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John Harvard's Journal

The Harvard-Radcliffe Entente, Continued

9.1.95

Founded in 1879 as the Harvard Annex, Radcliffe's original purpose was to offer women access to instruction by Harvard's faculty. Until 1943, women took courses separately from men; instruction was fully integrated in the mid-1940s, despite the resentment of some resistant faculty members (see "Harvard and the Arts of War," page 40, September-October 1995). Equal access was slow in coming, however—women were not admitted into Harvard's Lamont Library until 1967, and quotas on women's admission to the university were not removed until 1975. Then, in 1977, came the event that causes the greatest confusion today: Harvard and Radcliffe signed an agreement in which Radcliffe ceded its responsibility for the day-to-day instruction and housing of undergraduate women to Harvard. But Radcliffe maintained a distinct legal and fiscal status, retaining separate governance, endowments, programs, and property, while sharing admissions responsibilities. 

Now that female undergraduates have had entirely equal status for almost two decades, the dearth of women on Harvard's faculty has emerged as the next hurdle. The slow progress in tenuring women at Harvard has been a concern of Radcliffe administrators and alumnae as well as students, and Radcliffe has taken an active role in advancing female academics through the recent establishment of two junior faculty fellowships at the Bunting Institute. These fellowships give women a year of uninterrupted time to work on projects that will improve their chances of tenure at Harvard. The lack of tenured women, says Radcliffe president Linda Wilson, "is a complex, many-faceted problem, and there isn't one single intervention that will solve it...So that means you have to work on the issue in many ways"— encouraging female undergraduates to pursue untraditional careers, providing mentors, and rethinking recruiting techniques. —S.M. 

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