THE COMMITTEE on Houses and Undergraduate Life's decision last week to recommend an end to enforced sex ratios in the Houses was billed as a victory for freedom of choice. Its proponent, Zeph Stewart, master of Lowell House, argued that sex ratios are in the same category as master's choice or grade point average, arbitrary criteria that end up depriving people of freedom to decide where they want to live.
The CHUL decision was specifically aimed at ending the enforced near-equal sex ratios in the Radcliffe Houses. Shouldn't women, the argument went, be allowed to decide for themselves what Houses are close to 1 on 1 ? But that line of reasoning is full of fallacies: how are women going to know what Houses other women are applying to ? Couldn't it very well end up that all the Houses will have ratios of about 3 to 1 next year? There is no guarantee if Dean Rosovsky implements the CHUL recommendation, that there will be a ratio approaching 1 to 1 in any House. So instead of giving women the freedom of choice to decide what houses will be 1 to 1, the resolution could very well take away from women (or men for that matter) the freedom of being able to live somewhere with a nearly equal sex ratio.
As long as Harvard does not have a 1 to 1 admissions policy and therefore remains a male-dominated place, women should be guaranteed the option of living somewhere that is not overwhelmingly male. The CHUL resolution opens the way to a situation where the House are all overwhelingly male.
It is also logical that the place where a near-equal ratio is guaranteed be Radcliffe, because it is still separate from Harvard and still therefore a women's college. If the CHUL recommendation goes into effect, Radcliffe is very likely to lose its identity as a separate, non-male-dominated living environment.
Stewart and those who supported him claimed there would be little change during the one year that the proposal would be in effect. If the resolution proved to have adverse affects, they argued, it could be repealed by next year's CHUL. But this argument does not justify the move to alter Radcliffe, and anyone who has followed the history of Harvard housing plans knows that "temporary" solutions are often difficult to revoke.
The vote in favor of the resolution was close and representatives from Radcliffe have already said they will bring up the matter again next month when new representatives from most of the House will take office. The new reps should repeal the recommendation to end sex ratios. The consequences of taking away the freedom of choice of close to a thousand Radcliffe residents and of possibly destroying one of the few alternatives Harvard now had to the male-dominated Housing system are serious enough that Dean Rosovsky should refuse to implement the recommendation even it CHUL does not repeal it.