Yesterday's decision by the Radcliffe College Council to initiate merger talks with Harvard has made the union of the schools inevitable, but the wedding day may still be some time away.
Talk of the merger, of course, is nothing new: Radcliffe's original charter contained a clause hinting at the eventual absorption of the college by Harvard, and officials of the two schools have informally explored the possibility during the past decade.
But nothing came of these informal contacts. Harvard reportedly insisted that Radcliffe make a greater effort to bolster its shaky financial status, and Radcliffe was not over-eager to dissolve into a division of the larger University.
Now, however, the two highest governing bodies of Radcliffe have publicly committed themselves to pursuing a merger, and--given the current student interest in the topic--backing out would be embarassing, to say the least.
Radcliffe's proposal is sure to be accepted by Harvard. The University has long subsidized its step-daughter, and a formal merger would only wipe out the myriad minor annoyances resulting from the fiction that Radcliffe lives apart from Harvard.
Yet a million details, the kind which it may take months of negotiation to work out, still remain. A place within the University will have to be found for most of Radcliffe's administrators. The budgetary system of the University may have to be revamped. Admission and scholarship plans for female Harvard undergraduates will have to be devised.
The two administrations will have to make a quick re-appraisal of Radcliffe's current building projects to see how they will fit into University-wide plans.
All these details will take time, and perhaps cause some anguish to the parties involved. But once the two colleges agree on the ultimate goal of merger, the details of the plan will inevitably--if not as speedily as some might wish--fall into place.