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Grounds for Change: Campus Architecture and Coeducation at Connecticut College and Wesleyan University

McDonald, Thomas
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
McDonald, Thomas
Crane, Sheila
Wilson, Richard
Reilly, Lisa
In 1968, both Connecticut College and Wesleyan University made public their decisions to transition from single gender campuses to coeducation. Part of a national reform movement in higher education to provide learning environments that better reflected modern society, each school endorsed coeducation as an inevitable change that would enhance both academics and student life while also ensuring institutional survival. This thesis investigates how the transition to coeducation at Connecticut College and Wesleyan University was, from the start, realized through the distribution and allocation of extant campus space as well as the design of new facilities. What now may seem like minute details pertaining to exactly where and in what conditions men and women should live, study, and interact informed both school’s plans for coeducation. Central to this work is a consideration of how culturally constructed understandings of contrasting gender requirements shaped both the extant campuses of Connecticut College and Wesleyan University as well as the facilities deemed most important during the transitions to coeducation. The reorganization of academic, recreational, and particularly residential space at each school spoke to period gender perceptions as well as administrative expectations and ideals for a mixed gender student body. At both schools, these notions continued to shape campus development in the decades following coeducation, well after both institutions achieved gender parity. The findings in this work are based on archival research performed at Connecticut College and Wesleyan University that illustrate well the centrality of the built environment to each school’s transition to coeducation. These records also show that the manner in which the administrations of Connecticut College and Wesleyan University prepared and apportioned the facilities of their respective campuses, though informed by traditional conceptions of separate gender spheres, led to relatively trouble-free conversions to coeducation at both places. After the arrival of the first coeducational classes, many of these initial arrangements and policies ceded to student-led modifications, which cemented the success of gender integration at each school.
University of Virginia, Department of Architectural History, MARH (Master of Architectural History), 2014
Published Date
MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Libra ETD Repository
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