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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Frothingham, 'Manliness,' Prize Will Be Awarded This Year

By Joyce K. Mcintyre, Crimson Staff Writer

The College will award the Paul Revere Frothingham prize to a graduating senior this year despite its selection criteria of "manliness," Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 confirmed this week.

The prize was subject to legal review this spring--along with all of Harvard's seemingly gender-specific Commencement prizes--to check for compliance with Title IX of the 1972 educational amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title IX bars educational institutions that receive federal aid, like Harvard, from discriminating on the basis of sex.

But while the Frothingham, which includes "manliness" in a list of required character traits, will be awarded at Commencement, administrators decided in April not to award the Captain Jonathan Fay Prize this year.

The Fay Prize was traditionally Radcliffe College's highest honor for a woman.

Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles and acting dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Mary Maples Dunn decided not to award the prize this year while evaluating whether to open it to both men and women. Both have worried in the past about the Fay prize's legality.

Frank J. Connors, a University attorney, said yesterday that all of the College's gender-specific prizes, including the Frothingham, had been reviewed by his office and legal recommendations sent to the appropriate administrators.

"[We] have examined all of the prizes, advised [Harvard] legally what should be done," Connors said. "Rest assured that we have looked at them all."

Connors would not comment on the specific advice his office gave the University about the Frothingham Prize.

For example, it is unclear whether University attorneys believe that "manliness" necessarily precludes female recipients, which might make the prize illegal.

Connors said he passed along all his recommendations to University administrators.

But Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 wrote last night in an e-mail message that he has not heard from the Office of the General Counsel on the subject lately.

Connors said that once legal advice has been rendered to the University, it is the responsibility of the administrator--in this case Lewis--to comply with the recommendation.

Earlier in the week Lewis wrote, "Everything will happen this year as in the past; the review of terms can't be rushed. Next year may well be different, however."

In theory, if Harvard gives a prize against the law, the University could be sued, if a student chose to take legal action.

Paul A. Bohlmann, director of fellowships at the Office of Career Services (OCS), said he collected nominations for the Frothingham from the Houses this spring as usual. The selection committee, chaired by Lewis, has chosen the recipient, Bohlmann said, and the award will be announced on Commencement day.

The incoming dean of the Radcliffe Institute expressed skepticism about the decision.

When incoming dean Drew Gilpin Faust was informed that the Frothingham would be given this year while Radcliffe College's tradional Fay Prize would not be awarded, she said that she was "bewildered."

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