Women Must Shape Policy, Wilson Says

Radcliffe President Leads Forum on Facts, Policy and the Female Perspective

Women need to become more involved in shaping policy on important social issues, Radcliffe college President Linda S. Wilson said yesterday at a faculty symposium titled "Connecting Learning and Policy."

Wilson moderated the Radcliffe sponsored discussion, which was part of a series of faculty symposia in honor of the inauguration of Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine.

Dr. Bernadine P. Healy, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and former Vermont Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin also shared their thoughts on the relationship between learning and policy with an audience that filled a Boylston Hall auditorium.

Healy, a 1970 graduate of Harvard Medical School, spoke on "Making Facts Matter," addressing issues of fact and policy at Harvard.

"We must make the effort to put the facts to work--not in the exclusively commercial sense of converting information to sales--but by transporting the discoveries of the library and the laboratory into the core of society," Healy said.


Healy also discussed public policy issues relating to NIH. "NIH needs to take a more forceful role in the area of policy decision," she said.

Kunin, the first official Radcliffe College distinguished visitor in public policy, delivered a speech on "A Place for Values in Policy," about the current and future status of women in politics.

"Our political institutions are caught in a pre-cultural diversity and gender revolution time warp," Kunin said. "It is noteworthy that the political arena is the one area where women today are so conspicuously absent."

Although Kunin said that academia and government have a "symbiotic" relationship, she acknowledged that conflicts sometimes arise between scholarship and policy.

She said the recent confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas began "proportedly as a dispassionate search for truth," but were actually "a power struggle of the highest order."

"They [the Thomas hearings] reminded us of the difference between the academic world of policy formulation and the bruising knockdown world of real politics," Kunin said.

Healy also spoke about the Thomas hearings, calling them a "disgusting circus" and "an orgy of the facts not mattering."

Wilson concluded the symposium by stressing the importance of avoiding "ivory tower" isolation.

"Facts matter, people matter, women matter and social institutions matter," Wilson said. "Social institutions need to be modified, and I believe passionately that Radcliffe and Harvard can play a very important role in that."

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