Claiming that the group's membership policy discriminates against men, several students called for the admission of men as voting members of the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) last night.
During an RUS meeting devoted to their proposal, the students said that because the organization has grant-making power, its all-female membership policy is particularly wrong.
"Radcliffe is so integrally tied to Harvard students that all Harvard students should have the choice to be a voting member," Robert W. Yalen '95, former director of the Civil Liberties Union of Harvard, said at last night's meeting.
But opponents of male membership said the social aspects of RUS, which is Radcliffe College's student government, and the "warm and fuzzy" quality of the meetings would be destroyed if men were allowed to become members.
"There are a lot of women who feel that there is a necessity to have a strictly women's space," RUS co-president Megan E. Lewis '95 said.
But advocates of the change responded that the ability of RUS to offer grants makes it far more than a social group. And for that reason, they said, exclusion of men is unfair.
"Form a club and meet in a dorm, but don't have $14,000 to come and eat cookies," said E. Michelle Drake '97, referring to the RUS budget. "I don't understand why grant-giving should be tied to social considerations."
Some students who attended yesterday's meeting suggested a possible compromise: separating RUS in two organizations with one serving as a co-ed grant-making body and anoth- er as an all-female discussion group.
Last night's meeting concluded without adecision on how the proposal to admit men would bejudged. RUS officers said they would work onpossible ways to make a decision and would presentalternatives at a later meeting.
One RUS voting member, who spoke on conditionof anonymity, said the group should concentrate onexpanding female membership before considering theadmission of men. Then, the proposal to admit menshould be put to a Radcliffe wide vote.
"Our top priority should be getting betterrepresentation of women," the RUS member said.
Currently, every woman enrolled inHarvard-Radcliffe is a member of the RUS andcharged five dollars on her term bill, unless shespecifically requests not to be charged.
Any Harvard-Radcliffe undergraduate woman cangain status as a voting member by attending twoRUS meetings, held at 7 p.m. on Thursday in theLyman Common Room. Twenty-five people attendedlast night's meeting.
Men are currently welcome to attend to weeklymeetings, but are not allowed to participate invotes which determine distribution of funds orRUS's official position on campus issues, Lewissaid.
"RUS functions as a voice for women, and manywomen don't want that voice to be spoken by men,"RUS co-president Anne Guiney said.
"Discrimination is not always bad," Lewis said."It's important to have a women's organization.There is no contradiction between having femalemembers and giving money to organizations thatsupport men."
But advocates of male membership protested thatit is contradictory for a group which advocatesthe end of discrimination against women to haveitself a discriminatory membership policy.
"Feminism is based on equality and exclusion inthe name of working for equality is ideologicallyhypocritical," Drake said.
"You don't gain strength by oppressing otherpeople," Claudia M. Mastroianni '91-'94 added.
Director of the Civil Liberties Union ofHarvard Eric D. Miller '96 said admitting menwould strengthen RUS, not weaken its role as asupport for women.
"Other minority organizations are strongerbecause they are inclusive, and admit everyone whoshares a common goal," Miller said. "We need tolook not at the physical qualities of a person,but their common goal."
"What is there about the RUS function thatwould be done worse if men were there?" Yalen, theformer civil liberties union president, added."Not many men would devote one hour a week to comehere, and miss 'The Simpsons.' If they did it, itwould be because they really cared."
Yalen said the current membership policyviolates the founding principles of Americansociety.
"This country was founded on individualrights," Yalen said. "People are valued for thecontent of their character, not for the color oftheir skin and not for their genitalia."
But RUS members said they believeddiscrimination in favor of women is necessarybecause discrimination against women still existsin society.
"RUS was formed to facilitate the integrationof Radcliffe students into Harvard," Guiney said."RUS is anomalous because Radcliffe is anomalous.There are other institutions that are stillanomalous on the other side of the ledger, likethe final clubs.