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.