Harvard yesterday broke with a 71-year-old tradition by endorsing women applicants for the Rhodes Scholarship, restricted by law since its founding to candidates who exhibit "qualities of manhood."
The Fellowships Committee, having received applications from women for the first time, selected three out of six women applicants to represent Harvard in the nationwide competition.
The number of men selected at yesterday's annual Rhodes endorsement meeting is not tabulated but Katherine A. Hutchins, director of Fellowships, yesterday said approximately 70 per cent of the 116 men who filed preliminary Rhodes applications were chosen.
The women selected are Dale S. Russakoff '74 of Lowell House and Birmingham, Ala., Emily A. Fisher '74 of Dunster House and Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and RoAnn Costin '74 of Lowell House and Nahant.
Signs Attracted Applicants
Applications from women were prompted this year by assistant senior tutors in several of the Houses who posted signs early last week informing women that the committee would accept their applications.
Hutchins said she instructed tutors in all Houses to post the signs after she received telephone calls from several tutors who asked if applications from women would be accepted.
Hutchins would not say who authorized her to process applications from women.
As the director of fellowships, she has no official voice in the committee's decision to endorse candidates for the Rhodes.
Francis D. Fisher, director of the Office of Career Services and Off-Campus Learning (OGCP), said early last week that the office has no official policy on women applicants for the Rhodes.
"We merely process any applications we receive," he said.
The scholarship is restricted to men according to the provisions of a legacy set in 1902 by Cecil Rhodes, founder of the trust fund supporting the scholarship. The requirements for eligibility are incorporated into a statute of the British Parliament and any changes in those stipulations must be approved by an act of Parliament.
The 13-member Harvard Fellowship Committee--composed of an assistant senior tutor from each House--was aware of the restriction but deliberately chose to violate it, Hutchins said.
Harvard's endorsement is only the first in a long series of endorsements a candidate needs to win a Rhodes. Both a state and a regional committee must approve the applicant before his or her name can be forwarded to the trustees of the scholarship fund in England.
In endorsing a woman, Harvard follows a precedent set by the University of Minnesota, which endorsed Eileen Lach in 1972. Lach was disqualified at the state committee level.
One month before the interview scheduled by her state committee, Lach received a letter from William Barber. Barber, secretary of the Rhodes Scholarship Committee in America. In that letter, Barber told Lach he had instructed the Minnisota state committee to void her application because of her sex.
Lach yesterday said the American Civil Liberties Union is currently deciding how to handle her case. She said she does not expect a decision from them before 1974.
Reached yesterday at the American Rhodes Scholarship Committee headquarters in Wesleyan, Conn., Barber said the state Rhodes committees can only act in conjunction with the criteria for candidacy established in the Parliamentary statute.
"As guests beneficiaries of this scholarship, American colleges have no right to violate the criteria for eligibility," Barber said.
He added that any candidates who do not fulfill the stipulated criteria will be disqualified from the competition.
However, an administrator in the Office of Civil Rights in Washington D.C., yesterday said the attitude of the American Rhodes Scholarship Committee is "unnecessarily cautious."
Gwendolyn Gregory, special assistant to the director of the Civil Rights office, said she has had informal contact with the British trustees of the scholarship fund and she said she believes they are willing to consider a change in the sex requirement.
"If there is enough pressure from the United States, the Rhodes trustees could encourage Parliament to pass an act that would allow women to receive Rhodes scholarships," Gregory said.
She said it is likely that Parliament would consent to any changes in the statute recommended by the trustees.
Gregory outlined two courses of action available to achieve alteration of the criteria.
The first and more difficult course would be for the Office of Civil Rights to threaten American colleges with federal fund cut offs pending their endorsement of women applicants, Gregory explained.
According to title 9 of the 1972 Education Act, Gregory said, colleges could be forced to withdraw.
Title 9 prohibits discrimination in educational institutions on the basis of sex, race or religion. The withdrawal of Americans from the Rhodes competition could place pressure on the Rhodes trustees to alter the stipulations, Gregory said. Or it could simply result in America's permanent withdrawal from the fund, which is unlikely, she said.
The more reasonable action would be to formalize negotiations with the British trustees. The Civil Rights Office will do this is enough women apply for the Rhodes, she added. She declined to estimate how many women applicants would be needed to precipitate federal action.
Few women at Yale and Princeton have thus far filed applications for the Rhodes.
Edward Cox, the associate dean of Princeton University, yesterday said no woman have filed applications for the scholarship. An aide to the associate dean at Yale yesterday said one woman has filed an application but the college has not yet endorsed any candidates