Sunday, May 19, 2019

“Coeducation in Context: 1969-1970” Common Hour

Amanda Scopelliti ’20

Features Editor 

On Feb. 14, 2019, Trinity hosted a common hour event featuring a group of alumni and current and retired staff members who experienced 1969 at the College, the first year that female students were granted admission. 

The panel, moderated by Taniqua Huguley ’15, M’17, began with a short film by Hanjatiana Nirina ’21, Lehlabile Davhana ’19, and Michaela O’Friel ’21. The documentary touched on the various political and social movements that occurred during the 1960’s and 70’s and talked about how they impacted student life at Trinity College.  

The Women’s Liberation Movement was gaining great momentum and widespread support during this time, and the Vietnam War was a source of upset among many Americans. The rise of feminism created a desire for coed classes and women’s studies courses on Trinity’s campus, and many students and professors organized and participated in anti-war efforts. 

After the video concluded, panelists Judy Dworin ’70, Professor of Theater and Dance, Emerita, Dori Katz, Professor of Modern Languages and Literature, Emerita, Randolph M. Lee ’66, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Counseling and Wellness Center, and J. Ronald Spencer ’64, Lecturer in History and Associate Academic Dean, Emeritus talked about their experiences with coeducation here at Trinity. 

Judy Dworin ’70, who was the first to speak, touched on what life was like on campus as a female member of the first coed class to graduate. Dworin transferred from Smith College, a women’s college in Northampton, Massachusetts, because she wanted to be part of a more heterogeneous environment. She was not expecting to be one of only four female students at Trinity but took advantage of her novel role on campus, stating that, “To be a woman at that time was to feel like we were carving a path.”

With the arrival of women on campus came the introduction of the dance program, which highlighted a shift from a male-dominated academic environment to a coed one. After graduating, Dworin was hired by Trinity as a Professor of Theater and Dance and trained many female and male students throughout her career. The dance program is still active and thriving today. 

The next panelist to speak was J. Ronald Spencer ’64, Associate Academic Dean and Lecturer in History, Emeritus. Spencer described the inclusion of female students at Trinity as “one of the more remarkable events in our history,” especially because the College has a reputation of being conservative. He said that the driving force in the decision to make Trinity a coed institution was the diminishing quality and quantity of applicants throughout the 1960s. Spencer says that once female students were allowed to apply, the number of male applicants also increased dramatically because “fewer and fewer talented young men wanted to attend a single-sex college.”

Spencer, who graduated from Trinity when it was still an all-male college and later returned to teach history for 40 years, said in a comment that, “Coeducational Trinity was a much more interesting and rewarding institution at which to work than the old Trinity.” He also says that throughout his many years as a professor, many of his “most serious-minded and hardworking students were women.”

Next up was Ronald M. Lee ’66, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Counseling and Wellness Center. Lee further discussed the American social and political movements that impacted student life during this time. He talked about the sexual revolution and the rise in drug use and how this changed the dynamic on campus, with sexuality being discussed more openly and marijuana being used more frequently among students. 

Lee also touched on how the Counseling and Wellness Center changed with coeducation, since there are many psychological differences between men and women. Lee expressed disappointment in the fact that until the year 1999, the Center was run by two white males. He takes pride in the current staff composition because he is now surrounded by hardworking women.

The last panelist was Dori Katz, Professor of Modern Languages and Literature, Emerita. Katz was one of six women faculty when she first arrived on campus in 1969, and she said that upon her arrival at Trinity, she thought she had “been dropped in a boy’s high school.” 

Katz wasn’t expecting the female student population to be so small, and says that she was disappointed by the lack of acceptance by other women on campus. According to Katz, the professor’s wives couldn’t seem to wrap their minds around the fact that she was a single, educated woman who was employed as a professor at the College. 

Katz experienced many instances of gender discrimination and was appalled when she discovered that a member of her department who had been hired at the same time as she was making a lot more money simply because of gender. All of her letters were addressed to “Mr. Katz,” and at the time, there was no women’s bathroom in Seabury, so female faculty members had to walk from their offices to Mather Hall every time they needed to use the restroom. Katz said that she “felt very invisible” at Trinity during times like those. 

Listening to the panelist’s stories gave spectators an idea of what it was like to be at Trinity during a time when gender inequality was a lot more evident than it is today. 

Students who are interested in learning more about coeducation and its impact on Trinity can attend several events being hosted by the Women at the Summit throughout the semester to commemorate 50 years of coeducation. 

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