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Harvard Magazine

Whither Radcliffe?

Harvard men seem to be taking their sisters more and more seriously--as friends as well as intellectual rivals.

Opinions differ as to why the change in attitude has taken place. Some say proximity in classrooms has brought new respect for the girls, who frequently hover near the upper grade levels (although some instructors call them "less original" thinkers!). Others claim--and doubtless with some truth--that Radcliffe undergraduates of today are distinguished less for precocity and more for looks than their predecessors. In any case, the old conception of the 'Cliffe type is rapidly disappearing. Even the Crimson has succumbed--has given up its "funny boxes," stopped using the word Annex, taken on a Radcliffe correspondent to cover serious news on Garden Street, and started a circulation war for female subscribers with the Radcliffe News!

Whether Radcliffe itself wants to become more integrated with Harvard is a question sometimes neglected in the discussions. There are obvious advantages to be gained by using Harvard's libraries and other facilities, but some people think that further combination with Harvard might cost Radcliffe its identity--an identity which President Wilbur K. Jordan and Dean Mildred Sherman have fought hard to preserve. Whatever the outcome of the struggle, which is just beginning to emerge from underground into the light of College consciousness, it seems certain that Harvard-Radcliffe relations will be on a more intelligent and mutually-interested basis than they ever have been before.

J. Anthony Lewis '48
April 10, 1948

Drinking at the Bick, 3 a.m.

When the undergraduate stumbled into the all-night eating place in the Square at three o'clock on the morning of Commencement Day, he found a scene completely unique and yet somehow perfectly correct. The short, small tables of the Bick had been pushed together into long
rows, bottles were being passed from hand to hand, and undergraduates and reunioners alike were raucously baying college songs. Taxi-drivers and countermen smiled indulgently as a senior clad in Bermuda shorts and an undershirt led the singing with a butter knife...A student stood in the doorway, shouting "Welcome to Mory's" at the newcomers.

In truth the hilarity of Commencement Week had transformed a commonplace cafeteria into a combination of a Bavarian rathskeller and a New Haven institution for upperclassmen. The metamorphosis of the Bick was symptomatic of an atmosphere which changed stolid bankers into playful children and childish undergraduates into educated men. For a few brief moments seniors about to encounter the outside world and men of '28 trying to escape it were as one, united in their devotion to Harvard, spring, and good bonded whiskey.

While the taxi-drivers snickered and representatives of the general public frowned, the undergraduate reveled in this irresponsibility. Something he had always admired about the College was its ability to do what it thought right regardless of popular opinion. He had admired its ability to be carefree on the proper occasions just as much as he had envied its solemnity on others. In a way, the undergraduate thought, Harvard's serene faith in its own rectitude was shown not only in its refusal to bow to hysteria about communism, but in its ability to hold a drinking party in Hayes-Bickford's at three o'clock in the morning.

Michael J. Halberstam '53
July 4, 1953

Cavalier about Classes

Just as the undergraduate, lured by balmy weather, was planning some weekend trips, he was told by members of the Faculty that he had been absenting himself from classes too much as it was...Delmar Leighton '19, Dean of the College,... pointed particularly to the courses scheduled to meet "Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at the pleasure of the instructor." Students, Leighton pointed out, were taking their own liberties with the instructor's "pleasure," and some of these courses never met more than twice a week.

In the matter of class attendance, Harvard is currently one of the most easy-going colleges in the country. Only freshmen courses take attendance; the bulk of the others do little to enforce the regulation that "regular attendance at college exercises is expected." This makes undergraduates the envy of students at other colleges, who must limit their "cuts" in each class to get course credit. The local legend about "Pumley," who cut every class after freshman year but graduated summa cum laude, while probably untrue, is technically possible.

This cavalier attitude of undergraduates toward classes is nothing new.... [H]istorians of the early days of the College have discovered a yellowed, battered attendance list for one week in October 1663. Of the 23 students listed, only one attended all his exercises. One scholar was absent 11 of 15 meetings. Another skipped 10 of the 15, and was tardy the rest of the time.

