Harpoon Brewery president Charles M. Storey has resigned from his leadership role at one of Harvard’s exclusive all-male final clubs in the wake of his recent remarks suggesting that admitting women to the organizations could lead to more sexual assaults.
Storey, who was graduate board president of the Porcellian Club, had faced a torrent of criticism last week over the assertion, which came as the secretive clubs face pressure from Harvard administrators to include women.
In a letter to Harpoon’s employee owners, posted on the brewery’s website and dated Thursday, Storey announced his departure from his position at the Porcellian Club.
“As a man who takes issues of sexual assault extremely seriously and as a leader of an amazing company where women have the same opportunities as men and where we have zero tolerance for any kind of discrimination, I am disappointed in myself,” the letter said. “I am sad that I have disappointed so many people that I care about.”
The resignation comes amid a mounting standoff between the elite social clubs and college administrators, who say the organizations foster a culture that leads to sexual assault.
The final clubs — most of which are all-male — are not officially affiliated with the university and are known for fiercely guarded traditions and raucous parties.
Last month, a university task force singled out the clubs as key in perpetuating sexual assaults among students.
The task force pointed to a campuswide survey that found that 47 percent of female seniors at Harvard who participated in final club activities had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact since entering college, compared with 31 percent of all female seniors.
The task force said the disparity suggests that women are more likely to experience sexual assault if they are involved with a final club.
Students reported unwelcome advances and involuntary sexual encounters involving club members on dance floors, in hallways, and in private rooms at the clubs, the task force said.
Still, 87 percent of sexual assault against women occurred in dormitories, compared with 16 percent in spaces used by single-sex organizations, which include final clubs.
The task force was formed in 2014, the same year US investigators began scrutinizing Harvard for failing to properly handle sexual assault allegations. That investigation is ongoing.
Harvard College dean Rakesh Khurana, who has led the push for final clubs to accept women, had a private meeting Wednesday night with graduate and undergraduate presidents of the clubs.
Storey initially sparked controversy when, in advance of that meeting, he attempted to defend the 225-year-old club's ban on women members.
“Given our policies, we are mystified as to why the current administration feels that forcing our club to accept female members would reduce the incidence of sexual assault on campus,” Storey wrote in a statement published Wednesday by the Harvard Crimson. “Forcing single-gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease, the potential for sexual misconduct.”
In the rare statement to the press, Storey accused Harvard of attempting to “blacklist” final clubs. “Such McCarthyism is a dangerous road that would be a blow to academic freedom, the spirit of tolerance, and the long tradition of free association on campus,” he wrote.
That statement drew criticism not only from the Harvard dean but also US Representative Katherine Clark, who called out Storey on Twitter: “Instead of blaming women, you could focus on teaching members of your club to NOT sexually assault people.”
Storey, who graduated in 1982, later clarified his views in a softer statement posted on Harpoon’s website Wednesday evening.
Clark issued a statement Sunday evening in response to Storey’s resignation.
“This isn’t about one club or one person; it’s about people in positions of authority telling women where they can exist rather than working to prevent the attitudes and behavior that foster a climate where sexual assault is permissible,” Clark said.
Harvard declined to comment Sunday evening.