Memorandum to officers of instruction and administration from the Dean of Faculty LeRoy C. Breunig, January 12, 1971

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JAN 12 1971

BARNARD COLLEGE OFFICE OF DEAN OF THE FACULTY

MEMORANDUM TO OFFICERS OF INSTRUCTION AND ADMINISTRATION

May I suggest that you read the attached essay before the staff conference on January 18th and that you bring your copy along with you. It might well serve as a good basis for discussion. The essay is a draft of one of the two papers being prepared for the Middle States Case study conference in March. It has nt yet been approved by the Committee and has no official status, but the statements aving to do with the curriculum will be particularly pertinent to our discussion next Monday afternoon.

LeRoy C. Breunig Dean of the Faculty

January 12, 1971

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THE EDUCATION OF WOMEN IN THE NINETEEN~SEVENTIES

It should not surprise us that the education of women in the nineteen-seventies prmises to be a difficult undertaking. All American colleges and universities are at present undergoing radical and painful transformations that reflect the political and economic readjustments of our nation itself. The current crisis of values - the moral crisis which produces generational gaps and alternate cultures - strikes centers of higher education with particular force. The young men and women who populate those institutions are the vessels of new attitudes and outlooks; many of their assumptions and aspirations call into question both the odes and the matter of a traditional liberal education. If history is, as H.G. Wells wrote, "a race between education and catastrophe," we in the academy might find it difficult - given the turmoil of the last few years - to decide in which direction we are running today.

But the education of women poses special problems - or, at least, forces us to reinterpret the general problems of higher education in special ways. The situation of the humanities is a case in point. with the cessation of extensive financial support - both foundation moneys and such federally-funded programs as the N.D.E.A. and Fulbright fellowships - departments of languages, litera- ture, and the arts are back where they were in the mid-nineteen- fifties. The relaxation (or disappearance) of requirements in many colleges and the rapid growth of the social sciences, which complements the activism of recent college generations, seem to be pushing the humanities from the center to the fringes of the liberal arts curriculum. Since young women have traditionally chosen to major in languages and literature, in history and art history, the problem of the humanities is particularly acute in women's colleges. on the other hand, the pressures now put on young women to diversify their interests, to specialize in areas hitherto largely closed to them - medicine and law, natural sciences and computer sciences - have created new problems for women's liberal arts colleges, not always prepared to give the necessary pre—professional training. The resurgence of a militant feminism adds extra force to the activism of women students and greater weight to the demands of women in the academic profession. Coeducational institutions are being asked to add women to their faculty and administrative staffs; women's colleges are expected to be foyers of feminism, the vanguard of the movement.

Barnard College, in the light of such concerns, is a rather special case - an "oasis," as one of our young female faculty members recently put it. Able to draw not merely on its own resources, but on those of Columbia University and of New York City, Barnard does nt suffer from the isolation of those independent women's colleges located farther from major universities and urban centers. We are indeed besieged by increasing cries for coeducation, for "merger" or "coordination" with Columbia University; simply from the economic point of view, increased cooperation would probably be to the benefit of both institutions. Nevertheless, a comittee established to

express Bernard's missions and goals concluded just a year ago that

a small liberal arts college for women has real justification for existence, especially in New York City and within Columbia University. (Changes in the University would, of course, necessitate a readaptation on Barnard's part.) '

Like most American universities, Columbia is primarily a male bastion. There are, to be sure, women undergraduates in the schools of Engineering and General Studies and women graduate students (who outnumber the men in certain departments of the Graduate Faculties - French and Art History, to be exact - or in programs traditionally intended for women, like the Nursing Program in the Medical School). Very few women, however, hold seats on the faculty, even in those departments in which they provide a majority of the doctoral candidates; no women occupy positions of authority in the administration. Certain circles of the faculty still seem to harbor doubts about the serious- ness of women students, their comitment to scholarship or to professional careers.

Barnard therefore plays an essential role in the University cmmunity. It offers young women an environment in which their efforts are taken seriously. It encourages its students to specialize in any area congenial to them (the ten departments in which most of our students chose to major between 1960 and 1969 illustrate the diversity of their interests: English, as might be expected, leads the list; History, Government, Biology, Psychology, and Art History follow; Sociology, French, Economics, and Matheatics attract somewhat smaller numbers). Barnard also affords opportunities to women scholars, teachers, and administrators - without the social stagnation that often afflicts women, especially single women, in smaller localities. Like the many alumnae who take an active interest in the College, the women faculty and staff members serve as models of professional and personal accomplishment for our students. The student who looks beyond Barnard to New York City can discover other life~styles and professional opportunities quite different from the traditional choices open to women - and different from those apparent to women students in colleges located in smaller towns. Our alumnae, even recent alumnae, generally express their gratitude for the chance to take active part in student government, in more extracurricular activities than are usually open to women (many yearbook editors, for example, are women, even in coeducational institutions; but how many women are student presidents, outside of women's colleges?), and in the careers available to them in the metropolitan area.

