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Freshwomen Look at Harvard; Say Students Here are 'Pushy'

By Nancy Chang and Sydney P. Freedberg

WE ARE BOTH from New York City. We met each other in September at a tea sponsored by the Radcliffe Club of New York. Although we were both eager to get to school, we were also frightened at the prospect of being in a new place--in an entirely new environment with many "special people." After meeting each other, it was nice to come to Cambridge knowing that someone else had the apprehensions you did.

Freshman orientation week gave us a hint of what we could expect life to be like at Radcliffe. Our experience when attempting to section for Expository Writing set the tone for our new life in this competitive environment. We had learned our first Harvard lesson at registration--"Be Early"--so we rose at the sound of the roosters to be sure we were placed in the Expos sections we wanted. Arriving at Mem Hall at 6:34 a.m., we were understandably surprised to find two guys from the Yard who had already been there for half an hour. Although we would have been first in line except for the long walk from Radcliffe, we magnanimously shared our breakfast of muffins and milk with them. By 9 a.m., the rest of the Class of 1976 had amply demonstrated its aggressiveness by jamming us up against the ivy wall.

Pushiness seems to be an innate quality among Harvard students. We found that everyone here is forced to be somewhat tenacious, for unlike high school, no one tells you what courses to take, what to do and what not to do. At teas and coffee hours, most departmental representatives in fields outside the sciences "advised" us to take whatever courses we wanted.

Our first contact with the big name professors came at a Currier House Ice Cream Bash given by co-Masters Paul Levine and Ursula Goodenough. We were amazed to eat ice cream with a Nobel Laureate while chocolate syrup dripped down his chin. But although we were nervous, things went well, and our experience at the Bash made us relatively certain that professors would be willing to talk to fledgling freshmen.

We were warned that the highlight of Orientation Week would be the reception given by President and Sissela Bok at the Fogg Art Museum. Such luminaries as L. Fred Jewett '57, dean of Admissions, and F. Skiddy von Stade '38, dean of freshmen, were on hand to greet the Class, but with all due respects to them, the pastries were the best part of the evening. We did not get a chance to meet with President Bok because he was involved in a discussion with about 15 eager freshmen about placement test scores.

The nadir of Orientation Week was the Bureau of Study Counsel's infamous three-hour reading test. The test itself was not so enlightening, but we were amazed to watch the kid between us flaunt his Evelyn Wood skills.

Classes started at the end of our orientation. We each selected about ten courses that interested us and began our shopping spree to decide which ones we liked best. As we looked at various classes, we felt sorry for the professors who gave boring lectures. They must have felt so insulted when students leisurely entered and exited during their sales pitches.

The only serious complaint we can register against Harvard so far is caused by the male-female ratio in some of our classes. We each have one class with an approximate ratio of 12 to 1. It annoys us when a professor walks into a small seminar where one of us is the only woman present and says, "Good morning, gentlemen," or ritually asks for "the female's point of view."

Our parents expected to meet two new and transformed daughters at Freshman Parents Weekend. We had to answer all the inevitable questions about weight loss or gain and the amount of sleep we were getting. But other questions--concerning changes in life-styles or political viewpoints--will have to wait another few months for answers.

SYDNEY FREEDBERG '76 and NANCY CHANG '76, live in Currier House.

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