It was 1995 and the start of my senior year of college. Elms College was beginning a huge strategic planning project and was looking for students to take part. I was assigned to the Mission/Identity subcommittee. As I sat in the President's Office among faculty and staff and the president of the college, I was beyond intimidated. That feeling only increased when I was told our task was to research and make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees as to whether the school, which had been traditionally for women only, should go co-ed. Enrollment was down and some hard decisions needed to be made.
I didn't go to Elms because it was a women's college - I went in spite of it. My parents gave me a great deal of freedom in my college choice - it was there or nowhere. It was Catholic and I could commute. Despite my reluctance to attend, I had a good scholarship to go and I did receive a good education. Needless to say, I was not wedded to the value of a women's college but I knew that many students were and I took my responsibility as a student voice on that committee seriously.
The strange thing was that even though Elms was technically a women's college, we had men on campus. They had been accepted for years through the Continuing Education and Graduate Programs. Once in continuing education, they could change their status and become a full-time student. The college had a handful of these students attending during the mid-1990s. One particularly status-quo challenging man was in my year. He ran for vice-president of our class our junior year. He even tried to be a resident advisor for the all-women dorm! I knew him only by sight, but my friends and I referred to him as "the predator." I mean, really, what was wrong with this man? But his dogged persistence to give men a voice on campus contributed to the discussion of going co-ed. After all, what would happen if he sued for discrimination (which was a real possibility).
First day of senior year, I discovered that he and I were in back to back classes together. "Dear God," I prayed, "What did I do to deserve this?" He and I sparred over almost every topic, but he was fun to have in class. We started dating in December of that year, got engaged in March of '96 and were married in July of '97. Yes, God does have a sense of humor! I married the "predator" in the Elms College chapel.
Anyway, back to the committee, we did our due diligence, met countless times , and studied multiple reports. We came to the conclusion that co-education would be good for Elms College. After much further discussion and protests, The Board of Trustees voted to go co-ed in the Fall of 1997. I got to be there for that historic day because by then, I was working in the Continuing Education Office (I would work at Elms until 2002). During my time at Elms as an employee, I would get to see more and more men come and the college become a much more vibrant institution. Today Elms is more successful than ever, enrollment is up and the future looks bright.
There is a large article in my local paper today about Elms College 10 years later. One of its major focuses is a couple that met and married at Elms after the school went co-ed. I know, however, that my husband and I, both in our own ways, helped make their meeting possible. We both played a small part in ensuring Elms College's future.
Read the article here:
Elms College Ten Years Later (It will only be available for the next two weeks).
The Elms Website: www.elms.edu