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As noted in "Radcliffe Quandary" (July-August), Radcliffe president Linda Wilson has invited alumnae and others to comment on Radcliffe's proposed "intellectual terrain." In this spirit, Harvard Magazine asked four eminent figures in higher education for their opinions on what the future of Radcliffe College might be like. Their remarks follow.
Daniel S. Cheever Jr. '64, M.A.T. '66, Ed.D. '73, president of Simmons College.
We desperately need activist "drum majors for justice," to use Martin Luther King's phrase. In this case--justice for women, equal opportunity for women. I could see Radcliffe--with its scholarly resources, libraries, publishing course, and tradition as a place that does research on issues important to women--as a center that would bring those issues into the national conversation through things like seminars for members of Congress, press briefings, publications. Take a topic like law firms that are struggling with how to balance work and family issues: how are they going to keep the best talent in the firm? Radcliffe could help increase momentum on all levels.
Long-term, once all the doors are fully open, the goals would be to improve work and life for both men and women. As women become more able to realize their full potential, their representation will change the workplace and policies of caring for children.
This might mean redirecting Radcliffe's resources and using the economic power it has, which is considerable. I could see the Radcliffe Quad, which Radcliffe owns, being used for assisted-living housing. This would be in very great demand--by retired Harvard faculty or anyone living in the Boston area. In Cambridge, with easy access to Harvard Square, it would be especially attractive to academic and professional people. The Quad has lovely buildings and green space. Radcliffe could use that revenue to support programs for women and girls all over the world. That might be a more economically beneficial use of those facilities than, in effect, renting the dorms to Harvard for a relatively low price.
Patricia Albjerg Graham, BI '73, Warren professor of the history of American education. Dean of the Graduate School of Education from 1981 to 1991, she is also president of the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation, which does research on education. Graham was one of four representatives who negotiated for Radcliffe in reaching the 1977 agreement with Harvard (see this issue's Centennial timeline).
Radcliffe has an incredible advantage over any other institution serving women and their education: it has an endowment committed to women's educational needs and it does not have a faculty on which it has to spend that endowment. Therefore the opportunity for Radcliffe to figure out what it can do for the education of women is an incredible one. They can leave the instruction of women undergraduates to Harvard, figure out what are the deep educational needs of women in this society, and focus on those. Radcliffe can concentrate on the Schlesinger Library, the Bunting Institute, the Murray Center, and whatever programs the Radcliffe trustees feel serve women's education. The question is how to make a difference with those resources. Only Radcliffe College is in a position to entertain these questions.
Judith Jolley Mohraz, president of Goucher College, Baltimore.
I would propose that Radcliffe become an engine of cultural transformation regarding women's issues. I'd like to see it become a center that supports research and scholarship related to women, providing MacArthur-type grants to a wide range of individuals who are doing provocative and important work. Radcliffe could give stipends to undergraduates across the country--I'd like to see a whole range of support at different levels: for senior researchers, for undergraduates, for humanities scholars and scientists--support that would generate new knowledge about women and issues important to women, whether they be health, media, politics, or the arts and humanities.
Secondly, Radcliffe should see that we "move the lessons"--that this knowledge be disseminated to the larger public in seminars and conferences. It would be a research center, but one committed to ensuring that work about women is communicated to the general public in compelling formats.
Arthur Levine, president of Teachers College, Columbia University, and from 1989 to 1994 senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
It's wonderful that these conversations are taking place; the general public and even most people in education have no idea what Radcliffe is or what it does. It's very confusing.
Look at the range of things happening with women's colleges around the United States. Barnard became an independent undergraduate college. Pembroke merged with Brown. Radcliffe's nature is far less clear--it's amorphous. One thing that Linda Wilson has to do a lot is to explain what Radcliffe is. There are even wags who have called Radcliffe "an endowment in search of a purpose." Radcliffe needs clarity of purpose.
Yes, it could be restored as an undergraduate college for women. There is a need for that service--that would be a terrific thing. The number of women's colleges has diminished greatly.
Or it could become an experimental college for Harvard--it could be Harvard's Hampshire College. It could be a research institute. Anything is possible. It's an exciting time for Radcliffe.
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