A Survey of Co-education in The Ivies
Slowly But Steadily, The Ratios Even Out
Harvard and Radcliffe are going through a series of steps that may lead to a full merger and the dissolution of Radcliffe. As part of the review of the five-year-old non-merger merger agreement, high-powered committees are meeting to decide what to do about sex ratios, alumni organizations and the like.
Given the importance of the decisions that will be made this year, The Crimson thought it would be useful to take a look at coeducation at the other seven Ivy League schools. What follows, then, is a survey of admissions policies and administrative structures in the Ivies as they bear on co-education. Some of the schools have moved more slowly than Harvard and some more quickly, but Harvard has, in general, been unusually receptive to the idea of co-education and unusually resistant to merger.
Pembroke College, now gone and unlamented, was a lot like Radcliffe. It had its own administration and admissions and financial aid office, its own dean, and its own alumnae and fund-raising organization. Like Radcliffe, Pembroke did not have much to do with its students once it had admitted them--Brown handled all the educational and housing aspects of their college lives.
In 1970, the Brown Corporation, the equivalent of the Harvard Corporation, commissioned a series of studies on various aspects of a Brown-Pembroke merger. The corporation decided on merger in early 1971, and Pembroke officially went out of existence at the beginning of the 1971-72 school year. Pembroke was not a corporation as Radcliffe s, and it had no board of trustees that had to pass on the merger decision. But aside from that, the Brown-Pembroke merger seems to be a perfect test case for Harvard and Radcliffe.
Brown's student population is entirely post-merger by now, so the death of Pembroke is hardly a burning issue on campus. "For us talking about merger is like talking about when the Sphinx was built," says Kelsey Murdoch, a special assistant to Brown's president. "Everyone here was admitted by the Brown admissions office."
There has never been a rigidly prescribed male-female ratio at Brown. Before merger, it worked out to about 70-30; for the last four years it has been close to 60-40, corresponding roughly to the rate of applications. Nobody seems to worry much about one-to-one admissions; the leading women's group on campus, Brown Women United, focuses its attention on women in the faculty, not merger or admissions.
Harvard is at the committee stage now, four years behind Brown's timetable, and the Harvard administration has no doubt taken a close look at Brown to find out about a merger that really works.
Unlike many of the Ivy League colleges, Columbia College is still an all-male school--sitting across Broadway in New York City from an all-female school, Barnard. Each has its own faculty and its own faculty and its own admissions policies.
And while the men do a lot of talking about "across the street," conditions--statistically, at least--are better at Columbia-Barnard than at Harvard. Barnard has an enrollment of 2002 women. Columbia has an enrollment of 2744 men, yielding a male-female ratio of four-to-three.
Barnard remains an independent institution and plans to stay that way for a very common reason--money. Historically, Barnard officials have avoided a merger with Columbia because the men's college has a large debt which Barnard would presumably have to share.
Housing and academics are less formal. All dormitories, except for one notoriously male bastion, are co-ed, and cross-registration between Columbia and Barnard is very fluid. All classes at both schools are open to all, but students still register at one or the other.
The relation does, however, lead to some haggling. Since students use facilities on both sides of Broadway and since Columbia's holdings are more extensive than Barnard's, the Barnard corporation bargains each year with Columbia over renumeration.
Among some undergraduates, there is also an attitude that courses at Columbia are better and tougher than at Barnard, but there is very little evidence outside the depths of the male psyche.
Barnard is also well-known for its militantly feminist student body. And despite the fairly normal sex ratio, Columbia-Barnard has one of the most open and active gay communities in North America.
Officials of Cornell University are proud that when the school was founded in 1865, it became the first co-educational university in the country.
That, however, does not mean that Cornell's nearly 9000 undergraduates are divided equally. The male-female ration is about two to one, and Walter A. Snickenberger, dean of admissions and financial aid, says he wrestled the ratio down from three-to-one over the last 20 years.
In the school of arts and sciences--where co-education from a Harvard perspective perhaps counts the most--Cornell boasts nearly a one-to-one ratio amount about 3600 students. The slight majority belongs to the women.
What tips the scales in the undergraduate ratio is the predominance of males in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, of Engineering, of Hotel Administration, of Industry and Labor Relations, and of Architecture. The combined population of these schools is around 1500 students, with a three-to-one, male-dominated ratio.
Snickenberger's efforts might seem to be a token campaign to recruit women in these schools, but he bridles at the suggestion that quotas be set for female acceptances or that admissions be "slanted" in favor of women.
"We don't admit inferior girls simply to have more girls on campus," he says.
Elaine S. Povich, news editor of the Cornell Daily Sun and a senior, says that co-education hasn't been a big issue in Ithaca, N.Y., since women last year lobbied for and won the right to use the more splendid of the two athletic facilities--which was, naturally, the men's.
Nonetheless, Cornell harbors a chapter of the National Organization of Women and an active Women's Community Center.
Just because women can play basketball in the men's athletic facility two days a week doesn't mean the Bg Red have progressed that much, but Cornell got its progressive headstart 109 years ago.
Even Dartmouth, the most staunchly male of all the Ivy League schools, went co-ed two years ago, although its reasons were more financial than ideological. Faced with increasing deficits and decreasing popularity, the Dartmouth trustees decided in 1972 to go to a year-round academic calendar and to increase the size of the student body from 800 in a class to about 1000 per class by adding women.
Although the male-female ratio in the first co-ed class was an overwhelming ten-to-one, Dartmouth's alumni still did a lot of kicking and screaming about the presence of women on campus.