As a result of such capriciousness, the laws had to be tightened. In the eighteenth century, it was decreed that

If any undergraduates shall be absent...from the private lectures of the professors, they shall be fined not exceeding two shillings; and if they do not speedily reform by such pecuniary mulcts, they shall be admonished, degraded, suspended or rusticated...

But in the later years of the nineteenth century, the introduction of liberty in the choice of courses was accompanied by an increase in the freedom to cut them....This was open invitation to desert Cambridge for Havana, New York, and other places of recreation. Samuel E. Morison, professor of history, in his Three Centuries of Harvard, relates how this worked out:

The Faculty remained in blissful ignorance of this new defiance of liberty until it was called to their attention by a careless student and his irate father. The lad had left Cambridge for the more genial climate of Havana, writing a series of post-dated letters which his roommate was supposed to mail to his parents at proper intervals. Unfortunately, his "goody" placed the lot in the mail; the alarmed father came to Cambridge, and no officer of the University had the remotest idea where the son might be.

As a result of this minor scandal, the Faculty decided to start checking on attendance once more. A system of student monitors and University Hall records was set up, but it, too, gradually broke down. In 1934, the Dean of the College, A.C. Hanford, asked the Faculty to liberalize the rules once more, pointing out that "little attention is paid to cuts if a student keeps up his College work... The system is inconsistent with our aim of making a student more responsible for his own education and treating him as a member of a university rather than a schoolboy."

Attendance-taking has had a cyclical history in the College. Patent abuses have led to restrictions, but freedom has always crept back. Perhaps the pendulum has swung once more. If so, undergraduates might soon have to dig into their pockets for a shilling or two, to pay the price of their wanderlust.

Milton S. Gwirtzman '54
May 1, 1954

The Shorts of It

In cambridge, hot weather always seems more oppressive than anywhere else in the country. Perhaps it is because no one except the Square merchants ever seems to expect it. Certainly the University does not...

Though the [former] had splashed their display windows with piles of correctly-long Bermuda shorts, the bureaucracy in the College dining halls steadily refused to admit undergraduates who wore them. It was an example of what the Government department terms "judge-made law." House Masters' regulations provide only that "coats and ties shall be worn at all times in dining halls." Shorts, worn with a jacket and tie, clearly conform to the letter of the law. The prohibition, which seems arbitrary, brought murmurings of official tyranny. In one House, known for its genteel traditions, a diner is allowed to wear shorts--once. The day after his offense, he invariably finds a note in his mailbox, from his Senior Tutor, begging him not to repeat the indiscretion.

Richard H. Ullman '55
June 4, 1955

The Young Fogies

All...political activity stops at the Charles' edge....Some work was done for candidates before the congressional election, but the quantity and scope of this external participation is limited. All of which may go to bear out a statement made privately last fall by a distinguished Faculty member, who commented that "where questions of public policy are concerned, this is an uncommonly unoriginal, conventional-minded, sloganized, and boring undergraduate generation. In the main, the undergraduates are a collection of political young fogies--without conviction, curiosity, information, or standards... The originality and creativity of this generation is substantially diverted from political concerns. It flows instead into a variety of fields, some useful, some not--analytical philosophy, mathematical economics, quantitative sociology, drama, music... Everything bears the mark of the political escapist."

Alfred Friendly Jr. '59
November 8, 1958

Calling Great Aunt Lucinda

One harbinger of the impending Great Event is the dearth of hotel accommodations in the Greater Boston area. At last report only the Statler had vacancies, a fact which an acquaintance of ours with Sheraton interests noted with some glee. For those unlucky students (alumni are characteristically foresighted in these matters) who haven't found a bed for their dates, the problem assumes fairly serious proportions. The Administration, for reasons which pervade Western mores, frowns on the practice of letting a young lady spend the night in a young gentleman's room. Frantic undergraduates have been known to call their Great Aunt Lucindas in Billerica in search of lodgings, and a few students will maintain lonely, night-long vigils with their dates in the local twenty-four hour eateries. Unreliable sources report that there is a boom on in the market for heated garages, but this extreme solution lacks the suave aura of Yale-gamesmanship bred into even the most gauche freshman.