In spite of its sense of past accomplishments, Barnard, like other women's colleges - like all American colleges, for that matter - is somewhat uncertain about the choices it should make in the immediate future. The current debate about the similarities and the differences between the sexes, about the roles of women in society and in culture, touches finally on both the forms and the materials of the educational process. In somewhat simplistic terms, there seem to be two main schools of opinion. One insists that, intellectually, women are not merely equal to but identical with men; the other, while not questioning women's intellectual equality, looks to the experiential

differences between the sexes, whether genetically or culturally determined. If the first notion is correct, if women and men are intellectually identical, women's colleges (when they can justify

their separate existence at all) should be no different from men's colleges: the same forms - lectures, discussions, seminars, colloquiae - in the same proportions; and the same materials - the traditional

range of academic disciplines, humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, combined and confronted in certain interdepartmental and interdisciplinary programs. If, on the other hand, women are intellectually equal to men, but differ fro them in significant experiential patterns,then woen's colleges should recognize those differences, adapt traditional educational modes to the special patterns of women's experience, and develop areas of study particularly suited to women. Even if there is no demnstrable genetic distinction between men's and women's minds, women have unquestionably been

treated differently from men, channeled into certain careers and excluded from others; at this moment of history, then, women's

colleges have a special function - the redefinition of woman's

role and place - and they must change their practices in view of

such a function.

There are, of course, dangers inherent in such speculations,

"Difference," as the lesson of Rousseau clearly demonstrates, can

too easily be understod as "inferiority": it is the education of Emile that matters, and Sophie learns only to be a good housewife

and mother. We are beyond the stage of the finishing school and

the program in home economics, to be sure; but where do we go from here? A women's college which went too far in trying to formulate

a program jg; women only might run the risk of futile experimentation, given our almost total ignorance about the possible differences between the ways in which men and women learn and the atmospheres most conducive to their education. Too much stress on certain

areas of study might further limit the career opportunities open to women at the very moment when the variety of those opportunities

is greater than ever before and when there is pressure for young women to raise their sights in terms of professional choice. Even educational experiments as adaptable to men's colleges or coeducational institutions as to colleges for women seem suspect when ingrained prejudice comes into play: like Caesar's wife, the woman's college must be above suspicion. (The idea of relaxed requirements for the major field, for example, lends itself to the notion of a broad-based liberal education and to current attacks on over-specialization; it can unfortunately be argued that women, less likely than men to pursue a professional career, would benefit most from "an educational smorgasbord." The circle could easily become vicious.)

Some adaptations can, however, and should be made. There has perhaps been too much said about the special rhythms of women's lives and careers; but certain realities are inescapable. The woman who has all but abandoned her formal education while raising her children is an only too familiar figure; women's colleges have become increasingly aware of their responsibilities in such a situation, increasingly convinced that they should afford the opportunity for women who have received a bachelor's degree to renew their acquaintance with academic disciplines or to pursue new areas. The Radcliffe Seminar is one model for programs which

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permit women to continue their education outside a formal graduate program; Barnard's policy of allowing alumnae to audit almost any course in the college, free of charge, is another. (It must be admitted that few alumnae take advantage of the courses available

to them; this is perhaps because mst of our alumnae are involved

in active professional lives. only 13.5% of the alumnae graduated between 1953 and 1962 who responded to a questionnaire circulated

in 1962 by the Alumnae Association identified themselves as housewives.)

Whether such formal experimentation has a place in an under- graduate program for women is uncertain. Most current concern is indeed related to the materials of undergraduate education for women - and the problems are numerous. It is clear that women's colleges should consider the pre-professional requirements of their students in formulating their curriculum; but how far should such consideration go? Since great numbers of women, through choice or necessity, become teachers on the elementary or secondary level (28.6% of the Barnard alumnae questioned in 1962 so identified themselves), some sort of education program seems an essential part of a curriculum designed for women. With the decline in MAT programs, colleges, and especially women's colleges, may have to assume the burdens of methods courses necessary for the accreditation of high-school teachers. Barnard already offers two such courses, in English and in History; a third - in the teaching of Foreign Languages - has been discussed. It is indeed possible for a Barnard undergraduate to

