Wells Students Continue to Protest Decision to go Coed

By
October 14, 2004

Tracy Clark-Flory

Last week students at Wells College encountered an obstacle in
their goal to take over the school’s administration building
in protest of the Board of Trustees’ decision for the college
to go coed in the spring.

After being threatened with suspension, the protesters left the
building last Friday and were locked out for the fall break, which
ended yesterday. The students continued their protest outside of
the building and camped out in tents scattered across the lawn in
front of the administration building.

Wells sophomore Courtney Hughs said that a number of students
sat gagged inside the administration building last week to deliver
a strong message “without being overtly
aggressive.”

“We’ve changed our tactics a couple times,” Hughs
said. “We went from chanting to sitting in, to blockading, to
picketing—they’ve all seemed effective.”

Towards the end of last week, the number of protesters dropped
due to illness and many students had left campus for the fall
break, according to Hughs.

“There was a feeling of the loss of hope,” said
Taneeka Smith, a Wells sophomore. “We hope by the end [of
fall break] the numbers will be back to where they were.”

While the protest has been taxing on many students, Hughs
believes that it’s also taking its toll on the
administration.

“I think they’re wearing down—they’re getting to the
end of their rope,” Hughs said, adding, “I
haven’t seen any indication that they’re intending on
changing their decision.”

The protest at Mills in 1991, which effectively reversed the
Board of Trustees’ decision for the school to go coed, is
serving as an example for the protesters at Wells.

“I think we’re following in Mills’ footsteps a lot
and we’re hoping that it works for us like it did for them,”
Smith said.

Despite recruitment efforts, the college has had an enrollment
of about 400 for almost 20 years.

Mills President Janet Holmgren learned about the Trustees’
decision for Wells to go coed while attending a meeting for the
Women’s College Coalition.

“As a group we were saddened and somewhat dismayed but we
also weren’t surprised because we knew that Wells was having quite
a challenge in terms of its financial stability,” Holmgren
said.

While some view the decision at Wells as an indication of the
general direction women’s colleges are headed in, Holmgren
said that there was a sense of strength at the coalition’s
meeting.

“I find an optimism among our colleges and a sense of real
forward momentum,” Holmgren said. “I would say the
spirit among women’s colleges is strong.”

She said there are alternatives to going coed, such as
developing graduate, weekend, evening and distance learning
programs.

“I think it’s important for Mills students to understand
that when our board set the new strategic direction, which includes
strengthening the undergraduate and especially graduate offerings,
it was with the understanding that we would remain a women’s
college,” Holmgren said. “Mills is in very good shape
financially right now owing to strong fundraising and very solid
enrollment.”


Wells Students Continue to Protest Decision to go Coed was published on October 14, 2004 in News

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