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Radcliffe's RebirthMary Maples Dunn will leave her post as director of the Schlesinger Library to guide the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study through its first year.David Carmack
A year ago this June, a special meeting of Radcliffe alumnae convened on the day after Commencement to discuss the status of their alma mater, which was reportedly engaged in secret and profound negotiations with Harvard. One graduate rose to share a question a friend had posed: "Are you going to be 'Pembroked'?" The reference was to the women's college long associated with Brown University. In 1971, Pembroke merged with Brown--and disappeared without a trace.
Now Harvard and Radcliffe have announced a merger agreement (see "Radcliffe: A New Incarnation," May-June, after page 64) making it emphatically clear that Radcliffe has not been Pembroked: on July 1, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (RIAS) will spread its wings. As lawyers and administrators hash out details of the agreement that will define the institute's structure, many questions arise regarding the nature of this new unit.
Frankly, I have never cared whether the place I attended is called Harvard or Radcliffe. And like many women, I sometimes get tired of hearing and thinking, reading and writing about women and our problems, the biggest problem being our social and economic status. But until we really do achieve equality... these are irritating issues that still have to be raised.
For that reason I'm sorry that the Radcliffe I attended won't be there to raise them for us.
FRANCINE PROSE '68, A.M. '69, in the New York Times, April 24
RIAS is the first institute for advanced study ever created at Harvard, and there are perhaps only three comparable centers in the country: the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (which has no institutional tie to Princeton University), the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto, California (similarly independent of Stanford University), and the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. RIAS would thus be the only such institute located within a university, and with its projected $300 million endowment--Harvard and Radcliffe each con- tributing $150 million--it will become the second-best funded of these enterprises. (The institute at Princeton has an endowment of approximately $380 million.) The well-heeled start will enable RIAS to "draw the best people, offer the best stipends, and be excellent right from the beginning," as President Neil L. Rudenstine told the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in May.
The institute's mission has two main components, which will probably coexist peacefully for the most part, but surely will sometimes compete. On the one hand, RIAS will be an interdisciplinary center that fosters scholarship across the full array of academic and professional fields, as well as work in the creative arts. Its fellows, both women and men, will include scholars who "want to study medieval warfare, or string theory in physics," says Rudenstine, citing the model of the Bunting Institute, which since 1961 has given one-year fellowships to a wide-ranging group of women scholars and artists. On the other hand, RIAS's mission also includes "specific and special concern for matters relating to women, gender, and society," Rudenstine told the faculty.
To date it is unclear what form this "women, gender, and society" component--reflecting Radcliffe's historic mission of educating women (see "Merger of the Century", page 72)--will take. Radcliffe's current structure embraces four scholarly enterprises that will become part of RIAS: the Schlesinger Library, the Bunting Institute, the Murray Research Center, and the Public Policy Institute. Conceivably, a fifth unit could arise, dedicated to studies of women, gender, and society, perhaps patterned on the Bunting. Yet some administrators argue that the existing pool of scholarly talent in these areas is too shallow to replenish such a high-level enterprise for more than a few years. Another model might involve short-term (one- to five-year) appointments of Harvard and visiting faculty members, fellowships, conferences, and "theme years" on topics such as women and reproductive technology.
Such questions will be high on the agenda of the institute's first dean, who will have equal status in the University's governance with the deans of Harvard's nine faculties. This appointment is "critical," says Mary Maples Dunn, director of the Schlesinger Library and former president of Smith College. On July 1, Dunn becomes acting dean of RIAS, a transitional role expected to last about a year. "I tell people I'm pouring the foundation," she says, chuckling. (If no final agreement has been signed by July 1, Dunn will become interim president of Radcliffe College, succeeding outgoing Radcliffe president Linda Wilson.) A transition committee charged with the search for the first regularly appointed dean will seat Dunn as a nonvoting member. That committee will also include four members of the Radcliffe Board of Trustees--among them its chair, Nancy-Beth Gordon Sheerr '71--and four members of Harvard's Governing Boards. Rudenstine will chair this committee and make the final appointment. The choice will almost certainly be female, and very likely an accomplished scholar who has management experience. "I don't think the academic field is important," says Dunn, adding, "Certainly, this person will have to be a fundraiser."
As Mary Maples Dunn says: "The most common
message I've gotten is, 'I feel really sad, and I know it's the right thing to do.'" That just about sums it up.
This is how it goes for the "eyes on the prize" generation. We got what we worked for; we opened doors that were closed. And yet. Sometimes we wonder what we have had to give up. We wonder when a merger is a submerger, when we have been welcomed on our own terms and when we've been taken over....The story of Radcliffe...shows the ambivalent side of the movement, the idea that to get equality with men, women have given up separate spaces, different values.
...[W]ell before they gave Harvard complete and full custody of undergraduates, Radcliffe negotiated a solid prenuptial agreement. But any wife can tell you that the proof is in the daily living.
ELLEN GOODMAN '63, Nf '74, in the Boston Globe, April 25
In seeking a form for the unprecedented institute, the new dean will have several models available close at hand. The Society of Fellows (see "Environment for Genius?" November-December 1998, page 58) annually appoints eight junior fellows, generally precocious young scholars, who may pursue their research independently in a wide range of fields for up to three years, and who convene regularly over meals or in colloquia with the Society's senior fellows, an array of distinguished members of Harvard's regular faculty. Another model might be the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (until 1998, the Center for International Affairs), where researchers concerned with international political, economic, and social topics--some on unpaid leave from their home institutions--receive funding to pursue their intellectual passions in a collegial setting at Harvard. There is in addition the Schlesinger Library itself. Radcliffe archivist Jane Knowles, who becomes acting director of the library when Dunn takes up her new role (and who is married to Jeremy Knowles, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences) calls the Schlesinger "an example of how well an institution can be affiliated with Harvard, yet independent. We participate in the Union catalogs and all the technical changes that take place within the Harvard libraries: we are much stronger because of Harvard, but we also do our own thing very well."
