Off The Cuff

Back a few weeks I said that there were too few telephone lines in the Radcliffe and Wellesley dormitories. Since then there have been rumors that high Radcliffe authorities are looking into the situation. They wouldn't be high authorities, of course, if they didn't look into situations, and study matters, and investigate conditions. That is the rightful function of all high authorities and student council committees. But in the meantime the busy signals continue to buzz. And in the opinion of one non-authority who has never belonged to any student council of any kind, the solution is for somebody to decide to put in more telephone lines. This sounds simple. It is.

The Mary Burnham School for Girls is a place I haven't been to or thought of since the spring of 1946, but the other night memories of it, in a hurry, like returning memories always are, came rushing back. I was on the telephone, calling Radcliffe, listening to that old black busy signal that I know so well, when suddenly I remembered everything. In a flash, of course.

The first thing that came to mind was that Burnham girls are almost as hard to get on the telephone as Radcliffe girls. You have to be a relative of one of the sweet young inmates, or you can't talk to her. They get around this, of course, by having extraordinary numbers of cousins and uncles.

But before going on, let me give you a little background on the Burnham School. It is in Northampton, and bristles with rules similar to the one about telephone calls. One of them, for instance, says that a girl can't go out--even with her uncle or her first cousin--unless an official middle-aged female chaperone goes along.

Nonetheless, they have dances, and the main memory that came rushing back was about the one that I went to. It took place in a hotel ballroom located three blocks from the school. At the stroke of midnight an awful gray-haired lady blew a whistle, and the girls promptly marched single-file into an armored bus, which took them safely home.


The interesting thing about these schools is that they always have a tonic effect on the girls. The results are just what everybody except the headmistress and the founder would hope for. At least they were in the case of the one Mary Burnham girl whose history I am up on. She now requires frequent large doses of scotch, wears her hair over one eye, and believes in Dartmouth weekends. And she goes to Connecticut College for Women, where they have plenty of telephones.

Sarah Lawrence, to bring one more girl's school into this, has announced an interesting scheme for raising its overall fees. Only two-thirds of the students will have to pay the higher fees, which will cover not only the college's increased expenses, but will increase the scholarship fund for the other one-third.

This is an ingenious system, if a socialistic tendency or two doesn't make you shudder. Although there are lots of differences between Sarah Lawrence's and Harvard's problems of student fees, Harvard could not ignore the Sarah Lawrence system if another tuition rise comes. That is if Harvard hopes to keep on having its "broadly representative student body."