WASHINGTON: Harvard's oldest all-male social club has refused to admit women, claiming that doing so could increase the risk of them being sexually assaulted by its members.
In a rare public statement, the secretive 225-year-old Porcellian Club appeared to suggest female students would be safer if they did not join.
For decades Harvard has been attempting to make all-male social clubs accept women.
Last year the Fox Club and the Spee Club did, but there are still eight men-only clubs, and five solely for women.
In a letter to the Harvard Crimson newspaper, Charles Storey, graduate board president of the Porcellian, attacked attempts to make it co-ed.
He said: "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.
"Forcing single gender organisations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease, the potential for sexual misconduct."
He claimed the Porcellian, also known as the Porc, was being made a "scapegoat for the sexual assault problem at Harvard". Mr Storey added: "I sincerely hope that the administration will not set the precedent of creating a blacklist of organisations that students cannot join. 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."
Alumni of the Porcellian include President Theodore Roosevelt and twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who sued fellow Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg over the founding of Facebook.
Mr Storey's public statement was only the second by an officer of the club since its founding in 1791. The other was made on the admission of its first black student in 1984.
Rakesh Khurana, the Dean of Harvard, said the attitudes being espoused by the club were "at odds with the aspirations of the 21st-century society to which the college hopes and expects our students will contribute".
A recent internal investigation at the university concluded that same-sex clubs represented a "culture often inimical to Harvard's mission".
But it also identified a wider problem at clubs that did allow mixing of genders. Some 47 per cent of undergraduate female students attending mixed events at social clubs reported being victims of "non-consensual sexual contact," according to the study.
Mr Storey argued that no allegation of sexual assault had ever been made against the all-male Porcellian Club.
He added: "Sexual misconduct is absolutely unacceptable in all its forms but it is not an issue at the Porcellian Club." He later apologised for his comments, saying: "Unfortunately, I chose my words poorly and it came out all wrong."