Celebrating 50 Years of Coeducation
I just finished reading my current issue of the Lehigh Bulletin and was happy to see the articles and celebration of women at Lehigh. I am one of the women of the Class of ’77 and have been thankful my entire career for the great education and support I received from Lehigh University. ...
I wanted to highlight that Lehigh did so much to facilitate the huge change it was undertaking in becoming an undergraduate coeducational university. Lehigh, like many industries and professions in the ’70s, was opening doors and avenues for women that had never been open. Was it perfect?... Absolutely not, but it continued to improve, … like industry, which is key. … Lehigh provided me with scholarships and loans which allowed me to continue at Lehigh after my father had medical expenses that prohibited his ability to pay for school. I would not have had the wonderful career I had without that support.
The ’70s were an interesting time of change for women. As my favorite author on diversity, Roosevelt Thomas Jr., would write, entire engines had to be rebuilt/refined to efficiently burn the new incoming fuel, ... referring to diverse workforces and students entering established white male environments. Lehigh took the steps to build a new engine that included women in such a great educational institution. As most change, it’s hard, takes time, and has lots of bumps along the way. It’s exciting to see how far it has come. I am proud to have been part of that history … and better prepared for life in the business world for having had that experience.
Sue Capps Morris ’77
I cannot tell you the joy with which I received the “Soaring Together” edition of the Lehigh Bulletin. It meant a great deal to me that Lehigh women have been so successful these 50 years. I received my master’s degree from Lehigh in 1967 and my Ph.D. in 1976. In those early years graduate women formed a consciousness-raising group and helped each other cope with the hypermasculine values of many academics and university undergraduates. I grew up in South Bethlehem not far from the campus. As a young woman I had to be careful walking on the campus to avoid the catcalls and worse from the undergraduates.
Thank you for this edition.
Jean E. Friedman ’67G ’76Ph.D.
I’m a member of the first class of women at Lehigh. To be clear, I received a fine education at Lehigh and was honored to be the first female editor of the Epitome. I served as a class correspondent for a time and even wrote a letter of recommendation last year for a young woman who had selected it as her first choice. And I understand and accept that the Lehigh Bulletin is a communications tool, not a news magazine.
But I was chagrined to see that no woman from the first or even second class of women was included in “Soaring Together” and thus the piece did not remotely represent how wholly unprepared Lehigh and its students, faculty and administration were for coeducation. There is a hint from Jim Spinner, Class of ’73, quoted separately later in the Bulletin, “I hadn’t thought much about what the atmosphere would be like but it quickly became apparent how unnatural and unpleasant the all-male environment would be… I don’t think any of us knew what to make of the first group of women that arrived. I thought they were incredibly brave…” Brave? He knew things we had yet to learn. ... there was intentional intimidation by faculty, indifference from the administration and harassment by (some) male classmates. Yes, it was a different era, and there wasn’t yet a name for date rape, but it was there.
And it persisted. Although Lehigh spokesman William Johnson told The New York Times in 1988 that “violent crime was not a major problem on campus,” the university published figures that fall documenting 23 cases of violent crime on campus in 1987, including one rape and 22 cases of assault.
And it seems that as recently as this week, according to The Brown & White, Lehigh is still dragging its feet on sexual harassment claims against a former professor filed in 2019 under the federal Clery Act, a statute that is itself the result of a rape and murder committed at Lehigh.
The experience of women at Lehigh has, no doubt, greatly improved since I graduated in 1975. But I don’t see that Lehigh’s actions defending women in the wake of discrimination, harassment, assault and rape have changed all that much.
The story of women at Lehigh is a much deeper and ongoing one.
Louise Tutelian ’75
Editor’s Note: Lehigh takes any reports of sexual harassment, assault or misconduct very seriously and investigates all reports received. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) initiated a review of the university’s compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) in the fall of 2020. The university has complied with all requests from the DOE in a timely manner and looks forward to any recommendations for improvements that may result from the review. Additionally, since 1975, Lehigh has put policies into place to address these issues, as well as created the Office of Gender Violence Education & Support to support individuals experiencing sex-based misconduct and the Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Office to advance the university’s commitment to a more diverse and inclusive campus. A dedicated Equal Opportunity Compliance Coordinator position also was created. Lehigh’s efforts are identified at length in its Annual Security Report, which can be found at go.lehigh.edu/securityreport21.