Event commemorates coeducation

by Mark Herman | 11/22/02 6:00am

College President James Wright reiterated the theme of his convocation speech -- campus diversity -- as faculty, administrators, alumni and students gathered in the Top of the Hop yesterday at a reception to celebrate the 30th anniversary of coeducation at Dartmouth.

Event host Giavanna Munafo of the Center for Women and Gender, previously the Women's Resource Center, said it was intended to celebrate the accomplishments of the last 30 years and the vision that will shape the next 30 years in a way that includes everyone at Dartmouth.

Wright said coeducation at Dartmouth fundamentally altered the College.

"Coeducation is about more than adjusting admissions and admissions criteria," Wright said. "Everything in an institution must change."

Wright acknowledged what he called the "pioneer generation" of women faculty and students at Dartmouth along with the Center for Women and Gender, which he said continues "to help this institution focus on issues of equity and justice."

Dartmouth, the last member of the Ivy League to admit women in 1972, now leads its peers with the highest percentage of tenured women faculty, Wright said as he reminded the audience of the work left to do.

"We are all humbled by the distance we have to go," he said.

Dartmouth biology professor Celia Chen '78 spoke of her experiences at the College, when she entered just two years after coeducation began.

"I remember a place of extreme contrasts," she said, recalling how students still sung of the "men of Dartmouth" and how white males dominated the campus.

"We have come a long way since 1974 when I first arrived," Chen told the audience, citing the support of the women's sports teams and noting that female students are no longer too intimidated to participate in classes.

The College is no longer a "landscape of white male faces," she said. "I look forward to a Dartmouth where we thrive on our differences."

Director of Institutional Diversity and Equity Ozzie Harris '81 first came to Dartmouth in 1977, when a large imbalance existed between the male and female populations.

"Sexism clearly existed," Harris said.

He recalled incidents of aggression, open displays of antagonism toward women and a climate of male dominance, but also spoke of the progress women have made.

"Women have always belonged at Dartmouth," Harris said. "It is becoming more so that they are included."

Statistically, students are now evenly divided between women and men. Women, who comprised 8 percent of the arts and science faculty in 1972, make up 35 percent today.

After the speeches, the celebration continued with performances by cellist Lindsay Macindoe '01, Ballet Folklorico and The Deci-belles, Dartmouth's oldest female a cappella group.