Section: Features

Doris Crozier and the early days of co-education on the Hill

Doris Crozier and the early days of co-education on the Hill

Many of us know the Crozier Center for Women for its cozy common spaces, welcoming porch and friendly feline neighbor, but who exactly is the house on Wiggin Street named after? Doris Crozier was the dean of the Coordinate College for Women, guiding the first women to study on the Hill from 1969 to 1972 when the College became fully co-educational. This Women’s History Month, we honor Crozier’s contributions to campus life in the early days of co-education on the Hill.

In September of 1969, 160 women arrived on campus to begin their studies as the first students of the Coordinate College for Women. The question of co-education had been raised numerous times in the preceding years, as a 2023 Collegian article details. Facing financial difficulties in the second half of the 20th century, the College elected to admit women for the first time in an effort to mitigate the costs of operation. The Coordinate College was a separate entity from Kenyon, with the new female students not technically enrolled in the College proper and not permitted to sign the Matriculation Book. The women lived separately from their male peers (in Mather, McBride and Caples Residence Halls), and many of the Kenyon men proved to be none too happy about welcoming women to the community. 

Crozier was selected to lead the Coordinate College in December 1968. She was a professor of anthropology and had formerly been the assistant to the president at Chatham College. She had lived abroad and traveled extensively, teaching in Germany and Cambodia. An article from the fall 2013 issue of the Alumni Bulletin quotes the Kenyon officials who hired her as valuing her “excellent background in both administration and academics.” Like her students in the Coordinate College, Crozier was breaking a glass ceiling — she was the only female member of the administration and one of very few female faculty members (Professor of Drama Harlene Marley, the first female tenure-track professor, was hired the following year).

The Coordinate College’s approach to integrating led to fiery debates surrounding who could use which campus resources and when. Students and administrators alike clashed over whether women should be allowed in the library, with Provost Bruce Haywood telling the Collegian that “Two people who are sexually interested in each other cannot study well.” Haywood, who had been a key player in bringing women to the Hill despite his trepidation, suggested banning women from the library in the evenings, and the Coordinate College was provided with a reference library instead. 

Despite the many difficulties, Crozier remained resolute. In a Collegian article headlined “Crozier Insists on Self-Determination,” she is quoted as saying “The first class of 175 girls will be pioneers.” Crozier believed that the separatist structure of the Coordinate College would allow the women to forge their own identity outside of the Kenyon men. She specified that “it is not my province to be a mother or to act in loco parentis,” believing her students to be capable of independence. In spite of her strong rhetoric, Crozier was known for her maternal instinct toward her students. The same alumni bulletin writes that “she worried about her girls. She looked after them. When necessary, she loaned them her car.” Then-Dean of Students Tom Edwards recalled “She was gracious and warm. She loved those women and would have done anything in the world for them.” 

As the 1970s chugged along, the Coordinate College appeared increasingly superfluous. It was abolished in 1972, with then-President William G. Caples stating shortly after his retirement, “It didn’t take us very long in that first year to find out that the Coordinate College was a gross error. The women did not feel they were being treated equally. They felt they were second-class citizens. I think to a degree they were correct.” Crozier, on the other hand, advocated for the separation to remain. She saw the Coordinate College as a chance for a new, individual culture to emerge on the Hill, arguing that the concept was “an extremely good idea to [her] instead of mainstreaming girls into a men’s environment.” In 1979, seven years after the College became fully co-educational, Crozier reflected: “The Coordinate College died a natural death. Thereafter there wasn’t a real role for me here.”

Throughout her time as dean of the Coordinate College for Women, Crozier handled the many setbacks and frustrations with strength and grace, guiding her students through their time on the Hill with a warmth and determination that was unmatched. The Alumni Bulletin quotes her as claiming that “the women established their identity by proving individual excellence.” Today, the Crozier Center provides ample resources for everyone on campus, continuing Crozier’s important work of facilitating such excellence through community support. 

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