AS RADCLIFFE celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding this year, officials at the college stress that Radcliffe is a healthy and viable institution with a long future ahead of it. But in order to justify its continued existence--independent from Harvard--Radcliffe must, in the future, take a more active role as an effective advocate for undergraduate women.
Confusion has reigned within Radcliffe and without since the "non-merger merger" agreement of 1977 with Harvard turned over the responsibility of educating undergraduate women to Harvard. Radcliffe is supposed to participate actively in the formation of policies affecting women and to serve as a strong advocate for women in a University community that has a history of sluggishness in providing an education for women.
Unfortunately, more and more female undergraduates find Radcliffe does nothing for them but serve as a symbol; Radcliffe gives them a vague sense of community with other undergraduate women. Radcliffe needs to take a stronger role in University life or face the end of its independent existence.
Radcliffe justly takes pride in the advancements it has helped women achieve in the Harvard community. When Radcliffe began, many people looked upon the idea of highly educated women with suspicion and disdain. Now undergraduate women at Harvard can participate fully in University life, unhindered by most outside barriers; but those gains for women have paralleled a loss in Radcliffe's raison d'etre.
A women's advocate faces a formidable workload at Harvard. Affirmative action has barely made inroads into the ranks of senior faculty, where only 11 women hold tenured posts--less than 3 per cent of the number of full professors. The Faculty also needs to develop more courses about women and to incorporate more material about women into its existing courses.
As Radcliffe enters its second centruy, it must take more initiative if its administration and alumnae expect to have any meaningful accomplishments to celebrate in the future.