Boldly Going Where No Man has Gone Before
No, this post isn’t about the recent launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis or NASA or anything like that. It’s about one particular all-women college, one of but a few remaining such institutions left in the U.S., and it’s decision to admit men for the first time in the school’s 115 year history.
The Board of Trustees at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, VA decided that after 115 years of a “women-only” admissions policy, they would finally open their doors to the male population starting in 2007. This, of course, outraged many students, alumnae, and general supporters of the university. Today (Saturday, September 9, 2006), trustees president Jolley Christman struggled to have her voice heard over loud boos and shouts of “traitor”. Like most decisions at an administrative level, this was based mostly on money — or the lack of it. Enrollment at the school has dropped from 900 in the 1960’s to nearly 700 this year.
Over all, about 60 all-female colleges remain in the U.S., down from nearly 300 40 years ago.
What Do I Think?
Change is one of those things that’s hard for people to accomplish, especially when it’s something that they hold near and dear. Take, for example, Jackson State University in Mississippi. In recent years, all the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in Mississippi won a class action suit against the state for years of discriminatory under-funding. However, to be awarded the money won by the case the larges of the HBCU’s in Mississippi (Jackson State) has to admit at least 10% “Non-African American” students, which, in the South, most likely means white students. Now no one will doubt that the money is owed these universities, but ask any of the students what they feel about the condition to receive the money, and you will hear many of them say it’s unfair, they liked the school the way it was and didn’t see the need for change.
Again, it’s that whole thing about administrative-level decisions being based mostly on money.
Randolph-Macon is no exception. The school has money issues. What’s the easiest way for a school with money issues to raise more money? Attract more students. How does an all women college attract more students? Start accepting males. There was another school in Mississippi called the Mississippi University for Women that started accepting males back in the late 1970’s for much the same reason. Initially, the student population and their supporters protested in earnest like the those who protested the RMCW decision earlier today, but they got past it and today, the MUW (which oddly kept it’s name despite it’s coed populus) is doing just fine. The majority of the student body at MUW is still female (which isn’t bad for the few males that attend there, I suppose), and the school continues to increase it’s student body numbers every year. I would imagine the same thing will happen with Rudolph-Macon.
In Other News:
I guess it’s not surprising that universities and colleges in and around New Orleans are experiencing somewhat of a dip in their enrollment this year. After the horror and aftermath of Katrina, not many money-strapped college students will voluntarily place themselves in a broken city with a broken system. Xavier is reporting an incoming freshman class of nearly half of what it saw come in before Katrina (this time last year, Xavier was closed due to the hurricane). Now college recruiters are scrambling to entice graduated high school seniors to try and bolster sagging enrollment numbers.
More than a year later, and we’re still feeling the sting of Katrina.