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Honor Societies May Merge

By Timothy P. Yu

Members of the Harvard and Radcliffe chapters of Phi Beta Kappa met this week to discuss the possible merger of the two groups.

The chapters, each of which are currently single-sex, are considering the formation of a unified and co-ed Phi Beta Kappa chapter.

The groups hope to draft a proposal within the next nine months for combining memberships, elections and administrative functions, according to Harvard Phi Beta Kappa president Daniel Steiner '54, who is also former Vice President and General Counsel.

The timing of any future merger is less than clear. Chi-An J. Chung '94, an undergraduate marshall for the Radcliffe chapter, said yesterday that a co-ed Phi Beta Kappa is unlikely to become official before June 1995.

The chapters have been considering a merger for nearly a decade at the urging of Phi Beta Kappa's national office, according to Hillary K. Anger `93-`94, one of the Radcliffe chapter's undergraduate marshals.

Elizabeth W. Swain `63, president of Radcliffe Phi Beta Kappa, said that the members' response has been overwhelmingly positive.

A combined organization, she said, would be "far more efficient--it IESwill be able to do more. I think there iseverything to be gained and nothing to be lost."

But not everyone agrees that the change will bepurely beneficial.

Anger said she is concerned that the servicesnow provided by the Radcliffe chapter for itsmembers may be weakened or lost if the groupsmerge.

For example, she said, a program that providesthesis grants for women would have to be opened tomen, raising the possibility that fewer womenwould be able to obtain the grants.

"We feel very strongly about being a realresource for Radcliffe women," Anger said.

She said she also worries that merging thechapters' elections will result in fewer womenbeing elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Anger said she believes that gradediscrimination and other factors often cause womento have lower grade-point averages than men ofequal ability.

Steiner said he hopes the new system canaccommodate such concerns. "We're trying to makesure [any grade discrimination] is not a factor,"he said

But not everyone agrees that the change will bepurely beneficial.

Anger said she is concerned that the servicesnow provided by the Radcliffe chapter for itsmembers may be weakened or lost if the groupsmerge.

For example, she said, a program that providesthesis grants for women would have to be opened tomen, raising the possibility that fewer womenwould be able to obtain the grants.

"We feel very strongly about being a realresource for Radcliffe women," Anger said.

She said she also worries that merging thechapters' elections will result in fewer womenbeing elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Anger said she believes that gradediscrimination and other factors often cause womento have lower grade-point averages than men ofequal ability.

Steiner said he hopes the new system canaccommodate such concerns. "We're trying to makesure [any grade discrimination] is not a factor,"he said

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