AFTER THE LAST decade's birth of feminist consciousness, few students today would question the desirability of enrolling equal numbers of men and women at Harvard and Radcliffe. But every Spring students do return to the perennial question: should Harvard set 1:1 admissions as a goal or should students campaign for a "sex-blind" policy? No serious believer in equal admissions can continue to extol "non-discrimination" while avoiding concrete solutions like quotas or target figures.
Simply to talk of "non-discrimination" in an institution intent on enrolling more men than women is naive. Harvard's applicant pool is so over-qualified that any numerical limit on acceptances means arbitrary choice. The question centers on the principles that will guide such choice. Harvard's past practice demonstrates that, if possible, sexism will be one of those principles.
The possibilities of avoiding equal admissions with a policy of so-called "non-discrimination" are endless. Applicants could be chosen by traits which, in American society, are sex-related-such as high school athletic achievement or holding certain school offices. Harvard could take equal proportions of the men and women who apply, and shift its geographical distribution to concentrate on regions where male applicants predominate. Even if financial offices merged, Harvard might not recruit men and women with equal energy. Indeed, there would be incentives to recruit fewer women, since recruiting would increase the number not only of women applicants, but of lower-income applicants in need of financial aid.
Regardless of the outcome, there would be virtually no way under a "non-discriminatory" policy for anyone to prove overt sex discrimination in Harvard's admissions policies.
Most troubling is that "sex-blind" admissions might lead to classes less heterogeneous than those currently admitted. By discriminating against women in scholarship aid, Harvard might lessen economic heterogeneity under the guise of sexual non-discrimination. Should Harvard continue to take fewer women than men, popular insistence that Harvard increase its female enrollment could be met with the reply, "Our policy forbids us to discriminate."
Harvard needs a policy explicitly committed to admitting equal numbers of men and women. It must be a policy that does this without increasing class size or taking a student group less varied in background. Such a policy must afford observers the opportunity to determine if a conscious effort toward equalizing admissions is taking place.
HARVARD'S ONLY SOLUTION is the deliberate adoption of a 1:1 admissions policy, with a single admissions office giving equal effort towards recruiting men and women. Only a conscious attempt to open Harvard on an equal basis will erode the tradition of male hegemony. If universities, nation-wide, dedicate their energy toward educating more women, they will help undercut the pre-selection of women for secondary economic roles. Sex-blind admissions simply doesn't address this current unequality at all.
Harvard consistently cites financial difficulties as the obstacle to equal admissions. Such arguments are either circular or false. Figures from other colleges suggest increased coeducation does not diminish alumni contributions. By opening more places to women, Harvard will help create the capacity in more places to women to make large contributions to Harvard. Last year, the average pledge of Radcliffe seniors was higher than the average Harvard commencement pledge to the College Funds. A serious financial argument is possible only if you believe that women will never get equal wages for equal work, if you believe-as F. Skiddy von Stade Jr. '38, dean of Freshmen, suggested four years ago-that educated women are simply less useful to society than educated men. If the University accepts that today, adopting a liberal non-discriminatory policy won't change things.
What could bring a one-to-one policy? A strong piece of national legislation would be the easiest and, of course, the least likely route. Far more telling, though, will be pressure by the Harvard community. The most effective tactic will be for concerned students and alumni to make all pledged contributions contingent on the adoption of equal admissions.
Factors already in operation will aid this effort. As equally good schools become more sexually balanced, more qualified men will choose to attend schools other than Harvard. As people worry less about the draft, male applications will fall off. Public sentiment is turning towards greater sexual equality, and the eventual retirement of Harvard's older, more stubborn administrators will no doubt ease the resistance to making Harvard one-to-one.
By enrolling equal numbers of men and women, by recruiting men and women with equal effort, by providing personal services in equal quantities and of equal quality, by providing as much money for needy women as Harvard does for low-income men, and by hiring qualified men and women teachers and workers in equal numbers, Harvard will demonstrate both its ability and willingness to provide a healthy educational community without sexual discrimination. Under those conditions, it would be possible to advocate "non-discrimination." Ironically, under those conditions non-discrimination would yield a 1:1 student body. Until students and alumni demand equal admissions by deliberate policy or Congress passes legislation which will force Harvard toward accepting as many women as men, the University will continue to discriminate against women. No one should be satisfied with Harvard's admissions policies until equal numbers of men and women are admitted.