Many Lou Fackler '76 was carrying a large stack of books on the Ohio State University campus one day when a friend of her brother asked her. "Why aren't you at Radcliffe?" That night she sent a letter off to Harvard, asking if she could apply.
Griff Marton '75 was wounded on patrol in Vietnam and spent three months recovering in a Japanese hospital. He wanted to study Japanese foreign relations and felt that the only scholar who had anything worthwhile to say on the subject was Edwin O. Reischauer, University Professor.
Alice Barton '75 wasn't happy about the way the Tufts University Fine Arts Department was being torn apart by a sex discrimination suit, especially after her advisor and Renaissance art professor was fired. Besides, the academic atmosphere at Tufts was "low key--not at all exciting," and Harvard has "an excellent art history department."
Fackler, Marton and Barton are among a select group of students who have transferred to Harvard or Radcliffe from other colleges. They and other transfer students are an elite within an elite--characterized by histories of superior academic achievement and a special determination to get what they consider the best education possible. Nonetheless, their personalities, backgrounds and interests are as diverse as those of four-year students.
Mary Lou Fackler--whose real name is America Lou--is a tall, slender blonde with long, straight hair, lots of blue eyeshadow and pink nails that match her pink jersey and the long, gauzy scarf around her neck. Like most of the transfer students I talked to, she says she applied to Radcliffe because of academics. "I always grew up with the idea that this was the best place," she says, a belief reinforced when she noticed that all the psychology textbooks she used at Ohio State University were written by Harvard professors.
Ohio State, with a student population of about 53,000, offers a far wider range of courses than does Harvard, but Fackler didn't feel it was preparing her to go on to law or graduate school. One can major in agriculture, home ec, phys ed or train to be a butcher at Ohio State but courses there are generally taught in large lecture halls and exams are computer scored and multiple choice. "I had to opt to write papers," she says. Studying for courses meant highlighting with felt tip pens and then marking special passages with small colored dots of tape, she says, pulling out an old textbook festooned with a rainbow of different colored highliters and dots.
Still, she got A's and that's what got her into Radcliffe.
Admission to Radcliffe or Harvard from another college is even more competitive than admission to either college as a freshman and "academic credentials are far and away the most important criteria" according to Calvin N. Mosley, associate director of admissions for transfers and special students. Mosley says that one year he stopped counting when the number of unsuccessful applicants with 4.0 averages reached 200.
Mosley estimates that there will be between 30 and 50 resident places available to transfers for 1975-76. Harvard expects to receive over 400 applicants; Radcliffe, according to Louise A. Cohen, associate director of Admissions, about 200. This year for the first time transfers to Harvard and Radcliffe will be admitted under an equal access policy supervised jointly by the admissions offices of the two colleges. The experiment is conceived as a dry run for the full merger of the two offices that seems almost certain in the near future.
So far, Harvard courses have lived up to Fackler's expectations. Whatever she lost by not being able to use her pilot's license to fly one of the 24 aircraft that were provided for students at Ohio State has been gained back in better facilities activities and a lower student faculty ratio. The member of students who have special talents and skills also impresses her although she says that she came here. I had this terrible misconception that everyone who went to Harvard was a genus much a great that he looked like a genius, or else had a long lineage." She started her first fall term "studying like a fiend" and found herself surrounded by people who wanted to go to mixers and movies. Before too long, however, she learned to integrate work with play.
But one activity Fackler has yet to integrate into her life at Radcliffe is baton twirling. Fackler has been twirling since the age of nine and she's a member of the World Twirling Association--but the closest thing to performing as a majorette at Harvard is beating the "world's largest" drum in the Harvard band. When Fackler was a senior in high school and again her freshman year at Ohio State she won the senior division in national twirling competition. Then, in December of 1974, she was named the "World's Most Beautiful Majorette (Collegiate Division)." She is out of competition now, but she keeps in good form by cheerleading (minus her baton) for Harvard's teams. But she still misses going to the Rose Bowl and huge Buckeye Stadium jammed to the top with cheering fans.