Alfred Friendly Jr. '59
November 29, 1958

The Fires of Anger

It is not unfair to say that this univer- sity is now overwhelmingly against the war. The widespread opposition exists among both students and Faculty members; people have their different reasons for believing as they do, and there are people who still support Vietnam policy. Nevertheless, the predominant mood is one of disgust, unhappiness, and deep disagreement with the Administration's policy...

Ever since the Administration began to escalate the war sharply in 1965, a large proportion of people have been vehemently opposed to U.S. policy. There still remained, however, a large reservoir of sympathy with the Administration. There were those who thought this was a distasteful yet "necessary" war. Many thoughtful students and Faculty members disliked the war and were not happy to see the U.S. involved; but they understood the slow, step-by-unconscious-step American entry into the war, and sought to understand the complex political and diplomatic problems the Administration faced in extricating itself "with honor" from the conflict.

This was the period of the teach-in, and despite some strong anti-war feelings, a large middle segment tried to make a "hard-nosed, realistic" assessment of the situation. The government has now lost this segment, and its disaffection accounts for the near unanimity today...

Vietnam is the basic political fact-of-life for many students; it often serves as a reference point to evaluate others' politics; it is conclusive proof of the evils of government, or the basic problems of this country. Conversations now rarely touch on the fundamental issues of U.S. involvement, but begin with the premise that the policy is ill-conceived and then continue to condemn the latest escalation or statement by Dean Rusk. There is a good deal of bitterness. And as the war seems to have grown more hopeless, the bitterness has increased. For some, this has increased the pressure to become "committed" and make an active protest against the war; some who resist this pressure often feel slightly guilty. It has also meant a corresponding increase in tolerance of most forms of protest. When, for example, slightly less than 100 students signed a "We Won't Go" pledge in the Spring term, many people didn't agree with the premises behind the pledge, but admired the position anyway. A fundamental ambivalence--between disagreement over policy and respect for authority (sometimes the Administration, sometimes "law and order")--exists. Yet, slowly the scale is giving increasing weight to policy disagreements. As long as the present policy persists, this shift will continue...


Because no one can really see any end in the war, it is hard to draw any definite conclusions about the University's--and students'--continued reaction to it. This is the way it seems now. There is a frequent feeling, in the words of one Faculty member, that "we are speaking to each other": that the problems felt here are not felt in the same way in other places and that feeling about the war is not nearly so intense elsewhere. And if "we are speaking to each other," the fires of anger, dissatisfaction, and frustration may be feeding upon themselves. One hopes this is not the case. And one hopes that if it is, it will not lead to protracted problems for the University--an extended period of isolation, either self-imposed or forced from the outside.

Robert J. Samuelson '67
June 17, 1967

The Politics of Paronoia

If there are two groups of people who are most upset about the lack of political action this past semester, they are the really committed radicals and the liberal social scientists. The radicals are upset because they feel (correctly) that there is still a lot to be mad about; the liberal social scientists because they make their living predicting behavior, and having predicted trouble, are now like Cassandras with their wagons pulled out from under them.

Of the two groups that are upset, my heart goes out more to the social scientists, for the radical activists have to a large extent brought it all upon themselves. The only active group left is the Progressive Labor faction of SDS, and they seem to have receded into paranoia and fantasy. Here's SDS the day after President Nixon invaded North Vietnam, trying to rally outside Massachusetts Hall to protest the fact that one-fifth of Harvard's lettuce is picked by the Teamsters Union instead of the United Farm Workers. My roommate is in PL. During Thanksgiving recess, a party member called up and asked for him.

"I'm sorry, he's not here," I said. "May I take a message?"

"Well..." she was reluctant. "Are you in the party?"

"No, I'm afraid not."

