The Lifeblood of Women's Education: Money
In the old days a persistent gentleman named Moses had a vision. In concert with the Lord, Moses bargained with the Pharoah and led the Israelites out of Egypt. But he ran into some difficulties in the desert. The Hebrews did not have enough time to stock up on provisions and Moses was at a loss as to how to feed them. But lo and behold, manna fell from heaven.
Those were the good old days. Manna and visions like Moses's are obsolete now, although both commitments and social goals are not.
It is a pity at Harvard, I know, that we have a commitment to women's education without the miracles to back it up. While the image of Radcliffe Yard strewn with ten-dollar bills falling from the gray skies of Cambridge is an attractive one, that is simply not the way things work. The closest we can come to divine intervention would be a sudden magnificent inheritance. But either way, money is the manna we need.
While Radcliffe women receive Harvard degrees, it is misleading to say that Radcliffe is but a part of Harvard. Out of the haze of the Radcliffe "agreement" with Harvard, a number of programs such as Education for Action survive with three "retained functions" outstanding: the Radcliffe Institute, Financial Aid and Women's Education. "Retained functions" means that Radcliffe staffs these programs, determines their policies, and, significantly, foots the bill.
Radcliffe's seeds were sown from an actively expressed desire for the improvement of education for women. While Radcliffe remained geographically distinct from Harvard, she did not have to articulate consistently her concern for women's education. Nestled in the Radcliffe Yard and at the Quad, Radcliffe College's existence spoke for itself. As the demands for merger increased, the issues specifically pertaining to women became obscured. In the last few years, we have begun again, irrespective of our individual opinions about merger, to speak about the particular educational needs of women, not because we are fragile delicate souls who cannot cope, but because we are women at Harvard.
Now Radcliffe's president is not just talking about women's education, but she has acted to develop an administrative body, the Office of Women's Education, thus affirming what has been Radcliffe College's long-time commitment to the education of women.
Any office with a wide range of concerns will spend its first months trying to determine exactly what are women's educational needs in the Radcliffe-Harvard community. With a small staff, this takes time--time to make contact with women scattered throughout the campus, time to study how women function here. Communication (if only there were a lesstired word) will be the key to the success of an office in such an embryonic stage. Clearly the Office of Women's Education needs money to grow and thrive.
To say that specific issues for women in the past have been obscured is not to say that women's education has been heretofore ignored. I am tempted to let my pen fly off the handle a bit whenever I begin to talk about the Radcliffe Institute. For one thing, not nearly enough people know what kind of resources the Institute has, or even that these facilities are available to the undergraduate community. The Institute this year is giving research grants to 36 fellows so that they may study or work in their respective fields.
Included among the Institute's facilities is the Schlesinger Library, whose archives contain the papers of Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller and Betty Friedan, among others. The collection now owned by Radcliffe offers the most valuable research assistance in the country to women interested in women's history. Any student at Harvard and Radcliffe may use the library as often as do the Institute fellows, who incidentally, are a remarkably diverse lot. Their interests range from sexual dimorphism in mammals to dance as a film and video art form. Some of the work of Institute Fellows hangs in an art exhibit currently running at the Institute building in Radcliffe Yard. You can see for yourself what kind of talent the Institute attracts. Radcliffe Fellows are artists and scholars. They are women, and Radcliffe pays their way.
The connection between the improvement of women's education and the Radcliffe College Fund may seem tenuous to those people who insist that the fund finances an elite institution. That argument against making a contribution is skewed; Radcliffe's students only can be as diverse as Radcliffe's coffers make it. Each of us at Radcliffe, for whatever personal reasons, values the Radcliffe-Harvard education or we wouldn't be here. For my part, Harvard has managed, at least to keep its intellectual integrity intact and the university offers resources such as the Carpenter Center and the Science Center, that should be made available to anyone who can use them well. The so-called exclusiveness of Radcliffe will be nurtured and not diminished if it cannot attract students diverse in interests and backgrounds.
But Radcliffe barely keeps 30 per cent of its students on financial aid and that is our problem. Thirty per cent is a low figure--low in comparison to Harvard's ability to aid 40 per cent of its students and low in comparison to an ideal figure which would be somewhere in the vicinity of 75 per cent. We used to talk about financial aid for students from lower income groups but now the economy's crunch threatens to put Radcliffe's tuition out of the range of middle-income groups as well.
Because of this, if you are concerned with Radcliffe's diversity, you can affect it by supporting the Radcliffe College fund. As for admissions, Radcliffe might be deemed less exclusive if she admitted more than 450 women in each class. But the college will be hard-pressed to argue for increased female admissions if it cannot help women pay tuition.
The decision to contribute to the Radcliffe College fund is not contingent upon any particular stand on the merger versus non-merger issue. If you think Radcliffe should remain a separate institution, then dollars and cents are the insurance needed to maintain and strengthen her present status and to develop the retained functions into the hard-core of a vital women's college. If you favor merger then it must be clear that Radcliffe cannot effect an acceptable liaison with Harvard unless she has some solid footing, particularly in the realm of women's education where Harvard has up to now made few inroads.
Ultimately, however, concerning oneself with Radcliffe's negotiations with Harvard tends to cloud the present circumstances. Right now, Radcliffe is a separate institution that simply does not enjoy a hefty endowment.
A newspaper article that focuses on the need for money makes for less than moving prose. But lately, a healthy realism has been creeping into my consciousness, no doubt inspired by the fact that the month of June and graduation promise nothing but a confrontation with the real world. We can anticipate the real world's revelations by accepting the fact that while soothing rhetoric persuades, hard money talks in very different ways.
There are no subtle ways to solicit money. The fact is that Radcliffe College needs money and most of us can afford to contribute to the Radcliffe College fund in the Senior solicitation that takes place this week. A commitment to women's education gets expressed in its first stages by creative designs and projects that, for the moment, are on paper. The gap between "on paper" and "in action" is a financial one.
Susan G. Cole '74 is a student living in North House.