“That’s an all girl’s school. Right?” I have been asked this question countless times since deciding to attend Sarah Lawrence College. For a school that became coeducational at the same time as just about every other originally women’s college (Vassar and Skidmore, for example), SLC has retained its image as an all female institution and enrollment has continued to be uneven (72 percent female to 28 percent male according to the Princeton Review).
When Sarah Lawrence College first opened in 1928 its mission was to prepare young women for society. After the difficult financial times of the war, and under the GI Bill, the college allowed a select number of veterans to attend. Then, in 1968, after much controversy, the board of directors decided to allow men to officially enroll in the college; however, the administration never publicly announced this decision.
In the March 1975 issue of The SLC Tribune (The Phoenix's precursor as the campus newspaper), only seven years after becoming coed, the paper reported a male-to-female ratio of one male to every three females. In the article, students debated whether the school should start more actively recruiting men or go back to being all female.
The article also discussed how the ratio affected the social scene of the school, and listed possible reasons for the college’s continued all female reputation as such: “Male candidates believe that SLC still holds the reputation of being an all-women’s college. The name helps this impression linger on. Most men who decide to go to college choose a school with stronger emphasis on the sciences and more defined job-oriented programs.” It also asserted that SLC is not “a competitively oriented school.” Why do we still have this reputation 40 years later?
Three male first-years all agreed that they were aware of the male female ratio and reputation as an all girls school prior to attending Sarah Lawrence, but that it did not affect their decision to enroll.
Another first-year commented: “I took into consideration the curriculum and the academics of the school along with the fact that I would be playing sports here,” said Varun Kelkar ‘18, “so it didn’t really bother me that there would be more girls than guys. It was definitely more of a culture shock when I got here, but I never felt out of place.”
Renee Lemmel ’17 added, “People are always [asking], ‘is that an all girls school? I’m like, well, technically no, but there are still so many girls compared to guys that it may as well be.” As for the social scene, Lemmel commented: “Girls are always like, ‘well he is the only viable candidate out of the few’.”
To avoid feelings of annoyance at the repetition of this question my recommendation is to come up with an amusing answer to say when correcting this common misconception.
by Mary Katherine Michiels-Kibler '17