Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2013

Going coed

“ It was more than coed drift”; by the fall of 1968 it was de facto coeducation. The fnal decision was to accept what Mercyhurst was doing and, for fnancial exchange program as full-time students. In this way these men could obtain their courses in the major feld. By the spring of 1969, there were some twelve full-time male commuter students at Mercyhurst. Since 1962, the cooperative program with Gannon had brought men to the campus and sent Mercyhurst women to Gannon. … In 1967, when Mercyhurst went to a three-term system, coordinating an exchange of students with Gannon created scheduling problems. After almost two years of frustration, Mercyhurst accepted men in the

’ survival, move to the deliberate recruitment of male students. The board s choices were simple, remain a womans college and tolerate a few men, or break with tradition and become coeducational. ’ “ ” ’ In making this decision, another reality had to be faced. The enrollment of the college was declining at a time when most colleges were growing quite well. Infuenced by the womens movement and the need to have skills to compete with men in the workplace, women were transferring from womens colleges to coeducational institutions at an increasing rate. The Registrar s Ofce reported that this was happening at Mercyhurst. While the baby boomers were entering higher education in increasing numbers, Mercyhurst was losing out. The 1968/1969 fscal year ended with a defcit of $35,753. The fnancial perils of remaining a womens college were there for all to see. ’ ’ ’ ’ During four months beginning in late 1968, the college devoted itself to an intensive study of the issue. With the direction of the administration, the issue was considered by students, faculty, administration and the advisory board. The majority in most constituencies of the school strongly supported and recommended the change, except for students. They were evenly split. The administrations fndings were submitted to the trustees. The board, made up of seven Sisters of Mercy and two laymen, agreed. Sister Carolyn announced the trustees decision on February 5, 1969, the day after the trustees had voted. … ’ “ Because of changing roles of women in society, coeducation was more realistic. Monosexual (sic) education … imposed … unnecessary limitations on a student s educational experience. ’ ” “ The decision was not one that all stakeholders accepted. Sister Carolyn refected years later that not enough groundwork had been done with the alumnae, especially the older graduates. Not all of the Sisters were in favor of this decision, nor were all of the faculty and upper class students enthused. Negative feelings about the decision lasted for years. As Sister Carolyn said, …the realities impelled us. To her it was a matter of saving Mercyhurst. ”

– From Chapter 5, “A New and Different Mercyhurst: 1966-1972.”


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