As part of an ongoing, rotating showcase of recently digitized media in the lobby of the JKM Library, the Chatham University Archives & Special Collections is pleased to present “Issues for the 90s: A Conversation with the President.” This film features Dr. Rebecca Stafford, President of Chatham from 1983 until 1990, discussing a proposal for coeducation brought forth to the college community in 1990. The footage was reformatted through support from the Council of Independent Colleges. Members of the Chatham community and the public are welcome to enjoy the presentation.
The film digs into the questions and concerns alumnae had in the 1990s about the coeducation proposal, enrollment issues, and the future of Chatham College (now University). According to the footage, coeducation was being considered because of concern about enrollment projections and a desire to sustain the institution. Dr. Stafford mentions that growth in adult education at women’s colleges, like the Gateway Program at Chatham, served to increase enrollment numbers overall but did not provide a sustainable model over the long term. Rather, she concluded, Chatham needed to develop a plan to attract more residential students.
Moreover, it is illuminating to learn that coeducation had been considered several times over the course of Chatham’s history. The footage of Dr. Stafford was recorded in February of 1990, a full twenty-five years before Chatham’s undergraduate programs became coed. The Coeducation Debate Collection (click here for the finding aid) includes records of the first formal consideration of coeducation at Chatham in the late 1960s and petitions from faculty, students, and alumnae when the issue was raised in 1990. In the footage on view, Dr. Stafford mentions that Board of Trustees discussed coeducation when changing the school’s name from The Pennsylvania College for Women to Chatham in the 1950s. She notes the trustees were concerned that Chatham must “have a name that doesn’t have `women’ in it.”
The “Issues for the 90s: A Conversation with the President” is on view in the JKM Library lobby for the enjoyment of members of the public and the Chatham community. Those interested in exploring the history of coeducation at Chatham are encouraged to explore the film and related material in the Chatham University Archives and Special Collections.
By Janelle Moore, Archives Assistant, and Molly Tighe, Archivist & Public Services Librarian