"Why are you afraid?" she screamed. "Haven't you seen our latest pamphlet, 'Mass Action Not Mad Bombings'?"

I told her I'd read it; that in fact, there were several hundred copies sitting on our living room mantel. To make conversation, I asked her if she'd seen the Newsweek article entitled "The Death of SDS," which had appeared that week.

"Certainly," she said. "We have a leaflet out on that one too."

What did it say, I asked.

She replied, "Well, do you think it's just a coincidence that that article just happened to appear less than two and a half weeks before our New England Regional Conference for which we're trying to drum up support?"

(I can't resist another PL story attributable to a lapsed friend. Mark Rudd, the hairy Columbia revolutionary and head of an anti-PL faction of SDS, had gone to a union meeting to attempt to promote the worker-student alliance. Instead of greeting Rudd as a long-lost brother, as he expected, the members immediately proceeded to beat him up. Asked later what significance this had for the movement, a PL member said that it boded very well. "Obviously," he explained, "the workers recognized Rudd as a revisionist.")

Michael E. Kinsley '72
January 4, 1971

Great, Greatest, Greater

Dissenting politics are an institution at Harvard Commencement. Not only because, like folding chairs and chicken salad, they are everywhere, but because, like the folding chairs, they have become necessary to the ritual without distracting from it. If anything, the folding chairs cause more discomfort. The Crimson reported five demonstrations planned for Commencement. If they in fact occurred, it is a tribute to the new-new politics that Commencement still ended on time. There were days (two years ago) when even one demonstration could delay the ceremony up to half an hour, causing noticeable departures from the scheduled series of events. Organizers of what appeared to be the Official Annual Senior Class Protest (for equal admission of men and women) exploited the popular desire for a political expression as unobtrusive as possible. Their protest, they promised potential participants in a question-and-answer sheet, not only "is fully in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion," but "does not prevent participation in other protests."


[The senior's] opportunity for closer examination of the alumni came Tuesday morning, when [he] was scheduled to join Dr. Chase Peterson, Dean of Admissions and recently named Vice President for Development, on a panel speaking to the 50th reunion. Here's my chance to shock them, he thought. The first shock, however, came courtesy of the alumni office, which in the juggling of a dozen different reunions had neglected to reserve a room for this revival meeting, leaving 200 bewildered alums wandering through Leverett House jiggling locked doors. When a hall was found, it was not the senior but Dr. Peterson who did the reviving, his enthusiasm and effectiveness belying the euphemistic nature of his new title. Each panel member had five minutes, followed by questions. Dr. Peterson's talk might as well have been entitled, "The Greatness of Harvard and How to Avoid Probate." His message was simple: Harvard not only has been great for 300 years and is currently the greatest it has ever been, but is at every second--even as we sit here today--getting even greater. At the conclusion of his talk, which came last, the questions in most alumni minds, the senior suspected, were on the order of "Where do I sign?"

Michael E. Kinsley '72
July 1972

An Iguana in the House

My guide led me through at least four large suites interconnected by illegally opened fire-doors. My memory of this labyrinth is rather hazy, but I do recollect a green and orange refrigerator, mauve walls, and--the pièce de résistance--a bunk bed whose lower level, neatly enclosed in chickenwire, contained an iguana.

The Psychedelic-Iguana School of room decoration, as we might term it, is not without its attractions. After all, I decided to move to Dunster House as a result of my tour. But several other decorating schools are currently coming into fashion. They might lead a sociologist to some interesting conclusions about student trends.

The Blood-and-Guts School seems to be especially popular this year. It is characterized by an abundance of sharp objects, lurid pictures, and assorted pieces of dangerous junk. I have visited one room in Winthrop House which contains a bright red poster of Zapata with "Viva la Revolucion" in large letters; a picture of somebody stabbing an exceedingly ugly monster; two animal skulls of undetermined origin; a pair of high-heeled black leather boots with steel shanks; a sword; a machete; a box full of tools for fixing a motorcycle that was sold several months ago; and, suspended over the bed, a multi-colored hammock from South America, a set of car chains, a motocycle chain (locked), and a pair of electric blue nylon swimming trunks. The curator of this motley collection keeps it in perfect order, disturbing it only when a special occasion (such as the christening of his roommate's two male kittens, Gregory and Harriet) calls for the machete to be removed from its neat hook on the door and brandished in the living room.

