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Wilson Returns From Tour, Meets With Trustees

Low alumnae turnout marks 10-city outreach

By Andrew K. Mandel, CRIMSON STAFF WRITERS

Top officials of Radcliffe College gathered in Fay House yesterday afternoon to discuss the next step of the 119-year-old institutions' evolution.

During yesterday's talks, the Radcliffe Board of Trustees took time to meet with members of the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (RCAA) Board of Management to discuss alumnae opinion about the future of the college.

The meeting comes three days after President Linda S. Wilson wrapped up a month-long, 10-city whirlwind tour of the nation to rally support for Radcliffe and hear alumnae's views on its future. Fewer than 300 women total--less than 1 percent of Radcliffe's alumnae base--turned out to share their opinions with Wilson.

Wilson declined yesterday to provide her thoughts the tour's effectiveness, or the trustees' plans for the future of the college.

Magical Mystery Tour

With seven women showing up to chat about their alma mater in Dallas and eight in Ft. Lauderdale, Wilson's outreach effort was hardly a tour-de-force.

The last tour stop--for which Wilson, Board of Trustees Chairman Nancy-Beth G. Sheerr '71 and RCAA Executive Director Mary M. Carty '74 flew to the University Club in San Francisco--drew about 20.

"I think that tells us all we need to know," said Tina Smith '83, vice president of the Harvard Club of Silicon Valley. "When President Rudenstine visited San Francisco last year, at least 300 to 500--men and women--showed up."

Publicity was uniformly poor; across the nation, alumnae were not sent special invitations to their city's event--although a letter was mailed in September announcing all of the tour dates--nor were they asked to RSVP. In Chicago, some alumnae did not receive news of the tour because of a "mailing glitch," according to Audris S. Wong '89, a member of the Radcliffe Club of Chicago's Board of Directors.

And while alumnae who did attend were able to share their views with Wilson, Wilson shared little with them.

"I can't tell you what we learned tonight," said Judith A. Dollenmayer '63 afterthe tour's kickoff in Washington.

"People were delighted that [Wilson and Sheerr]came; however this is a very empirical crowd,"said Dollenmayer, who just completed her term asthe first female president of the Harvard Club ofWashington. "They want to know the who, what,where, when and how."

At the National Press Club in Washington,Radcliffe officials agree that discussion stalledbecause the tour's ground rules were unclear.

Much of the discussion at that meeting focusedon the attendees' undergraduate memories--some ahalf-century old. Wilson recouped in New York, ameeting characterized by many who attended aspositive and more directed.

After Washington, Wilson began the majority ofher presentations by first warning that shewould--and could--share only the slimmest ofdetails about the negotiations with Harvardregarding a possible merger.

She instead offered her ears for alumnaecomment.

"Yes, there are specific things we are talkingabout. I know it's frustrating," Wilson saidearlier this month to alumnae at the Boston tourstop in Agassiz Theater. "I cannot share that withyou without jeopardizing the process."

At Thursday's San Francisco visit, Wilson wasstill being vague--to the frustration of those whowere confused by the tour's mission andRadcliffe's current quandary.

"I personally felt at a loss to make a responsethat might be useful," said Patricia G. Bourne'61, who attended the San Francisco event. "Thequestion--what ideas do you have for Radcliffe'sfuture--was so general that it elicited only verygeneral comments. I wanted to be allowed to talkabout a `fix,' but I couldn't think in any usefulway about a fix since I didn't know--and wasn'ttold--what's broke."

Tea Time

While attendees in Cambridge were at leastgiven one proposal for the restructuring ofRadcliffe to mull over--a plan authored by sixHarvard female faculty members and presented atthe meeting--one general problem alumnae bemoanedwas the lack of information provided by Radcliffeadministrators.

Another was a format that many dubbed aladylike chat. In Atlanta, Wilson and alumnae satin a circle.

"If anyone was unhappy, they either didn'tcome--the event had a relatively smallattendance--or were persuaded by the climate ofthe event to be polite," Bourne said.

"Both President Wilson and Trustee ChairNancy-Beth Sheerr are such lovely and graciouspeople that I think those around them often feel alittle as though they are having tea with theirgreat aunt Lydia and must be very careful not toeat too many cookies," she said.

Smith said she did not attend the San Franciscoevent expressly for that reason--because she feltthe tour stop was "a nice little tea party--and Idid not want to be the fly in someone's tea."

