Alumnae Perspectives: Dr. Barbara Bruner, 1952

Dear Alumnae & Friends,

Twenty-plus years ago we were involved in a “fight” to keep Chatham an all-women’s college. Most of us were unhappy at the possible addition of men and, after much “anguish,” we remained uni-sex, recruited Esther Barazzone to be our President (the best decision ever made!!!), and with her leadership, eventually became a vibrant UNIVERSITY. We flourished with new and exciting areas of study, advanced degrees in many fields, national recognition for our work in sustainable living and MEN all over the place. The University has thrived but NOT the College.

OUR COLLEGE, AS A WOMAN’S SCHOOL ONLY, HAS CONTINUED TO DECLINE IN ENROLLMENT AND NOW, ITSELF, IS NO LONGER SUSTAINABLE. The need for college-level students is imperative. I know it may be sad for us to become co-ed but I suspect that we will survive as we did after becoming a university. I want Pennsylvania¬†Female College-Pennsylvania College for Women-Chatham College-Chatham University to be with us for another 145 years since its inception in 1869. Many things have been altered in our world over the past years and WE ARE STILL HERE. The addition of males on campus has not been detrimental to the school nor to us as individuals.

Please add you voice to approve the necessary changes to enroll men as full undergraduate students in the College.

Please continue to give to Chatham financially during this time of turmoil and decision-making. This is my own personal plea to each of you. Chatham needs your support emotionally and verbally as well as financially.

Much love to all.

Secretary, Class of 1952 and unofficial “Mother Hen”

  1. Rachel Lenzi says:

    Let’s see. Chatham has posted two testimonials in favor of co-education and none against. State-run media.

  2. Kate M. says:

    Dr. Bruner, respectfully, typing in all caps is the equivalent of yelling what you’re writing.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this letter.

  3. Jennifer Grab says:

    Dear Dr. Bruner:

    I whole heartedly disagree with your request that Alumnae continue to financially support Chatham. Without a plan of how they are going to re-engage Alumnae after this vote (anyone who believes that the vote will be anything other than a vote for co-education is clearly missing Dr. Barazzone’s message during this entire ordeal).

    Dr. Barazzone, members of the Administration and the Board of Trustees have maintained a sense of disbelief that Alumnae would not blindly accept their plan and have been gobsmacked that we would actually question them. Nothing that Dr. Barazzone, members of the Administration and the Board of Trustees have promulgated up to this point has given any indication that they have a plan in place for after the vote takes places. How are they going to recruit men? How are they going to engage and keep current students who decided to go to Chatham because it was a women’s college? How are they going survive when they are just like every other private college/university in the Pittsburgh area? How are they going to compete with Carlow’s Women’s Institute?

    None of these questions have been answered. I will not blindly accept that this is the best decision. I will continue to question the Administration. I will continue to question members of the Board of Trustees. That is what my Chatham education taught me to do.

    Moreover, Dr. Bruner how much financial support did you give the Class of 2014 Senior Class Gift? I made a $250 matching gift. How much was your contribution?

    I will not be sad for awhile and then come back to support Chatham. I plan to and will take my financial support (“seed corn”) elsewhere.

    Jennifer S. Grab, CCW Class of 2007

  4. Lucia Melito says:

    Are you aware that Esther kicked a handful of alums off campus this morning? They were asking to delay the vote. Are you aware that she censored posts on the Chatham University Facebook page, posts that were in dissent with her views on coeducation? It may be time for “the best decision ever made” to step aside or nobody, not men nor women will want to come to Chatham. If you weren’t aware of this you can see how important it is to have open communication and all facts presented in order to make informed decisions. All many of us are saying is delay the vote until all facts can be studied and all alternatives reviewed. Esther may have betrayed your support today. Welcome to the Club.

  5. Nicole Hagan says:

    “The University has thrived but NOT the College.”

    The College can’t grow when you put all of your seed corn and fertilizer into the Graduate Programs and the School of Sustainability. It’s a mismanagement of the foundation of the University. Chatham College for Women is sure to die when left to rot without the proper resources and leadership for continued growth.

    “Please continue to give to Chatham financially during this time of turmoil and decision-making. This is my own personal plea to each of you. Chatham needs your support emotionally and verbally as well as financially.”

    You can not seriously be asking Chatham alumnae for financial donations in a time like this. Especially today, when alumnae were threatened for arrest if they did not leave the campus (I guess $200,000 in tuition doesn’t buy you future visitation rights to campus) and when Esther Barazzone openly said to alumnae this afternoon that the loss of our donations don’t matter in the future because “it’s only $650,000 anyway.” Why on Earth would anyone in their right mind who disagrees with the coed proposal give money to a college that the administration has run into the ground? Dr. Bruner, shame on you for asking alumnae who have been repeatedly dismissed by the administration to financially back an institution that long ago abandoned its fundamental values.

