Thursday, September 13, 2007

A sad note..

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.

18 comments:

Catherine said...

Hi Laura,

I'm a 1997 RMWC grad and I found your blog by way of my Google alert. I just wanted to say thanks for posting. I admire the courage it took to tell it like it is (not that I'd expect anything less from a Macon woman). I actually shouted holy sh!t to my husband when I got to the paragraph about the party. I'm appalled that the new president told y'all he wants nothing to do with RMWC. I truly hope that things improve for you!

Karen said...

Oh, Laura,

My heart goes out to you and all the other upperclasswomen at RMWC. I'm a proud alum and it's devastating to read first-hand as you so eloquently describe the atmosphere on campus now. I'll be keeping all of you ladies in my prayers.

I hope you'll keep blogging - you're one of the only people with the courage to publicly share how things really are inside the red brick wall in these dark days.

pastrydeity said...

Class of '01, here. I am appalled by the reports that I hear of what my alma mater has turned into, but sadly, not surprised. I hope you have some space and time to de-stress from that kind of environment; I can't imagine it's healthy for you.

Take care of yourself.

Aimee Rose Formo said...

Laura,
Every day since the Reading fiasco, I've hoped that things would settle down, for the sake of the Macon women still on campus and in England. That's not happened, and don't know that it will. I applaud you for speaking out, and I'll continue to keep up with you through this nightmare of a year. The strength of R-MWC is still there, in the upperclasswomen and in alumnae and friends, though the current administration is doing all it can to ruin it. I've severed all ties with RC, but not with R-MWC and the students languishing in the hell that's possessing it. Know that there is an infinite amount of support out here for you and your classmates.
Aimee '05

NellKTC said...

Laura - Thank you for writing about your personal experience with the new school. My heart broke again reading about what you've been through in only a month. I was a orientation leader my Jr year when we held a joint sexual harrasment and respect for the individual session at RMWC with the freshmen in orientation from Hampden-Sydney. It was a good experience for me and my sisterclass women but I can only hope the RC young men are eventually as willing as the H-S men seemed to be to listen and respond intellegently to the women who spoke about personal respect for another human being. It seems like the ingredient which has made this recipie a disaster is the administration. 18 year olds are teachable - but they must actually be taught. Peace be with you, Nell Travis Campbell '95

Cynthia said...

Hi Laura,

I am so sadden by your post. I am also a 1997 graduate. I transferred from a co-ed institution to R-MWC and can guarantee that I NEVER had anything remotely similar happen to me at my original institution, though I lived in a co-ed dorm! My heart aches for you and your classmates.

Cynthia '97

annabananamom22 said...

Laura,
I cannot imagine how disappointing this must be for all of you Seniors (and anyone who is there for a Woman's College education). I remember with great fondness my years at RMWC and am totally amazed that our college could turn into something so un-like RMWC. Its too bad that history and solid reputation are clouded over by those who have their own agendas--and those agendas are not for the betterment of women. My heart goes out to you all.
Anna '91

Weeping Prophet said...

Hi Laura,
You're my hero! I have a big huge for you and all of your senior sisters. I had several male friends from surrounding colleges, and they had nothing but respect for the R-MWC women. Sounds like the BOT recruited people more similar to them than the R-MWC community.
Christine '00

Clara said...

Thank you for posting this. I'm horrified at the stories I hear, especially those concerning administrative response. How can anyone think this is normal behavior?

I graduated two years ago, in '05. I went to a co-ed high school where the men were better behaved. The men who have been accepted to Randolph College ought to be treated like any woman who was accepted to Randolph-Macon Woman's College. They ought to be punished and either forced to change their ways or expelled. This kind of behavior was not appropriate two years ago, and it shouldn't be appropriate now.

Please let us alums know if you need support in any way. I'm nearby (Charlottesville), so I'll help in whatever way I can.

Sarah said...

I have a friend who graduated from RMWC (she linked to your entry in her blog) and she's just in bits about the situation. Seriously, where did they GET these boys? It's as if they have the attitude 'This used to be a women's college so we have to TAKE IT FOR MEN.' You have my support and sympathy from way over the seas in New Zealand. Here we say 'kia kaha' which means 'be strong.' Kia kaha, wahine o RMWC!

Emily said...

You go, Laura! Good job interning at the domestic violence shelter. Slapping a woman on the butt is violence. It also meets the definition of battery (an unlawful touching of another without justification or excuse). It may also be assault, depending on the circumstances.

Heather said...

Hi Laura, I'm so glad you are sharing your story with us. While I was upset by the move to go coed it never occurred to me that things we become so out of control. My brother is freshman at a coed school and I assure you they are not behaving the way the RC freshman boys are behaving. I'm bookmarking your blog so I can keep up to date. I hope things smooth out so your senior year is not ruined. I loved my senior year in the tiny hall by the bean bag room. I am thankful for the life-long friendships I made at RMWC and I wish the same for you!
Heather '95

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Hi Laura,

I am so sorry this year is already so traumatic and stressful. My senior year was one which I treasured, and I so wish the same for you and your senior sisters. My heart is heavy as I still grieve for my beloved alma mater. Please know that an entire community of alumnae stands ready to support you all. It is more important than ever for Macon women stand united and strong for each other.

Good luck to you as you pursue the Miss America crown. I am Miss Maryland 1996, and know well the road you are traveling. It seems we have a lot in common, as I am also an Even and proud to be a former Readingite! If there is anything I can do to ease your load, I would be glad to help.
Susan, '94

Elizabeth said...

Laura,

I'm so sorry things are going to terribly at R-MWC. I graduated in 2003, and I was very upset when I heard they were going coed. Since then I have been appalled at things I have hearing about what's going on on campus. I admire the courage it took to post this. May I suggest you take it a step further? Contact as many different press groups as you can and tell them what's happening! People need to know what's going on, and hopefully, help put a stop to it. I support you and all the true R-MWC women still on campus. I wish you the best of luck with your senior year.
Elizabeth Class of '03

Elizabeth said...

Laura-
Thank you so much for blogging about life on campus at RMWC. As a very proud alum ('82) I just had my 25th reunion with my class-a group of strong, intelligent, witty, caring women as one will ever meet. I'm am going to forward your blog to them so they can read first hand of your Senior year, and inspire them (and ME) to not give up the fight. Maybe if we all fight hard, something good can result of this debacle.

We'll continue the fight, if you can help us with the ammo!!

Hang in there-

Elizabeth

ssmiley1 said...

Thank you for letting us know what is going on at the former R-MWC. Sadly, much of what you report was predicted a year ago by PEC.

Sally '68

Lydia B said...

Laura, this just sounds awful. As a graduate of Hollins, and a graduate of a small all girls boarding school in Chatham, VA I really understand the importance of single sex education. The so called men that are taking over the campus at RMWC sound awful. It seems like the breeding ground for frequent sexual assaults, and a campus that has shifted from encouraging women to use their voices, to a campus trying to hush women through sexual harrassment and disrespect. I hope that a few women who have been victims to such gropings will press charges. I also hope anytime a woman is 'cat-called' at that she will immediatley call campus safety and report this sexual harrassment. I assume if such behavior took place on campus 2 or 3 years ago that campus safety would be involved with just vocal sexual harrassment. The fact that this has gotten to be physical is appauling.

Good for you for standing up for yourself and for maintaining your voice under an administration that is trying to repress it.