Both Smith and Bourne said genuine feeling forthe institution motivates their desire to seeRadcliffe change, but they worry that the spiritof the discussion failed to elicit constructivesuggestions.

"I didn't want to ruin someone's pleasantevening. I care very much about the future ofRadcliffe, but I don't think it would be takenthat way," Smith said. "I don't think PresidentWilson is up to debating me."

Not everyone was displeased with thediscussion, and some appreciated the opportunityfor face-to-face contact with the decision-makers.

"It was not a tea party," said Julia M. Thoron'62. "People were there who were not only recentgraduates, but older women, working women,homemakers, people with close connections toRadcliffe, people with more distant ties. Theywere committed to listening and to speaking out."

Back at the Ranch

According to Radcliffe spokesperson Michael A.Armini, Wilson will draft a letter to alumnae thisweek, summarizing what she learned on the road.Armini also said Wilson is considering a secondround of tour dates for the spring.

The purpose of further visits may be only togive more alumnae a chance to feel heard sinceWilson has already listened to the gamut of views.

A group in Washington stressed the importanceof single-sex housing in creating a community ofwomen, while three alumnae in Cambridge presenteda plan to restructure the college as the RadcliffeCenter for the Advancement of Women to highlightgender studies within Harvard University.

Alumnae even split over what Radcliffe shouldbe called.

"If you're trying to define who you are, whystart in the hole?" Wong asked, who said shethinks the tagline "college" only fuels confusionfor the institution.

Smith goes as far as to say prospectivestudents--expecting two colleges for the price ofone--are being misled.

"Women who get in to Harvard are gettingdeceived to a certain degree. Radcliffe isn't adegree-granting institution-- it's one moresignature on the diploma," Smith said. "That'sdeception that Radcliffe has more power andinfluence than it really has, and plays a biggerrole in women's lives than it actually does. Doesa school whose motto is veritas need deceptivemarketing tools?"

Wilson and the trustees are being pulled in onedirection by such views, but must also grapplewith alumnae who are uncomfortable tampering withtradition.

"It's important not to monkey around with thename," said Priscilla Redfield-Roe '42, whoattended the Cambridge tour stop. "It has a namewhich should be respected as its overallidentity."

While zigzagging the map, Wilson heard somecomments again and again. Near-universal concernsincluded continuing Radcliffe's commitment toundergraduates in some capacity, protecting theinstitution's financial assets, strengthening thealumnae network and making Radcliffe a force forchanging societal perceptions of women's roles.

With Wilson now in caucuses with Radcliffe'sBoard of Trustees, negotiations with Harvard canproceed. Wilson will likely work through herbirthday tomorrow as she preps to turn her focusinward.

That will not necessarily quell the phone callsfrom alumnae requesting information.

"I think until some decisions have been made,that thirst is not going to be satisfied," saidSusan J. Oliver '78, president of the RadcliffeClub of Chicago.CrimsonAmelia E. MorrowJames A. HunterAROUND AMERICA IN 28 DAYS The map belowshows the number of alumnae who attended each ofthe presentations Radcliffe President Linda S.Wilson made on her 28-day cross-country tour.Wilson set out on Oct. 8 to gather alumnae inputon the college's future.

"People were delighted that [Wilson and Sheerr]came; however this is a very empirical crowd,"said Dollenmayer, who just completed her term asthe first female president of the Harvard Club ofWashington. "They want to know the who, what,where, when and how."

At the National Press Club in Washington,Radcliffe officials agree that discussion stalledbecause the tour's ground rules were unclear.

Much of the discussion at that meeting focusedon the attendees' undergraduate memories--some ahalf-century old. Wilson recouped in New York, ameeting characterized by many who attended aspositive and more directed.

After Washington, Wilson began the majority ofher presentations by first warning that shewould--and could--share only the slimmest ofdetails about the negotiations with Harvardregarding a possible merger.

She instead offered her ears for alumnaecomment.

"Yes, there are specific things we are talkingabout. I know it's frustrating," Wilson saidearlier this month to alumnae at the Boston tourstop in Agassiz Theater. "I cannot share that withyou without jeopardizing the process."

At Thursday's San Francisco visit, Wilson wasstill being vague--to the frustration of those whowere confused by the tour's mission andRadcliffe's current quandary.

