Letter 23 and Board of Trustees Statement on Coeducation

W&L Anonymous Alum A Letter 23_Redacted

Letter 23

Board of Trustees Statement on Coeducation

Board of Trustees Statement on Coeducation

Farris Hotckiss, secretary to President Wilson, sent letter 23 to the 508 alumni who wrote letters to the University or to the Board of Trustees on the question of coeducation. He said that though the 508 men represent only 3.2% of the entire alumni population, the viewpoints expressed in the letters “gave the Board a comprehensive picture of overall alumni opinion.”

Hotchkiss wrote, “Of the many ways alumni chose to make known their views, there was common agreement that the 508 letters were the most helpful.” Enclosed with the letter was the Board of Trustee’s official statement on the coeducation decision. Hotchkiss sent the 508 alumni advanced copies of the statement because of their interest in W&L and the coeducation study. The statement was published in the Alumni Magazine in the issue following the Board’s July 13-14 meeting.

Students, Alumni 2-1 Against; Faculty 4-1 For

Student:Alumni and FacultyWashington and Lee University’s decision to go coed was spurred largely by concerns over a shortage of qualified students, but remaining all-male colleges including Wabash College and Hampden-Sydney did not feel similar pressure. W&L had resisted the pressure to go coed since 1888, when the idea was presented in the student magazine, Southern Collegian. President Wilson’s suggestion of opening W&L’s undergraduate school to women was met with stark negativity even though the law school had gone coed in 1972 due to pressure by the American Bar Association. When Wilson became president of the University in 1983, his push to halt a tradition that marked Washington and Lee University as a distinctive school caused his low popularity among students. Bob Jenevein, student body president in 1984, believes that changing the single-sex status at W&L will inevitably alter the spirit of the institute. However, Frank Parsons, Executive Assistant to the past three presidents of W&L, thought that W&L’s character would not change drastically with the initiative. Perhaps, like Wabash College’s spokesman Keen, Parsons realized a single-sex institute is hard to sell, and thus seeks the maintenance of W&L as a unique and academically acclaimed school with a pro-coed stance.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]

Washington and Lee to Admit Female Undergraduates

To Admit Female UndergradsSurveys administered to the alumni, undergraduates, and faculty of Washington and Lee show 58 percent of alumni opposing the coeducation change, 53 percent undergraduate opposition, and 80 percent faculty approval. The preference of coed schools by both males and females as well as the increasing role of women in society led to the trustees’ decision to implement coeducation at Washington and Lee.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]

W&L Vote is for Coeducation

Vote for CoeducationThe historical decision for coeducation at Washington and Lee was met with mixed emotions by students, alumni, staff, and faculty. Scott Tilley believes the school will be forever changed, losing its cherished unique qualities with the breaking of the all-male tradition. Other emotional reactions included cheers by staff, faculty, and alumni that were described as pandemonium when they heard of the announcement at 12:50 p.m. on Saturday. No students planned on leaving the University despite their stark opposition to the decision. President Wilson planned to gradually grow the female population to 500 by 1995, comprising about one-third of the undergraduate population. To date, the female population comprises around one-half of the total undergraduate population, proving President Wilson’s success.

[from Special Collections; source unknown]

1980 Student and 1981 Faculty Survey Summary on Coeducation

1980 and 1981 survey summary

A 1980 Student Survey and 1981 Faculty Survey on coeducation at Washington and Lee University revealed a positive attitude toward coeducation. Interest in coeducation reemerged in 1980 after failed attempts in 1896, 1902, and 1975 to make the University coed. David Bowen ’83 conducted a survey as part of his senior honors thesis titled “Coeducation at Washington and Lee University: A Social Systems Approach.” At the end of Winter Term 1980, Bowen and members of the Sociology 375 class called “Research Methods” surveyed 1,050 out of 1,200 students to gauge their attitudes toward coeducation. They considered the following variables: geographic background, class, religious preference, family income, and grade point average. They then asked questions such as “Was W&L’s single sex student body a factor in your decision to enroll?” They sought to understand the impact that coeducation would have on social and academic environments at W&L.  In the student survey “Should W&L Become Coeducational?” 50.2% were in favor of coeducation. The survey conductors found that students from the South opposed coeducation more frequently than students from the North. In the faculty survey, 92 out of 115 faculty members participated. Of that 68%, 77% of faculty members favored coeducation. The surveys found that the need for a “realistic environment” motivated students and faculty to support coeducation at Washington and Lee.

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers – Letter 6 (Redacted)

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers_Letter 6_Redacted

This letter sent to Trustee Agelasto (incorrectly spelled Agelastro in the letter) discusses strong disdain toward to idea to making W&L coeducational. The author provides three suggestions:

  1. The author proposes “and will be the first to volunteer to contribute, that a one-way ticket back to Lapeer, Michigan, be immediately purchased for Dr. Wilson.”
  2. The author states that the “faculty has put itself on a pedestal and wants to dictate the University’s policies.”
  3. The Board of Trustees should be told that coeducation is very unpopular.

This letter is among the most intense wording among any letter in the archives. It is attached to a Washington Post article citing the decision to allow women into the University Club of Washington, DC.

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers – Letter 2

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers_Letter 2_Redacted

In a letter sent directly from the Rector of the Board of Trustees, James M. Ballengee, wrote to “alumni, students, parents, faculty and friends” of the university. He wrote, “the admission of undergraduate women would help ensure that Washington and Lee will maintain its reputation and heritage as one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the United States. He cited that although many alumni were against coeducation, most said they were in favor of coeducation if it saved the university from “academic deterioration.”