Radcliffe is undergoing an identity crisis. The Radcliffe trustees decision to eliminate the Radcliffe Forum this week brought into the open disagreement among administrators, trustees and staff over Radcliffe's role.
Burton I. Wolfman, administrative dean of Radcliffe, said the decision reasserts Radcliffe's priorities, placing the needs of undergraduates ahead of any wider participation in the women's movement.
Both the outgoing and incoming chairmen of the Radcliffe Board of Trustees agreed with Wolfman's assessment.
President Horner said she decided to support the Forum's elimination on purely fiscal grounds. Horner said, however, that the priorities of the college lie with both the education of undergraduate women and the continuing education of all women.
An alumna and staff worker who is acquainted with the Forum's activities said yesterday she felt the decision showed that undergraduates were the lowest of Radcliffe's priorities. "The forum was the only part of Radcliffe actively involved with undergraduates--and they cut it," she said.
Radcliffe's priorities lie with the programs that generate income, the alumna said.
"The decision reflects a lack of clarity that has been there a very long time," Simone Reagor, director of the forum--whose post was eliminated along with the Forum--said yesterday.
Peggy Plympton, a staff member at the Forum, said she felt the decision showed that Radcliffe's priorities lie with protecting its endowment, and with activities that generate their own income.
No matter what the decision reflects, one thing is clear: everyone, including President Horner, says that in some of the trustees minds, the nature of some of the specific programs of the Forum affected their decision.
One program that Amy DeFriez, the incoming chairman of the Board of Trustees, cited as particularly inappropriate in light of tight money was the efforts of the Forum in educating the 3000 mostly female support staff within the University about their options in approaching management to present their salary demands.
"We were all concerned about those activities," Horner said. The college always has to be carful that its activities do not border on the political so as not to injure its tax-exempt status, Horner added.
Horner reiterated that the programs of the Forum will continue under the administrative control of a new associate dean who will operate from her office.
Wolfman said that under the new set-up, Horner will now initiate the programs rather than merely approving or disaproving them.
Horner also said she was concerned there might be misconceptions surrounding the May 5 Trustees' executive board meeting, to which the trustees have invited student leaders "to talk about." "The decision has been made. It is final," Horner said.
Citing the difficulties and complexities of budgetary decisions, Horner said, "I don't think students have a clue as to how institutions work."