Horner's Stands on Issues Depart From Merger Focus, Puzzle Many
The new office of Admissions, Financial Aid and Women's Education may be critical for merger.
THE MOMENTUM which seemed to be leading Radcliffe irresistably towards merger has halted since Radcliffe's sixth President, Matina S. Horner, took office last Fall. When asked about the future of women at Harvard, Horner has invariably replied that she wants to know more about the implications of proposed policies before taking a stand on them. And she has ranked merger, publicly at least, as one of the lesser problems confronting Radcliffe.
The idea of total merger was very much in the air prior to 1970, but in that year the Committee on Harvard-Radcliffe Relations drew back from proposing it, saying that Radcliffe still had some "unfinished business in implementing provisions which will aid women in completing and making full use of their education."
Still, the subsequent agreement (signed as an amendment to the 1943 contract by which Radcliffe students officially became the wards of Harvard's Faculty) envisioned closer coordination between the two institutions. In it, Harvard reaffirmed its commitment to the education of women and Radcliffe students looked forward to "full and equal participation" in the University's academic and social life.
Ostensibly this new contract marked an advance from the days when Harvard President Emeritus James Bryant Conant '14 could say that Harvard was coed only in practice not in theory--the war and attendant financial problems alone had formed the backdrop to the 1943 agreement.
In 1965, then President Nathan M. Pusey '28 set a different tone when he told the Harvard Board of Overseers that "the time has come to recognize Radcliffe as an inescapable part of Harvard University." And Pusey's successor, Derek Bok, has reportedly said that if Radcliffe did not exist, Harvard would have had to create it.
This, at a time when a growing number of undergraduate women fail to see either what would have to be created in Radcliffe's absence, or what "unfinished business" Radcliffe could possibly have short of complete merger.
Co-residential living has almost single-handedly accelerated the inevitable questions about Harvard's relationship to Radcliffe because it has virtually eliminated Radcliffe's identity while leaving Harvard's intact. But while undergraduate women may feel inescapably a part of Harvard, the question in the minds of many Radcliffe administrators is whether Harvard has gone beyond the point of approving coeducation only in practice, not in theory.
MUCH OF Horner's time during her first year has been tied up in settling Radcliffe's budget, overseeing search committees, writing funding proposals for programs at the Radcliffe Institute and the Schlesinger Library and ironing out some of the operational details of the 1971 agreement. She has moved in on many of these problems in a way which has created confusion about her priorities but which defies labelling her simply as a separatist.
Some of the things that Horner has done this year are clearly aimed at integrating women into the Harvard community. Others lead less clearly in this direction; they are aimed at strengthening Radcliffe's ties with the women it admits. But ironically, the success of these attempts to provide "structures" for women at Harvard may determine whether Radcliffe itself continues to exist as a separate institution.
Horner says that her primary concern is the educational experience at Harvard. As a University Dean, she is the first Radcliffe administrator to sit on the Faculty's Educational Policy Committee and considers this one of her most important functions, one where her purview includes men as well as women.
As far as Horner is concerned, Radcliffe is a port of entry for women to Harvard. Once here, she says, both men and women are in the same boat: "I think all students should see themselves as Harvard undergraduates," Horner said in an interview last week.
Because Horner conceives of Harvard and Radcliffe students as members of a single undergraduate body, she cites as one of this year's major accomplishments efforts to make the housing system conform to the guidelines set by the 1971 agreement.
"Under the contract, it was to be one unified House system. Somehow that didn't get communicated, that it isn't Harvard and Radcliffe, but one," she said. "For instance, people make the distinction between the ten Harvard Houses and the grouped Radcliffe ones, when in fact three happen to be Quadrangle Houses and ten are River Houses. Each may have a different lifestyle, ratio or architecture, but they're all part of one system."
Beginning next year, Horner said, senior tutors in the Quadrangle Houses will become Allston Burr senior tutors and all references to Harvard and Radcliffe Houses in University publications will be changed. "The intent behind the agreement was to guarantee full and equal access to women. Clarifying the housing situation is a first step in that direction," Horner said.
Another way in which Horner is closing the distance between Harvard and Radcliffe is by phasing out the Radcliffe College Marshall and dean of students offices over the summer. "Under the agreement, it doesn't make sense to duplicate functions at Radcliffe which belong at Harvard," she said.
YET SOME important functions, namely admissions and financial aid, will continue to be administered separately.
Horner believes, however, that admitting women is a task that should be shared by Harvard and Radcliffe so that the Faculty will feel responsible for the education of women.
"The Faculty don't see women as potentially taking their chairs," Horner said in an April interview. "It's not that they don't think women are bright, but it's an attitude that will lead them to make certain decisions inadvertently. The Faculty has got to understand and take seriously the education of women, but it's difficult if they don't know anything about these students."
Thus, Horner has geared her efforts this year towards educating the Faculty about the women it is in turn responsible for educating. For example, this year marked the first time that a standing committee worked closely with the Radcliffe Admissions Committee. Horner feels that if anything helps dissolve myths about Radcliffe students, Faculty involvement of this nature will do it because for the first time, Harvard professors and administrators at least know what sorts of women are in the Radcliffe applicant pool.
The problem is that Radcliffe itself does not know that much about the women it has admitted. A college which was noted for its familial-type of atmosphere seems to have been markedly unprofessional about keeping track of its students. As far as Horner is concerned, "There is no justification for Radcliffe unless we can speak authoritatively about them and about their educational and living experience."
While Horner thinks in terms of one undergraduate body, she also believes that women have special needs which require separate attention. She has talked on many occasions this year about support structures within the larger structure," terminology which she acknowledges has been damaging because for many people it connotes an inferior status of women. But she maintains both that "the specific needs of women are not the same as those of men, nor are they necessarily applicable to all women," and that "recognizing special needs is not to say that they're second class."
The new office combining Admissions, Financial Aid and Women's Education is the structure by which Horner proposes to do this. It is not meant to replicate any current administrative post within the University, Horner emphasizes, but to see that "existing structures are used as they were supposed to be." Presumably it will function as a clearing house and expediter -- what Horner has called a "support structure" -- for women. Its concurrent purpose is to collect the data and conduct the research which will not only allow it to serve the needs of women at Harvard but which will also form the basis for subsequent policy decisions regarding the Harvard-Radcliffe relationship.
Some of the questions of immediate interest include why women tend to cluster in a limited number of concentrations (notably Social Relations and History and Literature), what the effects of coresidential living have been, and what the differences are in the educational experiences of "non-traditional students" -- blacks, white ethnics and transfers.
Horner maintains that this office is intrinsically important, no matter what the future holds for Radcliffe. But in fact, Alberta B. Arthurs, the office's dean, will assume a post next Fall which may well be critical in deciding the question of merger: whether it is "Radcliffe" or some other body, there is a strong feeling that an advocate group for women at Harvard must exist. If this new office proves effective, it will probably be the only Radcliffe administrative structure to survive total merger. As Horner herself said last month, "The existence of a separate corporation gives women more clout but is irrelevant if good alternative structures exist." Essentially this office represents the "unfinished business" mentioned prior to signing the 1971 contract.
In a sense, Matina Horner has run a one-woman show this past year, albeit inconspicuously in comparison to her predecessor, Polly Bunting. It has been a year of beginnings on many fronts. And it remains to be seen whether the momentum leading toward merger has really been halted or whether it has merely been channeled into areas which are preconditions for merger. How the theory translates into practice is the biggest question now facing Radcliffe.