' take all the courses necessary for accreditation in New York State -

in the History and Philosophy of Education, in Psychology, in Methods, and in Student Teaching - and still to fulfill the requirements for the major in the subject she intends to teach. There is currently great interest among students - not to say pressure from students - for the establishment of a program in elementary education at Barnard. would such programs be, or become, too rigid forms of professional training for a liberal arts college? Would they

(given the financial squeeze on colleges today) involve a curtailment of the broader liberal arts program? Would they, paradoxically, reinforce the notion that careers as elementary or secondary teachers are the highest goals that young women should strive to attain

(and at a moment when the available pool of teachers seems quite large enough for the need)? We are in effect caught between past realities and present aspirations, between the desire to prepare

our students for the positions available to them and the equally great desire to encourage their independence and to direct them

into new and different areas.

One of the newest of those areas, widely discussed today and gradually being implemented, is the "program in women's studies," courses about women in literature, history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, even economics and political science. Since proponents of such programs usually argue that only women can teach the courses, the establishment of women's studies programs at many institutions is - like the introduction of Black Studies two or three years ago - a way of bringing into the faculty a group largely excluded from it. At Barnard, as at other women's colleges, this subsidiary advantage is of less importance, and women's studies can be considered in their own right - not without political and social complications, to be sure, but little in the academy these days is free of such complications.

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permit women to continue their education outside a formal graduate program; Barnard's policy of allowing alumnae to audit almost any course in the college, free of charge, is another. (It must be admitted that few alumnae take advantage of the courses available

to them; this is perhaps because most of our alumnae are involved

in active professional lives. Only 13.5% of the alumnae graduated between 1953 and 1962 who responded to a questionnaire circulated

in 1962 by the Alumnae Association identified themselves as housewives.)

Whether such formal experimentation has a place in an under- graduate program for women is uncertain. Most current concern is indeed related to the materials of undergraduate education for women ~ and the problems are numerous. It is clear that women's colleges should consider the pre-professional requirements of their students in formulating their curriculum; but how far should such consideration go? Since great numbers of women, through choice or necessity, become teachers on the elementary or secondary level (28.6% of the Barnard alumnae questioned in 1962 so identified themselves), some sort of education program seems an essential part of a curriculum designed for women. With the decline in MAT programs, colleges, and especially women's colleges, may have to assume the burdens of methods courses necessary for the accreditation of high-school teachers. Barnard already offers two such courses, in English and in History; a third - in the teaching of Foreign Languages - has been discussed. It is indeed possible for a Barnard undergraduate to

' take all the courses necessary for accreditation in New York State -

in the History and Philosophy of Education, in Psychology, in Methods, and in Student Teaching - and still to fulfill the requirements for the major in the subject she intends to teach. There is currently great interest among students - not to say pressure from students — for the establishment of a program in elementary education at Barnard. Would such programs be, or become, too rigid forms of professional training for a liberal arts college? Would they

(given the financial squeeze on colleges today) involve a curtailment of the broader liberal arts program? would they, paradoxically, reinforce the notion that careers as elementary or secondary teachers are the highest goals that young women should strive to attain

(and at a moment when the available pool of teachers seems quite large enough for the need)? We are in effect caught between past realities and present aspirations, between the desire to prepare

our students for the positions available to them and the equally great desire to encourage their independence and to direct them

into new and different areas.

One of the newest of those areas, widely discussed today and gradually being implemented, is the "program in women's studies," courses about women in literature, history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, even economics and political science. Since proponents of such programs usually argue that only women can teach the courses, the establishment of women's studies programs at many institutions is — like the introduction of Black Studies two or three years ago - a way of bringing into the faculty a group largely excluded from it. At Barnard, as at other women's colleges, this subsidiary advantage is of less importance, and women's studies can be considered in their own right - not without political and social complications, to be sure, but little in the academy these days is free of such complications.

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A number of questions must be asked about such programs, not the least of which is their intellectual justification. It is one thing to study women as a group in anthropological or sociological terms to trace the history of the Suffragette or Feminist movements, to examine the "debate about women," a literary motif as popular in antiquity or during the Middle Ages as it is today. Is it however equally justifiable to isolate for study the women writers of a given country? do women novelists or poets constitute a tradition separate from the greater national tradition? Are "the Feminine Mystique" or "the Literary Mistreatment of Women" or ‘Women in Perspective" (courses attested to by Sheila Tobias of Wesleyan University in Female Studies I and by the MLA Commission on the Status of Women) valid subjects for study? In terms of college curriculum as a whole, what should the prerequisites be for the study of such subjects? A student mst knw French or German to read the works of French or German women writers; should she also be required to take a survey~course in the literature of France or Germany before concentrating on such a selective group of authors? The same question could be asked in terms of such courses as "History of Women in the United States" or "Sociology of Women" or "Evolution of Female Personality" or "Women in the U.S. Economy." When women's studies are considered a major or minor field of concentration, such questions become especially important. And what, it has been asked, does a major in women's studies do? does she simply go on to teach women's studies in her turn? ("She" and "her" are correct: the proponents of women's studies programs, even at coeducational institutions, seem to feel that - for the moment, at least - the courses should be restricted to women students.)

