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The Status of Women: Is Harvard Progressing?

By Ann Juergens

The status of women within the University has hovered near the bottom of Harvard's list of priorities for several hundreds of years. And despite appearances, this past year has proved no exception.

President Bok cites the new 2.5-to-1 undergraduate ratio of men to women as "substantial progress." But the move simply does not demonstrate a clear commitment to the goal of equality for women within the University. Not only is the new ratio a shrewd financial step (it will increase tuition revenue with only insignificant outlay for new resources) but, as discussed elsewhere in this issue, it is a step designed to buy time from government, student, faculty and alumnae pressure for equal or sex-blind admissions.

The most revealing evidence of administrative indifference, however, lies in the findings and fate of last Spring's "Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences." The report--the result of a year's research by a committee co-chaired by Caroline W. Bynum, assistant professor of History, and Michael L. Walzer, professor of Government--came out in April, 1971, amidst great publicity. The largest Faculty meeting of last year accepted the report and adopted four of its specific points. The study was done at the invitation of Dean Dunlop, yet he has continually emphasized that the report is in no way binding.

Indeed, the 96-page report with its 24 detailed recommendations has been all but ignored this past year. The first and foremost recommendation of the report, and one of the specific points passed by Faculty vote, stated that the Harvard Faculty should work to greatly increase the number of women in its ranks. Along with this resolution, the Faculty endorsed the idea of a Permanent Committee on Women which would "suggest ways of increasing the number of women on the Faculty" and also serve as a watchdog over the status of women at Harvard. In response to the Faculty move Dunlop appointed a five-member committee.

Overworked and toothless watchdogs, however, are notoriously ineffective, and the Permanent Committee on Women proves the rule. "I'm not very proud of what we've accomplished this year," chairman Morton W. Bloomfield, professor of English, said last week. "We're trying to say that you've got to pay more attention to women, but we have no real power." Bloomfield went on to say that the committee had spent most of the year "finding out how we're going to work."

Other than organizing itself, the Permanent Committee has focused primarily on the matter of hiring non-tenured faculty. At present, ad hoc committees considering permanent appointments are required to present evidence that consideration was given to women and minority group members. But there is no similar step in the process of appointing junior faculty. To remedy this situation, the Permanent Committee has drawn up recommendations for a standing committee which would review non-tenured appointments before they were made. Some such procedure for reviewing the departmental selection of junior faculty is vitally needed, but while it is being formed the immediate situation is being neglected.

In a recent interview, Bok asserted that "we have added significantly to the number of women in faculty and Corporation appointments (this year)." Statistics on appointments change almost daily, but even a hopeful estimate by Bloomfield could not place the year's net increase of women in on-ladder positions above five or six. And though more than five or six new appointments were made, several exceptionally well-qualified women are being let go.

Last week 17 faculty members had signed a letter which is one of the more organized expressions of outrage based "on the experience of the past year." It asks that the University hire only women and minority group members for its teaching faculty until the proportion of women and minorities on the Faculty reflects their proportion among Harvard Ph.D.'s. Initiated by Ursula Goodenough, assistant professor of Biology, and Ruth Hubbard, lecturer in Biology, the proposal purposes to end "the present paucity of women and minorities among the Faculty. It will also be termed 'discriminatory,' but it is designed to redress a tradition of discrimination that has held at Harvard for 300 years."

The letter will be forwarded to Bok and to the Permanent Committee. But Bloomfield said last week that he doubted such a petition would pass the Committee.

The Permanent Committee is banking on more comfortable measures. Last fall committee members visited several department chairmen to talk about the status of women within their departments. They plan to visit the chairmen again next fall on the basis of answers to a questionnaire which the chairmen will complete this summer.

According to Jane English, a graduate student who was allowed to sit in on the committee meetings this spring, the questionnaire, at least in its rough draft form, is "excessively watered down." The Report on the Status of Women states that department chairmen shall be required to report annually:

on the numbers of women at all levels presently in the department, including entering graduate students; on the women considered for any appointments made that year; on the relative allocation of funds and fellowships (including teaching fellowships) to men and women; and on the relative success (and reasons for lack of success) in placing male and female graduate students who desire job placement.

The present questionnaire reportedly does not ask about women considered for appointments, about the allocation of funds and fellowships, or about job placement for graduate students.

The Report demanded very detailed information, but it did so purposefully. It proposed the Permanent Committee and asked for detailed specifics in order "to make sure that the uttering of pious generalities is not substituted for serious efforts to hire on the basis of excellence rather that of sex."

To facilitate efforts to hire more excellent women, the Report on the Status of Women also considered the University's role in child care. It concluded that the University should hire a child care coordinator, pay for space, utilities and liability insurance for day care centers within the University, and establish a fund for the support of day care centers in their early stages.

The part of the report dealing with child care has been totally disregarded. Despite long waiting lists for each of the five centers at Harvard and Radcliffe, and despite repeated requests made by members of the Steering Committee on Child Care and of the Graduate Women's Organization (GWO), no day care administrator has been appointed nor has even the smallest Fund been set up. The Permanent Committee, according to Bloomfield, wrote letters to "tell people we need more day care," but these have apparently not moved the Administration either.

The day care situation was actually better under the Pusey Administration. After the non-merger merger, Harvard took away janitorial services (which generally come to about half the cost of the space) from the Radcliffe and Memorial Church Centers. And while Radcliffe allowed fund raisers for the centers to use the addresses of alumnae. Harvard denied them access to their records--which include those of all Radcliffe graduates since 1963.

If women are to be allowed to participate professionally and intellectually during their child-bearing years, the option of good, parent-controlled day care is essential.

Several successes in implementing the recommendations of the Report on the Status of Women do shine through. The University Health Services has probably made the most noticeable and effective changes within the University to improve their treatment of women. For the first time last Fall, UHS published a booklet outlining exactly what services are available there. The consulting gynecologist has added an extra half day to his time. An assistant to the director of UHS. Margaret S. MacKenna '70, was hired to deal with special health problems, including giving birth control advice and informal sex counseling.

In the area of job placement for recent Ph.D.'s, a year of investigation is about to pay off. Members of GWO and the Equal Employment Opportunity officer of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences compiled closely coinciding sets of recommendations to standardize placement procedures for graduate students. Yet another committee is being appointed by Dean Dunlop to study the recommendations further, but hopefully the model placement procedures will be in effect in time for the 1972-73 year.

President Bok has said that "the future role of Radcliffe within the University should very much reflect the feeling and wishes of Radcliffe's President, students and alumnae." Most women at Harvard would probably agree with Bok, and many are trying to shape that role to their "feeling and wishes." But his goal is clearly impossible without a responsive Administration which is committed to improving the status of women with more muscle than "the uttering of pious generalities." It is a grave mistake to shift the primary responsibility for the place of women (i.e. the role of Radcliffe) within the University onto the women themselves.

The final responsibility for increasing the number of women who are educated for professional careers and encouraged to enter them, and for increasing the number of women who hold Harvard professorships, lies not with the Dean of Radcliffe or the Radcliffe Institute, but with the admissions, scholarship, appointments and tenure committees of individual Harvard departments. (Report on the Status of Women)

With a lot more consciousness-raising among the faculty, and a great deal more action and commitment on the part of the Administration, Harvard may be able to reverse its history of neglect of equal rights for women.

"I'm not very proud of what we've accomplished this year...We're trying to say that you've got to pay more attention to women, but we have no real power."

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