Many transfers were active in their old schools; but most, faced with only two or three years instead of four in which to fulfill departmental and general education requirements, devote their full energies to their studies and to trying to feel at home in a community that they perceive as one in which friendships are close and usually formed in freshman and sophomore years. Time to sample and experiment, in academics and with extracurricular activities, is a luxury they don't have.
Even those students who come with a specific academic goal, sometimes run into problems. Griff Marton, after two years at Harvard, expresses more doubts and disappointments with his experience in the University. He is a large man, over six feet tall and heavy boned. A thick brown mustache makes the lower half of his face more prominent. Several feet of newspapers, from which he will eventually clip articles about international relations and Japan, are stacked in his room. At 26 he looks and feels older than his classmates and he speaks with a measured succintness, as if he has answered these questions before.
Marton graduated from a Philadelphia high school in 1967. He spent his first year at a local college playing basketball, subsequently flunking out and then worked for a construction company. Christmas of '68 he received his draft notice a few days after enlisting in the Army. He was discharged two years later then traveled, eventually settling in California. There he enrolled at El Camino College, a two-year school in Los Angeles with a student population of 23,000, many of whom were returning veterans.
His experiences in Viet Nam and especially his stay in Japan had an enormous impact on his attitudes toward school. "I really had something I was interested in studying and had goals I was working for for the first time." Japan seemed to him to be a "country or people that somehow mattered more than other countries in the overall scheme of things," and one that too few Americans know anything about.
At El Camino, the professors were student-oriented and interested in teaching rather than research. The lack of such interest on the part of too many professors at Harvard and the organization of the East Asian Studies Department have been big disappointments to Marton.
"I pretty much have mixed feelings about Harvard after having arrived," although he does not regret the decision to transfer. He has had little difficulty finding someone to sign for independent studies but finding someone to work with and give him guidance in his particular area of interest. Japanese security policy, has proved much more difficult.
After having heard so much about Harvard's tutorial system, his junior tutorial in East Asian studies turned out to be a "disaster"--too many people with too many different interests and too little guidance from the graduate student who taught the course. Even more disturbing. Marton has perceived little willingness on the part of professors or students to consider just why it is important to study East Asian subjects, Marton's own interest is an outgrowth of deeply emotional reflections on his combat experiences and he has found it frustrating that so many concentrators in the department seem to want "to hide in this classical oriental culture" and ignore present day realities.
Despite Marton's experiences, the complaint voiced most frequently by transfers concerns housing, not academics. The admissions office only admits transfers; Eleanor C. Marshall, assistant to the deans of Harvard and Radcliffe College for Housing, and the housing office are responsible for placing the transfers in Houses. And in the past few years, the policy has been to place them to the Quad Houses where there are more unfilled spaces. For many students the fact that the Radcliffe Houses to which they are assigned place them at 29 Garden Street only adds insult to injury "I came to Harvard to go to Harvard and not some grungy hotel," declares Hubert Lenczowski '76 heatedly. Lenczowski now lives in Eliot House. Being put into the Continental was "the stupidest idea that ever happened," he says.
Most of the transfer students, even those who like being at Radcliffe, think 29 Garden Street is a poor solution to their housing problem. They feel ostracized from College activities.
Although there are no plans to decrease the number of transfers who will be given housing on-campus, the number of non-resident transfers admitted may well increase, starting next year. Harvard will again admit transfers for next year, after a one-year moratorium, but will not make a decision on exactly how many, and whether they are given housing, until May.
If increased numbers of non-residents are admitted, it will represent a marked departure from Harvard's past policy, though not from Radcliffe's. Many other colleges--University of Pennsylvania. Yale and MIT, for example--admit greater numbers of transfer students particularly non-resident transfers, than does Harvard, Mosley says.
