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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Students Consider Women's Studies

Suggest Strategy for Development

By Brenda A. Russell

Students met yesterday to reaffirm their commitment to the development of women's studies at Harvard-Radcliffe and to suggest ways to encourage student and faculty interest in the contributions of women to various fields of study.

The Office of Institutional Policy Research and the Radcliffe Forum sponsored the informal gathering.

"There are two basic premises of the Committee on Women's Studies--one is that Harvard is a unique institution that is planning for years to come, and the other is that at Harvard there is an unusual amount of academic freedom allowed professor," Elizabeth P. Tillinghast '79, student representative to the Women's Studies Committee, said yesterday.

Tillinghast said it is difficult to persuade professors to teach courses in women's studies. Barbara M. Solomon, senior lecturer in History and Literature, said professors may be hesitant to start courses on women's studies because of the time required.

Last year the Faculty Council formed the Committee on Women's Studies in response to student petitions and some faculty interest. The committee is charged with investigating women's studies, and within three years will recommend the best means of advancing legitimate academic interest in this field.

The Committee is responsible for gathering funds for professorships, establishing an office of women's studies, and encouraging the development of courses. Present efforts have been directed toward the incorporation of women's studies into the Core curriculum next year, Tillinghast said.

Tillinghast said she opposes devising "stereotypically female" courses--traditionally found in the humanities--and would like to see the committee explore other areas.

"I feel that the lack of interest in women's studies is due mainly to the lack of knowledge," she added.

"Very few Harvard faculty members have taken advantage of the Mellon funds available for research" in women's studies, a representative of the Schlesinger Library, the leading center for researching contributions by women, said, adding, "I find it hard to believe that Schlesinger Library exists on a campus where there is so little developed interest or courses."

"Student interest is certainly as important as faculty interest," Solomon added. She said anyone interested in proposing a course on women's studies to Core subcommittees would be able to receive funds for the necessary research.

"Anytime I mention, 'Why aren't we including women in a class discussion?' they just sort of stare and call me a stupid feminist," one student commented.

A graduate student said she thought it was unfortunate that someone could go through Harvard and "not know a single thing about one woman in the world."

The students suggested open meetings with the Committee on Women's Studies, lectures in Gen Ed courses on women's contributions, and creation of an office to organize student involvement in women's studies.

"The changes will come only if the issues are discussed and if we keep up the visibility," A. Simone Reagor, director of the Radcliffe Forum and a co-sponsor of the meeting, said.

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