Report on the AAC National Conference, 1971
August 3, 1971 To: President Peterson From: Nora Percival Re: Report on the AAC National Conference The dominant thrust of this year's conference in Washington was really an exploration of survival methods. From the first general session, the emphasis was on ways of dealing with this year's crop of campus problems (which some feel to be even more pernicious than rebelling students) -- dwindling student interest in education, dwindling alumni support, dwindling income in the face of rising costs, and dwindling credibility for educational philosophies. The alumni business is in a precarious state, and new ways must be found to counteract the downward trends. Knowledgeable people in many related areas were heard from in the search for prescriptions for our common disease -- members of the press educational staffs, the president of the National Center for Voluntary Action (in joint session with ACPRA), Newsweek's editor-in-chief Osborn Elliott, Secretary of the Treasury John Connaly, and a couple of college presidents -- as well as a full range of top AAC members. The group discussions were, I felt, especially valuable, providing an exchange of ideas with people having similar concerns and difficulties. Some main points that emerged from the conference: volunteerism needs a higher profile to supply the meaningful programs needed by the youngest alumni, who need support of their impulses to serve; continuing education opportunities for graduates are a strong and growing trend (some schools are already offering lifetime education opportunities); a positive way to involve young alumnae in their organizations is to develop more points of contact during their student days; because public -- especially federal -- support will be more and more vital, higher education must learn how to "sell itself” more effectively to the community, on every level all the way up to the national -- self-evaluation programs are necessary to achieve this goal. The women's colleges gave the impression of being, in general, on a less precarious footing than many others. Most of us felt, I think, that we could have a great deal to offer each other and should develop more joint programs. The women's lib theme was in evidence in several sessions, particularly in a communications panel on the subject in which Emily Flint (Barnard '30) participated most effectively, and which produced some very lively exchanges on role stereotypes in alumni reporting.
My own presentation on Barnard's plans for a Women's Center and this year's Reunion program cam during a panel on "Imaginative New Programs for Women" in which the College of Notre Dame, Douglass College and Mount Holyoke also articipated. It produced a good deal of interest and enthusiasm, most particularly from Simmons and Sweet Briar; but a number [handwritten] 33 actually! of others also requested a transcript of the talk. Several listeners hope to explore the possibilities of working with our center to stimulate their own women's programs. Radcliffe seemed a bit uneasy at our ambitions -- as Barbara Norton pointed out to me afterwards, Radcliffe's future character will depend to a large extent on its effectiveness as a center for women’s extra-academic programs -- so they may be understandably trepidant that our aim to become a national center for women may well cut the ground from under their feet. ‘ A useful bonus was a luncheon meeting with nine Washington Club officers and BARS, which produced a wealth of clarifications of their program plans and needs, ways the Alumnae Office can help them more effectively, and other insights into the club and its leaders. I am convinced we must do more to create opportunities for direct discussions of this kind in every accessible club area. In summary, the Conference made most of its participants feel that colleges and alumni groups must do more to develop sound and clearly-stated goals, develop greater coordination among the various echelons who work for the college, and the general public, and develop programs clearly worthy of the increased support they must have. cc: Mrs. Hertz Mrs. Mintz Miss Moorman Mrs. Gould Mrs. Johnson Miss McCann Mrs. Goldenheim Prof. Stimpson