Heartbroken

The column I want to write – well, suffice it to say I’m still so ticked off about the incident that I don’t know if I can get through an entire blog without using very dirty words and having a heart attack. But I’ll try, if you’ll forgive me a lapse or two. Hey, Simon used the F-bomb (in context, of course) last week and Jeff used shit in his title…

How unladylike, to swear. I know my mother cringes every time I pop off with a charming epithet, whether she’s hearing it live or reading it on the page. Hubby has gotten used to my mouth, even adopted a few of my favorites into his repertoire.

Get me really wound up and I’ll throw unique combination of words into the naughty mix. Bat-shit is my all time favorite. Now that we have the fact that I curse like a sailor out of the way, I’ll get to the real topic.

I attended a small school in Virginia called Randolph-Macon Woman’s College. That’s right, gentle readers. This foul mouthed besom went to a nice little school where they educate girls, try to class them up and send them out into the real world with an edge of sophistication and intelligence. And it’s been working, just like that, for 115 years. Pardon me.

115 YEARS!

Okay, JT, deep breaths.

On September 9th, the board of trustees, in one of the all time brilliant moves society has ever seen, voted 25-2 to make my beloved alma mater co-educational.Mainhall_150_2

That’s right. After 115 years of proudly educating in a single-sex environment, these **^*)@% idiots decide it’s time to get progressive, work for a Global Honors program, and admit men.
Now, I could bore you with the details. Things like 90% of the students were against this action. 89% of the alumni were against this action. The monetary toll alone will result in the school having to raise tuition to, are you ready? $25,700+ per year, per student, to cover the costs that result in alumni, like myself, who pulled all their funding from the school after the vote.

Wills have been rewritten. Millions and millions of dollars in endowments revoked. They lost 5 million bucks the first day alone. All because they decided to let a few paltry boys cross the threshold into our hallowed halls? DAMN STRAIGHT!

See, R-MWC was an educational institution like no other in the country. To start with, our dorms are part of the classroom buildings. My sophomore through senior years, I lived in Main (with a brief sojourn to West Hall, which is adjacent to Main as a wing off the building), and for class, I rolled out of bed, threw the hair in a ponytail, and went to class two flights of stairs below in my boxers, sweatshirt and pearls. Half the time I didn’t need shoes, much less clothing, to get my education.

We didn’t have sororities, we had secret societies. The big difference? You didn’t get to lobby to join. If you fit the secret group’s particular mold, they came to you.

We had traditions galore — Odds and Evens, Daisy Chain, Pumpkin Parade, Ring Night, SDD.

We had professors who treated us as equals, who were just as likely to hold class in their backyard with a bottle of wine to accompany the lesson as they were to teach in the classroom.

We had an honor code that was unparalleled in the university system today. And it worked, believe me.

Our motto – Vita Abunditor – The Life More Abundant – was precisely what we as students, as women, were looking for.

Copy_of_aerial_2Another strange thing Macon had that no other school had was the ability to make a woman realize her potential. The single sex environment provoked learning. We had no competition, no distractions. We were there to learn, and learn we did. Weekends were for parties and boys. Weekdays were for school. Grand, strange concept, I know, but it worked.

So are you already seeing a couple of major problems with going co-ed? One the name of the college has to change. Randolph-Macon Woman’s College can’t be shortened to Randolph Macon, because there is already a Randolph Macon (co-ed) in Virginia. Boom – the identity of the school is GONE, right there.

Then you have the little issue of living space. I guess they will make the dorms co-ed too, which will really be interesting. Either that or they’ll have to keep the girls in Main and the boys in a separate building created solely for that purpose.

I’m beginning to rant, and I apologize. Here’s the bottom line. When I went away to school my freshman year, I went to a co-ed school. I didn’t do so well. When I was looking for a school to transfer into, Macon opened their arms to me, didn’t care that my transcript was a joke. They saw my potential. They rewarded my loyalty with an education that is truly unsurpassed. They gave me myself back, taught me new pride in my abilities, and showed me not just that I mattered, but why I mattered.

I’m sitting here typing this with tears in my eyes. In one fell swoop, 25 strangers who don’t know me, don’t know this institution, and don’t understand the ramifications of their actions have erased 3 years of my identity. My alma mater no longer exists.

