THIS WEEK IN AMHERST HISTORY, November 2, 1971: We're Co-ed!

The Amherst Student staff wrote the following in response to this event: “The Lord and George Shinn move in mysterious ways. It took Amherst College only 153 years to join the human race. Hallelujah! The trustees’ decision to make Amherst a college dedicated to the education of men and women represents an affirmation of and commitment to the highest ideals of the liberal arts-educational equality and social enlightenment. The entire community applauds and rejoices in this historic announcement �”

The process of convincing the board of trustees to make Amherst College co-ed was long and difficult. It began in April 1969, when President Calvin Plimpton created a Long Range Planning Commission as a response to a student-approved resolution calling for co-education. Plimpton left soon after, however, and when Professor John William Ward assumed the presidency, there was not enough information for him to make any formal recommendation to the trustees. After more reports had been made, Ward finally made his recommendation for co-education to the board of trustees in October 1972.

Still, the board was divided and in January 1973, Ward announced the result, a non-decision, upon which the board intended to resign the question for another three to five years. Incensed, students formed the Organization for Coeducation at Amherst Now in a “demonstration of outrage.” As a result, the board of trustees announced that they would resolve the issue by 1974. Ward set up four committees to study the “implementation and implications of admitting women.” These committees produced a 380-page “Casebook on Coeducation” and eventually resulted in the fateful announcement made by Shinn on the afternoon of Nov. 2, 1974.