For this draft I decided to use Peter Knapp’s Trinity College in the Twentieth Century. This source talks mainly about the reasons that the administration at Trinity decided to make it a co-education institution of higher learning. Thus, my first body paragraph gives an introduction to the reasons behind such a decision.
My second most interesting and comprehensive source is Haydel’s and Lasher’s The Fairest College? Twenty Years of Women at Amherst College. This source is full of first hand accounts from women who attended Amherst in its earliest days of co-education. Thus, I decided to make my second body paragraph about those women’s accounts of the transition into Amherst. I wanted to cover both a little bit of both Amherst and Trinity in my rough draft, so I did. However, I also covered two different aspects of my question.
Question: What factors led to the decision to co-educate at Trinity (in fall 1969) and Amherst (in fall 1975), and how were the first generation of women students treated at these two colleges?
Throughout the history of our time women have been educated. Some women have been educated by governesses, others at primary or catholic schools, some at all women’s colleges, and others at co-educational colleges. However, it was not until the late 1900’s that women had the option to study at co-educational colleges. Trinity College and Amherst College were two New England colleges that decided to allow women the opportunity to attend. Trinity College decided to co-educate due to financial reasons; it needed the support financially that admitting men as well as women could offer. Amherst College’s decision to co-educate came at a later period of time, and came from a desire to keep up competitively with all the other colleges in the area that were taking steps to co-educate. Thus, neither college strove to admit women on the basis of equal opportunity for all, but for personal advancement and competitive reasons. At both colleges the first generation of women to attend met a large amount of resistance and harassment, as both fellow students and faculty grappled with the changes of co-education in a traditionally male dominant school.
Trinity College’s decision to co-educate came from the need to enhance the institutions financial resources. Co-education had been discussed among the faculty, students, and trustees for a few years prior to the decision to co-educate. Faculty member Professor Donald D. Hook who worked in the modern language department expressed the sentiment that supported co-education. Hook stated “If the college were to become co-educational it would be the first private men’s college (of quality) in New England to do this and would thereby create a unique institution for an area extending from north jersey to Boston and west” (Knapp 365). Thus, Hook expresses the sentiment that most proponents of coeducation at the college advocated. Many employees of the college wanted to co-educate because it would give them an advantage over the other New England schools and increase the amount of applicants that they received. That was part of Dr. Robert W. Fuller, Dean of Faculty’s case in support of co-education. Fuller noted that many colleges with which Trinity competed academically were beginning to admit female students. These colleges were Williams, Colgate, Hamilton, Union, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Wesleyan. In order to keep up competitively with these similar colleges and attain the applicant pool that the college desired it would be wise to co-educate, as other schools were doing. In the past few years before co-education Trinity’s applicant pool had been declining and did not contain the most competitive students. Thus, Fuller stated that by co-educating the school would have ten times the applicants, containing more talented students. Fuller thought it best to act immediately, presenting the opportunity for women to attend Trinity before other colleges of similar standing did so. Thus, Trinity could latch onto the type of students that it so desired before anyone else had the chance to. As displayed above the first motives for Trinity College to co-educate came from a desire to advance the status of the college financially and academically. However, the impetus to co-educate also came from the similar actions of colleges in the surrounding area. Trinity College wanted to keep up with the modern social trends. In order to maintain status as an elite college, no one wanted it to fall behind. (Source used: Trinity College in the Twentieth Century by Peter Knapp)
The women of Amherst College had to deal with the college’s decision to co-educate in all aspects of the process. Not only did this decision have a dramatic impact on academics at the college, but it also affected residential life, social life, such as fraternities, athletics, and relationships among the students. By reading compiled interviews by Auban Haydel and Kit Lasher, two female Amherst graduates, one can deduct that the transition from an exclusively male school to a co-educational school was challenging for all involved; especially the females. When asked about the transition from a single sex to a co-educational college, many of the first women to attend the college do not have extremely pleasant comments to say about their experience. That is not to say that they did not like the college or enjoy their experience there, many of them very well did. However, although they may have enjoyed their experience the adversity they faced was not enjoyable, and ultimately made their individual characters tougher. A few women who attended Amherst in the early days of co-education stated that a few males came up to them and asked them how it felt having ruined Amherst with their presence. These comments as well as others were the kind that Amherst women faced daily. Another huge issue that women experienced was harassment, by professors and male students alike. One graduate, Alissa Revness class of 1981, stated that her professor made a pass at her. Another graduate, Dorthea Dickerman class of 1980, described how an Amherst male student attempted to trick her in order to get her to come into his room with him. These types of social interactions were the types of interactions that many Amherst women faced upon their entrance. However as Alissa Revness points out, social and cultural interactions were not what the administration had focused on upon their decision to co-educate. The administration viewed co-education from a purely academic standpoint, which may have been part of the reason social and cultural integration was more challenging. Shree White class of 1987 agrees with this view stating, “I think that the root of the trouble was the administration’s failure to consider the differences between the sexes”(Haydel and Lasher 9). It was because the administration was so fixed on quotas of female acceptance that they completely forgot to focus on the aspects of this transition. In essence, the first few years of co-education at Amherst were filed with extreme adversity for the first generation of female students. This adversity can be attributed to the administrations lack of attention to aiding a smooth social and cultural transition between the two genders. It can also be attributed to the resentment that many men faced when being forced with the task of accepting a woman as an equal in the classroom. (Source used: The Fairest College? Twenty Years of Women at Amherst by Auban Haydel and Kit Lasher)
Haydel, Auban, and Kit Lasher. The Fairest College? Twenty Years of Women at Amherst. N.p.: n.p., 1997. Print.
Knapp, Peter J., and Anne H. Knapp. Trinity College in the Twentieth Century. Hartford: n.p., 2000. Print.