A Distinct Group

WE FEEL that a recent Crimson article (Friday, Feb. 9) misrepresented the feelings of Lowell House women about the inclusion of the Radcliffe Union of Students dues on the term bill. Our primary concern is with RUS's seeming inactivity during the past year; the $5 charge is of secondary importance.

There are individuals who feel that the inclusion of RUS dues on the term bill is undemocratic since the term bill carries such authority that even an extra charge is likely to be paid without question; to them we address this article. We do not deny the compulsory nature of this billing procedure. Nor do we deny the principle that organizations should be supported voluntarily. The crucial question, however, is whether RUS is better classified as "just another campus organization" or as student government.

According to some, RUS does not qualify as student government because it does not represent all women, especially women living at Harvard. We would argue, however, that the legitimacy of RUS as a body politic does not rest upon its perception as "representative" by Radcliffe women, but upon its function in the larger community. That is to say, women at Harvard, whether their own individual experience verifies this classification or not, remain, until merger, a distinct group in the eys of University administrators. Therefore, they require an agent with the authority to voice their collective interests and the power to work for them.

Janet Edwards, for instance, as RUS president, headed the drive to get equal admission to sports events for women. Other areas of concern remain: admission and housing ratios, maintenance of adequate health services for women, securing financial support for Radcliffe athletic teams, opening prizes and fellowships to women, to name but a few. The fact that RUS has not dealt with such issues during the past year is not reason for its disavowal. Rather it is cause for pressuring the group to become more active and more responsive to the needs of the female community at Harvard. Withdrawal of support is the last, not the first alternative.

Some students oppose mandatory payments because they feel that the status of women in the Harvard community is so diverse that any elected body could at best represent a small proportion of them, and so should be supported only be those who feel represented. We would like to point out, though, that no one refutes the claim of CHUL and CUE to represent all students, and they too are supported by the entire student body. For, insofar as they require financial support for any of their business, money is provided by the Harvard administration, and therefore indirectly by Harvard students. And these committees should be so financed because they are dealing with issues that affect the entire student community, regardless of any one individual's perception of that fact! Similarly, until such time as merger is complete, RUS can legitmately demand support from all women in its effort to promote the role of Radcliffe students at Harvard University.


If there are individuals who still feel put upon by having to pay for an organization which they feel does not represent them, we can only point out that we continue to subsidize the operation of CHUL and CUE despite the fact that we might not agree with the committee or even our own elected representative. As for the fact that the maintenance of RUS, unlike that of CHUL and CUE, requires an extra assessment, that is an unfortunate result of the peculiar relationship between Harvard and Radcliffe. Perhaps we should see about the possibility of having Harvard fund RUS.

Whether differential treatment of Harvard and Radcliffe students results from intention or oversight, it is likely to continue until merger. Until then, RUS, as one of the closest approximations to student government at Harvard, stands as indispensable forum for women's issues and as mediator between Radcliffe women and the Harvard administration. To promote its effective operation, Radcliffe students must bear the responsibility for providing financial support and manpower; RUS in turn, must communicate with and respond to its constituency. Debi Neipris '73 is a member of the RUS and co-authored this article with five other members.