NO ONE EVER really believed that Radcliffe would stay north of the subway kiosk indefinitely. Certainly not Mrs. Agassiz, who handily provided in the 1882 charter of her moonlighting society that any part of its funds could be given to Harvard. Creeping integration continued through the Second World War until latter-day conversation with a Radcliffe dean revealed thoughts of merging with Harvard.
In 1965 rumor finally rose of closer ties with Harvard, though no Harvard or Radcliffe officials now will say what plans were considered. In any case, doubt lingered at Radcliffe of Harvard's aptitude for protecting its interests, and discussion waned even before the two administrations could talk jointly. Since then the "understanding" has been that Radcliffe "must set its house in order," by building Currier, before Harvard would consent to merge.
But then Yale, Princeton, and the HRPC report. President Pusey's damper on a housing exchange until the Harvard Faculty gains authority over resident girls finally has upset the tacit timetable. Surprisingly, except for an unsuccessful phone call interceding on behalf of the Winthrop-Currier coed plan, Mrs. Bunting has had no known direct communication with the Harvard administration on coed housing. Radcliffe has apparently accepted at face value President Pusey's insistence on Faculty authority before coed housing is possible. Hence, the back-of-the-mind idea that merger would some day come has given way to a good chance that the Radcliffe trustees meeting will endorse merger today, setting negotiations in progress.
THE TRUSTEES have no official power, so that any consensus reached on Saturday would be only an advisory opinion. But with the avowed wish of bringing alumnae deeper into college policy-making, Mrs. Bunting is likely to follow their sentiments; the College Fund Drive is still twenty million dollars short of its goal. If the trustees are in favor, the Radcliffe Council might then meet with the Harvard Corporation on March 3.
Merger proposals come at an ill time in one sense. Radcliffe needs wide alumnae financial support for its Building Fund Drive, yet at the same moment must announce it is considering disappearing. The appeal of mater noma will survive at least. The Radcliffe Institute intends to keep its name regardless of undergraduate liaison. Still, by the time merger could be completed, the fund drive will most likely be over.
Radcliffe would do well to complete its building plans on its own, if only because Faculty priorities are likely to value them less elegantly than Radcliffe would like. Ultimately, though, Radcliffe would be better off financially within the corporation than outside it, despite the Puseyian adage that tubs must float on their own bottoms. To win Mr. Pusey's approval for coed housing, Radcliffe will have to merge fully into Harvard College. Some sort of closer affiliation with the "University" would not be sufficient. The tubs then would share bottoms, to Radcliffe's financial advantage.
R.U.S. polled Radcliffe students this week to see what love/hate attached them to a half-in half-out connection with Harvard. Response was small, results perhaps inconclusive, but when asked which community they felt a part of, few girls could help segmenting their lives. "Minds in the week, bodies on weekends, and hags in the dormitories," wrote one. Most admitted they felt like outsiders at Harvard, yet were confined by dormitory life at Radcliffe. The one unambiguous response was the tally in favor of merger with Harvard.
Some of the sentiment for merger is probably based on the incautious belief that coed housing will follow easily upon it. President Pusey has given no public assurance that he would approve integration by sex if merger actually does take place. Radcliffe complaints about sparse dorm facilities, and unnatural separation from men will not necessarily be met.
Neither would merger give much immediate hope of expanding Radcliffe's enrollment to a more reasonable ratio with Harvard. Class places for Harvard freshmen are not likely to be reduced, so that any increase in the number of girls will mean expansion of the college.
But even if coed living were not approved, merger has some graces beyond corporate finance. The end of cross-corporate billing for interhouse meals should allow freer dining; combining scholarship endowments would hugely increase Radcliffe's small scholarship fund.
But even if both administrations give blessing to the idea of merger and coed housing, the greatest problems remain in reconciling firmly held practices of both colleges. Mrs. Bunting has opposed segregating freshmen by dorm, and would not likely compromise to the practice. Radcliffe students will be loathe to give up the approachability of their present administration, the autonomy of R.U.S., and representation on the disciplinary Judicial Board. In a university where inaccessible decision-making is a major grievance, even the most adamant incorporationists will discover they have non-negotiable demands to make of Harvard before they join it freely.