Regardless of the formal model chosen, it is clear that RIAS expects to invite a good number of postdoctoral researchers, visiting scholars, and junior faculty from around the world. The short-term senior-scholar positions could give distinguished academicians a chance to write a "capstone" book and offer Radcliffe-based seminars that might attract faculty and students from all parts of the University. (The lack of tenured professors is a key difference between the Radcliffe Institute and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, which has 21 permanent faculty members on its payroll.)
It is important to distinguish the Radcliffe appointments from Harvard's regular faculty positions, says FAS dean Jeremy Knowles: "We are not going to create a second class of faculty." Dunn suggests that the presence of term, rather than tenured, faculty, with the consequent enhancement of turnover, will enable RIAS "to maintain intellectual nimbleness and flexibility."
Dean Knowles also cites the importance of "intellectual renewal. Why do faculty retain intellectual freshness? They're driven by the questioning minds of students, a group that is renewed every year. We don't want to create a hermetic institute for advanced study. The Radcliffe Institute must be embedded in the University. It's not only physically close, but there will be a real connectivity with students and faculty. Anything we do here should contribute to the educational enterprise--the Fogg, for example, is not just an art museum, it's a teaching museum. As soon as we forget that, we are in danger of creating arid areas of the University without any students." Hence, although RIAS will not enroll degree candidates, its programs will actively involve students in noncredit seminars, colloquia, lectures, and in certain forms of mentorship.
Dunn says there are "heaps" of advantages to being embedded in a university. "Intellectually, the most important thing will be that it opens the way to a lot of interfaculty initiatives for research and study on certain themes. This is enormously enriching. We also will have the depth and strength of the faculty and the expertise of the administration to call on to get a new organization on its feet. The support system is superior. And being connected with the fundraising process of the University is not insignificant. Furthermore, the institute grows out of a women's institution, and so will have a mission somewhat shaped by this long history and its core constituency of graduates, whose lives were shaped here when Radcliffe was a college."
Such a cornucopia of benefits does not come cheaply. Institutes of advanced study, because they collect no tuition, depend largely on endowment income, although there may be some potential for sponsored research. Of Radcliffe College's $200-million endowment, roughly $50 million will remain dedicated to financial aid for female undergraduates at Harvard, with the remaining $150 million supporting the components of RIAS. Harvard's $150-million contribution is slated to come from the University's centralized working-capital funds. During the first two years of RIAS's operation, Harvard will contribute $85 million in such funds to the institute's endowment, says vice president for finance Elizabeth Huidekoper. Additionally, Harvard will offer $30 million in "challenge" money in future years, matching the dollars that the institute raises. "That will go out as fast as it's raised," Huidekoper notes. "All evidence suggests that it will be really successful." Harvard will also contribute substantially to the institute's operating budget during its first 14 years.
Fundraising will clearly be essential to the success of RIAS. Early returns are promising: in the first three weeks after announcing the new institute, Radcliffe received $6.5 million in new gift pledges. This brings the total raised by Radcliffe's capital campaign, which has a target of $100 million by the year 2000, to $78.5 million. In 1998 the campaign raised more than $15 million to set a record, but making its goal will require more record-breaking years.
Radcliffe's endowment will henceforth be invested by Harvard Management Company (HMC), which may also improve the financial picture. Between 1989 and 1998, Radcliffe's return on endowment investment has ranged from a low of 2.1 percent (1994) to a high of 18.9 percent (1997), for a 10-year compounded annual rate of return of 12.0 percent. In the same period, HMC--investing a pool of money currently about 70 times as large--achieved a 10-year compounded annual return of 14.6 percent. (As a benchmark, the National Association of College and University Business Officers reports that 323 American colleges and universities reported a median 10-year return on their endowments of 13.2 percent for this period.)
The merger affects not only finances but students. Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS) copresident Kathryn B. Clancy '01, for one, is less than sanguine. "I'm very concerned," she says. "We as undergraduates have not been told anything--we weren't included in the negotiations in any way. They forgot about the fact that there were Radcliffe undergraduates. I got a lot of e-mail from very angry women." A five-dollar charge on the term bills of all Radcliffe students currently supports RUS, but since "Radcliffe undergraduate" will soon become an extinct species, that mechanism will presumably lapse. Clancy asserts, "People see it [RUS] as a student government, which it hasn't been since 1977. Instead, we sponsor dinner discussion groups and give grants to women's organizations. We sponsor and lead Take Back the Night" (an annual event focusing on women's safety, with particular attention to sexual assaults).
Clancy suggests the creation of a Radcliffe Foundation for Women, modeled on the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations. She and other Radcliffe students met with President Wilson and Tamar March, who directs Radcliffe's educational and undergraduate programs, in early May. "No matter what the question," says Clancy, "the answer was the same: 'We're so excited about the Radcliffe Institute.' It was difficult to get any straight answers from her [Wilson]. The meeting was very empty of information."
Such student concerns rank among many difficult and important issues that Harvard administrators and RIAS must address in coming months and years. The mood at the top, however, is generally upbeat. Looking back on the negotiations, Nancy-Beth Gordon Sheerr concludes, "In some ways it was a remarkably short process for a move of this magnitude." Jeremy Knowles asserts that "Radcliffe is now more secure and has a happy clarity of purpose--and Harvard is a better place, too." Perhaps the clearest declaration comes from Mary Maples Dunn: "It's going to be GREAT!"
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