University of Virginia Co-Education
Watch the 2018 Video about Co-Education at the University of Virginia and Kevin's Leadership Role:
In 1969, the University of Virginia was under pressure to open its admission to its undergraduate schools, especially the College of Arts and Sciences, to women. With hindsight, it would seem incredible that a state university would even face such a question, but back then, the State of Virginia had a tradition of running separate women’s colleges. I was appointed as the only undergraduate member of the University’s committee which was considering this issue. The committee was run by the Provost and consisted of faculty, administrators, one graduate student, and myself. The committee agreed to recommend a ten-year quota system on the admission of women and to revisit the issue of equal admission at some point during those ten years. This was all happening as I was entering my third year (Junior year) in the college. I had been selected for this committee because I was a College Representative to the Student Council, and I had been active in supporting co-education.
I decided that I could not support the Majority Report. Instead of simply voting no, I submitted a Minority Report. This became news, and it was endorsed by the Student Council. The Minority Report was also introduced during litigation where four plaintiffs sought equal admission for women to the college. Ultimately, a compromise was achieved, and a two-year transition plan was put into place with limited admission of women in the fall of 1970 and the fall of 1971, and full equal admission of women thereafter. If you take a look at the second to the last paragraph of the Minority Report, I acknowledged that the University might need two years to make the accommodations necessary to equally admit women. I was pleased to see that this idea was incorporated into the final settlement which was approved by the Board of Visitors.
I have included this Minority Report on the web site because it reflects my willingness to sometimes stand alone in challenging the “establishment” as to a major issue.
MINORITY REPORT ON THE ADMISSION OF WOMEN
The Sub-Committee on the Admission of Women has formulated a plan for the admission of women to the undergraduate schools which fulfills the requirements set by the Board of Visitors at their 15 February 1969 meeting.
However, a basic premise of that report cannot be accepted: that the admission of women must not curtail the number of men admitted. This premise results from the directive issued by the Board of Visitors. In effect, the report establishes a “quota” system by limiting the enrollment of women to the growth of the state college enrollment and the growth of this University while protecting the present enrollment of men.
There are more than enough qualified female applicants for the University to consider women on an equal basis with men. The committee would argue that the enrollment of women in the college and other undergraduate schools will weaken the number of applicants at state womens’ colleges. If accepted, this argument proves the assertion that qualified women are being denied an equal educational opportunity, for they would choose this University over other state institutions.
However, the committee’s argument can be denied on other grounds: 1) women who choose to attend a co-educational state University would not necessarily choose Mary Washington or other womens’ colleges as alternatives (they often would choose, for example, the University of South Carolina), and 2) even if women were choosing all-female college alternatives instead of the University, these all-female colleges should seriously consider co-educating, as they would not be offering their students the type of education the students preferred.
Not only is the concept of a quota system for women while protecting the admission of men ill-conceived, it may be illegal. In a case pending before the United States District Court, four women are accusing the University of denying them their civil rights as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Should they succeed, the proposed plan for co-education will have been deemed unacceptable.
The committee should seriously consider the implications of the case. The question is no longer whether or not the undergraduate schools should be co-educational, but whether the plan for co-educating discriminates. The Court should have strong reservations about the present plan, especially with its protective clause regarding male admissions.
The committee should, therefore, recommend to the Board of Visitors that the “protective clause” regarding male admissions be dropped. Instead, a policy of equal opportunity for all available admissions slots should be established. Such a policy will not jeopardize the proper functioning of the various departments and undergraduate schools if studies and plans are begun immediately, based on the assumption of an equal admissions policy for the fall of 1970. The facilities and resources of the University need not be strained if proper planning takes place, as an equal admissions policy will admit the same number of students as are presently expected.
Problems will arise regarding the proper allocation of resources, rather than the amount of resources available. However, a great deal can be learned from the programs of other co-educational state universities regarding the proportion of women in various departments, and so on. The problems that will be most difficult are those that arise when electives and majors are chosen, as it is here that the differing interests of women will have the most effect. However, if a large portion of the women admitted are in the first-year class (as they would be under an equal-admissions proposal) much of the difficulties regarding allocation of resources can be solved over a period of two years, since first-year students have most of their schedules filled with required courses; the enrollment in such courses would be about the same as present plans call for.
It is most important that the University of Virginia should fulfill its duty to the Commonwealth and the people of the Commonwealth. A University which restricts its admission of women because they are women, and which protects the number of men to be admitted, is discriminating against one group of citizens; an attempt to prolong the co-educational process will only prolong the discrimination against women. In the long run, it will be the University and its students, as well as the women denied admission by a quota system, who will suffer.
Kevin L. Mannix
September 19, 1969