The storm has pretty much died out by now, although a die-hard core of alumni and members of Dartmouth's originally all-male senior class remain irrevocably opposed to co-education. And Dartmouth is likely to remain a male-dominated institution. It has a vice president for womens' affiars and the male-female ratio has crept up to four-to-one, but is likely to remain there for the foreseeable future.
The University of Pennsylvania has an entity called the College for Women, but it is hard to figure out what it is there for. Evidently, Penn administrators have been asking the same questions, and are planning a merger to take effect next fall.
Both the College for Women and the College for Men are under the rubric of a faculty of Arts and Sciences, and all courses are open to both men and women. Unlike Harvard, though, Penn has other undergraduate colleges--of Engineering and Applied Science, Nursing, Allied Medical Professions, and the Wharton School of Business and Finance--all of which have their own faculties and admit both men and women.
Admissions to liberal arts programs is handled by a joint admissions office for both the College for Men and the College for Women. There are no quotas as such, but somehow the male-female ratio always seems to turn out to be about two-to-one in recent years.
Women students register together with men, but hand in the Penn equivalent of study cards separately. Certain advising and counseling services are also conducted separately and there is a special dean for each school. All dorms are co-ed with the exception of one voluntarily all-female floor.
One thing that Penn has that Harvard probably should have, is an academic women's studies program. The two-year-old version at Penn is rapidly growning, although it is a bastion of female separatism with only a couple of men ever taking its courses--though there are no formal restrictions.
All together, the issues of merger, admissions ratios and the role of a women's college seem to have passed Penn's 7500 undergraduates by, though the consciousness about women's issues outside the campus appears to be very high.
Legend has it that in 1969, April 15 found the Princeton admissions office with two separate sets of envelopes ready to go out: one set offering admission to the college's first women applicants, the other telling them that the Board of Trustees had decided against admitting women. Since that last-minute decision to go co-ed four and a half years ago, the course of co-education at Princeton has been remarkably smooth and unhurried.
It culminated last year in the institution of a policy of equal access admissions, meaning no more quotas. Until last year, Princeton abided by an informal promise it had made to the alumni that there would be at least 800 men in each freshman class, increasing the number of women at the college simply by increasing the class size. There are now about 1100 students in each class, as opposed to 800 in 1969--that means the ratio of men to women for the college as a whole is now about the same as at Harvard--2.5:1.
Having bypassed the opposition to co-education posed by a rather fierce and very conservative alumni group, Princeton seems content with the situation. Nobody is pushing or even considering either sex-blind admissions or a 1:1 quota. Some women on campus feel that the admissions office is not recruiting women as actively as it should, with the result that the number of applications from women has not increased this year. And the ratio is not likely to change much in the next few years. But for now, those women are not planning any protest or action on the issue, beyond helping the admissions office with its recruiting.
Although there is a Women's Center, which the first women students set up five years ago, the only burning issue related to co-education on campus is in the area of women's athletics. As has been the case here, women athletes have had to arrange their scheducles around those of men athletes. This has been changing, gradually, but not fast enough as far as many students are concerned.
As one student put it, "If there's any conflict between a big men's sport and the women's equivalent, the women get it in the neck."
But aside from sports, there is little contoversy over co-education at Princeton these days. The alumni were The Enemy; both students and administration fought them, and finally just learned to ignore them, abandoning the promise to keep a quota of 800 men per class.
That battle apparently united the students and the administration. There seems to be no need for any administrative offices or structures dealing especially with women, or for committees considering policy changes, and only a tiny fraction of the women at Princeton have shown any interest in the Women's Center. And even the women at the Center have few gripes and say they do not feel Princeton is a male-dominated institution. As one of the Center's staffers put it, "This place definitely has a co-ed feel."
The university had to cheat on its policy of accepting "1000 famous male leaders" to a accomplish it, but Yale admitted its first sex-blind class this year since going co-educational in the fall of 1968.
Yale took a cautious tack in 1968, accepting only one woman for every seven men. "If you walked around the school those days it didn't look like a co-ed school at all," says Rachel Wizner, director of co-education. "It was more like a male school with women hanging around from weekend stays."
Yale went through the gamut of ratios each year while trying to whittle the score down to 2.5 to 1, which was finally reached last year.
However, Yale is not stopping there. Since going sex-blind, Yale has increased the percentage of women to 35 per cent for the class of '78. But Yale will have to boost the percentage of women in the application pool if it wants to meet the corporation's interim goal of 40 per cent, since the percentage of women applying to Yale equals the number accepted.
"There were a lot of problems in the beginning--many of which we take for granted now," Wizner says, citing problems such as where women should live and whether there should be full-length mirrors (none existed at Yale).
But after six years of co-education, many problems are left unsolved. A women's caucus group devoted to discussing many of the women's problems on campus drew over 100 people Tuesday night, and the dominant questions on the docket included women's courses, health service problems, and the univeristy's alleged non-support of women's athletics.
Nevertheless, when the university abandoned its traditional alumni-gavored goal of 100 men in a class by allowing only 900 males in the class of '78, it became apparent that Yale has indeed gone totally sex-blind.
This feature on co-education in Ivy League schools was researched, compiled and written by Crimson staff reporters James J. Cramer, Christopher B. Daly, Robin S. Freedberg, Robert T. Garrett, Nicholas B. Lemann, Jenny Netzer, Walter N. Rothschild III, Natalie L. Wexler and Philip B. Weiss.