Friday, August 2, 2019

The Co-ed Committees: Bringing Women to Dartmouth

Trustee Study Committee organizational chartImmediately after beginning my research on Dartmouth’s road to coeducation as a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellow for the Summer 2019 term, I realized that I had greatly underestimated the complexity of the issue. The decision to go co-ed was about far more than whether the Trustees thought women were good enough for Dartmouth; it was about logistics. Before anyone could decide whether Dartmouth would go coeducational, they had to decide if it even could, and if it could, then how would they do it? Would they establish a coordinate college for women? An associate school? What would the costs be? Could Dartmouth predict and overcome a reduction in alumni donations? What of the issues of new facilities, greater numbers of women faculty, women’s athletics, housing? There was no immediately obvious answer to all of these questions.

To help sort out the issue, the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College decided to establish a series of committees that would tackle specific questions. These committees would gather information and then report back to the Board with their recommendations. The first committee the Trustees established was the Trustee Study Committee (TSC), which was created to determine the general feasibility of coeducation at Dartmouth.

The TSC was established in the Spring of 1969 and held its first full meeting on October 1st of that same year. Two weeks later, it established its four subcommittees. These were the Subcommittee on Academic Models, the Subcommittee on Student Residence, the Subcommittee on Non-Academic Activities, and the Subcommittee on the Education of Women. Some of these subcommittees even had sub-subcommittees, so complex were the issues.

Page 11 from the TSC reportOver the next several months of meetings, the TSC brainstormed a handful of potential models for coeducation and questions that needed to be addressed. They investigated alumni, student, and faculty opinion polls on coeducation, the experiences of Yale and Princeton in going coeducational, projected financial impacts of coeducation, ways to increase enrollment without exceeding the college’s capacity, federal discrimination laws, and more.

The TSC continued holding regular gatherings for two years, with the final meeting on April 3, 1971. There, they unanimously voted on several recommendations to the Board of Trustees. These recommendations strongly encouraged the Trustees to vote in favor of coeducation in any form, advising that the College begin admitting women to either Dartmouth College, an associate school, or a coordinate college for women beginning fall of 1972. They suggested a goal of matriculating 800 women. The TSC also discouraged reducing the male population below 3,000 and advised against increasing the on-campus population to more than 3,150 students at a time. To make these contradictory recommendations possible, they suggested that Dartmouth make more effective use of the Summer term. This would allow Dartmouth to have a larger total enrollment without increasing the number of students on campus at any given time.


These recommendations, though fruitful, introduced another level of complexity to the issue of implementing coeducation. The TSC may have encouraged coeducation and provided a series of feasible models, but they hadn’t settled on one idea in particular. The recommendation of year-round operation through the use of the summer term also would require extensive research and discussion. In order to address these two major issues, the Board of Trustees established two more committees: the Joint Committee on the Associated School and the Committee on the Year-Round Operation of the College.

Page 12 from the TSC reportThe Joint Committee on the Associated School was created to explore the possibility of an Associated School for Women at Dartmouth. Of the several academic models proposed, this was initially perceived as the most attractive. There was already an existing framework for associated schools, given the presence of the Tuck Business School and the Geisel Medical School. This would also help prevent the ire of many of the older alums, because it would still provide some separation of men and women. Dartmouth had become the last all-male bastion in the Ivy League, and many wanted to preserve the heavily masculine atmosphere.

The Committee on the Year-Round Operation of the College was tasked with gauging the student and faculty reaction to a summer term. They also needed to examine whether the proposed summer term would be voluntary or mandatory, and if it were voluntary, how many students would participate?

After several more months of debate, these two committees submitted their formal recommendations to the Board of Trustees. The Joint Committee on the Associated School had ultimately decided that an Associated School for Women was not the most attractive option, given overwhelming student and faculty opposition. They suggested that, were the Board to vote in favor of coeducation, it should be a model in which female students were fully integrated members of Dartmouth College. The Committee on the Year-Round Operation of the College submitted a final report encouraging the implementation of a full-parity summer term. There would be a single mandatory summer term for each student, and it would be academically equivalent to the other three terms.

And so, the Board of Trustees finally had the specific recommendations they needed to make an informed decision about coeducation. At an extended meeting on November 21st and 22nd 1971, the Board of Trustees made the historic vote to commit the college to the Dartmouth Plan for Year-Round Operation, with the matriculation of female students at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1972. Dartmouth, which had just celebrated its 200th year of all-male education, would finally be coeducational. It certainly wasn’t an easy or simple process, given the number of people involved and questions to be answered, but the decision was finally made, and the college could move forward into a new, more inclusive, era.

To learn more, come to Special Collections and ask to see Box 7632 of the Dean of Faculty's records (DA-165).

Posted for Grace Hanselman ’20, recipient of a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2019 Summer term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship provides full funding for current Dartmouth students to conduct research with primary sources during an off-term on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college’s past. For more information, visit the fellowship's website.

No comments :

Post a Comment