The Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (RCAA) took the first step in changing their name at their annual meeting on June 9--Radcliffe Day--altering their by-laws to become a organization governed by a board rather than by its members.
The new by-laws will allow the board to remove mention of the non-existent Radcliffe College from their name in October. The previous arrangement would have made a name change almost impossible.
In 1925, the RCAA became a membership governance organization which, under Massachusetts law, means that a name or charter change requires two-thirds of the members to vote--roughly 20,000 people in this case.
"It isn't really possible in these modern times," RCAA President A'Lelia Bundles '74 said. "In 1925 there were only 1600 women."
An overwhelming majority of those who attended the annual meeting or voted by proxy supported the change--the final count was 189 to 18.
RCAA members were first informed of the possible change in May when they received a letter from the organization informing them of the upcoming vote.
"We wanted to include them in the process and make it open," Bundles said.
Most alumnae seem to be supportive of this change, Bundles said, but some are still concerned about the new structure and the likely change in name.
"It makes me very sad," Elizabeth R. Fishel '72 said. "I cannot imagine any other woman of my generation who wouldn't feel the same way."
The opposition is very small, however. Only two people expressed dissatisfaction at the meeting on Radcliffe Day.
"It's my sense, a personal gut feeling, that people are nostalgic and hate to lose the word college and alumnae even though it makes sense," RCAA Executive Director Judith Stanton says. "They are not violently opposed, but rather nostalgically opposed."
The emotions involved with Radcliffe's end are part of the reason RCAA's board has made an effort to be as clear as possible.
"We were very mindful that people were sensitive to being left out of the process of creating the [Radcliffe] Institute," she said.
Though the by-laws have been changed, Bundles said RCAA will continue to serve alumnae, regardless of the imminent name change.
"We'll continue to offer the same programs we've been offering and continue to evolve those programs," she said. "We're not changing the core of who we are, but we are preparing ourselves to evolve with future needs."
Bundles said yesterday that a name change is crucial for the group's survival.
"There are a few people who feel lost when Radcliffe College is taken out of the name," she said. "But I think that those of us are looking at how we will survive in the future realize that graduates are becoming scarcer and scarcer."
The RCCA currently includes all women who graduated from Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges until 1999. This year's graduating female seniors were the first to graduate from Harvard College alone and did not automatically become RCCA members at Commencement.
"I truly understand [the alumnae's] feeling of loss and mourning," Bundles said. "But I also want to continue to exist."