  6. Susan Comiskey Parker says:

    Excellent view—I have always contributed to CCW annual fund throught thick and thin. But no more. It will not be CCW in any sense. I believe we were blindsided and their attempt was to baffle us with BS (sorry for being crude) but that is exactly what it is.

  7. Susan Comiskey Parker says:

    This is a classic example of a University official–in this case president–who has grown too powerful. Look at what happened at Penn State.

  8. Susan Comiskey Parker says:

    When I received my Chathal alumnae association membership card in 1978, it said and we were told unequivocally that we were always welcome there. I was married in the Mellon House in 1988. I fear “our” Chatham is gone and probably has been for the last ten or so years….

  9. Asia M says:

    To the moderator(s) of the Chatham Feedback blog:

    If you are going to post blogs written by alumnae, then you should post blogs which represent the entire spectrum of alumnae viewpoints regarding a co-educational undergraduate college. I know for a fact that you have received many letters from concerned alumnae whose voices are not represented by these few alumnae posts. I know this because I wrote a letter and I have read dozens of other letters from alumnae who support Chatham College for women, forever. This seems like a “tit for tat” sort of move considering the hundreds of alumnae who have been very vocal regarding their protest against a co-educational undergraduate college.

  10. Asia M says:

    Also, the recent decline in Chatham College for Women enrollment cannot be solely attributed to its status as a women’s college. This is simply correlation, and most notably the most common form of data misinterpretation. Remember, correlation does NOT imply causation.

    To assess true causality, all other variables must be removed from the comparison, such as location, tuition costs, areas of study, retention rates, years to graduation, successful employment rates of graduates within their areas of study, graduation requirements, quality of life…. and all other concerns which may affect one’s choice to apply to or attend Chatham.

  11. Asia M says:

    And we must also consider the administration’s recruitment efficiency and methods.

    Above all, this is a complicated comparison, one that cannot be simply imputed to a single-sex undergraduate Chatham College.

  12. Charity M. Pitcher-Cooper, BSN, RN, PHN, IBCLC says:

    Until the specter of male privilege has been eradicated, Chatham College should remain for women.

  13. coug for life says:

    You say the enrollment is declining, but you mean from the high in 2008. In reality, Chatham’s undergraduate population has been relatively level. If it started dropping way below 500 then you’d have a point. It’s not like Chatham has lost 100s of students since 2008.

  14. coug for life says:

    Another note: why is there such little concern that so many younger alum want to keep the single sex undergrad school? Why are many of the pro coed posters graduates of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s? There seems to be a disconnect from reality somewhere on this issue. Saying all -women’s education is antiquated must be incorrect if SO MANY younger alum loved what they got from Chatham. Maybe things aren’t so progressive today that there is no need for CCW. If it really wasn’t so special there wouldn’t be such an outcry from alum that graduated within the last 10 years.

  15. Sheila Confer '94 says:

    Compared to all of the smart and reasonable letters I have read from women opposed to the co-ed move, this one is kind of a joke. “The best decision ever made!!!” Is this some 12 year old’s fan fiction? All caps? Are we children who need to be scolded? I agree with the other posters asking for dissenting opinions to be shared as well. How on earth can Chatham U even suggest they are promoting an open and fair exchange of ideas and opinions when it is only going one way?

  16. Michele 02 says:

    Dr. Bruner, although i respect everyone’s opinion i have to disagree with yours….yes, in the early 90s bringing EB in as the president was a good choice as she was in support of keeping the college single sex. and although she has done a lot for the school in her term as president, what she is doing now is not the best decision. Rash choices without plans (ie how are you recruiting women and now men to an overpriced institution with nothing to offer that will set you apart from other graduates), throwing away the one marketing tool that sets you part from the colleges within a 20 min radius of each other, etc do not make sense or the help people trust in your choices. Without the college, the university wouldn’t be and the university is thriving because the undergrad is being neglected. I like many will not be supporting a university that has consistently thrown back in our faces what support we have offered and i suspect many people outside the community will not support this institution because it is in turmoil. Its along the lines of planting seeds in questionable dirt–it may or may not grow…we very much could be the WOMEN’S college with the university opportunities if people would take the time to invest in the work that needs to be done to restore the college to what it was.

    on an unrelated note, Mr. Campbell– posting one or two people’s opinions of being for the co-ed transition rather proves that your group is a small yet passionate group of women…unlike the large passionate group of woman who continuously fight and post and work together to #savechatham wouldn’t you say?

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