For 136 years, Wells College in Aurora, New York, proudly admitted only women. But no more. Last week, the Board of Trustees announced that the school will become co-ed next year in the hopes of increasing enrollment and revenue. Wells’ 400 female students aren’t happy at the prospect of a male invasion, and more than a third of them skipped weekend parties and study groups to protest. They vow to continue until the board reverses its decision.
The young women face an uphill battle. According to the trustees, market forces are at work. The small college simply isn’t attracting enough qualified candidates. The school is responding like any other business faced with stiff competition: by changing its product and trying to attract new customers.
That’s cold comfort for the women who came to Wells specifically because they prefer an all-estrogen environment. Those who don’t graduate this spring will face a difficult choice: Switch schools — hardly an appealing prospect for students who have built relationships with their peers and professors — or adapt to Wells new co-ed lifestyle.
Yet at least these women could conceivably transfer to one of America’s roughly sixty all-female colleges or universities. They might pause to consider the many men who lack such options. All-male colleges are practically gone in this country and not because there is no demand. They have instead been killed by court rulings and attacks from feminist groups who seem to believe that “freedom of association” should also be women-only.
Feminists are schizophrenic on the issue of single-sex schools. Women’s colleges are home to some of the most radical women’s studies programs in the country and serve as feeders for groups like the National Organization for Women and Feminist Majority. These groups have chapters on college campuses and make use of the female-friendly environment to host conferences exploring the evils of patriarchy.
But while they take full advantage of women-only colleges and universities, feminists fight the expansion of single-sex educational options elsewhere. Earlier this year, the administration announced a plan to relax regulations that restrict public school systems’ ability to offer parents single-sex schools or classrooms. This proposal was supported by such radical right-wingers as New York’s own Senator Hillary Clinton. But the National Organization for Women (NOW) seized upon the occasion to accuse the administration of trying to segregate schools: “Sex discrimination in the classroom or the workplace is shameful,” said NOW’s President Kim Gandy. “Segregation was wrong in the past-and it’s wrong now.”
Nevermind that under the Administration’s proposal no child would be required to attend a single-sex school. Nevermind that parents with means can always pay for single-sex schooling and the President’s proposal would merely help give low-income parents similar options. Feminists — who often wax eloquent about the virtues of “choice” — have decided they can’t tolerate parents being free to choose their child’s school.
Of course, feminists don’t just want to extinguish single-sex instruction in K-12 schools. They’ve also worked overtime to rid the country of other men-only institutions. For example, Martha Burk, President of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, launched a crusade against Augusta National Golf Club, home of the prestigious Masters’ golf tournament, for its men-only membership policy. Her protests, which attracted far more reporters than protestors, starkly illustrated how far modern feminism has strayed from the concerns of mainstream American women.
Let’s hope that Wells students see the irony here. Waving signs of “Save Our Sisterhood,” Wells students are demanding the freedom to associate exclusively with other women. But the sisterhood of feminist leaders recognize no such right for men.
So, women of Wells, by all means: Keep men off your campus. Just remember how you’re feeling now the next time a Martha Burke wants to smash open the doors marked men-only.