Chatham faculty statement backs decision to consider going coed

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Chatham University has released an unsigned statement it says was approved by the university's faculty endorsing a controversial decision by school trustees to consider admitting men into the undergraduate women's college to ease enrollment and financial woes.

University spokesman Bill Campbell said Friday that faculty representatives who helped draft it did not wish to be interviewed, nor do they want to release a vote total or a breakdown of votes cast for and against.

The statement immediately was criticized as not credible Friday by an alumnae group trying to preserve the 145-year-old single-sex college.

Authors in the statement refer to themselves only as "the faculty of Chatham University."

The four-paragraph message said it is once again time for Chatham to change.

"We recognize that the proposal to become coeducational is based on the need to expand and enrich our undergraduate college in response to changing demographics and student interests in higher education," it read in part. "We want our students to have a range of choices in their majors and courses, vibrant classrooms, and robust programs. Therefore, the faculty of Chatham University conclude that the next logical step is for the Board of Trustees to consider coeducation to help us achieve these goals.

"We do not consider this option lightly, nor do we consider it a panacea."

It was unclear how many votes by full-time faculty eligible to take part came from those teaching within the all-women's college or from other areas of Chatham already coed. It was posted Thursday to a blog on Chatham's website.

Mr. Campbell said the statement was not an outright endorsement of going coed, noting it also asked that trustees consider all options and listen to all constituencies. He said the university has 106 full-time faculty.

"At this point, the faculty reps do not wish to speak to the media and refer all [interview] requests to the statement as their official position on the resolution/issue under discussion," he said by email Friday.

He said a trustee vote on the coed idea is expected either May 1 or June 6. "When that happens ... I'm working to have faculty representation lined up to speak to the media."

Alexa New, a 2008 graduate from Cleveland and a spokeswoman for a group dubbed the Save Chatham movement, said the anonymous statement is one more reason members have grown frustrated with the process.

"We simply can't give a statement like this any weight without it being signed by name," she said. "Chatham administration should answer: Who are the faculty members included in this vote?"

Chatham does not have an elected faculty body, Mr Campbell said. Instead, the statement idea was put forward by administrators who serve on Chatham's "University Committee," which met with undergraduate and graduate faculty respectively on March 21 and 27. The panel consists of six administrators, six faculty and Chatham president Esther Barazzone, who did not attend either meeting, Mr. Campbell said.

Undergraduate faculty voted initially to take a position, Mr. Campbell said. A draft statement had already been initiated by the dean of the women's college and the vice president of academic affairs in collaboration with faculty on the panel, Mr. Campbell said. One or more modified versions were considered before the statement was approved, Mr. Campbell said. It also was approved during the graduate faculty meeting.

He would say only that there was a quorum at both meetings.


Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG.

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