When I first became a professor at Harvard Law School, I was invited to join the Harvard Club in New York. I was anxious to become a member, especially at the reduced faculty rate, because I was traveling frequently to New York and it was a nice place to have lunch. But when I found out that they did not accept women, I could not join. Instead I pressured Harvard to sever its relationship with the club until and unless it extended full equality to female alum and faculty. It finally did so, but I never became a member.
Recently I was considering applying, but now that Eliot Spitzer has been turned down for membership, I have reconsidered my decision.
What possible basis was there for denying membership to this distinguished graduate of Harvard Law School, who served as my research assistant, and who then went on to become the Attorney General and Governor of New York? Was it because he used the services of a prostitute? Does the Harvard Club have a rule denying membership to any man who has ever paid for sex? If so, its membership roles would dwindle.
Is it because he committed adultery? Does the Harvard Club have a rule against adulterers (or now adulteresses)? If so, the membership roles would diminish even more.
Aha, the rule must be limited to those who get caught. But few people get caught, unless they are prominent public officials. So I guess Spitzer is being punished for his prior prominence. Maybe the rule applies only to those who have acted hypocritically. It is argued that Spitzer, while paying for sex, was prosecuting pimps and organized prostitution rings. But if hypocrisy was the basis for exclusion from the Harvard Club, you could count its members on the one hand of that old American League pitcher, Mordacai "Three Finger" Brown.
Maybe the members of the selection committee just didn't like Eliot Spitzer. Then they probably wouldn't like me either, because I don't think it's anybody's business, except his family, that he paid for sex outside of marriage.
I guess that's why I don't belong to "exclusive" clubs. I don't like exclusionary policies, membership selection committees, blackballs, vetoes, or all the other games clubs play in order to keep their membership "select."
So next time I'm in New York, I'm going to invite Eliot Spitzer to have lunch with me at my "club": Katz's Delicattesan, on the Lower East Side. They don't exclude anybody and the pastrami is better.