I have always been, since entering as a student at my beloved institution, a strong supporter of women’s colleges. I have met and interacted with women from practically every woman’s college in the country, and I have been nothing but impressed. I know that I have received an excellent education from this private woman’s college, far more than I could have expected academically and financially from a public school at home. We are ranked academically one point behind Georgetown and two points under Yale (on a 1-100 scale with 100 being the toughest). We’re a small school, but if you’ve heard of us it’s because we are one of the toughest colleges around. We are in the top 10% of universities whose grads go on to get a PHD. This was a great school.
Women who have graduated from here truly love this school. I have always been close to this school, and done everything I could to support it. From my freshman year, I worked in the admissions office, I greeted prospective families at every open house, I sat on student panels, I gave tours to prospectives, I worked the admissions phonathon calling potential students, I hosted students in my dorm room overnight, and I was an email pal for students considering coming here. Needless to say, I promoted this school day and night.
Which is why two years ago it was a blow when my college voted to cancel our study abroad program in the University of Reading. I sent the trustees emails every single day, sent letters to interested people, and helped organized a student protest which reversed the decision.
And it’s why last year, as I began my life in England, I was shocked by the decision to make the school coed. I have nothing against coeducation, but I do have a problem with the alteration of a school whose 115 years of history have graduated Senators, Candi Crowley, and Pearl Buck. I do have a problem with the lowering of standards to admit more students. Our SAT scores are down, our GPA’s our down, and our standards are just too low to talk about. Last week in my biology lab, the pair across from me was completing part of the lab measuring the temperature of water. My friend asked her lab partner to hand her the thermometer, and her brilliant lab partner (a male here) handed her a ruler and assured her they measured the same thing. That’s not to say that there aren’t smart men here now, there are a few. But the majority of them are causing problems.
Never has a party been thrown by underage students on the first day they moved in, in which women are only admitted by removing articles of clothing. The things that have gone on in this campus in the last week, many of which have involved the Lynchburg police, are disgraceful. So many of us seniors are beyond disheartened at the way humans are treating other humans. I have never felt so uncomfortable within a place I call my second home. So many of us try to just remove ourselves from the problems, but the absolute hatred and hostility being dealt towards upperclass women is ridiculous. I can’t take it anymore! I love my classes, but when students feel uncomfortable on their own campus, it’s gone too far. The administration is doing nothing to integrate the two groups of people- and our president openly told seniors yesterday that he didn’t want anything to do with Randolph Macon Woman’s College, despite the fact that this senior class will be graduates of RMWC.
It is so difficult for outsiders to understand why this is such a huge loss to me personally and my community. I loved my school, and so did many other seniors here. The loss of community and personal safety has challenged that. I feel also for the underclass men, who were told they would be ‘welcomed’ on this campus, despite the fact that everyone knew this would not be the case. This school has 115 years in the history of making strong intelligent women. Our college, since the cancellation of the Reading study abroad program two years ago, has gone down a shaky financial route that as an econ major quite familiar with graphs, I don’t see them getting out of. At this point, I want to enjoy my senior year with my friends, produce my two senior papers, and graduate. Myself and my fellow seniors just want to be left alone. We don’t want to be called unacceptable names by men outside our dorm building, we don’t want to be sexually harassed on campus, and we don’t want to deal with the hostility around here.
The college’s line on this is that us upperclassmen are unfamiliar with a coed environment and don’t understand it. One freshman during our community meeting this last week actually said that some girls don’t mind being smacked on the rear by men, so we need to tell men that we aren’t comfortable with that. No, I should NOT have to tell an 18 year old man that he needs to keep his hands to himself! This is so difficult for me, as I intern in the mornings at the domestic violence shelter and then come here to see some of the same emotional treatment of others. And for the administration that says this is a coed environment, we know that is not true. I attended a coed university in a department DOMINATED by men for ten months in England; I was never harassed or treated like a piece of meat. We all know what’s unacceptable, and the degrading treatment of women is always unacceptable no matter where you are.
I hesitated to put this on my blog, but I feel like updates about this situation are important because it impacts my life on a grand scale. I want to document what this year is like with all of these changes. This has affected me and drained me so much in the last week that I couldn’t forgo writing about it.
So, this will likely be the first of many frustrated and sad blogs about the state of my school.
Please wish me luck in the next year surviving this. I miss my woman’s college.