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.