The Women's Coordinate College at Kenyon

"It was never our intention that there should come into being here something called The Coordinate College for Women."

           This remark by Provost Bruce Haywood, in an October 25, 1971 letter to the Board of Trustees is indicative of the confusion that surrounded the arrival of women at Kenyon College.

           In order to examine and understand the issues surrounding the creation and demise of the Women's Coordinate College at Kenyon it is important to place it in historical context. In the early 1960s the Ford Foundation began researching the quality of higher education and determined that colleges under 1,000 students would have difficulty maintaining their quality in the following years. The decline in enrollment during the late 1950s due to the end of the influx of G.I. bill male students during the post-World War II era also added to the fear of financial failure and of tarnishing a good academic reputation.


An example of the Gothic architecture at Kenyon College

           Spurred by fear of financial catastrophe, Kenyon began a "two year self-study" to examine the most logical step in alleviating financial strain. In an Alumni Bulletin in 1964 the results of this self-study indicated that "The paramount problem at Kenyon is financial." At this time the College had accumulated deficits that were beginning to threaten the endowment. It was clear that action needed to be taken to ensure the survival of Kenyon College. Three options were brought to the table in 1965: increasing male enrollment to over 1,000 students, forming a graduate program, and constructing a separate women's college. In order to neither compromise the quality of student admitted to Kenyon or go through the costly ordeal of expanding the library resources to aid graduate studies, the College decided to pursue the creation of a coordinate college for women at Kenyon.

 

Sam Lord, Pam Carmichael, and Dean Crozier at the ground breaking for dorm #3 in Spring '71.

By creating a coordinate college modeled after Harvard-Radcliffe, Columbia-Barnard, and Brown-Pembroke, Kenyon would not have to jeopardize its admissions standards because they would be opening the applicant pool to an equally qualified half of the population. In this way the size of the school could increase creating more funds while maintaining the academic reputation of the college. Once the College decided, in February of 1965 to form the Coordinate College for Women it became clear that new facilities were needed to accomodate this new college on the hill. Bruce Haywood expressed strong sentiment that the Coordinate College at Kenyon needed to be its own space. He suggested that schools such as Princeton, Bowdoin, and Sewanee had not provided newly admitted women with their own space and this was detrimental to their experience.

Unfortunately the strength of this sentiment did not carry over into expedient construction of these new buildings. The Perkins and Will Partnership Architects were hired to construct the "new campus" in 1968, but this proved to be insufficient time to accomodate the first class of women arriving on the hill in the fall of 1969. In a proposal to Kenyon the architects stated that their goal was to "preserve the identity as a man's college...the men's college is very masculine and

Students arrive to unfinished dormitories in the fall of '69

symmetrical in appearance. It was felt that the rigid formality, heavy stone, and Gothic style of the existing buildings at Kenyon would be inappropriate for the women's college." The new dorms and facilities were not completed for the August 19, 1969 arrival of 160 women students. About half of the women were temporarily housed by members of the community. This oversight is evidence of the lack of preparation Kenyon had made for the expansion of the College.
  

           Another oversight was the lack of an official name for the Coordinate College. In his October 25, 1971 letter to the Board of Trustees, Bruce Haywood remarks, "The Coordinate College for Women bespeaks the anonymous, the newly arrived, the unwanted." Various names were considered including Harcourt College and Gund College. Perhaps more dismayed by the lack of a name for the Coordinate College were the first classes of women who were not even aware that there was such thing. In a February 1999 interview with Alice Cornwall Straus '75 she said, "I didn't realize that I wasn't coming to Kenyon, but to the Coordinate College. The first time I found out I wasn't a Kenyon student was at the matriculation ceremony when we weren't allowed to sign the matriculation book." She continued on to say, "I applied to Kenyon College, not the Coordinate College of Gambier". Clearly Kenyon did not make it clear that there was going to be segregation between the male and female students in Gambier.