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Would Male Voters Detract From RUS?

Some Members Want to Expand Female Base First

By Olivia F. Gentile

In a decision that may chip away at Radclife's status as Harvard's allfemale "annex," Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) will vote on extending its franchise to men at its first meeting after Spring Break.

This year, which was marked by activism against the all-male status of Harvard's final clubs, RUS has come under fir for excluding men from its voting membership. Critics say RUS, like the final clubs, should not be permitted to ignore the University's nondiscrimination policy.

If the controversial motion passes, the nature of RUS will change dramatically, according to some members. Given suffrage, men would be allowed to run for office, choose officers and vote on grant proposals in an organization that prides itself on being an institutional voice for women on campus.

But for some RUS members, the debate over male membership in RUS has overshadowed the more pressing issue of expanding the female membership base.

Whether most RUS members think the admission of men should accompany this expansion remains to be seen. Co-President Anne B. say many RUS voters are unsure about their positions on issue and that the vote could go either way.

Male Members of RUS?

For the 17 years since the partial merger of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges, RUS has been both a support group and an advocate for the concerns of the "dual citizens" of Harvard and Radcliffe.

The possibility of a co-ed RUS, which currentlyallows men to attend its weekly meetings asnon-voting participants, has stimulated heateddebate about the role of RUS and women's status asmembers of both the Harvard and Radcliffecommunities.

Eric D. Miller '96, director of the CivilLiberties Union of Harvard (CLUH), says he objectsto the exclusion of males from RUS's votingmembership because it conflicts with theUniversity's non-discrimination policy.

But as a Radcliffe entity, RUS is not bound tothe University's non-discrimination policy, whichprohibits Harvard organizations from excludingmembers on the basis of gender, according to Deanof Students Archie C. Epps III.

"This is a matter that Radcliffe has todecide," says Epps.

Miller says that concerns about theramifications of admitting men to RUS--such as menhelping to allocate funds earmarked for women'sneed--are "valid."

He says, however, that these concerns areoutweighed by the University's obligation topractice non-discrimination.

CLUCH member E. Michelle Drake '97 said at aMarch 11 RUS meeting that the group's power togive grants makes it more than a social supportgroup for women and exclusion of men is thereforeunfair.

"Form a club and meet a dorm, but don't have$14,000 to come and eat cookies," she said.

RUS's $14,000 grants budget, which is used forprojects relating to women's concerns, is fundedby dues added to women's term bills.

Miller said at the March 11 meeting thatincluding men would benefit RUS.

"Other minority organizations are strongerbecause they are inclusive, and admit everyone whoshares a common goal," he said.

But RUS member Ashwini Sukthankar '95disagrees.

"CLUCH seems to think opinions of women don'thave to do with who they are as women...Men cannever speak for women," she says.

On RUS member, who spoke on condition ofanonymity, says RUS serves an important symbolicfunction for many women, even if they do notattend meetings. She says women must have theirown voice on campus.

"RUS would be really changed even if no menshowed up [to vote] because the possibility isalways there," she says. "I think [CLUCH members]are not looking at this in its whole [historical]context."

The Seventh Sense

Because RUS leaders feel that women still mustgrapple with distinctly "women's issues," such asdiscrimination, they hope other groups willsurface to complement RUS, representing women onmore political issues.

One women's group, in fact, has alreadymobilized since RUS officially decided to bepolitically neutral.

The Seventh Sense, a discussion group that hasbeen defunct since the middle of the fall term,has been revived and reformed by Suthankar andNicole Armenta '95. Armenta says that since RUSchanged its format, she and Sukthankar thought itwas important to resurrect the Seventh sense andto make it a more structured, more focused groupthan it used to be.

Armenta says instead of limiting the group'sactivities to discussions, she and Sukthankar nowwant to include activities and activist projectson its agenda.

"You can take more radical position and youdon't have to feel guilty," says Sukthankar."Seventh Sense will cater more to needs to womenwho choose to come" rather than to the needs ofall women, as RUS tries to do, she says.

The group will hold its first meeting tonightat 9 p.m. in Dudley House's Fireside Room.

Attracting More Members

Leaving the political issues to groups like theseventh Sense will allow RUS to focus onactivities that appeal to a broader spectrum ofwomen, leaders say.

In fact, RUS Secretary Sharon L. Wing '97 saysshe thinks the issue of male membership hasdistracted RUS from its "more important" missionto recruit more active female members.

"I personally think that a top priority shouldbe getting more women in RUS," says Wing. "It'sunfortunate to be taken off track."

Guiney and Lewis say they hope the group'srecent decision to abstain from politicalpositions will make more women feel comfortable atRUS events. Breaking from its activist past, whichincludes heated protests against Harvard'sall-male final clubs, RUS has become primarily aforum for women's issues and a grant-giving body,says Lewis.

