Document 8: Mary I. Bunting to Elayne DeLott, Office of the President, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 29 January 1964, Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

Introduction

   During Christmas break of my junior year, I was arrested, along with my Harvard companion, Rick Fields, for "fornication, corrupting the morals of a minor, and lewd and lascivious behavior"-two felonies and a misdemeanor. The incident happened over Christmas break, at 6:00 A.M. in an off-campus apartment of a friend, where Rick and I were staying. Unbeknownst to us, a young woman who was also staying in the apartment had misrepresented herself as a junior at MIT, when she was actually a sixteen-year-old high school girl whose uncle was a captain in the Cambridge police. The Cambridge police came through the open apartment door, expecting to find the underage young woman in a compromising situation, and instead they found Rick and me sleeping in the bedroom next to hers. This became the basis for the charge of "corrupting the morals of a minor." We were all taken to the police station, where the young woman was charged with being a "willful child" and held in solitary confinement for 24 hours, after which a priest visited her cell, followed by her parole to the custody of her mother. My birth control pills were confiscated, of questionable legality in Massachusetts at the time, and both Rick and I were released. Our respective Harvard and Radcliffe deans were notified. I was told to leave the college immediately; Rick was allowed to stay.

   I found an ensuing meeting with a Harvard dean who just wanted "to see who I was" a bit creepy. In contrast, my meeting with President Bunting was warm and inquisitive. She told me she wanted to know what "the girls are thinking" and invited me to come by and talk to her at her regular Sunday open house. At the subsequent court appearance, Rick and I were paroled to our respective deans and given deferred sentences. Later, a week before finals, the harsh, impersonal tone of a letter from President Bunting came as a shock to me--despite the message that I was being re-admitted to Radcliffe. I now understand that she must have been under extraordinary pressure to deal with this perceived breach of morality. At the time, however, the contrast between the tone of her letter and her personal openness, together with the patronizing tone of my meeting with the Harvard dean, made me feel humiliated, betrayed and defiant. Rick and I remained friends throughout our lives. He became a student of Tibetan Buddhism and was my meditation instructor in the late 1970's. Rick is noted for his book, now in its third edition, How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America (1981; 1992).

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
RADCLIFFE COLLEGE

CAMBRIDGE 38, MASSACHUSETTS

COPY

January 29, 1964

Dear Elayne:

    This is to confirm in writing the action of the Radcliffe administration which I reported to you orally.

    In our opinion the behavior leading to your arrest was reprehensible, showed poor judgment and certainly did not reflect creditably on you, your family or the College. We have seriously considered requiring you to withdraw from the College, but in view of the recommendations of the court and our evidence of your growing sense of responsibility we have chosen to put you on probation until the end of this academic year. You will be required to be in touch with Dean Solomon on a regular basis which she will establish and will take no overnight leaves without the written permission of Dean Solomon. It is our understanding that you will be living in Henry House. We ask that you sign in six nights a week by 11:30 and not later than 1:00 o'clock on the seventh night unless you have permission from Dean Solomon.

    I wish to make it quite clear that if the terms of your probation are broken you may be asked to leave the College immediately and that any misrepresentation of the seriousness with which we view your past conduct or other wilful expression of attitudes that we believe harmful to the Radcliffe community will also be reason for severance. If you do not feel you can or wish to comply with these conditions I recommend that you voluntarily withdraw from the College for at least a semester.

    Our decision to permit you to continue your education is of course an expression of our sincere faith in your academic capabilities and your integrity and developing concern for others.

Sincerely yours,

Mrs. Mary I. Bunting
President

Miss Elayne J. DeLott
Henry House
11 Linnaean Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Previous
Document
Document
List
Next
Document

| Documents Projects and Archives | Teacher's Corner | Scholar's Edition | Full-Text Sources | About Us | Contact Us |