Wells College Trustees Plan for School to go Coed Next Fall

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October 7, 2004

Tracy Clark-Flory

Strung across the face of the Wells College administration
building are three black signs reading, “Save Our Sisterhood” in
red letters. The lawn in front of the building is littered with
more than 20 tents and a news van sits out front, while inside the
building students can be heard chanting, “Improve what we’ve got,
don’t make us what we’re not.”

The Board of Trustees at Wells, a private all-women’s school in
upstate New York, announced their plan for the College to go coed
on Saturday, Oct. 2. Since then a group of at least 180 students
have responded by protesting in the campus’ administration
building.

The scene at Wells is reminiscent of the scene at Mills in 1991
when the Board of Trustees voted for the school to go coed.
Students protested and effectively shut the campus down, garnering
local, national and international coverage. After two weeks of
protest, the Board of Trustees reversed their decision with a
promise from alumnae to increase monetary donations to the
College.

The Wells Board of Trustees presented a resolution to the
student body last Saturday, which read, “The Wells College Board of
Trustees affirms our commitment to liberal arts education. In order
to provide and sustain the highest quality educational experience,
we aspire to grow enrollment by admitting women and men at Wells
College commencing with the 2005-2006 academic year.”

Wells freshwoman Panagiota Kalamaras was devastated by the
news.

“I was protesting outside the library [on Saturday] while
waiting for the decision to be made,” Kalamaras said. “As soon as I
saw the expression on some of the Board of Trustees faces, I
immediately broke down in tears because it was evident what the
decision was.”

Despite recruitment efforts, for the past 20 years the College
has had an enrollment of about 400 students. Ann Rollo, Vice
President for External Relations at Wells, said the decision
resulted from at least a year’s worth of discussion.

“It is important for Wells College to retain a commitment to the
liberal arts and to be in a position to invest in excellent
programs across the College,” Rollo said. “In order to do so, we
needed to increase our enrollment.”

Meggy Hai Trang, a junior at Wells, has slept in the
administration building since Saturday night.

“There are so many students that we cover every single inch of
the floor in the lobby and the upstairs lobby too,” said Hai Trang,
who slept on the floor with a blanket and pillow. “It is not the
most comfortable situation in the world but we need to stay unified
as one body.”

Kate Milligan graduated from Wells in 2004 and is planning to
participate in the protest as often as she can, until they reach
their goal.

“I feel like my degree and education has just been rendered
worthless,” Milligan said. “I feel like I wasted my time here; I
know I didn’t, but I feel as though someone is trying to erase
everything that I did.”

Kalamaras said she joined the protesters to defend her belief in
an all-women’s education and is resolute in her goal.

“Our mission right now is to shut down the administration
building by remaining there and not attending classes until the
board decides to revoke the decision, however long that may be,”
Kalamaras said. “I plan to protest for as long as I have to until
this decision is revoked.”

Despite the protesters’ determination, Rollo said the College
would move forward with the plan.

“Our students are activists and we expect them to act and use
their voice and tell us what they think and we’ll use the time to
listen to them and work with them,” said Rollo. “I don’t foresee
any possibility of [the decision changing].”

Although classes are still being held, Hai Trang said that many
faculty members are supporting the protesters’ cause.

“I had a test today that I missed and my professor agreed to
hold it later for the people who are protesting,” Hai Trang
said.

A group of students have created a Web site called Save Our
Sisterhood, at http://www.geocities.com/savewellscollege,
which they’re using to raise money for their cause.

“There is an air of almost professionalism,” Milligan said.

Kalamaras was taken with the lively group of protesters and
believes their goal will be reached.

“Wells women are taught to make their voices heard, to stand up
for what they believe is right, and they are doing an exceptionally
good job,” she said.

Despite the Trustees’ resolution to go coed, Rollo said the
College doesn’t plan to loose touch with its roots.

“We will move forward with deep respect for our past,” Rollo
said. “It will be our goal to maintain many of those traditions
[and] to maintain a dedication to a gender equitable campus.”


Wells College Trustees Plan for School to go Coed Next Fall was published on October 7, 2004 in News

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