Guiney says the group had been moving in thedirection of political neutrality for about ayear, but that she and Lewis made the trendofficial when they were elected earlier this year.

RUS is also reaching out to women this springby increasing its publicity efforts and broadeningthe scope of its grants, says Lewis.

She says future plans include inviting speakersto campus, moving RUS meetings to the Yard andinstituting a house representative system similarto the Undergraduate Council'sCrimsonJennifer J. BalkRUS members listen to grant applications atlast week's meeting

The possibility of a co-ed RUS, which currentlyallows men to attend its weekly meetings asnon-voting participants, has stimulated heateddebate about the role of RUS and women's status asmembers of both the Harvard and Radcliffecommunities.

Eric D. Miller '96, director of the CivilLiberties Union of Harvard (CLUH), says he objectsto the exclusion of males from RUS's votingmembership because it conflicts with theUniversity's non-discrimination policy.

But as a Radcliffe entity, RUS is not bound tothe University's non-discrimination policy, whichprohibits Harvard organizations from excludingmembers on the basis of gender, according to Deanof Students Archie C. Epps III.

"This is a matter that Radcliffe has todecide," says Epps.

Miller says that concerns about theramifications of admitting men to RUS--such as menhelping to allocate funds earmarked for women'sneed--are "valid."

He says, however, that these concerns areoutweighed by the University's obligation topractice non-discrimination.

CLUCH member E. Michelle Drake '97 said at aMarch 11 RUS meeting that the group's power togive grants makes it more than a social supportgroup for women and exclusion of men is thereforeunfair.

"Form a club and meet a dorm, but don't have$14,000 to come and eat cookies," she said.

RUS's $14,000 grants budget, which is used forprojects relating to women's concerns, is fundedby dues added to women's term bills.

Miller said at the March 11 meeting thatincluding men would benefit RUS.

"Other minority organizations are strongerbecause they are inclusive, and admit everyone whoshares a common goal," he said.

But RUS member Ashwini Sukthankar '95disagrees.

"CLUCH seems to think opinions of women don'thave to do with who they are as women...Men cannever speak for women," she says.

On RUS member, who spoke on condition ofanonymity, says RUS serves an important symbolicfunction for many women, even if they do notattend meetings. She says women must have theirown voice on campus.

"RUS would be really changed even if no menshowed up [to vote] because the possibility isalways there," she says. "I think [CLUCH members]are not looking at this in its whole [historical]context."

The Seventh Sense

Because RUS leaders feel that women still mustgrapple with distinctly "women's issues," such asdiscrimination, they hope other groups willsurface to complement RUS, representing women onmore political issues.

One women's group, in fact, has alreadymobilized since RUS officially decided to bepolitically neutral.

The Seventh Sense, a discussion group that hasbeen defunct since the middle of the fall term,has been revived and reformed by Suthankar andNicole Armenta '95. Armenta says that since RUSchanged its format, she and Sukthankar thought itwas important to resurrect the Seventh sense andto make it a more structured, more focused groupthan it used to be.

Armenta says instead of limiting the group'sactivities to discussions, she and Sukthankar nowwant to include activities and activist projectson its agenda.

"You can take more radical position and youdon't have to feel guilty," says Sukthankar."Seventh Sense will cater more to needs to womenwho choose to come" rather than to the needs ofall women, as RUS tries to do, she says.

The group will hold its first meeting tonightat 9 p.m. in Dudley House's Fireside Room.

Attracting More Members

Leaving the political issues to groups like theseventh Sense will allow RUS to focus onactivities that appeal to a broader spectrum ofwomen, leaders say.

In fact, RUS Secretary Sharon L. Wing '97 saysshe thinks the issue of male membership hasdistracted RUS from its "more important" missionto recruit more active female members.

"I personally think that a top priority shouldbe getting more women in RUS," says Wing. "It'sunfortunate to be taken off track."

Guiney and Lewis say they hope the group'srecent decision to abstain from politicalpositions will make more women feel comfortable atRUS events. Breaking from its activist past, whichincludes heated protests against Harvard'sall-male final clubs, RUS has become primarily aforum for women's issues and a grant-giving body,says Lewis.

Guiney says the group had been moving in thedirection of political neutrality for about ayear, but that she and Lewis made the trendofficial when they were elected earlier this year.

RUS is also reaching out to women this springby increasing its publicity efforts and broadeningthe scope of its grants, says Lewis.

She says future plans include inviting speakersto campus, moving RUS meetings to the Yard andinstituting a house representative system similarto the Undergraduate Council'sCrimsonJennifer J. BalkRUS members listen to grant applications atlast week's meeting

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