Colgate community members across the country recently took to social media platforms to virtually celebrate the anniversary of coeducation at Colgate. In the fall of 1970, Colgate welcomed 132 women to its first coeducational class, a milestone that marked the start of a new era for the University. On Friday, Nov. 13, the second Colgate day of the year, the University honored 50 years of women being a part of the Colgate community.
On social media, people publicly expressed their appreciation for the many women that shaped their Colgate experience and recognized the women that continue to play a role in maintaining the University’s diverse community today. The hashtag #ColgateWomen flooded the Twitter and Facebook timelines of Colgate parents, alumni, professors and students alike as the celebration on Nov. 13 ensued. Some social media posts were made by members of the Class of 1974, the first class at Colgate that included women.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic changed President Brian Casey’s original plans to recognize coeducation, he and the Women’s Leadership Council improvised and allowed the celebration to take place over social media.
“We met with the Women’s Leadership Council, which is an alumni group, because this was going to be the year. This was going to be a whole year of stuff. Obviously, the pandemic hasn’t enabled this,” Casey said. “There were some alumni events, definitely, [like] virtual Zoom conversations, which were nicely attended.”
Colgate University’s social media accounts took part in the virtual celebration, using their platform to repost recent articles from Colgate Magazine featuring a detailed timeline of women’s history at the University and insight into the current lives of thirteen women in the first coeducational class. Casey recognized the effort put forth by the Magazine to acknowledge the University’s reaching this milestone.
“I’m very, very pleased with the Colgate Magazine,” Casey said. “The alumni [are] really picking it up now because we just sent out 37,000 magazines.”
Despite the success of the virtual celebration, Casey is still debating on whether to have an official, in-person celebration throughout next year to commemorate 50 years of coeducation.
“We had long thought that this, the November 13th Colgate day, was going to be an anchoring event, but no one can come visit,” Casey said. “We’ve had a small number, a good number, of alumni events and lots of people calling in but I feel thwarted. Part of me wonders whether or not we delay and just say, ‘we’re just doing this next year,’ because it feels as if the recognition is not going to feel satisfying.”
The University has developed a culture over the past 50 years among students, faculty, and staff that celebrates women and recognizes their efforts on campus. For instance, both current students and professors are involved with initiatives that continually lift female voices.
Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the Women’s Studies Program Susan Thomson plays a direct role in continuing education about women on campus through educational efforts made by the Center for Women’s Studies.
“It’s important to study co-education at 50 because knowing and understanding institutional history is key to understanding how Colgate works today,” Thomson said. “The work of the Center for Women’s Studies complements the academic program in Women’s Studies as we teach courses on women’s experience. Feminist studies does not exist without the knowledge and labour of Black women. We also teach the archival method, using materials stored at the university archives to show students the different experiences of different women at Colgate.”
Many students see celebrating coeducation as essential to recognizing the continued impact of women at Colgate. First-and-second year representative of Sisters of the Round Table (SORT) and sophomore Adanya Jeudy says that her involvement in her women’s organization has allowed her to help lift the voices of BIPOC women on campus.
“SORT highlights the voice of BIPOC women and gives us a space to comfortably share our experiences,” Jeudy said. “We’re a group of women that have built a strong community with each other so we’re really intent on growing that support network for women of color on our campus.”
Jeudy spoke about how SORT’s various initiatives to help and support women of color are ones that show just how important it is that the University celebrates women just as they did on Nov. 13.
“Celebrating 50 years of co-ed is important because it’s a reminder to us of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go,” Jeudy said. “For me, SORT adds another layer to that celebration as I think of the experiences of the BIPOC women who came before me and their communities.”