Sick of Radcliffe
WHY HARVARD IS...
Radcliffe College is about as modern as your average chastity belt. No matter what a guy does, he just can't get in.
Some people think the place has become obsolete. Radcliffe doesn't do enough, some say. Others say it gives women students an unfair advantage with its additional grants and fellowships. A few just have a problem taking a place seriously when it offered seven people its presidency before anyone accepted.
Officials there, realizing they have an image problem akin to that of bars during Prohibition, are trying to beat the system just like Al Capone did: with bribes. At registration, they handed out 2,500 Radcliffe calendars, 5,000 guidebooks, and more than 4,000 t-shirts trumpeting "A Tradition of Remarkable Women." I passed on the t-shirts at registration, but Radcliffe, trying to curry favor with the campus press and perhaps knowing I haven't done any laundry yet, sent me one in the mail.
The free handouts are part of a master propaganda plan that has been hatched over in Radcliffe Yard. The problem is the school's new public relations types are speaking in haiku. "We're not going to apologize anymore for who we are," Lyn Chamberlin, the director of the school's Office of Communications, ridiculously told The Crimson a few weeks back. "It's no longer a question of who we are--of what is Radcliffe--rather, it's a statement, Radcliffe is."
It's good to see that they've got all that figured out. Radcliffe's p.r. operation is right to say the school has a place on campus; but it's wrong to think relevancy to the future is Radcliffe's appeal. It's not.
Radcliffe's principal value is as a relic. It's like a Gregorian chant, hundreds of years old, though still relevant to music today. It's a living, breathing scrapbook of brick and mortar and fundraising officers who make us remember days gone by. It's the stuffed head of your dead grandfather that the family keeps over the fireplace to remind you of the time that he fought in the Great War and the right side of his face hadn't been eaten away by maggots.
Radcliffe is one of Harvard's great conversation pieces, more effective in certain social situations than the usual banter about the weather and head lice. Girlfriends and boyfriends can argue about it. The Crimson can use it as a barometer of the current state of campus feminism. And while most guys don't like to admit it, it's great way to end a bad blind date.
Male Student (leaning over towards his female companion for the night in what promises to be an awkward kiss): "You're not like the other 'Cliffies."
Female Student: "I'm leaving."
What's really needed is a revamped publicity campaign, something that says Radcliffe is a part of history, kind of like Fleetwood Mac, Yoko Ono, hoop skirts and the My Lai Massacre. Radcliffe also might huddle with Elvis's people, perhaps if you killed the school, more people would think it's alive.
The depiction of Radcliffe's history had better not be too vivid, however, or it might not play in the '90s. Radcliffe was the college that let women remain second-class citizens on this campus for decades. Through the 1960s, Radcliffe women weren't allowed in Lamont Library, were forced to wear skirts to class and couldn't go into dining halls--unless, of course, they were somebody's date.
So sure, Radcliffe can put a pretty face on its past and future. But look first, before you touch a maggot.