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Coeducation Girls at Mather

By Jerry T. Nepom

THE KAGAN Committee's proposals for the three coed living exchanges this spring between Winthrop. Adams, and Lowell Houses and Radcliffe's North, South, and East Houses, have now been approved by the Faculty. A fourth proposal for a spring coed living experiment aroused much student interest recently, but will not be considered by the Faculty this year. This fourth proposal reached only one member of the Kagan Committee, Dean F. Skiddy von Stade Jr., who is also Master of Mather House. That fact is not of comcidental interest, since this is the story of the coed living proposals for Mather House this spring proposals which originated and which died in the course of a few weeks this fall.

On October 29, the sophomores affiliated with Mather House met with Master von Stade and some of the House tutors. The purpose of this meeting was to introduce House staff members and to discuss topics of general interest. It quickly became apparent where those interests lay. Mather House offers unique opportunities for the introduction of coed living and there was substantial enthusiasm at the meeting for its consideration.

Several conditions make Mather a special case in relation to coed living. About 100 Harvard juniors who want to move from their present Houses into Mather have been invited to apply to Mather to fill presently vacant space. Mather's low-rise section is scheduled to open February 2, when the 134 sophomores presently affiliated with the House will move in. This low-rise section will house 250 students: the sophomores already accepted to Mather, a few transfer students, and the 100 juniors who have requested a transfer. The Mather tower, which will house another 140 students, will not open before September 1970.

The 100 vacancies in the low-rise section, which have now been offered to juniors, gave Mather the opportunity to bring in large numbers of girls. Several possiblities were advanced by the students for the dispensation of those places.

One proposal was to invite applications this winter for those 100 vacancies from both Harvard upperclassmen who wish to change Houses and from Cliffies who want to move. If too many applied, assignments could be made on the basis of carliest applications, of most overcrowding in present accommodations, or on some other basis which admitted both seves. This proposal would thus have the effect of creating coed housing without displacing large numbers of Harvard men.

A second proposal followed a somewhat different line of argument. Since Winthrop Adams, and Lowell will have small-scale living exchanges this spring. Mather had an opportunity to aid the experiment in a unique way. The other Houses will only exchange about 50 students each: boy-girl ratios will then be about five to one in the three Harvard Houses. If all the 100 extra places in Mather were offered to Cliffies, Mather House would approach a one-to-one living ratio. Any over-all coed Harvard-Radeliffe living plan will probably include some all-male dorms, some all-female dorms, and some coed dorms. This proposal for Mather argued that it would be beneficial to have the experience of a one-to-one arrangement as well as the smaller five-to-one exchanges this spring.

THESE TWO proposals were the main focus of discussion that came out of the meeting of the Mather students and staff. Several problems were immediately apparent with both of these possibilities. First, Mather House's current purpose is to relieve overcrowding in other Harvard Houses. Although it is questionable that 100 juniors will want to leave their present Houses to move to Mather this winter, by next fall when new sophomores enter the Houses and the Mather tower opens, general overcrowding at Harvard should be eased considerably. Radcliffe, however, would not have relief for their overcrowding, even with the opening of Currier House next fall, since the South House dorms will be closed for renovations. A second major logistics problem might come from the mass transfer of Cliffies to Mather if no men move to Radcliffe. Substantial transfer of girls would undoubtedly relieve present overcrowding at Radcliffe, perhaps to an excessive degree, in which case men would be needed who were willing to live in the Radcliffe dorms.

These were the main arguments being discussed following the Mather House meeting. Two things were necessary for either of the coed proposals to succed. One was a general agreement on the desirability of coed living. The second was an organized group to urge action on the proposals. But both of these were missing in the presentation of the student plans for coed living at Mather; their absence led to the death of the proposals.

Death came swiftly. A group of Mather sophomores interested in the coed living discussion at the first meeting in October met again early in November with Master von Stade. The students had not met in the interim and came prepared with nothing more than a favorable inclination towards the general concept of coed living. Master von Stade came with the announced intention of not allowing Mather House to go coed this year. Nothing nearly as harsh as a confrontation ensued. Master von Stade denied that anvone knew if the majority of students wanted coed housing, added a few statistical and male clitist arguments, and the meeting was over. So much for coed housing.

THE ENTHUSIASM for coed living at Mather, however, is still quite alive. While there will be no girls in Mather this spring, next fall will present an almost identical opportunity for coed housing at Mather. The opening of the Tower, like the lowrise section this spring, will provide unassigned living spaces in sizcable numbers. Proposals similar to those already mentioned will be equally valid then.

But the presentation of any coed proposals will be quite different. This spring Mather will have a House Committee, which can work on such proposals with authority and coordinated effort. By this spring, also, a University-wide poll on the desirability of coed living will be completed. Master von Stade has placed much importance on the out-come of this pall. Finally, the exchanges at the other three Houses will provide evidence for or against the practicability of coed living at Harvard. So the unique opportunity for starting coed living at a new House is not yet lost. If no coed living plan for the University as a whole is proposed by spring. Mather should certainly then consider coed proposals for the House for next fall.

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