Anne Fadiman '74
March 1972

Kind Counsel

To: Staff of Psychology and Psychiatry

We are seeking members for a group of students whose primary difficulty is with interpersonal relationships. Membership should be restricted to those who do not have severe difficulties in other areas and who have sufficient strengths to benefit from the short-term experience. Interviewing of prospective members will begin this week.

This solicitous notice, which i found lying on a desk on the second floor of the University Health Services, makes two assumptions that would not have been made 30 years ago: unhappy Harvard students cannot solve their own personal problems, and Harvard is responsible for helping them. If you are a bewildered freshman, Harvard will find a dozen other bewildered freshmen and a psychologist to sympathize with you once a week. If you are one-half of a bewildered couple, Harvard will put you and the other half in a group of young people with similar problems. If you are worried about sex, Harvard will reassure you that everybody is worried about sex, but will try to help you with your special difficulty. If your courses reduce you to tears, Harvard will explain how you might study better. If you are confused about what you want to study, Harvard will give you tests to determine your aptitudes and vocational leanings. (I was told that I should major in English or Geology and that I should not aspire to be an air force officer, a credit manager, or a funeral director, although I would make a passable osteopath.) If you want to get academic credit for telling other people about your problems, Harvard will enroll you in "Personality and Interpersonal Behavior" or "Theoretical Issues in Two-Person Relationships."

To those who are unhappy, perhaps it is small consolation that this is a wonderful place to be unhappy in. I have heard it argued that after assigning you roommates you can't stand, making you take courses you don't like, and generally doing its best to drive you crazy, Harvard owes you all the help it can give. But I am convinced that Harvard offers far kinder counsel than it has to.

Anne Fadiman '74
April 1972

The Shalimar Six

Undergraduates are dressing snazzier these days.

At the end of the Sixties, most students wore the same unisexual uniform: long scraggly hair, beat-up sneakers, beat-up jeans, and a T-shirt. There was seasonal variation, of course. In the colder months they substituted flannel shirts and work boots for the T-shirts and sneakers. Occasionally they added a few decorative frills: puffy-sleeved, paisley shirts with oversized collars for the men, peasant dresses for the women, and floppy hats, beads, and brocaded headbands for both.

In those days, about the only way to tell the men from the women was to look at their hips. Now it's easier. In increasing numbers, Harvard women are taking to what the Ann Taylor saleslady called "the skirt-and-boot look." Pants are still worn, of course, but they are now often carefully tailored. Women are also adorning themselves with jewelry--rings, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces--frequently made of gold. They are going in for shorter, more stylish hair, and paying professionals to cut it. A few women even wear make-up.

Among men, the change has been subtler, but equally widespread. While few are wearing coats and ties, haberdashery is by no means the rarity it once was. Shirts with button-down collars are definitely making a comeback, and creased trousers are gaining on the still prevalent jeans. Most dramatically of all, Harvard men's hair is now almost universally short and well-groomed.

Observers of the Harvard fashion scene noted the beginning of this transformation last fall, when a group of six sophomore women moved into Eliot House. The House had seen women before, but few that looked like these. They were dressed to the hilt, from their professionally cut, blown-dry--for that natural look--hair, down to their patent-leather shoes. But it was their perfume that caught everyone's attention (they made their presence smelt, as it were). All used the same sweet-smelling scent, Shalimar. Inevitably they were dubbed The Shalimar Six.

On the face of it, these new developments in the way students...dress seem to indicate a new sense of personality and independence...

