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.

Anonymous Alumnus A – Letter 20

W&L Anonymous Alum A Letter 20_RedactedThis Trustee thanks Anonymous Alumnus A for his “very thoughtful  letter.” He says that the Board of Trustees anticipates making a decision at their meeting in July. He states,”At this stage, I am trying to maintain an open mind but, as you [know], the overriding consideration in any decision is to do whatever is necessary to maintain the academic excellence of the Washington and Lee experience.”

Anonymous Alumnus A – Letter 11

W&L Anonymous Alum A Letter 11_RedactedThis Board member thanks the anonymous alumnus for his opinion on the need for coeducation at Washington and Lee. The alumnus believes that coeducation would help the University achieve academic excellence and attract more student-athletes. The Board member reassures the alumnus that the Trustees will keep the alumni informed throughout the process.

Anonymous Alumnus A – Letter 6

W&L Anonymous Alum A Letter 6_Redacted

Letter 6

A trustee sent Anonymous Alumnus A’s letter back with a handwritten note. The note reads: “7/9 Thank you for your opinion on Coed and your continuing interest in W&L.”

The anonymous alumnus argues that in order to remain competitive for top-tier students in both the academic and athletic sense, the trustee should consider the assistance coeducation would have in accomplishing these goals.

Anonymous Alumnus A – Letters 4 and 5

W&L Anonymous Alum A Letter 4_Redacted

Letter  4

W&L Anonymous Alum A Letter 5_Redacted

Letter 5

Anonymous Alumnus A sent copies of this letter to each trustee and each trustee emeritus. His primary reason for writing to the trustees was to call attention to the trouble he was having recruiting students from his local area to attend W&L. He wrote, “I have found many apply, become accepted, and then make the decision to go to another institution such as Davidson or Vanderbilt, with the explanation to me that the decision was made to avoid spending four years at a school segregated by sex.”

He concludes his letter with a request: “Please get us back in step with the academic institutions with whom we compete.” Anonymous Alumnus A believed coeducation was a necessary step in the recruitment of top students and pursuit of academic excellence.

W&L Swamped With Inquiries

Students Swamping W&LFollowing Washington and Lee University’s declaration to go coed, high school students from across the country expressed interest in attending. The new status of the University helped attract many prospective students. A Californian was, at first, deterred by the all-male status of W&L, but once he learned of the coeducation decision, he requested an application. Alumni also began recommending W&L to their female relatives. Washington an Lee’s choice to become coed not only encouraged more applicants across the country to apply but also helped raise academic standards.

[Source: Roanoke Times & World-News – August 8, 1984]

W&L Welcomes Women

picture_14Following the trustees’ 17-7 decision that led to Washington and Lee University to become coeducational, 2,369 prospective students applied to the university–a record number. It led to the highest selectivity in the admissions process that the institution had ever seen. The academic standards of W&L were well on the rise. The University also added more activities to Orientation Week that focused on entertainment as opposed to an academic-centered curriculum for the week. The University threw a mock cocktail party, dubbed “mocktail” for the freshman class during their first week.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers – Letter 7 (Redacted)

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers_Letter 7_Redacted

Remarks by a member of the Board of Trustees who is justifying why he is voting in favor of the coeducation decision. His 14-page letter presents a balanced narrative of the coeducation decision.

He says, “I believe firmly that it is the correct decision for us to make for W&L in 1984… I strongly believe that the educational experience at W&L will improve if it becomes coeducational at the undergraduate level.”

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers – Letter 3 (Redacted)

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers_Letter 3_RedactedTranscription

July 15

[Redacted]

Dear Peter,

Horray! I don’t know how you voted but I am delighted with the decision to take W+L coed. It will take a lot of effort to make it work, but I think it was the only way to maintain academic standards.

I’m ready to redouble my efforts as class agent and do whatever I can to help.

[Redacted] sends best to you and Betsy.

Cheers

[Redacted]

Analysis

An individual writes in support of the decision of the Board of Trustees to begin admitting women to W&L. He/she offers to redouble his/her efforts in serve as a class agent, which is today and was at the time this letter was written a class representative who champions fundraising efforts for one’s own graduating class.

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.”

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers – Letter 1 (Redacted)

Agelasto Trustee Select Papers_Letter 1_RedactedAn individual commends W&L for going coed. The author affirms Washington and Lee’s tradition, but also cites that the university “will continue to have outstanding leadership and a fertile alumni and constituency from which to draw its student body and future leaders.” The author also recalls the decision of the university to give up “big time football” in 1954 as another time when “students and alumni thought that their Washington and Lee world was coming to an end.”

Fighting Coeducation Opposition

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 9.05.15 PM Washington and Lee women of 1986 making a statement against male opposition to their introduction to the university. Even after the implementation of the coeducation initiative, men of Washington and Lee still brought women from other schools to on-campus functions. Many women wore shirts reading, “W&L Women: Quality Doesn’t Have To Travel” in response.