Whatever Happened To Merger?


It's a sign of the pre-eminence of equal access as the issue of the year for administrators that it completely overshadowed merger this year, leaving unchanged the tenuous, complex Harvard-Radcliffe corporate relationship.

At the beginning of the year it didn't look that way. A committee of high-level Harvard and Radcliffe administrators and governing boards members had established itself as the body that would deal with the merger issue, and it had met fairly regularly throughout the summer and into the fall.

It had a tangled body of rules to deal with: under the present merger agreement, hammered out in 1971. Radcliffe retains its own administration, admissions office, scholarships and other institutions while turning over to Harvard all its tuition money and, for all practical purposes, its undergraduates.

The relationship seemed doomed to temporary status, but for the moment it will live on, because equal access diverted attention away from it this year.

"The most important thing this year was equal access," Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, said last week. "There was no compelling need for merger, and there was a compelling need for equal access. It was the most important thing to get done."

Besides equal access, there was another reason for the delay of merger: opposition to the idea from Radcliffe alumnae and administrators who don't like the idea of their institution fading out of existence.

Beyond the issue of the Radcliffe name, merger opponents argue that because Harvard is so male-dominated it is worthwhile to preserve a female-dominated institution within it to make sure the interests of women are always foremost in some administrators' minds. A merger, they argue, would make women here simply another part of a Harvard that would dominate them.

Steiner says he doubts the merger issue will come up next year, but the implementation of the Strauch Report could be a step in the direction of merger. When it loses sole control over its admissions office, the function of Radcliffe for undergraduates will be almost purely a spiritual one.