This blog post was written by Brittany Hedrick, an undergraduate history department intern who worked in University Archives in Fall 2015. As part of her internship, she also conducted two oral history interviews -- one for the University Archives' Institutional Memory Project and one for the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project.
In 1963 Woman’s College was officially renamed the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This name change correlated with the decision to make all UNC system schools co-educational. There were several reasons for this new change. Parents and prospective male students sent letters insisting admittance to the school because of financial situations. Additionally, Woman’s College enrollment continued to steadily decrease and the state could no longer afford to refuse male enrollment. The decrease in enrollment was partly due to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s decision to begin admitting women as freshmen.
Regardless of minimal opposition on campus, a large portion of women resented the change. This opposition was especially evident through Woman’s College alumnae. The 1974 summer issue of Alumni News illuminates alumnae opposition and states that initial reaction of alumnae in regards to male admittance were feelings of betrayal; a loss of ideals for which the institution once stood. Alumnae felt the presence of male students would ruin what was once a superior woman’s college. They believed the change would result in a loss of prestige and a decrease in woman’s participation. The alumnae regarded the pre-co-education time period as the “good ol’ days” when leadership potential was easier for woman to obtain while attending Woman’s College. Women feared leadership roles would fall to men and that women would gradually fall from faculty positions. Moreover, there were fears that co-education would bring demands for Greek life and football.
Although there was opposition and division among the female students in regards to the new changes, an increasing number of female students preferred co-education. The trend in American higher education was toward co-education nationwide; partly a response to World War II and the introduction of the G.I. Bill. Within this national trend, some opponents even compared single-sex education to racial segregation. Ultimately, co-education, to many, was simply an economic response to falling enrollments. For the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, co-education resulted in tripling enrollment. However, many student leadership roles previously held by women were held by men after co-education.