Viewed from another perspective, these tendencies seem not to be signs of new freedom, but simply signs of new restraints. The economy is the crucial factor. As it turned from the Sixties boom to the Seventies bust, it thrust students into a much less comfortable position.

Pre-professionalism is rampant. Undergraduates are even beginning to fashion themselves as young professionals. They look more like junior executives than students, and their suites look more like apartments than college rooms.

The student's relationship with the outside world has changed. When students of the Sixties spoke, the world tended to listen. Now the students are doing the listening. They know that when they go looking for a job, they'll be facing a buyer's market. So in the meantime they are on their best behavior--neat and tidy.

John Sedgwick '76
February 1976

Avoid Bony Fish

There's a certain point in the year, the undergraduate thought, when you can really feel, for the first time, the palpable approach of summer. It's not the morning you notice the varsity shells back on the river, nor the first day you cut class and walk, by yourself, all the way down to Boston. Neither is it your first glimpse of the tentative shoots of grass in the Yard (they're quickly smothered, anyway, by the crust of green hydroseed Facilities Maintenance sprays down in preparation for Commencement). No, the one true sign of impending summer at Harvard is the appearance of the résumé.

They pour forth every year in a swelling stream, the sheets of white bond (or ecru)--from the photocopiers at Kinko's in the Square, from the laser printers in the Science Center basement, from a thousand Macintoshes; to the Program Coordinators, the Personnel Directors, the Distinguished Alumni, the Family Connections. Updated, formatted, preferably one page or less, margins not too wide, home and school addresses in the top corners. By sophomore year, there are few of us indeed who don't have one. The undergraduate was no exception. This was going to be the summer he made the big time; no more painting houses with Alex and Jeremy, no lazy June days in Cambridge. He was going to get a summer internship.

Well, he was going to try. There was no reason to think he couldn't get one. After all, he was a Harvard student, and Harvard certainly stood ready to help him. There was the Office of Career Services (OCS)­"Please Show Harvard I.D. On Entering"--with its battalion of advisers, its comprehensive library, its job binders, its weekly newsletter, its alumni contacts. There was the Student Employment Office with its bulletin boards and computerized database. There were books such as The Harvard Guide to Careers and The Harvard Guide to Careers in Mass Media. The undergraduate used all of these. He went to Bob Slate Stationers and bought two hundred sheets of 25 percent cotton bond, making sure, as the career guides warned him, to select envelopes that matched. He wrote cover letters (bland for Simon & Schuster, political for The Nation, clever for The New Yorker) and Xeroxed samples of his writing. Updating his résumé--he always made sure to write the word with both acute accents, the hallmarks of an Ivy League education--was a bit more challenging. The books and counselors all advised he keep it to one page, but that would mean leaving a lot out. Did prospective employers care about the awards he had won in high school, or how he had spent the summer of 1986? Did he use enough of the "157 'action words' to dramatize your accomplishments" listed in The Harvard Guide to Careers?...

Then one morning during reading period, a telephone call came. The undergraduate was a finalist for an internship with a magazine in New York. He was to be interviewed on Wednesday. There was no time to lose. He went back to the OCS library, this time to the shelf of books on job interviews. A well-thumbed copy of How to Interview for That Job--and Get It! promised "six secret steps" to employment success. Step number six: "Believe in yourself. No one ever accomplished anything without a certain amount of belief in himself." That was helpful. The undergraduate decided to see what Knock 'Em Dead With Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions had to offer. "A 2 1/2" to 23/4" tie is de rigueur," it counseled. Caryl R. and Ronald L. Krannich, Ph.D.'s, in their book Interview for Success, offered practical tips for lunch interviews: "Eat food that is easy to eat and in small portions. Try to avoid spaghetti, fried chicken, and bony fish."

The undergraduate went home. That night, he dreamed he was wearing a three-inch-wide tie and eating bony fish. He woke up, took a cold shower, had his interview, and got the job. It was almost time for summer.

Adam Goodheart '92
July-August 1991

Illustrations by Mark Steele. Photographs courtesy Harvard Yearbook Publications.

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