Outreach Tour Comes to Familiar Territory

Radcliffe College President Linda S. Wilson has come a long way since Washington.

Halfway done with a National Outreach Tour that has taken her from New York to Atlanta to Philadelphia, Wilson told a group of about 120 alums that the Harvard Corporation and Radcliffe Board of Trustees were indeed talking about the future of the relation between the two institutions.

But in her opening remarks to alums in Agassiz Theater Saturday, Wilson stood firm in her refusal to reveal the nature of those discussions, simply stating they have become "more intense and more frequent" recently.

Wilson also alluded to the existence of a Trustee proposal regarding the future the 119-year-old school, which she was "not at liberty to put... on the table" for fear of jeopardizing the negotiations.

"We will be able to bring something to you for discussion... hopefully soon," Wilson said.

While several alumnae expressed their frustration with continued secrecy--"I don't think you can have an informational tour without information," one alum said--others said they accepted Wilson's reticence.

"She presented the options without saying what they were," said Sandy Moon, a member of the class of 1969, who attended both the New York and Cambridge meetings. "But I understand the need for privacy."

Wilson began the afternoon discussion outlining several "planning assumptions," for Radcliffe's Board.

First was an acknowledgment that "progress has been made in our society for women," Wilson said. "It's much better than it was 20 or 30 years ago. I can see it."

Wilson also noted specific gains in gender equality within the Harvard community. "We must take full recognition of the progress that has been made." she said.

Echoing Kenan Professor of English Marjorie Garber, who presented a proposal for an Institute for the Study of Women and Gender to the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (RCAA) earlier in the afternoon (see story, page A-1), Wilson said Radcliffe needs to study not just women, but the "gender lens."

Wilson told the largest audience of her tour thus far that "we have accomplished the specific objectives" of the 1990s, and must now "look at the longer-term greater prize."

A series of Radcliffe-Harvard summits will aim to "cure the confusion" of the 1977 relationship, Wilson said.

Wilson then opened the floor for "comment"-- rather than questions--explaining that input from alums would be helpful for her to take back to the negotiations.

Several alums told Wilson that they were concerned about losing the community of women at Radcliffe if a merger occurs with Harvard.