From time to time, we like to keep you updated on the excellent scholarly work in which our faculty, staff, and students engage. Here in the Graduate School Office, we are proud to report that Dean Amy Thompson McCandless participated recently in a presentation of her paper at the Oxford University Roundtable on the topic of “Women in the Academy.” Dean McCandless’s research focuses on the higher education of Southern women in the 20th Century, and her presentation examined the historical opposition to coeducation at flagship universities in the region.
Her summary states:
“From the attempts to bar women from state flagship institutions in the 1890s to the efforts to exclude women from The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute in the 1990s, universities in the southern United States have proclaimed the deleterious effects coeducation would have on traditional gender relationships. Coeducation, one group of South Carolina students asserted, would ‘alter the spirit and tone of robust manliness of the student body which we believe to be of even greater importance than scholarship.’¹
When women were eventually allowed to matriculate, men students proceeded to ban them from clubs, activities, and buildings. Faculty ignored their presence in the classroom and/or graded them more harshly. Administrators put quotas on their admissions and imposed restrictions on their mobility. Gender discrimination in the academy was (or is) not unique to the southern United States, McCandless notes, but she believes the interrelated nature of gender and racial constructs in southern culture account for much of the historical prejudice against coeducation in the region’s institutions of higher education. It is ironic that in the 21st century schools founded because women and blacks were barred from the top universities of southern states are now being pressured to become more ‘diverse’; i.e., open their doors to more men and whites. In the contemporary South, opposition to coeducation is more likely to come from women who argue that historic patterns of discrimination remain alive and well on today’s college campuses.”¹ Petition to the Board of Trustees, 23 June 1903, College Archives, Special Collections, Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Congratulations to Dean McCandless on her engaging presentation. To stay updated on all of her work, you can follow her here on Twitter!