Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Mary Hermann

Second Advisor

Teresa Carter


GIVING VOICE TO STUDENT AND ALUMNAE OPPOSITION DURING THE TRANSITION TO COEDUCTION BY A COLLEGE FOR WOMEN By Rebecca Jean Grandstaff Clarke, Ph.D. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University. Virginia Commonwealth University, 2011. Co-Director: Mary Hermann, J.D., Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Counselor Education School of Education Co-Director: Teresa J. Carter, Ed.D. Assistant Professor and Adult Learning Program Coordinator, Teaching and Learning Department School of Education This dissertation provides insight into students‘ and alumnae‘s experiences during the transition and legal proceedings as their former college for women transitioned to coeducation. Previous research on the transition of single-sex colleges to coeducation has primarily examined the process from an organizational perspective. This study focuses on the participants‘ personal and intimate involvement in these events. A phenomenological approach was utilized (Creswell, 1998; Moustakas, 1994). Data collection was through in-depth interviews with three students who recently graduated from the college and acted as the plaintiffs during the legal challenge and four alumnae who served as leaders of the opposition group funding the legal challenge. Data analyses lead to the development of textural and structural themes which described the essence of the experience. The results of the study indicated that the admission of men changed the campus and classroom environment at this former women‘s college. Classroom dynamics changed; campus crime increased; and the students engaged in acts of physical confrontation and intimidation. Aspects of the students‘ and alumnae‘s experiences left an indelible impression on their lives. For the students, participating in the student protests over the coeducation decision was a transformative experience, resulting in a stronger sense of social activism. The experience of supporting and funding the legal challenge ultimately caused the alumnae to lose faith in the educational and legal systems. The study has implications for college boards and administrators considering coeducation, for alumnae considering a legal challenge to a decision by their alma mater to transition to coeducation, and for women interested in enrolling in a college for women.


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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2011

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