Transfers have traditionally been looked upon as an easy way of raising revenue and counteracting high tuition rates. Because of Harvard's extremely low attrition rate and its wealth, it has ben relatively immune to such pressures in the past. "Now," says Mosley, "we're to the point" where, because of recent deficits and changes in attitudes, transfers are looked at as a means of producing income and responding to the needs of undersubscribed departments. There is less reluctance now to offer the education without the place to live.
Radcliffe has traditionally accepted a larger percentage of its transfers as non-residents because a larger percentage of its applications come from women who have interrupted their studies to work or have familiar and now want to complete their educations. Cohen says.
Both Mosley and Cohen also stress that the admissions committees are biased toward applicants from non-Ivy League schools. "We hope to find people who have come from junior or community colleges and really need the richer opportunities Radcliffe provides," explains Cohen. "Social value admits" is what Mosley calls these students.
Both David Cantelme '76 and Marton have benefitted from the bias toward junior colleges. Cantelme was admitted from Glendale Community College, a small junior college located in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. He was one of only two students admitted last year to Harvard during the "moratorium" on transfer admissions to the college. Due to overcrowding. Radcliffe continued to admit transfers--six residents and 14 non-residents, in all--"because we were never told not to," says Cohen.
Cantelme, a thickset blonde with a footballer's physique (the came to the door shirtless) and a calm, direct manner was allowed to apply to Harvard past the deadline in his senior year in high school but was nevertheless rejected. In his second year at Glendale, where he was an English major, he sent letters and made several phone calls to the admissions office about transferring before he was told of the moratorium. Finally, he was able to talk with Mosley who agreed to take his petition before the admissions committee. Cantelme never received any official explanation of why he was accepted but feels that, "they feel as if a commitment was made to me in my senior year."
Aside from some publicity about the circumstances surrounding his admission. Cantelme's assimilation into the Harvard community has been a smooth one. There have been little problems--longer reading lists, greater difficulty making contacts with professors than at Glendale, adjusting to the reserved temperament of people in New England and to the weather--but few major ones. The biggest change academically in coming to Harvard was his decision to switch into economics when he entered after reading the registrar's assessment of his transcript showed that he could more easily fulfill the requirements of the Economics department than of the English department.
The registrar's evaluation of academic credit is a part of a pre-registration orientation program that includes a series of dinners, luncheons and tours. The program, which is run by David Hartnett, director of Advanced Standing, and the admissions staff, has received mixed reviews, Mosley and Harnett generally received good marks and are pictured as concerned and conscientious.
Despite all the good intentions, it is perhaps inevitable that transfer students experience the same kind of confusion and frustration endemic to freshman. Says Alice Barton, a senior in Currier House, "One of the things that characterized my experience with Harvard was having to do everything myself. No one-was going to baby you. It was kind of bewildering to be confronted with so may intricate regulations."
Lenczowski, who feels there is still "a lot of room for improvement" in the transfer program would like to see transfers given specific academic advisers or at least given help in getting in touch with students in their departments before they have to chose courses. Without someone to warm them of the pitfalls of certain courses they can easily find themselves like Tim Solberg '76, a transfer from a small midwestern college taking three economics courses and calculus and swamped with work.
Perhaps the only issue on which all the transfer students I talked to agreed was the importance of maintaining a transfer program. None regretted having come to Harvard and all felt there are benefits to having gone to more than one college that aren't available to students who've gone one school for four years. Barton says, "I'm glad I came here with the perspective. I did, from a small, less self-conscious school." Her sentiments are echoed by Mina Carson, also a senior in Currier House. "I'm awfully glad and have been glad ever since I came here that I didn't come here freshman year...I think Harvard can do things about one's assumptions about education and oneself," not all of which are good.
Harvard's flaws are no less apparent to transfers than to four-year students but it's easier for transfers to resist being spoiled by Harvard because they're seen other places. "The Harvard experience isn't college, it's Harvard," says Barton and that seems to sum up the experiences of most transfers.