Mrs. Bunting Restores 'Climate of Expectation'

Someone has said that women's education had to be as bad as men's before it could get better. Perhaps that time has come. If so, it will be facing courageously with all our talents and all our skills the questions that need to be answered to discover the criteria and the techniques needed for the good life. --Mary I. Bunting (Inaugural Address, May 19, 1960).

Ever since its humble but ambitious beginnings, Radcliffe College has attempted to provide a Harvard education, in the firm belief that women's education had to be as bad as men's in order to be as good. Through eight decades, under the guidance of four presidents, the College has evolved more or less steadily toward unity with Harvard. The relationship has intensified a number of problems, effecting the residence system, complicating the intellectual orientation of the Radcliffe girl by making her part of the Harvard community, and contributing to the emotional struggles of any college girl who tries to relate education to life.

Sidewalk Prophets Predict

When fourth President Wilbur K. Jordan announced in Spring, 1959, his intention to resign, the sidewalk property whispered that Radcliffe might never have another president. Late in May a giggle of cartoonists filled the front pages of the CRIMSON with their speculations about Jordan's successor. They imagined everything from a specially adapted Univac to a self-prepared Harvard undergraduate. They couldn't have been more wrong.

As Radcliffe's fifth President, Mary I. Bunting pointed out in her Inaugural Address a year later, "The cartoonists did not precisely call the shots. They did not portray a white-coated figure shoving aside microscope and test-tube cultures to examine the culture on a woman's campus, a myopic biologist diverted from the study of heredity and variation in micro-organisms to stumble upon the astonishing mechanism of human evolution, our modern, creative multi-structured institutions of ever higher education."

But Mrs. Bunting brought more than the skills of a distinguished microbiologist to her new job. The mother of four children, she described herself as "a geneticist with nest-building experience." Since 1955 she had held the top administrative post at Douglass College, a division of Rutgers, and shown herself an energetic leader in tackling the problems of women's education. Arthur S. Adams, President of the American Council on Education, declared that President Bunting's inauguration marked "a new beginning in the life of a great college."

A new beginning it has proved to be. When Mrs. Bunting took over the reins of the Radcliffe Administration on February 1, 1960, she was faced with a number of problems which College officials had resolutely ignored for years. As a result, she discovered, the "climate of unexpectation," which she believes had inhibited women's education nationally, prevailed even at Radcliffe. The College's cherished though much-abused social honor system had been won through student effort, but the average 'Cliffie felt that her opinions could and did not have little or no effect on administrative and educational policy. Mrs. Bunting explained recently: "I have a little the feeling of the freshman that the students are just as brilliant and interesting as I thought they would be. Radcliffe girls are not as apathetic as I had been told they were--but they are less self-confident about many things they are perfectly capable of doing."

One of her first tasks, then, aside from getting acquainted with the Administration and the student body, was to create an atmosphere of expectation. "There has been some feeling that you're so lucky to be here that you can't question anything about the College," Mrs. Bunting told the students. "But just because you can count your blessings, it doesn't mean I--and you-- shouldn't work to provide additional educational opportunities." During her first term at the College, she prodded the students, publicly and privately, to think about Radcliffe's problems and come up with their own solutions. Three weeks before her inauguration she attended a meeting of the Student Government Association, asking its members to help establish an advisory committee to work with the Administration in the future. Radcliffe girls are "too little involved in important policy decisions of the College," she declared, contending that it was ridiculous not to consult them on such vital issues as admissions policy, room assignments, and enlargement of library facilities.

Her action brought immediate results. By the end of the year the SGA had established a President's Advisory Committee on Policy and working with Mrs. Bunting, selected five students to serve during 1960-61. As it has worked out, the members meet weekly with the President to discuss short-and long-range plans. Out of their sessions this year have sprung a variety of suggestions for improving the quality of a Radcliffe education physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

The shortcomings of Radcliffe's physical plant presented the most concreate dilemma. In the past the College has grown in a haphazard fashion, with only sporadic efforts to plan for the future. Land has been purchased when available, new dormitories hastily constructed when old ones proved insufficient. No one paused to consider seriously whether the separation of class buildings, located in the Yard, from the residential Quadrangle was the best of all possible arrangements, or whether the dormitory system provided the best living quarters for a bunch of young women in search of a Harvard education. In recent years, College officials talked eloquently about the obligation to expand. Stopping their ears to anguished complaints from the undergraduates, they converted singles into doubles with the purchase of several double-decker "bunk beds." Overcrowding reached its peak a year ago, with one dorm housing more than double the number of students it had been designed for.

Master Plan Drawn

To combat such practices, justified on the grounds of expediency, College architect Nelson Aldrich was employed to draw up a master plan to guide the use and development of land and buildings. While he and his staff began surveying present patterns of usage in Spring, 1960, the President formed a Long-Range Committee to study and suggest ways of ameliorating Radcliffe's physical plant. Under her supervision as chairman, the Committee includes several College officials, among them Frances R. Brown, Dean of Residence and Student Affairs, and Kathleen O. Elliott, Dean of Instruction.

The combined efforts of President Bunting, her Advisory Committee, Aldrich, and the Long-Range Planning Committee produced carefully-considered results within a year. One month ago the President announced that Radcliffe will begin a sweeping revision of its housing system next Fall, reorganizing the dormitory Quadrangle into four living units similar to the Harvard Houses. Although physical changes will be deferred till the year after next, a new dorm will be built in the near future. In the meantime, the present halls will be grouped into three units Comstock, Moors, and Holmes Halls will combine to form North House; Briggs, Barnard, and Bertram, South House; and Cabot, Whitman, Eliot, and the new co-operatives, East House. The off-campus houses on Garden St., eventually to be replaced by the new residence, probably will form West House.

'Much Needs to Be Done'

"I have had a steadily growing sense of how much needs to be done for the undergraduate house system. The real gap between the educational opportunities in Harvard and Radcliffe residences was a surprise to me," the President explained recently. Although she has had the basic notion of a Radcliffe House system in mind for well over a year, the plan crystallized slowly, through discussions with Harvard officials, Radcliffe administrators, and undergraduates who came to complain about the College's physical set-up. One day this spring the trustees solemnly toured the gleaming halls, airy rooms, and spacious courtyard of Quincy House, then boarded a bus for the Radcliffe Quadrangle to survey the cozier quarters provided in Cabot Hall (built in 1937, fourth youngest of the College's nine brick dormitories), Presumably they were impressed by the difference; at any rate they approved the president's proposal to create the first house system in the history of women's education.

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