The saga of coeducation at Kenyon, at least its first chapter, could be read as a twisted Garden of Eden story, although it's not clear whether the old all-male preserve would figure as a bizarrely blissful paradise or a vale of puerility. Or whether change brought an end of innocence, or of ignorance.

Coeducation would certainly bring complication, spawning a host of battles—over housing (see The CLOK Strikes), dining hall seating (see The Catwalk), sororities, women's studies in the curriculum, and the role of a women's center.

But in the beginning, the question was: Will women "ruin" the place or rescue it?

Bill Campbell '66 remembers a survey that the administration circulated in 1965-66 about admitting women. "I voted strongly against the idea, along with the overwhelming majority of my peers," he wrote recently. "We argued that women would distract us from our studies, that dance weekends would no longer be special, that we'd have to dress better and behave in a more civilized manner, that we could no longer swim naked in the pool—in short, that Kenyon would no longer be the Kenyon we loved to complain about."

That attitude persisted in some quarters for a time after the arrival of women in 1969. But the opposition faded away. Looking back, Campbell takes what has emerged as the consensus view: that coeducation not only saved Kenyon financially but also raised its academic standards, helped develop better student services, and created a more normal social environment. "I graduated from Kenyon knowing nothing about women, and I suffered from it," he wrote. "I've often thought that a grad student in sociology or psychology could earn a Ph.D. by comparing divorce rates of Kenyon grads pre and post the admission of women."

In short, he concluded, remembering the resistance to coeducation: "We were dopes." DeliciousFacebook FacebookStumbleUpon StumbleUponDigg Diggreddit reddit