Dissension at Radcliffe
A flurry of phone calls last week brought about thirty alumnae together to endorse the Radcliffe Union of Students--one of the two alternatives before Radcliffe undergraduates in their election for a new form of student government. RUS seeks to place students on the Radcliffe Council -- the College's ultimate decision-making body.
RUS has been described as a slap-in-the-face of the trustees. It has been attacked as a fuzzy-headed radical idea which stands no chance of approval by the trustees. "But if it is a radical departure," says Mrs. Helen L. Gray '32, former president of the Aumnae Association, "it is an excellent radical departure. Mrs. Bunting should welcome this, as should the trustees."
The "excellent radical departure" does not only concern the RUS proposal, but the astonishing fact that alumnae and trustees are expressing their concern about student attitudes more and more openly as well as lending their weight and authority to student affairs. "I think student attitudes should be heard more," Mrs. Gray says. "The whole College would benefit from a strong student voice."
The alumnae who feel out of touch with students have turned to the administration, but have been disappointed. "I would hope that student opinion would go into planning for the College, but I'm afraid it hasn't," worried Mrs. Gray, who sat on the Ad Hoc Committee set up after the hunger strike.
Mrs. Bunting denies that student opinion has been ignored by her administration. "I don't know how aware this person was of efforts made over the years, last year, and this year, to get student opinion. Students have been in on the planning of the fourth House much more than people can remember now," she says.
Though many students would not fight a fourth House as outlined by Mrs. Bunting, they feel there may be better ways to spend Radcliffe's money. They feel Radcliffe should rearrange its priorities to spend that money on scholarships or subsidizing off-off campus living. This may in part explain why students have been so reluctant to spend any time plotting the lay-out of kitchens and bathrooms in a new House. But the administration does not very much want any other kinds of ideas.
A number of alumnae and at least one trustee (approximately the Radcliffe equivalent of a Harvard overseer) are beginning to express their dissatisfaction with the administration's policies. "Dissent from Mrs. Bunting's activities is very widespread," the trustee remarked. The administration's positions on both the housing controversy and the Dow demonstration have illuminated the basic problem. The administration does not want to listen to students, and, as a result, it seems to be deliberately misrepresenting student opinion to alumnae, trustees, and Council members, by giving them what they define as responsible student opinion.
At a trustee meeting after the Dow demonstration, for instance, Kathleen Elliott, Dean of the College, and Mrs. Bunting read statements to the trustees, which one trustee termed "pat, monosyllabic, and completely neutral." When another trustee asked for student opinion, he was reportedly quoted remarks by the four student members of the Judicial Board which supported the administration. No mention was made of a petition signed by 700 Radcliffe girls requesting that the administration not single out eight "scapegoats."
"The administration has its meetings very well organized," the first trustee said. She cited a meeting of the Board of Management (the Alumnae Association's executive body) at which the administration described the Radcliffe Policy Committee and its activities but neglected to mention that it had received a vote of no confidence from the students. "When I tried to point this out," the trustee said, "I was hushed up by very unparliamentary procedures." But Mrs. William H. Wright Jr. '39, president of the Alumnae Association countered: "I can't think of a more democratic meeting."
The Dow demonstration also prompted a number of senior residents (Radcliffe's equivalent of House tutors) to send a letter to the administration asking for a general amnesty. They received no comment on the letter. Senior residents are no young turks. This marked the first time in a long while that an issue had provoked them into taking a stand vis-a-vis the administration. They have long been reluctant to let themselves be quoted in the Crimson, knowing that they would get a phone call from Fay House the next day. "It's a matter of bread and butter," Carl J. Estabrook, senior resident from Avon House, explains. "Nobody has ever been fired for expressing dissent from administration policies, but many feel very uneasy."
As a result, the senior residents have not taken advantage of their unique ability to serve as interpreter between students and administrators. The pressure on the senior residents may not be deliberate; Mrs. Bunting claims she is totally ignorant of it. This is probably true, since senior residents in South and North House feel more constrained than those in East House. Nevertheless, the result has been to cut off one more potential method of communication.
Dissent and discussion among the trustees, alumnae, students, and administration can only be welcomed by all parties. It is indeed an "excellent radical departure."