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Wilson alums not happy with co-ed decision

Wilson College has historically been an all women’s college. Last year the institution began to accept male undergraduate students. This fall school officials hope to be able to allow male students to live on campus.

But, there is opposition from some Alumnae of the institution. 40 of them filed objections to co-ed residential requests.  “There’s no showing that it will succeed at Wilson. There is no showing that investing the millions that it will take to move to co-education will result in an increase in enrollment that they are anticipating,” said Gretchen Van Ness, who testified at the hearing against Wilson College being co-educational. Van Ness hopes the Department of Education will reverse their decision to make the college co-educational.

On Monday members of the Pennsylvania Department of Education listened to their concerns.

“We hope they deny the application of the college. We believe very strongly that the college has been acting out of compliance with the law and out of compliance with it’s current mission,” said Van Ness. “It is promoting itself as a co-educational college, however, it is still chartered and incorporated by the state as a women’s college.”

One major argument Van Ness has against Wilson being co-ed is female students losing opportunities for leadership and other roles. “If you look around at most colleges and universities most positions are still held by men. At women’s colleges it’s a wonderful opportunity that should be available,” said Van Ness. She said statistics show women often leave co-ed campuses with lower self-esteem.

Representatives from Wilson College also testified at the hearing  that the current charter has allowed for male students in the classrooms for decades. “Wilson college has a history of serving the male student population, from heeding the government’s call to educating World War Two servicemen, to the college’s adult degree program and co-educational graduate programs,” said President Barbara Mistic. “Wilson College is and has long been a college that educates female and male undergraduates together. While residential facilities have remained single-sex, classrooms and other academic facilities have been are co educational.”

Mistic said the main reason for the change is enrollment. “It is critically important to understand that Wilson College has struggled with enrollment levels. Particularly in the residential enrollment college,” said Mistic.

“The college had stagnate enrollment in it’s undergraduate college for 40 years. Over that time they have tried a lot of different programs to really bring that up, but the facts are, the enrollment in the undergraduate residential college are just not going to be able to support the college,” said Brian Speer, Vice President of Marketing & Communications at Wilson College.

Both sides must submit final summaries to the Department of Education by August first. Representatives from the Department of Education were unclear as to how long it would take after the deadline to make a decision.


Trustees at Wilson College in Chambersburg postponed a vote Saturday to turn the women’s college into a co-ed school.

“I think it’s a good idea, because it’s a lot to take in on the table. Obviously the decision is going to impact our whole college experience,” said senior Katie Murphy.

It’s been a hot issue with students for months. Banners protesting the move to go co-ed hang outside the school’s busiest buildings.

“We’re not saying that we’re hating men or anything. It’s just preserving the idea of a women’s college and empowering women,” said Raquel Feliciano, a senior.

“Everyone’s just sort of overwhelmed with all the chaos. It’s just so last minute and it feels like they just threw it on us,” said junior Brittney Poff.

Going co-ed is one of several measures trustees are considering to increase enrollment and get a better financial footing. The school currently has less than 700 students and is $31 million in debt.

The chairman of the board of trustees released a statement on the decision that reads in part: “This is an important decision that will affect the future direction of Wilson College…Our intention is to review and analyze all of the material to enable the board to give greater consideration to the information presented, before charting a course for the financial well-being and academic health of the institution.”

The board will meet again to vote on the issue January 13.

Wilson College trustees plan to vote today on whether or not to switch to a co-ed institution, fully opening it’s doors to men. The school was founded in 1869 as a liberal arts college for women. Proposing to go co-ed came  after the college continued to face budget deficits and dwindling enrollment over the past three years.

The college enrolls about 700 students and is $31 million in debt.

Currently the school allows men to be students if they are at least 22 years old or are children of staff.

Trustees are expected to announce a decision Saturday afternoon.

Wilson is  only one of 47 women’s colleges in the United States.