All-Male Colleges Drop to 2

All Male COllegesIn response to a decline in applicants at Washington and Lee, the Board of Trustees voted 17-7 in favor of coeducation to begin at in the fall of 1985. After similar efforts made by the university in 1969 and 1975, the 1985 initiative finally removed the university from the pool of three all-male private colleges in the United States. In response, students staged a sit-in at the president’s office and made bumper stickers that said, “Better Dead than Coed” and “Girls in the Hay, Not All Day”. Additional public shows of disapproval included men hanging a banner displaying “No Marthas” on Washington and Lee’s “Old George” statue.

[from Special Collections, original source unknown]

Washington & Lee to be Coed, Despite Student, Alumni Cries

Despite Student:Alumni CriesDespite the student and alumni opposition to coeducation by a 2-1 margin, the incoming student body president and the head of the alumni association fully supported the decision. Student body President Cole Dawson believed the pioneering experience would be rewarding for the women and  Charles Hurt, head of the alumni association, believed the uniqueness of the university would not be altered. Since the school would not increase dramatically in size with the initiative, they planned to implement more stringent admissions decisions, contributing to the quality of students at the W&L. After Washington and Lee became a coeducational institute, the only all-male private colleges left in the country were Hampden-Sydney of Virginia and Wabash College of Indiana.

[Source: The Valley Times – July 15, 1984]



W&L Coeducation Talks Called ‘Intense’

Intense coed talksDiscussion surrounding the coeducation decision was lengthy and heartfelt as the initiative would break the all-male tradition that functions as one of Washington and Lee’s hallmarks. The Board of Trustees considered videotaped interviews of faculty, students, and alumni as well as the results of a survey. The survey revealed that 58.5% of the 6,700 alumni interviewed were opposed to the installment of coeducation at W&L. 28.9% favored coeducation while 10.6% had no opinion. Their analysis included the University Treasurer’s report, which contained financial projections based on the the number of enrolled students. Opponents to the initiative argue that the University should increase recruiting efforts for students rather than admit females in compensation for the school’s dropping numbers and lower academic quality.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]

Roster of Men’s Colleges Dwindles

Roster of Mens Colleges DwindlesAfter nine months of careful consideration by the 24 trustees, the decision on W&L’s coeducation brings the total number of public and private all-male liberal arts colleges down to four in the United States. While this number contrasts with the 110 U.S. liberal arts colleges remaining exclusively female, W&L had to make a choice between lowering its academic standards/going broke with declining college-going male high school graduates or submitting to the pressure to go coed. W&L Law female Eileen McCabe believes the coeducation implementation at the undergraduate level will help mature the mens’ view on women. She thinks the all-male nature of the undergraduate portion of W&L results in an artificial social atmosphere and a warped perception on women.

[Source: United Press International (UPI)]

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]

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]

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]

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]

Women Expect Tension at First, Acceptance Later

picture_13Incoming freshman Kim Fainter voiced her opinion on being part of the first coed class at Washington and Lee. Although she does not fear attending a previously all-male institution, she anticipates tension between the women and upperclass men. Fainter worked as a cashier at Kroger in Lexington and met many of the men before attending the University.

[from Special Collections; original source unknown]