What Exactly Does A Radcliffe President Do?

When she began her second year as Radcliffe's president last September, Matina S. Horner scratched every Thursday off her appointment calendar, wanting more free time to work on long-range projects, attend to her academic duties and think in relative privacy.

She only took two of her Thursdays off this year. Horner complains that she doesn't have enough time to do all the things she would like to because of the demands of her job--but the most common criticism of Horner is that she doesn't actually do anything for women. Horner put Alberta B. Arthurs, dean of admissions, financial aid and women's education, in general charge of all Radcliffe undergraduate administration. She hired a new assistant, Charlotte Davis, to go after government and foundation grant money. The creation of the Strauch Committee has taken direct responsibility for merger planning and negotiations off of her shoulders. She has not, by and large, taken militant public stands on the issues concerning women in the University, and she freely acknowledges that she does not like to travel around the country giving speeches or raising money.

So what does Matina Horner do? "There are constant staff meetings," she says. "There's the Faculty Council, the Council of Deans, departmental meetings. The Radcliffe departments don't see as much of me as they'd like. I have to meet my dean, Alberta Arthurs, at eight o'clock Friday mornings for breakfast because there's no other time we can get together. And there's always some search for a new appointment going on."

Since she took over the Radcliffe presidency, Horner has had to appoint new directors for five of the nine Radcliffe departments--admissions, women's education, the Schlesinger Library, publicity, and alumni career services--and she is still working on her sixth and perhaps most important major appointment: a new director for the Radcliffe Institute.

"Picking the new institute director is a very complex job," she says. "The search committee has reviewed 138 applicants, out of which I picked up on 12. It's incredibly timeconsuming. We first advertised openly in all the obvious places, and then we sent out letters to professional directories. We have 275 alumni who sent in recommendations, and then we had a head start with the 400 candidates considered for my job. We came out with a mountain of resumes. We're looking for someone with academic and administrative experience, and while we didn't exclude men from consideration--we had five male candidates--everybody really had in mind a woman for the job."


The institute, a 14-year-old section of Radcliffe that grants about 35 fellowships a year to women and uses one-third of Radcliffe's $3 million annual budget, is especially important to Horner because it is undergoing changes that reflect her own interests. The institute is generally known as an elite, exclusively academic institution but now, under new grants Horner got during her first year in the presidency, is expanding its scope.

With a planning-grant from the Ford Foundation, Horner added para-professional training--as a safeguard for women who could might go jobless in an economic crunch--to the institute's programs. She said in January, "I'm becoming an economic pessimist. I worry that in a no-growth economy we are encouraging women into positions that won't be there. The recession could backfire on women, and we must be prepared for that. The worst thing that could happen is that women who have trained for a career will come out of school only to bump their heads against a stone wall. Above all we don't want women to have to take a step backwards."

The first program reflecting the institute's new focus is the Radcliffe Program in Health Careers, funded by the Johnson Foundation. The program will involve scholarly research, just like the institute's other programs, but the research will be aimed at a direct social goal for women: developing training programs in ambulatory health care.

The question that immediately comes to mind, of course, is why concentrate on the institute? Radcliffe is a college, isn't it? Not completely. It has its own endowment (meager by comparison with Harvard's), its own offices, executives, staff and board of trustees, but in many areas it is a curiously powerless institution. Instead of being fiscally self-reliant, it operates under a system whereby the Faculty of Arts and Sciences gets the bulk of women's tuition and then doles out Radcliffe's operating budget. Radcliffe has never offered its own undergraduate courses.

"Why have Radcliffe?" Horner says. "In educational terms Radcliffe and Harvard are merged, although their corporate sides are not. But the important place to affect the lives of undergraduates is through their education. The only thing that's not merged is admissions. (This year, for the first time, the Harvard and Radcliffe admissions offices are in the same building, Byerly Hall in Radcliffe Yard.)

"The most important question, though, is now the size of the undergraduate body. If you want to give up on tutorials and Houses, then let it expand. But if you want to keep the kind of education you want to give, the question becomes who to admit. When I took the job, I saw the issues of the kind of education women get here as the most important."

That kind of attitude puts Horner in a role unusual among college presidents. Because he has final say over so much of what goes on here, President Bok is usually more of a judge on controversial issues than an advocate; he has all sorts of people with different interests to keep happy. Horner sees herself as an advocate, a protector and furtherer of the rights of women, the University's largest minority group.

Her advocacy is not generally public; instead of sitting in Fay House in the Radcliffe Yard and delivering speeches about the people in University Hall, she goes over to U Hall and talks to the deans herself. For example: Dean Rosovsky decided this spring to create a new deanship with supervisory power over all undergraduate education and administration, to be titled "associate dean of the Faculty for Harvard College." Horner convinced him to change the title to "associate dean of the Faculty for Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges," and before the announcement of the appointment of Francis M. Pipkin, professor of Physics, to the post, got a big kick out of answering reporters' queries about "what this new guy is like" by saying, "How do you know it isn't a woman?" Horner is probably responsible in large measure for Rosovsky's change in his conception of the deanship, and she accomplished the change by having him ask her advice first so she wouldn't be forced to complain later.

Because of Horner's view of merger--the corporate details are less important than a really equal education--the most burning current issue for her is admissions, the only area of women's education that Radcliffe controls. She refers to the Strauch committee, which presumably is studying the educational aspects of merger, as "an admissions study," responsible for working out the interlocking problems of the size and the male-female ratio of the College.

"I told them (the Strauch committee) that I don't want a report saying there should be equal access in admissions," she says. "I already want that. I want to know how. I don't want to see them call for more women, the same amount of men, and no increase in budget. I don't want to take Harvard and just add women; that's not equal access. It will always be difficult if women are in such a minority as they are now, but how more equal numbers are achieved is equally important. For instance, we're having difficulties in athletics right now, although the athletic departments have been merged fully. There are incredible problems right now. We're a long way from having the athletic department teach students equitably. I'll never accept a merger if it's a submerger."