Radcliffe undergraduates in Harvard surroundings astonish almost no one in 1948. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences seems to endure--perhaps in some cases even to enjoy--teaching members of both sexes. Administrative circles have gone so far as to mix females into seating plans instead of blocking them into a corner. In fact, academically speaking, there remains only one prominent sore spot in Harvard-Radcliffe relations: libraries.
Officials of Widener have long held an interesting dualist view of Radcliffe undergraduates. Students from across the Common, in this view, are first of all a distraction and secondly scholars of a fundamentally less deserving variety than Harvard men. This means, first, that Radcliffe girls may not distract a whole reading roomful of scholars but must restrict their activities to a small section at one end of the room. It means in the second place severe restrictions on their use of Widener's reading room books.
All this has annoyed 'Cliffe students, doubtless, but it certainly must have seemed simply a temporary phase until the librarians' announcement last year that the Lamont Undergraduate Library would be, when completed, for men only. This advance notice seemed to put a deathlessly permanent stamp on the whole policy, a stamp that makes re-examination of the policy essential before it actually is too late.
Those who want to keep Radcliffe out of Lamont Library argue that the new library, unlike Widener, is designed not for scholarship or scholars but specifically for Harvard undergraduates, who should therefore have the sole and unrestricted use of it. "We are running a library for Harvard men," they say, "and see no reason why we should have to bear other people's problems, too." Every Radcliffe student using the library, they further point out, would ent into the supply of books and chairs and other facilities for Harvard men.
That the building was intended for Harvard use is certainly true, but it seems of no great importance. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is certainly a Harvard institution, but its members and its Dean have worked intelligently with Radcliffe to provide a workable, useful relationship between the two schools. Dean Buck has not shied away from the responsibility inherent in helping Radcliffe with its own problems, and neither should the library's officers.
The fact that Radcliffe undergraduates are in Harvard classes certainly entitles them to special consideration, for the library's real function is to provide for the needs of those classes rather than for certain of the students in them. The Radcliffe Library, cited by non-believers as "where the girls belong," is hardly an answer to the problem. Its book resources are limited and its methods not designed to give really adequate service to all its students. Its function is, in fact, somewhat similar to the House libraries': to be convenient but by no means complete.
The argument that letting Radcliffe use the library will make things that much worse for Harvard undergraduates might be true for Widener's limited and outmoded reading room facilities. But such a statement can hardly apply to Lamont, which as designed is far from a minimal building. There should be enough space in Lamont for Harvard, Radcliffe, and all the king's men. And the cost of the paltry number of extra books needed by Radcliffe's relatively few students could be borne by Radcliffe in an arrangement similar to that by which faculty expenses are now apportioned.
There is, fortunately, enough time remaining before Lamont opens its doors to change the decision now standing. Widener's officers should restudy the problem from a broad University point of view, remembering always that a library is only a part, albeit an essential one, of an educational structure--a structure which at Harvard includes Radcliffe as a consideration.