In the future, when I’m asked what college I did my undergrad at, I’ll have to say the school I attended closed in 2006. And that breaks my heart. It’s not just a matter of changing the name, of allowing boys to cruise the halls. It demeans and erases 115 years of history, of the desire to be different. We chose to attend Macon, chose to be educated among the finest international coalition of female students the world had to offer. Copy_2_of_blue_ridge_3

And it’s gone.

Damn them.

12 thoughts on “Heartbroken

  1. JT Ellison

    Hi Iden,That’s the view out of the “beanbag room” on the top floor of Main, looking out toward the Blue Ridge Mountains. I spent a LOT of time in that room, working, dreaming, writing… it’s an inspiring setting.

    Reply
  2. J.B. Thompson

    What a heartwrenching story, JT. Thank you for baring your soul and sharing such an integral part of yourself with us. This is what makes us who we are – the things that shaped our lives during our most influential years. I’m so sorry you’re having to endure this heartbreak, because I know how much your alma mater meant to you.

    You would think with the outrage and withdrawal of support this has caused, the board would reconsider their unwise decision.

    Reply
  3. Naomi

    Same thing (kind of) happened to a women’s school in Oakland, California–Mill’s College–although I think that the undergraduate program is still all female. The change was received by students and alums with the same level of emotion you express. I don’t think outsiders totally get it, but there’s something to learning in a focused, nurturing environment. BTW, how many women’s colleges are left, anyway?

    Reply
  4. Ron Estrada

    It seems political correctness drives all decisions anymore, whether or not the decision makes sense. It’s hard enough for any kid heading off to college. I don’t look forward to the day when I send my daughter off, after years of impressing our values on her, to a university that seems to place more value on football than education.

    Reply
  5. Pari

    J.T.,Here’s something else that binds us . . . in a way.

    I went to an all-girls school from grade 6-10. It was one of the most important educational experiences of my life. At a time when adolescent girls are vying for boys’ attention, we were working hard in our classes. It never occurred to me to “dumb myself down” for anyone. I wish we still had that option in Albuquerque, but, alas all the schools here are co-ed.

    The year I went to France as a foreign exchange student (Grade 11), I was put in an all-boys Catholic school. Talk about a cultural exchange for this Jewish girl from ABQ!

    In the meantime, my school at home had gone co-ed. It didn’t affect me much in my senior year because there were only 3 boys and 10 girls . . . but you could see the wind of change and they didn’t blow well.

    Though the school is strong academically, it has lost its soul.

    I called the other day to ask to be removed from the alumni mailings. I just can’t stand what’s happened to it.

    Breathe deeply, my dear. Mourn and carry on.

    Reply
  6. B.G. Ritts

    So much of our personal identity appears tied to our late teens/early twenties. In my mind, I still think of myself in those terms โ€“ age, physical ability, overall world connection โ€“ and anything that nudges that underpinning shakes me more than events (with one exception) of seemingly more import. I went to a large state related university and pretty much got lost in the crowd, but family and friends who went to small schools talk about discovering themselves and feeling like an integral part of the whole. All the ones I know who went to womenโ€™s colleges are focused and confident – but all those schools are coed now too.

    Itโ€™s unsettling to have your internalized values yanked out from under you.

    Reply
  7. Stephen Blackmoore

    Some places should be co-ed. This isn’t one of them.

    The simple fact that you could be in an environment tailored to you, one without all the additional distractions, one where you didn’t have to deal with a load of sexist crap, makes what was lost that much more precious. I’m so sorry this has happened. There aren’t enough places around to give young women the tools and confidence they need to take the world on their own terms. I can only say I’m glad you had that experience, and I’m sorry that others won’t be able to.

    Reply
  8. JT Ellison

    I’ve been gone all day — I came home to your wonderful comments. Thank you — all of you — for your heartfelt responses. I don’t think they will change their minds, despite the protestations of everyone. So very sad.Drink wine and have a good weekend!

    Reply
  9. amanda

    hi there….i attend r(mw)c i am a sopomore…..i just wanted to say how beautiful this was….it expressed our lovely school so well…..thank you…..ps feel free to email me

    akpurvis

    Reply

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