Radcliffe Trustees Play A Waiting Game

None of the 34 Radcliffe Trustees will venture to predict what the whole body will decide to do about a potential merger agreement with Harvard in the upcoming year. While it is the Radcliffe Trustees who will ultimately decide how far non-merger merger is to go, they are, like most other interested parties in the Harvard community, waiting for the Strauch Committee to produce its report.

Several trustees said last week that since the Strauch Committee is examining a wealth of different factors, it would be inappropriate for a Radcliffe trustee to offer anything other than a personal opinion. Yet when all is said and done, they agreed, the decision on merger will probably be based largely on intuition.

Giles Constable, Lea Professor of Medieval History and a Radcliffe trustee, said last week that the Strauch committee will only be able to tell the trustees what alternatives they have, leaving the rest to the trustees' "hunch."

Elisabeth S. Allison '67, assistant professor of Economics and also a trustee, concurred. "They say the Strauch Committee has looked at tens of thousands of numbers indicating who does what, when this happens," she said. "But I reaaly think we'll have to put those numbers aside before making a decision."

Constable conjectured that a possible trade the Strauch committee might recommend would have Harvard assume Radcliffe financial aid costs in exchange for Radcliffe making its three Houses more uniform with the rest of the system by separating freshmen from the upper classes.


Radcliffe, unlike Harvard, never guarantees that a student will not be rejected for financial reasons; the Harvard financial aid service would ostensibly allow all admitted students to attend. However, Radcliffe prides itself on having freshmen live with upperclassmen which supposedly makes their adjustment to college easier.

"Now can you possibly compare the advantage of a freshman student living in an integrated community with the advantage of the fact that a student, who could not go here before, can now go here because a richer institution is paying for her?" Constable said.

He added that such an issue would have to be decided by "hunch" or from parochial sentiments about Radcliffe.

As for parochial feelings, individual trustees said that the whole group would probably not yield to Harvard's desire for further co-education on such sacrosanct notions as a higher female-male ratio at Radcliffe or of a separated freshman class.

Margaret Stimpson '30, a Radcliffe trustee, said last weekend, "We feel that from a Radcliffe standpoint we will always want to keep all four classes living together."

Furthermore, what in 1971 was considered a major impetus to a merger agreement is no longer so extreme. The projected deficit for Radcliffe in 1971-72 was $1 million, which frightened many observers in early 1971. Meanwhile, alumnae annual giving went down by 30 per cent in 1970-71. So in the 1971 non-merger-merger agreement, Radcliffe turned its deficit over to Harvard.

President Horner said last week, however, that Radcliffe had only a $135,000 deficit over the last year and that now "Dean Rosovsky never says anything to me about the budget."

If the merger tussle is viewed as a tug-of-war, the small deficit would considerably strengthen Radcliffe's position. What pressure Radcliffe trustees feel to merge is not based on financial considerations, they say. Their trust is to preserve the interest of women's education within the Harvard system, an interest perhaps best served by merging.

On one hand, one can view the power of the Radcliffe trustees as having dwindled over the years as they yielded more and more responsibility for the management of Radcliffe to Harvard. Trustee Allison said last week that a huge block of the trustees' administrative concerns went out the door when Harvard took over the management of Hilles Library.

And it is perhaps also this property-as-power analysis that trustee Horner had in mind last wek when she mused, "The Radcliffe Trustees just could decide to dissolve the Radcliffe Trustees."

Clearly, this is out of the question, and even if Radcliffe controls none of its own property, the Radcliffe Trustees will continue to attempt to do what most of the trustees say they do: preserve the Radcliffe woman's education.

This coming year, the trustees clearly will not hand over all their property nor use their relative financial stability to reclaim control of facilities that Harvard has assumed. Certainly, any agreement also depends on Harvard's concessions towards equal admissions.

Before they make any concessions, the Radcliffe trustees are apt to consider, more than statistics or deficits, how much Harvard has upheld the trust made in 1971, in terms of what it has done for the education of women.

The Trustees will probably not yield to Harvard's desire for further coeducation on such sacrosanct notions as a higher female-male ratio at Radcliffe or a separated freshman class.