Radcliffe's Jordan: 10 Years in Retrospect
Annex Grows, Gains National Name Despite Looming Financial Spectre
In the last ten years Radcliffe has grown from a small local college into a national institution. But although the Georgian brick buildings and the knee-socked girls are now completely integrated into the bustling Harvard community, many vestiges and problems of the small college remain.
In a small college, the president can take a personal responsibility for everything that happens within its walls. Wilbur K. Jordan has been president of Radcliffe for exactly ten years and the eventful progress of the whole decade is mirrored in the man and his actions. In these years, one theme has dominated all others: the Annex should give a woman exactly the same education that Harvard gives a man.
This year for the first time, every course in the University has become "co-ordinated," Radcliffe's term for its particular brand of co-education. The program of academic expansion, which began when Jordan became president in 1943, is complete.
Sprint Across the Common
Harvard faculty members have taught at Radcliffe since the school's infancy in 1879--thus the familiar term Annex. But each Harvard professor who taught at Radcliffe was under separate contract. Jordan, an instructor in History at Harvard from 1931 to 1937, was among that group. "You would lecture to Harvard at nine and then spring breathlessly across the Common to Long fellow to deliver the same lecture at ten," he says, "and you heard your same jokes fall flat a second time."
In 1943 the string encase of war-time economy ended separate instruction. A vote of the governing boards of the two schools made the University faculty double as the faculty of Radcliffe College. At first, joint instruction was confined to upper-level courses only, with freshmen still meeting separately. This distinction--Jordan calls it an arbitrary one--broke down almost immediately, and by 1946, Annex students were admitted to almost all Harvard courses. The last barriers were swept away this fall.
Jordan supported joint education from its start. "Some of the deans doubted if girls, particularly freshmen, could make the social adjustment to mixed courses," he said. "But the doubts i had were not that there would be any social problems, but that the huge crowds in the required freshman courses would be unwieldy." General Education, with its wide choice of courses checked the size of most elementary classes.
Time showed there would also be no social problems in allowing girls to attend men's classes. "We've found that discussion is greatly stimulated in mixed groups," one dean said. Jordan feels that joint instruction is mainly responsible for Radcliffe's becoming a national college. In 1940, half of the college was from the greater Boston area. By now this figure has been cut to only a little over a quarter. Since Jordan assumed the presidency, the number of applicants has multiplied by four, while the number of students has risen only from 800 to 1000.
In the few years since 1946, when freshman courses at the two schools were combined, the number of girls coming from New England has dropped from nearly two-thirds to around 40 per cent.
Annex officials are pleased with joint instruction, but they bristle when outsiders call it co-education. Jordan admits the difference between the Harvard-Radcliffe arrangement and a standard co-educational university may by slight, but he thinks that co-ordinate instruction is responsible for a great many applicants who wouldn't have applied had the two schools been completely merged.
Financially Separate from Harvard
Radcliffe is completely independent financially. Its large staff of administrators and advisers is trained and experienced in dealing with the problems of young women. It has its own extra-curricular activities. "I wouldn't see that changed for the world," Jordan says. "I was tremendously gratified when the student body voted almost unanimously not to take examinations with Harvard."
But Radcliffe's president is the first to admit that his growing college is still far from ideal. The most critical problems are of course financial. During the war and the years afterward, spiraling costs took a severe toll on the school's resources. Jordan tersely summarizes the strictures of these lean years in a sentence from his Report to the Trustees for 1949-50: "We have necessarily grown somewhat shabby during these recent years when the preparation of a budget could only be described as an act of faith."
A woman's college just does not get the money that frequently comes to institutions for men. Radcliffe, like the great majority of the nation's women's colleges, is comparatively young. This youth combined with a small enrollment has prevented any build-up of strong, active alumnae strength with money enough to make many major contributions to the college's endowment. Large corporations hesitate to donate to liberal arts colleges, particularly liberal arts colleges for women, for they fear their investment will breed no tangible return.
A money available for scholarship aid both at Radcliffe and at similar institutions is far from what Jordan and other Annex officials would wish. Because of this, Radcliffe is a national college only in the sense that it draws its enrollment from all sections of the country.
Last year, Jordan completed work on a detailed investigation of the financial background of the girls in the college. His report, which could be typical of any privately endowed institution, is alarmingly pessimistic.
More than one-third of the student body comes from families whose yearly income is over $15,000; more than one-fifth from families receiving over $25,000 per year. Yet these groups comprise only 1.6 percent of all American families.
The number of students coming from families earning less than $6,000 yearly is slightly lower than those whose income is over $25,000, each group comprising about a fifth of the school. Even in this age of inflation, the first group represents more than 90 percent of the American population, while the second represents only one-half of one percent.
These figures shows that now, more than ever before, an education at a privately-endowed, liberal arts college is a luxury few can afford. Over half the students coming from families whose yearly income is less than $6,000 are able to do so only because they receive substantial scholarships or grants-in-aid.
As Jordan says, "The figures suggest that our scholarship resources, which until recently were regarded as reasonably generous, ought immediately to be very considerably increased. It is all too clear that a poor girl, if she lives at a distance, must be able to maintain a scholarship record if she is to come to Radcliffe at all."
