Money Matters Cause Delay in Final Resolution

Linda S. Wilson was supposed to be Radcliffe College's final president.

A final merger deal between Harvard and Radcliffe was expected to take 30 to 60 days, Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine said when the two institutions announced their intention to unite in April. At that time, he claimed only "purely technical" details remained before he would welcome the new Radcliffe Institute to the University.

But while no ideological rifts emerged over the summer, sources say continuing conflict about the deal's details stretched final negotiations to four months, as lawyers and administrators spent weeks pouring over financial statements and preparing the agreement's language.

And so when Wilson stepped down July 1, Schlesinger Library Director Mary Maples Dunn assumed a title she never expected when she agreed to be the Institute's first dean: Radcliffe College President.

Administrators now say Rudenstine's initial estimate was overly optimistic.

Legalities aside, the final deal was delayed even into July by a series of financial skirmishes, such as who would pay for repairs to the leaking Byerly Hall roof.

"In the end [President Neil L. Rudenstine] said, 'We're not going to nickel and dime this,'" says one source, noting the University ultimately agreed to cover the cost. "He made it clear that the new Institute would not suffer financially on any of the disputed issues."

And administrators had to wade through a series of murky matters about undergraduate and fundraising jurisdiction, left unresolved last spring.

For instance, Harvard has been prohibited from soliciting donations from alumnae who graduated before 1976. While some Harvard officials had hoped the ban would be lifted with the full merger, they agreed over the summer to continue to treat pre-'76 alumnae with a hands-off policy.

Despite his approval of the compromise, Harvard Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 says he has a "real concern" that some Radcliffe alumnae might feel isolated from Harvard without fundraising solicitations.

"It is a point that Harvard gave on," says one source close to the negotiations. "Harvard evidently hopes that Radcliffe will quickly see that they will do better if they join with FAS [the Faculty of Arts and Sciences] and send joint letters. Time will cure this."

Dunn says she does not anticipate inviting Harvard to hit up Radcliffe alumnae for money during her tenure, but when a permanent dean is chosen, the choice to continue the arrangement will fall to her shoulders.

Administrators agree the bulk of the summer was spent examining Radcliffe's finances, as part of a routine process of due diligence involved in mergers.

Lawyers, including University General Counsel Anne Taylor, had to examine the terms of every one of Radcliffe's more than 800 individual restricted endowment accounts.

The legal terms of some endowments, traditionally used for undergraduate financial aid, offered more than one interpretation of the donor's original intent.

In many cases, donors had simply stated that their dollars benefit women at Radcliffe. With the impending merger, negotiators were left to puzzle out whether donors would rather fund undergraduate women at Harvard or the new Radcliffe Institute.

The fate of these endowment accounts kept administrators and lawyers busy for weeks, according to Dunn.

In the end, sources say Fineberg set out a principle for negotiators: funds would stay at the new Institute whenever legally possible.

"Anytime there was any doubt, Radcliffe kept it," said one source. "Radcliffe only gave the money to financial aid when it legally had to."

Sources say total financial aid funds will not change as a result of the deal, as FAS will make up any shortfall in Radcliffe's financial aid contributions.

But some alumnae worry that the new arrangement could ignore the wishes of some donors, who donated to Radcliffe College years before the new Institute was conceived.

"What we [alumnae] are concerned with is women at Harvard, and we are less concerned with the Institute," says Adeline L. Naiman '46. "I suspect that money was given by alums for financial aid. It makes me a little uncomfortable to see Harvard or Radcliffe turning funds that were donated for that purpose away from that purpose."

Naiman encouraged administrators to consult with all living donors of the restricted endowments funds about the future of the funds.

While Radcliffe Board of Trustees Chairman Nancy-Beth G. Sheerr '71admits no such attempt was made, she insists that donor's intent was "the bottom line" in determining where any fund is to be spent.

"While [the process] was extremely time consuming, it was both collegial and without difficulty," she says.

But this week's deal leaves unresolved the fate of many prizes and fellowships offered by Radcliffe. Administrators say lawyers will be examining single-sex prizes one by one to see if Title IX law forces an end to gender restrictions.

Most importantly for Radcliffe traditionalists is the Fay Prize, offered annually to an undergraduate woman for outstanding academic and personal achievement. According to Dunn, officials will be deciding in the next month whether Radcliffe will relinquish control of the prize to Harvard.

"The Fay prize is important symbolically to Radcliffe. It is the highest honor that Radcliffe College has given, it is something I would like to see stay at the Institute," Sheerr says.