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Women as Day Students

Written By: information_management - Mar• 12•08

Last week, I started a series on the history of Wofford’s
move from being traditionally all-male to fully coeducational. Though many people assumed the college had
always been all male, history tells a different story, a story of fairly
constant enrollment of women in small numbers and in special cases. One letter to the Old Gold and Black in 1967
asked “Is Wofford College a men’s school or not? I thought it was, but there’s
a woman in my French class.” The writer
went on to ask why the college felt it fair to let this woman in and not
others. The editor’s note after the
letter explained that the college had a rule that allowed wives of faculty
members to take courses.

In the winter of 1969, in President Paul Hardin III’s first
year in office, the faculty voted in favor of coeducation. By a vote of 38-4, with nine abstentions,
they recommended that the Board of Trustees that the college become a
coeducational institution. Some faculty
expressed the hope that “such a change would have a beneficial academic
effect.” President Hardin told the
newspapers that “I personally have formed no opinion one way or another about
the matter—I’m still studying all facets of it very carefully.” He acknowledged that with other colleges
becoming coeducational that the time was right for Wofford to study the question. He also suggested that if the college became
coeducational, that “it would be on a full scale basis” with “provisions for
boarding facilities for women, and that all facets of campus life” would be
open to them.

The Old Gold and Black,
which in 1955 had headlined an editorial with the words “Girls as Dates, not
Classmates” had changed its tune with a new generation of students. Their editorial in February 1969, with the
faculty debating the issue, was headlined “Our Last Argument for Coed.” The newspaper thought that socially, the argument
for coeducation was strong. The writers
believed that having women on campus would mean students would be more likely
to stay around campus on the weekends. More importantly, the authors felt that coeducation would improve the
intellectual life of the campus. “After
almost four years at Wofford we see no evidence to show that this college could
not benefit by the addition of a few more intelligent people.” They didn’t believe women would come to
Wofford to look for the “Mrs.” Degree and in fact, noted that “women have the
annoying tendency to compete with males and might stir some of us to actually
prepare for a class.” The editorial
writers also expressed the hope that coeducation would improve students’
attitudes toward the college and want a bigger voice in the way the college was
operated.

The board of trustees, in the spring of 1969, declined to
change the existing policy of allowing women only in summer school
classes. However, by the fall of 1970,
having discussed the issue off and on for nearly two years, the trustees
approved the following policy:

Women
students, who live in commuting distance, may be encouraged to enroll at
Wofford to seek a regular degree.

Admissbrochure_2
With that, Wofford took its first step toward full
residential coeducation. Resident
facilities would not be provided in 1971, but women who wished could enroll in
classes as day students and earn degrees in the regular semester.

The way the college encouraged women to enroll
may seem a bit antiquated to our eyes.  A postcard announcing the
college’s plans to admit women as day students was produced.

Next time: The experience of Wofford’s first women day
students, and the college’s move to full coeducation.Admissbrochure2_2

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