GI Bill and the SLC Man
Coeducation officially began in 1968, but men studied on campus as early as the 1940s, thanks to the accommodation of ex-servicemen through the GI Bill after World War II.
Allan Manings '50 was among the group of 36 veterans over five years who attended the College following their service in World War II. Their presence was more or less "an enforced situation," he says, since colleges were at the time required to enroll a certain number of vets under the GI Bill. And not everyone was pleased to have him and his male classmates around, he says. But once they arrived, the female students accepted them "quite openly."
"We were terrified," Carlotta Damanda '48 recalled on the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the campus GIs. "We'd been sitting in this little oasis, and suddenly these older men, who literally had been all over the world, were coming to go to school with us." Another alumna recalls the College's warning not to "veteranize." Manings himself sensed social class differences between the women, most of whom were white and affluent/upper middle class, and the men, who were slightly older, more middle class and wiser to the world after having served in the military. "Many of us brought attitudes and behavior that were fresh and maybe frightening to the young ladies," he says. Despite any social differences, he remembers there were a number of romantic liaisons-some of them leading to marriage.
The women, recalls Anita "Pan" Hilton '49, received an inkling of what the College would become. Having been educated to that time at exclusive girls' schools, I found the men added a great deal to my perception of the world." The vets' age and experience, she says, and the "mixed strata of society" they represented made "contact with these men enriching and eye-opening."
But however they got here, and whatever the social climate on campus, the vets found SLC an academic haven. "It was very exciting at Sarah Lawrence," Jack Barnes '50 recalled in 2000. "The difference between the three months I had spent at Harvard and the challenging and inspiring atmosphere of Sarah Lawrence was stark. I was getting educated rather than becoming an engineer." Manings agreed-and so did many of the rest. "We as a group believed it was an excellent place to be."
A New Scenario
In the mid-1950s, after the GIs graduated and the College-at least officially-returned to its women-only state, a different scenario for coeducation began, very quietly, to take shape. Amid fiscal concerns and efforts to shore up the College's financial base, administrators and trustees floated the idea of creating a separate, but affiliated, college for men.
In 1956, President Harold Taylor submitted a report to the College's Trustee-Faculty Committee on Planning and Finance that concluded that Sarah Lawrence should "establish a college for men, coordinate with the present institution for women, by the use of funds obtained from foundation grants and private sources."
While Taylor's aims were mainly educational-he believed in the value of a Sarah Lawrence education for men as well as women-the idea was also a practical one: he believed that a coordinate men's college would help with fundraising goals. Foundations and corporations, Taylor felt, would be more interested in making grants to an institution that educated both women and men. However, the proposal was abandoned by the end of the decade; the College decided that expanding the number of women it enrolled would help solve its financial problems.
Meanwhile, men continued to attend Sarah Lawrence, though in very small numbers. Since 1952, men were admitted as students working in the performing arts, with academic credit transferred toward an undergraduate degree in another college.