club — even after it had been expelled from campus — was so strong that involvement in it was fodder for scandal.
After one student government officer’s association with the Owl was exposed in 1986, student Jennifer L. Mnookin took the young man to task in a column published in the Crimson.
“Final clubs perpetrate an attitude that encourages members to treat the rest of the world as second-class citizens — to make them enter the clubs through side doors, to bar them from certain rooms, to devalue and look down upon them,” she wrote.
Around the same time, another student, James E. Canning, wrote a column in which he explained why he declined to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by joining the Owl.
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