The State of the Non-Union

The University

WHEN RADCLIFFE COLLEGE was incorporated as the Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women in 1882, the founders suggested that the "Harvard Annex" would be an appendage only temporarily. Their agreement stipulated that the whole or part of the college funds and property should be transferred to the President and Fellows of Harvard College whenever such a transfer would advance the education of women. Although the 1970 non-merger agreement might seem to be a fulfillment of this original article, the retention of a separate and powerless Radcliffe corporation contributes only minimally to the improvement of educational opportunities for women. On the other hand, the history of an increasingly close relationship between Harvard and Radcliffe, much of which has been written since 1970, makes Radcliffe's becoming autonomous or even returning to its pre-merger "independence" inconceivable. Today, the promotion of undergraduate women's education can be enhanced only by the complete merger of the two colleges.

The anomalous nature of the non-merger merger is hallmarked by a freshman's puzzled search for the college she was admitted to. For the 50 to 60 percent of undergraduate women who live in or are affiliated with Harvard Houses and dorms, Radcliffe vanishes with the completion of the admissions and financial aid processes. Some women, particularly residents of the Radcliffe Quad, feel that Radcliffe is still significant as a source of humanism and creative education, and as the sole agency for the protection of women's interests. In fact, the "Radcliffe spirit" most clearly manifest in the lifestyle at the Quad, is less a function of the corporation than of the residents, the more equal ratio of men to women and the physical plant. The vision of Radcliffe as a potent agency for women is, as even its adherents admit, more a dream than reality. The non-merger agreement has done nothing but strengthen the tether of Radcliffe's dependence on Harvard: the President of Harvard appoints the masters of the Radcliffe Houses, and his Vice-Presidents oversee the food service, buildings and grounds and security of all students.

Radcliffe administrators have spent much of the year fighting for Harvard appropriations for Radcliffe activities such as Education for Action and women's athletics. Most critically, the persistence of the Radcliffe corporation provides a rationale for Harvard to dismiss any issue pertaining to women in the university -- be it equal admission, money for athletics or equitable faculty and staff hiring -- with the claim that such matters are not urgent or are out of Harvard's domain.

REMOVING THE NOMINAL excuse for discrimination, and placing women in a position in which their interests and opinions must be considered, total merger would make undergraduate women Harvard's responsibility. In the areas of admissions and financial aid, the benefits of merger would be immediate and significant. When women are students of Harvard College, the political, as well as the potential legal bases for demanding an increase in women's enrollment will be created. Reached by Harvard's more thorough and far-reaching recruitment processes, the applicant pool of women would increase in size, quality and geographic distribution. The merger of financial aid offices would be of absolute benefit in making possible the wider and greater distribution of funds, and would be instrumental to increasing the economic and social diversity of undergraduate women.

If one can judge from the experience of recent years at Harvard and at other Ivy League schools, merger promises to spur University efforts toward hiring more women at every level of staff and faculty position. Here, the non-merger agreement prompted the appointment of Deans Solomon and Austin to University Hall; the number of tenured women on the faculty has increased from one to a total of six over the past four years. Princeton, whose hiring of women faculty members has grown dramatically since the University began admitting women, is an encouraging example. Furthermore, the contributions of women who have already found places in the Harvard faculty and administration suggests that women's interests will be better served by a University of which women are an integral part. In large part because many of its counsellors are women, the Office of Graduate and Career Planning has become quite responsive to women's needs; women in the Harvard Planning Office were able to make an assessment of the need for day-care in the University community; a task that Radcliffe could not afford to do. Genevieve Austin's office for undergraduate housing is a model of openness amidst the bureaucratic run-around of the Harvard administration.


Opponents to merger argue that its benefits are illusory. Believing that the problem of equal access is secondary to reform of the institution to which women seek admission, the most extreme group claims that no good can come from merger with the callous and unjust University. But whatever the issue, women are now in no position to change anything, although they continue to be affected by Harvard's policies. Through merger, women can become a pressure group within the University more difficult to disregard than "those Radcliffe bitches."

MANY WHO ARE COOL to merger predict the disappearance or mutation of Education for Action and the Radcliffe Institute. Citing the old, but potent tradition of male domination at Harvard, these people argue that Radcliffe has no guarantee that Harvard will change any of its practices after merger. Granted, merger is no panacea for social inequities which are reflected in and fostered by the University, but neither is merger the suicide note that it is pictured by opponents. A merger is a contract, an agreement in which both parties stipulate the conditions of their new relationship. Radcliffe will have the opportunity to insure, in a legal document, the establishment of more equitable admissions and hiring. It can require the preservation and creation of institutions which serve the needs of women and which provide opportunities for creative expression and community service by all members of the University. A Harvard College where such policies and institutions exist will benefit both men and women.