Tuition Hike Increases Need
Last year, before the annual tuition was raised $200, the college's financial experts estimated that Radcliffe requires at least $20,000 more scholarship income. To get this, the scholarship endowment must be increased $400,000. But the new tuition hike is in many cases the back-breaking straw. Much more that $400,000 is now needed.
Beside trying to obtain this endowment, Jordan and his administration are faced with problems of physical expansion. The completion since the war of Moors and Holmes Halls has largely eliminated a once-severe shortage of undergraduate housing. In previous years, where a student could live was necessarily a criterion for admission. Now, the increased dormitory space allows any girl who wishes to live at school to do so.
But there is still a need for more co-operative houses. The present ones have been great successes. Their residents are able to save $250 in their yearly living expenses compared with girls in economy doubles, the next cheapest arrangement, in other college dormitories.
Jordan would like to see two more of these co-operatives, housing 40 student each. They would enable many more students from the lower income groups to attend Radcliffe. But he estimates that a co-operative house for 40 girls would cost $250,000.
Another acute problem is a graduate center, Radcliffe has the largest graduate school for women in the country. But nearly all of its 300 students live wherever they can find accommodations in Cambridge. Plans have already been drawn for a Graduate Quadrangle that will house at least 150 women and provide them with facilities for their intellectual and social development. However, estimates have placed the center's cost an two million dollars. A drive a raise this sum has just started.
The man who must face these rather staggering financial problems is an historian who, until ten years ago, had concerned himself almost entirely with the teaching side of education. But Jordan has been familiar with Radcliffe for over a quarter of a century. He came to Harvard in 1923 to get a masters degree after graduating from Oakland City College in Oakland City, Indiana. Picking up a Ph.D. in 1931, he promptly joined the faculty as an instructor in history and a tutor in history, government, and economics. It was in this period that he started teaching at Radcliffe.
Jordan left Harvard to become a professor of History at Scripps College in California, where he first met Nathan M. Pusey. Under Scripps' humanities curriculum, students studied first ancient then medieval civilization during the freshman, sophomore years. Pusey introduced Scripps' students to the glories of Greece and Rome, then shuttled them to Jordan, who picked up where his colleague left off and carried them through to modern times.
In 1940, he resigned his Scripps post to assume a similar one in English History at the University of Chicago. At Chicago, he took on the General Editorship of the university's Press.
Made President in 1943
Given a sabbatical from Chicago in 1943, he came back to Cambridge on a Guggenheim Fellowship to do historical research. He was working in Houghton early in the spring of 1943 when an excited friend brought him the news: Radcliffe's trustees wished to interview him for the job of president.
Jordan did not accept immediately. He had always loved teaching, and feared that an administrative post would leave him no time to teach. But almost simultaneously, he was made a professor of History at Harvard, with the agreement that he could teach and still have time to tend to Radcliffe. He accepted, wound up his Chicago affairs, and was inaugurated in October of 1943. He still teaches one course each year and gives a graduate seminar in the Tudor and Stuart periods of English history.
This interest extends to all aspects of teaching. Vitally interested in general education, he was one of the original members of the committee that drew up the monumental report to President Conant on "General Education in a Free Society." Jordan is always experimenting with his own courses, teaching with as much discussion as possible in a group so large.
Nor does his interest stop with the instruction of college girls. Jordan has always decried the fact that, for the average woman, education ceases with graduation, when frequently she marries and spends all her time caring for her family. But when she is in her forties, her children are usually grown and she suddenly finds herself with leisure time that is increasingly hard to fill.
To give these women new intellectual stimulation, Jordan in 1950 established the Radcliffe Seminars. The Seminars draw their leaders largely from Harvard's faculty, and are offered to women who hold college degrees or their equivalent. Courses in the liberal arts are conducted on the first-year graduate level, with emphasis on reports and discussion of extensive outside reading. A typical example of the program's success is the course in Greek. Meeting only two hours a week for a term of sixteen weeks, the women cover more ground course in the University, which meets three hours a week for thirty weeks.
Radcliffe's president necessarily must talk shop when at home, for his wife, the former Frances Ruml, was dean of the college from 1934 to 1939. Now executive secretary of the world-famed Harvard Mission on Plasma Fractionation and Related Processes, she is, he claims, "a born administrator."
A Farm Boy
Born in 1902 on a Lynnville, Indians, farm, Jordan still finds his principle source of relaxation in the farm he bought in terms of farm utility a long-held amateur farmer who buys every new farming device he can conceive a use for. As yet he has found no means of rationalizing in terms of farm utility a long-held ambition: The purchase of an M.G. sports car.
In spite of his penchant for farming gadgets, he managed to stay clear of the vast machinery that runs Harvard until this year, when the I.B.M. machines went berserk and for weeks he had no list of the students in his course with which to draw up sections. But there is always the daily consolation that he can leave Harvard Hall and the hustle of the University, stroll slowly across the Common into the shaded Quad and once more become responsible for an ordered island of 1000 women