Monday, December 18, 2006

Co-ed or Not

The Saturday Globe and Mail had an article about the controversy at Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Virginia. The board of directors has voted to change it into a co-ed college. The students and alumnae are up in arms, but the board argues that they won’t be able to attract students unless they become co-ed. When the same question came up at my college, Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts, I wrote defending the status quo, and I was happy that the board decided to remain all-women. For me, it was wonderful to have four years to work unstintingly, in deep concentration, without the distraction of men. I know I would have been quite susceptible to that distraction and to their opinion of me. I could go to class in pajamas, hair uncombed. The G&M article says that the Women’s College Coalition once had 300 affiliated institutions but now has only 57. Only four all-male colleges remain in the USA.

Now I am not so sure that I would object to MHC becoming co-ed. Times have changed (maybe you hadn’t realized that.) Where once we could have the weekend excitement of a blind date at a men’s college, now those colleges are co-ed and the men would not be motivated to go far a field. Where would I have met a future partner? It used to be said that women were reluctant to speak up in a class with men, that men would dominate the discussion. Once a group of Amherst students came to an MHC play and during the discussion afterward, it was true – the men did dominate the discussion. But would that be true now? Probably not.

As I have been tracing my way from birth, I realized (or rather, realized once again), how important my MHC education was to me, how rigorous it was, how liberating, how grateful I am for it. Later I came to realize that other people at my college and at my husband attended in large part for the social cache. I didn’t choose it – it chose me, but today, when a larger percentage of teens go to college, would it choose me again? I doubt it. Or would I even choose it? It now costs $180,000 to go to MHC for four years. It is hard for me to comprehend that figure, but it seems too much and I think that now public universities and colleges have an equal quality of education. Still, the Red Sox just paid a hundred million dollars for a pitcher for 6 years, so yes, the times they are a-changing.

1 comment:

zhoen said...

My high school teacher were pushing me toward a all woman college, in 1980. I absolutely refused, because my experience of all female groups was very negative, catty and petty. I liked male groups better, I understood the politics better.

If it had been twenty years earlier? Different answer, perhaps. Likely. Maybe the Women's Movement has been more successful than it seems.