Scope and Contents
This collection consists of records pertaining to Connecticut College’s decision to transition from a women’s institution to a coeducational college in 1969, including press and publicity documenting campus and external reactions, communications from the Office of Admissions, and photographs. Of particular interest are the records of the Summer Planning Group (Series II), a committee tasked with researching and reporting on several strategic directions for Connecticut College, among them the feasibility of coeducation. Records from the group's coeducation subcommittee include questionnaires from students, faculty, and alumnae; research on coeducation at other institutions; and the final report summarizing their findings in October 1968.
- 1968 - 1989
- Majority of material found within 1968 - 1972
- Connecticut College (Organization)
This collection is open to researchers.
At its founding in 1911, Connecticut College filled a critical need for higher education for women in the state. By the mid-20th century, however, expanding economic and social mobility enabled students to travel further afield for college, and the opening of elite colleges and universities to both sexes increasingly drew high-performing students away from single-sex institutions. From 1966 to 1968, applications at Connecticut College fell 18.5%, and faculty, students, and administration alike worried about maintaining the high academic standards for which the College was known.
Facing the possibility of declining enrollment and pressure to maintain a high quality education, Charles Shain convened a Summer Planning Group in 1968 to study the feasibility of transitioning to coeducation by 1970. Over the course of eight months, the Planning Group researched coeducation decisions at other institutions across the northeast, and surveyed 3,969 Connecticut College alumnae and students. Of the 2,099 responses they received, nearly 72% voted for coeducation. The response from alumnae in classes prior to the 1950s was especially strong, as many saw coeducation as a natural progression for an institution in which adaptability was embedded in its founding character, mission, and ideals, and which had continued to evolve to meet changing societal norms and the needs of its students over time.
On campus, however, the response from the students and faculty was somewhat mixed. Students in particular worried that opportunities for leadership development would be lost, and questioned whether introducing coeducation would erase the parity of faculty that existed and lower Conn’s standards to attract male students who “might not be equal in quality” to its current student body (Conn Census, October 29, 1968). The Summer Planning Group countered these concerns, claiming that coeducation would result in “better understanding of the sexes,” and that single-sex colleges were increasingly anachronistic as educational opportunities opened for women across the country. In its final report of October 10, 1968, the Summer Planning Group presented its final recommendation that Connecticut College “become a fully coeducational college as soon as feasible with parity of men and women in the undergraduate student body and the faculty” (Report of the Summer Planning Group: Summary of Recommendations, October 10, 1968). The Board of Trustees confirmed the decision in December 1968, and on January 8, 1969, Charles Shain formally announced that Connecticut College would begin to admit men in September of that year.
The first male students – two transfer students from Fordham and UNC Chapel Hill – enrolled in February 1969. The transition was designed to be deliberate and progressive, in part to minimize the financial ramifications of integrating men into residence facilities, and in part to ease concerns raised by opponents of coeducation. Though true parity has never been reached, by the end of the 1970s, Connecticut College reached a male enrollment of 42%, a figure which has remained fairly constant since.
0.42 Linear Feet (1 box and 1 oversized folder)
Language of Materials
Correspondence, planning minutes and notes, research, reporting, and press pertaining to Connecticut College’s transition to coeducation, 1968-1989.
Organized into two series, Administrative Records and Summer Planning Group Records, and then roughly chronologically within.
Records of the Summer Planning Group gathered by Gertrude Noyes in preparation for her manuscript, A History of Connecticut College. Additional material collected by Catherine Phinizy in the early 1990s.
As part of reprocessing the collection in June 2022, the following materials were incorporated into the Charles E. Shain presidential records:
- A folder of correspondence with alumnae about becoming coeducational
- Records pertaining to the overall work of the Summer Planning Group, including meeting minutes and notes, working papers, preliminary and draft reports, and the full final report
- Materials related to the Parents Committee of Connecticut College Students
Rebecca Parmer, 2016. Reprocessed by Deborah Kloiber, College Archivist, in June 2022.
- Connecticut College (Organization)
- Guide to the Coeducation Collection
- Rebecca Parmer
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- June 2022: Revised by Deborah Kloiber, College Archivist
Part of the Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives Repository
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