Boys and Girls Together
"NON-MERGER" has already been approved by the Radcliffe Trustees and the Harvard Corporation. Only the Board of Overseers has yet to approve the measure, and it is expected it will do so at its March 8 meeting. Meanwhile, many Harvard men, often the very ones who were initially hostile to the whole coed invasion, now greedily clamor that their respective Houses be granted a token complement of women. And the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life is threatening to respond with an 8:1 total coed plan that would spread women through the dining halls like a thin pate.
Yet the position of undergraduate women at Harvard remains as tenuous as ever. Harvard still very much belongs to the Harvard "man," while Radcliffe "girls" are merely suffered as attractive, exotic interlopers. Individually, many women now living in Harvard Houses tell of repeated rebuffs on the part of Senior Tutors and House secretaries. When one representative group of senior women living in Lowell House complained of overcrowding, arguing that senior men were given private rooms, they were told that if they weren't happy with their situation they could simply move back to the Cliffe.
Even under the pretense of a Harvard-Radcliffe "non-merger" marriage, Radcliffe will become simply a different sort of maidservant. Where Radcliffe administrators had hoped that maintaining a degree of institutional autonomy would secure women a base from which to press their demands on a recalcitrant university, it is now clear that Harvard has discovered the loophole that frees the College from facing up to the legal inevitability of equal admissions. By retaining control over admissions policy and financial aids, the reconstituted Radcliffe College-a "college" without its own administration, faculty or funds-will simply serve as a delivery service, yearly sending over to Harvard an annual quota of women that promises to prolong the current imbalance of four men to one woman.
"The full and equal participation of Radcliffe students in the intellectual and social life of the University" -the Faculty's own announced resolution-hardly seems served by an institutional arrangement that accepts the education of women as four times less pressing than the education of men. A 50-50 admissions policy that would bring undergraduate men and women to Harvard on a one-to-one basis is the obvious and desirable goal. The petition that originated in Dunster House last week urging the implementation of equal admissions in selecting the Class of 76-that is, those freshmen entering in the fall of '72-offers such a goal. Organized primarily by women, the petition demonstrates that women can operate as an effective political force within the College-rather than directing their shellfire from the remove of the Radcliffe Yard-while its popularity (over 800 signatures so far) indicates a solid basis of support.
MEANWHILE, co-residential living-the issue that ignited the temporarily stalled drive towards merger in the first place-remains an immediate problem. The CHUL proposal to distribute consenting women evenly throughout the Houses has gained few adherents. A recent poll conducted by the Radcliffe Union of Students condemned the proposal overwhelmingly. To isolate a group of 40 women in a building housing a few hundred men would prevent the women from establishing their own independent identity and would negate whatever effects they, as a group, could have on House life.
More satisfactory a temporary expedient is a plan, endorsed by the RUS, which would establish a more equitable 2:1 male-female ratio in the five Houses now currently coed. Such a plan would provide women with ratios they feel more acceptable, while preventing the current situation from falsely exhibiting the presumed equilibrium that the CHUL plan would suggest.
In a letter sent to Dean May yesterday, the House Committee chairmen of the four non-coed Houses have recommended such a solution, only asking that a new, random lottery determine, once and for all, which Houses go coed. Since last year's preferential lottery-engineered by May in a stunning display of bureaucratic complexity-approached the arbitrary quality of random selection, it would seem absurd to repeat a process that would ultimately uproot some of the women who have begun to establish themselves in their Houses.
Until equal admissions is achieved, there will simply be no way around the disparity between the coed Houses and their celibate brothers. To accept that situation is not so much to force Harvard's adopted women into the role of modern-day Lysistratas as to face up to the inequitable admissions ratio.
Other objections to equal admissions will have to be met along the way. Equal admissions must not result in a significant increase in undergraduate enrollment. There is just no room or money to balance an influx of women off against the prevailing number of men. The simple solution is to accept fewer men. At a time when Harvard admissions applications are declining, it is indeed odd to find Dean Peterson protesting that "reduced admission of men would force us into less diversity," unless, of course, one sees women as a homogeneous mass.
Simultaneously, as the number of female admissions increases, coed living can expand. First, the present coed Houses should be allowed to achieve a one-to-one level and then coed arrangements should be extended to the remaining four. The freshmen dorms should be gradually introduced into the exchange-in fact, there is no reason why a certain number of dorms could not trade off their men for freshman women next Fall.
Expected negative alumni reaction will have to be countered with discussion and debate. (Though the prospects of alumni disowning the place may not be as dire as the soothsayers would have it. Yale hasn't seen decline in alumni contributions accompany the appearance of women on its campus.) In the long run, in fact, a serious attempt to educate women, who are simultaneously developing new lifestyles now that it is no longer demanded they become "housewives-and-mothers," would logically result in an entire new source of alumni contributions.
Which is of course to deflect the major thrust of the argument. The principle at stake is one of equal education-and if we've, theoretically at least, accepted that principle when applied to this country's minority groups it's about time it's extended to the female majority. Harvard, with its 10,000-man traditions, can offer no apology for its male-only past, but by implementing an equal admissions policy for the Class of '76, at least it doesn't commit itself to reenacting the sins of its fathers.
( A dissenting opinion will appear on page 3 of tomorrow's CRIMSON.)