"I personally felt at a loss to make a responsethat might be useful," said Patricia G. Bourne'61, who attended the San Francisco event. "Thequestion--what ideas do you have for Radcliffe'sfuture--was so general that it elicited only verygeneral comments. I wanted to be allowed to talkabout a `fix,' but I couldn't think in any usefulway about a fix since I didn't know--and wasn'ttold--what's broke."

Tea Time

While attendees in Cambridge were at leastgiven one proposal for the restructuring ofRadcliffe to mull over--a plan authored by sixHarvard female faculty members and presented atthe meeting--one general problem alumnae bemoanedwas the lack of information provided by Radcliffeadministrators.

Another was a format that many dubbed aladylike chat. In Atlanta, Wilson and alumnae satin a circle.

"If anyone was unhappy, they either didn'tcome--the event had a relatively smallattendance--or were persuaded by the climate ofthe event to be polite," Bourne said.

"Both President Wilson and Trustee ChairNancy-Beth Sheerr are such lovely and graciouspeople that I think those around them often feel alittle as though they are having tea with theirgreat aunt Lydia and must be very careful not toeat too many cookies," she said.

Smith said she did not attend the San Franciscoevent expressly for that reason--because she feltthe tour stop was "a nice little tea party--and Idid not want to be the fly in someone's tea."

Both Smith and Bourne said genuine feeling forthe institution motivates their desire to seeRadcliffe change, but they worry that the spiritof the discussion failed to elicit constructivesuggestions.

"I didn't want to ruin someone's pleasantevening. I care very much about the future ofRadcliffe, but I don't think it would be takenthat way," Smith said. "I don't think PresidentWilson is up to debating me."

Not everyone was displeased with thediscussion, and some appreciated the opportunityfor face-to-face contact with the decision-makers.

"It was not a tea party," said Julia M. Thoron'62. "People were there who were not only recentgraduates, but older women, working women,homemakers, people with close connections toRadcliffe, people with more distant ties. Theywere committed to listening and to speaking out."

Back at the Ranch

According to Radcliffe spokesperson Michael A.Armini, Wilson will draft a letter to alumnae thisweek, summarizing what she learned on the road.Armini also said Wilson is considering a secondround of tour dates for the spring.

The purpose of further visits may be only togive more alumnae a chance to feel heard sinceWilson has already listened to the gamut of views.

A group in Washington stressed the importanceof single-sex housing in creating a community ofwomen, while three alumnae in Cambridge presenteda plan to restructure the college as the RadcliffeCenter for the Advancement of Women to highlightgender studies within Harvard University.

Alumnae even split over what Radcliffe shouldbe called.

"If you're trying to define who you are, whystart in the hole?" Wong asked, who said shethinks the tagline "college" only fuels confusionfor the institution.

Smith goes as far as to say prospectivestudents--expecting two colleges for the price ofone--are being misled.

"Women who get in to Harvard are gettingdeceived to a certain degree. Radcliffe isn't adegree-granting institution-- it's one moresignature on the diploma," Smith said. "That'sdeception that Radcliffe has more power andinfluence than it really has, and plays a biggerrole in women's lives than it actually does. Doesa school whose motto is veritas need deceptivemarketing tools?"

Wilson and the trustees are being pulled in onedirection by such views, but must also grapplewith alumnae who are uncomfortable tampering withtradition.

"It's important not to monkey around with thename," said Priscilla Redfield-Roe '42, whoattended the Cambridge tour stop. "It has a namewhich should be respected as its overallidentity."

While zigzagging the map, Wilson heard somecomments again and again. Near-universal concernsincluded continuing Radcliffe's commitment toundergraduates in some capacity, protecting theinstitution's financial assets, strengthening thealumnae network and making Radcliffe a force forchanging societal perceptions of women's roles.

With Wilson now in caucuses with Radcliffe'sBoard of Trustees, negotiations with Harvard canproceed. Wilson will likely work through herbirthday tomorrow as she preps to turn her focusinward.

That will not necessarily quell the phone callsfrom alumnae requesting information.

"I think until some decisions have been made,that thirst is not going to be satisfied," saidSusan J. Oliver '78, president of the RadcliffeClub of Chicago.CrimsonAmelia E. MorrowJames A. HunterAROUND AMERICA IN 28 DAYS The map belowshows the number of alumnae who attended each ofthe presentations Radcliffe President Linda S.Wilson made on her 28-day cross-country tour.Wilson set out on Oct. 8 to gather alumnae inputon the college's future.

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