Coeducation Thesis & Evidence Draft

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Having officially accepted women to their undergraduate program in 1837, Oberlin College was the first university postsecondary institution to become coeducational. Following Oberlin, other colleges across the United States began to open their doors to female undergraduates. However there were some universities that stayed single-sex, such as the Seven Sister schools, which praised all-female education, and found that their students would thrive separated from men.  In her book, Separate by Degree: Women’s Students’ Experiences in Single-Sex and Coeducational Colleges, Leslie Miller-Bernal states, “women’s colleges have always lived under a banner of controversy…as they developed and became an important part of American higher education, stereotypes have often been used to describe them…but they have also been damaging in their ability to obscure the educational value of women’s colleges and to confuse, if not terrify, potential applicants” (Miller-Bernal p. xv).  This banner of controversy that Miller-Bernal goes on to describe is one of the many reasons why single-sex colleges merged to become coeducational institutions, to avoid some negative connotations that might have been associated with their schools, as well as to attract more potential applicants who might have been more interested in the school had it been coeducational. Coeducation, while it plays a large part in how men and women were, and are currently, educated, also affects in what ways the students are educated. In coeducational institutions, the gender demographics affect campus climate outside of the classroom, as well as inside of it; it is important to investigate how coeducation of women affected the gender demographics of student majors, by potentially further developing female-dominated majors, or bridging the gap to male-dominated fields.

Waiting over 100 years to co-educate after Oberlin College, Trinity College officially became a mixed-sex college in 1969. The reasons for Trinity’s acceptance of women were a mutually beneficial decision for both the college and the students; the dean of faculty, Robert Fuller, proposed said reasons to President Lockwood, to explain how Trinity would benefit from accepting women[1]. Fuller explained that studies suggested that men and women educated separately may be at a disadvantage, because they would not be fully prepared for the world after college in which they did not have the option of only working with people of their own sex. At the time at which Dean Fuller was writing this memo he addressed the falling number of applications that Trinity received, and declared that it was because men, at the time, wanted to go to mixed-sex colleges. Therefore, because the number of applications was decreasing, Dean Fuller suggests that the number of talented students at the college was shrinking because there was not as large of a set to choose from.  Fuller subsequently gave the President gave three key reasons as to why Trinity could only succeed if it decided to accept women. The first reason present was to accept women would cause Trinity to draw a more talented group of applicants, therefore Trinity would have more talented students; the college could replace less talented men with more talented women. Second, the distraction associated with having a mixed-sex classroom would rapidly diminish with a constant presence of women. Lastly, admitting women would “be continuing [Trinity’s] tradition of undertaking whatever actions are necessary to protect its excellence;” this final piece of logical reasoning, as well as with those previously stated, shows that Dean Fuller truly was focused on protecting the excellence of Trinity, and proved himself right when one year after his memo was read by President Lockwood women were accepted to Trinity College, and the college’s coeducation was official.

Presently, it has come to the attention of colleges and universities just how large of an impact that the coeducation of women has had on the nation’s higher learning institutions.  From an article in the New York Times: “Department of Education statistics who that men, whatever their race or socioeconomic group, are less likely than women to get bachelor’s degrees – and among those who do, fewer complete their degrees in four or five years. Men also get worse grades than women…faced with applications and enrollment numbers that tilt toward women, some selective private colleges are giving men a slight boost in admissions”[2]. This present-day divide is the ironic inversion of what coeducation was like in the 1900s. When women began at mixed-sex institutions they remained in a passive state, letting men remain dominant in fields that stereotypically were not appropriate for women, such as the sciences or the humanities like political science or economics. This dominance has slowly diminished, and has allowed women to find equality in the gender demographics regarding student majors.

[1] Fuller, Robert. “The Admission of Women Undergraduates to Trinity College.” Print.

[2] Lewin, Tamar. “At Colleges, Women Are Leaving Men in the Dust.” New York Times. 9 July 2006. Web. <>.

2 thoughts on “Coeducation Thesis & Evidence Draft”

  1. I really like this topic and I think it will turn out to be an excellent paper. I like how you are using Trinity as your specific topic but your frame of reference spans all institutions which went from single-sex colleges to coeducational institutions. Your topic is definitely thought-provoking, but try to add a little more evidence for the “addresses change and/or continuity over time in education” part of the evaluation criteria. The last two sentences of this draft are extremely interesting and I would love to hear more about them! It would be really beneficial to you to show a timeline of women’s majors at Trinity (or other institutions, or all institutions) over time to back up those last sentences, for example what percent of Trinity’s female students majored in engineering the first few years as compared to now (which I am sure you thought of already, but just in case). The Watkinson should have some information on this and if not try talking to Rachael Barlow. Also, your middle paragraph is very strong and I think anyone inside or outside of Trinity would be interested in learning the real reasons why Trinity became coeducational.
    I am however having a bit of trouble finding your research question. What is the real question you are trying to ask? You are doing a great job of including many pieces of coeducation in this paper which is great, but what is the real question you are trying to answer?
    I think once you tie all of the pieces together your paper will be excellent! Good luck!!

  2. Devon,
    So far i think this is a great draft! I like how you explore co-education at Trinity College, and cite Dean Fuller’s reasoning to back up your claims. I also thought it was great that in your intro you talked about the impact of single-sex colleges, and explored the reasons why some of these single sex colleges decided to co-educate. I felt that I could relate to that part of your topic because I went to an all girls school for eleven years prior to coming to Trinity, and I understand many of the negative connotations that come with attending a single sex school. However, after your introduction you did not mention all women’s colleges again. So, I was wondering if you were only going to mention them in your intro, or will they be included somewhere further down in another body paragraph? Other than that confusion the only suggestion I have is maybe you could add in some smoother transitions. I sometimes felt that the essay was going in a few different directions, and was a little confusing. However, that could be because this is only a rough draft and the question was not posted. From what it looks like though you are off to a really great start and I am sure this will turn out to be a great paper.

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