Barnard's answers to these questions have reflected a thoroughly moderate approach. A women's studies program is being established, not as a departmental major or an interdepartmental program, but as an addition to the college curriculum which meets current interest and current needs: some of the courses, for that matter, existed before the pressures for a special program became evident, simply as reflections of student interest and the concerns of certain members of the faculty. Courses now exist in the departments of English, French, and History; others are projected in German, Sociology, Art History, and Economics. It is hoped tht our students will elect one or more of the courses; it is also hoped (and this would seem to be a national interest, not merely a local one) that the need for special programs in women's studies will di- minish as the traditional departments begin to pay more attention $i~ to the problems and the contributions of women - just as there would be no need for courses in "Black History" or "Black Literature" if departments of History and of Literature broadened their approaches to their subjects. Faculty members - both women and men - in many departments can benefit from such consideration of hitherto neglected areas.

If the faculty is to familiarize itself with the subjects of women's studies, if students are to be able to pursue their research, then libraries must expand their collections of books by and about women. Barnard has thus far taken only a modest step in this direction: the Overbury Collection (originally the personal collection of Mrs. Frederick C. Overbury, who graduated from the College in 1896) consists of some 1900 volumes and a smaller number of manuscripts written by or about American women. Although mny

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of the books are first editions, they are not bibliographical rareties, and students are able to consult them in the Treasure Room of the College library. Smith and Radcliffe have both gone farther than Barnard in the establishment of libraries and archives which serve as centers of research.for scholars interested in women writers and in the history, sociology, and psychology of women. Barnard is, however, presently engaged in the effort to obtain other private collections like that of Mrs. Overbury and to acquire those books necessitated by the introduction of more courses about women.

The implications of programs in women's studies and of libraries

of books by and about women transcend their academic functions.

Both of them may serve purely intellectual ends, but they also have a polemic or quasi-political nature which is not to be minimized.

It is surely beyond argument that one of the jobs of women's colleges - of any institution which educates women, for that matter - is to help women see clearly their situations and their abilities, and, if necessary, to help them define or redefine their goals in light

of those situations and those abilities. Courses which consider such questions and libraries which complement those courses provide obvious ways in which to make women students aware of themselves

as women in academic and professional contexts. The contributions of the office of advisers and the placement office are equally important in this respect. Barnard's placement office is particularly active in trying to make our students raise their sights and aim at professions they might not have considered - while still epprising them of actualities, of the often humiliating limitations of oppor- tunities for advancement open to women in many fields. The office has called upon alumnae who have achieved success in a variety of fields to talk with students interested in pursuing similar careers; it continues to help students professionally after their graduation. More could, of course, be done; but not everything depends on the colleges. While Barnard students may major in Conservation, in British Civilization, in American Studies, they still must confront the realities of the job market and the prejudices of professional schools. The Biology department consistently attracts a large number of majors; the premedical program is an active one; and Barnard is proud to have the highest percentage among the Seven Sister Colleges of young women who enter the medical professions. The real numbers, however, are still depressingly low when compared with the numbers of our alumnae in teaching below the college level, in publishing, advertising, and so forth.

It has also been suggested - with increasing urgency - that women's colleges, particularly those in metropolitan areas, have responsibilities to women other than their own students and alumnae. As in men's colleges, or coeducational institutions, programs in Urban Studies, the use of the city as a laboratory, and the active recruitment of disadvantaged students help to bridge the gulf that often (not to say always) exists between an educational institution and the community in which it is located. But it has been argued that, just as women's colleges can help their students to redefine their roles, so they can perform a similar function in relation to women in the community, providing them with intellectual stimlation and offering them the opportunity to develop or to transform the range and scope of their academic training. If universities and

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colleges respond to current demands that they become vehicles for effecting social change, then women's colleges should address them- selves mre and more to the needs of women in general. It is not a question of ”politicizing" either the colleges for women or women in the community; it is rather a question of making women's colleges intellectual centers which work to enable more women to lead diverse and active professional lives. The responsibilities of all American colleges and universities seem greater than ever before; given the social and cultural forces at work today, women's colleges bear a large share of those responsibilities.

January 1971