RCAA Offers `Qualified Support'

Leaders await nationwide response

Even though the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association (RCAA) gave its "qualified support" to the proposed Harvard-Radcliffe merger on Tuesday, most alumnae still have reservations about the future of their alma mater.

RCAA President Jane E. Tewksbury '74 said that although the RCAA leadership met to discuss its official "alumnae" position on the merger, the fact that it has offered just "qualified" support for the change suggests that the jury is still out on the overall alumnae consensus.

"If we were to find out that every alumnae contact we had was negative, then we would have to rethink, as their representatives, our position," Tewksbury said.

Alumnae opinion gauged yesterday varied from guarded optimism about Radcliffe's future to predictions that the agreement jeopardizes the position of women at Harvard.

But if there is any consensus, alumnae are glad the process is nearing completion.


Many alumnae said that Tuesday was the first time they were told official details of the merger. In the year since news broke of the negotiations for Radcliffe's future, alumnae have complained that they have been left out of the process--even while still being solicited for a $100 million capital campaign.

"It was too damn secretive for me," said Soma G. Behr '61. "What was Linda Wilson doing, going to 10 cities last year and asking what the future of Radcliffe should be in the next century? What kind of question was that when they had the answer already?"

Only top Radcliffe administrators and the Board of Trustees were involved in the negotiations, so yesterday most alumnae could only give their first impressions of an agreement whose details are still shrouded in mystery.

"None of us seem to understand why secrecy was essential," said Cecily C. Selby '46, who was a member of the Radcliffe Board of Trustees in the late 1970s. "I'll be loyal forever but it'll be easier to be loyal now that there are no secrets."

But even though they were kept out of the negotiations, many alumnae said they weren't surprised by the final decision.

The college many of them knew as undergraduates essentially disappeared after a 1977 agreement fully incorporated women into Harvard's student body. Since then, Radcliffe's role has been unclear.

"It's very much like the American Revolution--it formalizes something that has been going on for decades," said Tina M. Smith '83, vice president of the Harvard Club of Silicon Valley.

Under the new agreement, Radcliffe's mostsuccessful enterprises, such as the BuntingInstitute and the Radcliffe Public PolicyInstitute, will continue, but the college willfinally lose its institutional autonomy.

"It was clear that something was going to haveto change--Radcliffe, as it existed, wasmarginalized," said A'Lelia P. Bundles '74, who iscurrently serving as first vice president of RCAA."In the best of all possible worlds, I wishRadcliffe could remain independent forever, butthat's not the reality of the world in which we'reliving."

Other alumnae share Bundles' nostalgia for thecollege that put them on more equal footing withHarvard men. While some feel that women now have astrong voice within Harvard, others fear thatfemale undergraduates will lose a powerfuladvocate whose benefits many do not recognizeuntil long after graduation.

"As I feared, the tie to undergraduate women atHarvard has been cut, and I'm very sorry aboutthat," said Peggy M. McIntosh '56, who resignedher post as second vice president of RCAA lastspring because of her frustrations with theclosed-door negotiations. "Even if undergraduateprograms at Radcliffe weren't strong, they meant alot to women."

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