Students petition to make Wellesley co-ed
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 23:03
Earlier this semester, students did not need to enter their dorm halls or classrooms to partake in a fiery debate with one another. On Jan. 23, when Nicole Daussin ’13 shared a link to a petition to make Wellesley co-educational on Community-Discussion, a Wellesley College Google Group, the post riled a number of Wellesley students to respond. The discussion-based nature of previous Wellesley web forums, which many believe was lost with the transition from FirstClass to Google and Sakai last spring, had suddenly been revived.
Included in Daussin’s original post was the statement that “all women’s schools enforce sexism and are outdated,” a comment that many students found offensive.
“I was really surprised that I had offended so many people, but looking back on it, I can see why people were so angry,” Daussin admitted in an interview. Daussin continued by saying she was surprised that more people did not realize that her petition was made partly in jest.
“I didn’t want to actually make Wellesley co-ed,” Daussin said, adding that she “had a good laugh at adding a picture of a half-naked guy” to the petition and posting the petition under the category of “human rights: torture.”
While Daussin said that the petition was originally made as somewhat of a joke, she still believes that Wellesley would be a better college if it were not a single-sex institution.
“I originally made the petition because I wanted to commiserate with other people who, like me, feel the effects of the skewed social dynamic that Wellesley has as a result of being a single-sex school,” Daussin said, adding that she believes Wellesley has a “stressful” and “unbalanced atmosphere.” Daussin went on to describe how she did not fully notice this “skewed social dynamic” until this semester, when she started to make friends while studying abroad through the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program.
“The attitude is completely different in a co-ed learning environment,” Daussin said. “I feel like there’s a specific type of stress in an all women’s environment,” Dausin continued, adding that Wellesley can be “ferociously competitive” compared to the “really relaxed” environment that she is currently experiencing while studying abroad. Daussin also added that being at Wellesley has, in some ways, made her biased against men.
“I feel like I’m part of a sisterhood, but not part of a bonding of humankind,” Daussin explained. “At Wellesley, I’ve gotten really negative feelings toward men.”
According to Daussin, Wellesley’s single-sex environment prevents it from being as socially accepting of an environment as she believes it should be.
“In order to truly be an accepting environment, the college needs to be able to accept everyone,” Daussin said. “I might have come across as too strong in my original posts, but I think that people should look at this discussion with an open mind…I hope to make people really think about single–sex institutions.”
Daussin is not the first person in the College’s history that has hoped to make people “really think” about the value—or lack thereof—of Wellesley being a single-sex institution. In fact, in 1969, members of the College brought the debate over the benefits of a single-sex education to the public spotlight when a group comprised of students, faculty, trustees and alumnae formed the Commission on the Future of the College in order to make a list of recommendations for Wellesley. After reviewing various aspects of college life for two years, the Commission voted nine to four in favor of admitting men. The decision, however, was quickly overturned by the Board of Trustees. In March of 2009, this landmark verdict was revisited in a panel discussion titled “Co-Ed Wellesley: Perspectives on the 1971 Commission on the Future of the College.” Many of the panelists were former members of the Commission.
“Many people were upset that the trustees turned down the majority decision, but they didn’t do anything about it,” Susae Elanchenny ’09 said at the time. “Today, would students just go on Community and talk about it, or would they do something?”
And now, that question that Elanchenny posed three years ago is one that the petition seeks to broach once again. However, with only six signatures—only two of which are identifiable Wellesley students—it is evident that the petition has yet to turn discussion of the issue into any type of real action.
Eva Petakovic ’14 was one of the two students who chose to publicly sign the petition. Though Petakovic actually does not believe Wellesley should be co-educational, she signed the petition as a symbolic act in order to show emotional support for the students at Wellesley who, like her and Daussin, have had a difficult time adjusting to an all-women’s environment.