CONSIDER the $2.4 million new recreational athletic center buried like a treasure in the foot of Observatory Hill. Without any help from Harvard, Radcliffe raised $972.000 to complete construction of the recreational athletic facility that houses the only doubles squash courts, racquetball and standard-sized handball courts in the University. But now Radcliffe refuses to share the wealth of facilities.
When Radcliffe made up it's mind to build a gym, the job was as good as done. Nothing could stop the college from going ahead with it's well-intentioned proposal. The idea could not have been more admirable, the college administration thought. They conceived of the gym as one of many projects to make women happy and keep them from yearning for the facilities of Harvard Houses. The college devised a three-point plan that included the construction of a library study center complete with Radcliffe's archives on the bottom level, and a fourth house--to compliment North. South and an off-campus House--lavishly furnished with kitchens for the young ladies. And, finally, the gym.
To raise money for the expensive venture. Radcliffe called on wealthy friends and alumnae to donate funds "to enhance undergraduate life particularly for those students living in the Quadrangle Houses," read the fundraising literature. The statement did not say non-Quad residents would not be allowed to use the gym. As with Currier House and Hilles Library, the fund raising efforts were billed as an attempt to improve life at the Quad, but not at the exclusion of other University student.
In October, nearly 200 administrators, alumnae, and students witnessed the dedication of the spanking new gym. President Horner told the crowd that the gym would specifically serve the needs of freshmen, Quad residents, resident staff and their guests. According to the gym's rules, not even a professor who lives on Observatory Hill, or a student who lives off-campus near the Quad may freely use the gym's facilities. In fact, the policy even excludes Horner.
The announcement of the policy caught many by surprise including a committee of Quad residents. House masters, and college administrators charged with management of the new gym, "We were not informed that the new gym would open only to Quad residents. We were under the impression that the gym was open for the entire undergraduate community," recalls Irene Kacandes '80-3. North House athletic secretary and committee member.
HORNER'S statement and the restrictive policy contradict Radcliffe's original reasons for building the gym. Radcliffe billed the gym as a college facility, not as a House facility. Under the 1971 Agreement the lines of sex were dropped in house considerations. However, Radcliffe now feels it should draw new lines according to Radcliffe's property rights. Radcliffe should not limit its good deeds to the Quad residents. With the limited access policy, the college has hidden its most ambitious and welcomed project to date.
Sarah C. Doering '49, assistant to the president for planning at Radcliffe, said in 1968 that, "It would be a mistake to only think in terms of the individual college Houses. They must be conceived in the context of the Quadrangle area, it's immediate environment, and the total University." Radcliffe should have listened to her. Most important of all, the college should now acknowledge that Radcliffe has closer ties to Harvard undergraduate life and should not draw lines based on where a student lives.
And now, since the gym has been dedicated, the college is having trouble deciding how to operate the facility. The committee charged with management of the gym was told three weeks ago that freshmen would have restricted use of the facilities. Some committee members at first interpreted the open door policy for freshmen as public relations for the spring House lottery. "There is some degree of attractiveness to inviting freshmen. It would provide a great drawing card for the lottery," commented Thomas A. Dingman, assistant dean of Harvard and chairman of the committee. Two weeks ago, Horner told the committee that maybe freshmen could have unrestricted access to the gym, and maybe not. However last week, for consistency's sake, the group opted to partially close the doors to freshmen as well as to River House residents.
Today, the gym is not open at all. Although the delay of the opening because of construction flaws may take up to a week or more, once the doors open the non-Quad residents will not make a mad rush to play squash, racquetball or handball. Instead they'll be out for a new game called "make a friend at the Quad."