At their March, 2011 bi-annual meeting, the Trustees of Deep Springs College voted to undertake deliberations regarding the question of coeducation at Deep Springs. Deep Springs has had an all-male student body since its founding in 1917. The entire population of the college at any one time averages about 25 students, as well as 20 faculty, staff and community members. With exceptions for emergencies and religious observance, all students are required to remain on the isolated desert campus (40 miles from town) during academic term. Students work every afternoon on the college’s ranch, farm and facility operations, and help manage the college as a self-governing student body.
This small, isolated community was founded by Lucien L. Nunn as a ‘school for young men’ that would provide exceptional training for lives of leadership and service. In the intervening 94 years, much has changed in the cultural landscape of America and in higher education, particularly regarding single-sex education. The trustees have formally considered the question of coeducation at Deep Springs on two previous occasions: once in 1979 and again in 1993. Both times, the board vote resulted in no action and the college remained single-sex. Since the mid-1990s the college has successfully renovated its physical infrastructure and grown its endowment despite the 2008-09 recession. From this position of strength, the board’s most recent strategic review identified the possibility of coeducation as one of the most important long-term questions for college governance.
For their deliberations, the trustees will review records of proceedings from past formal considerations of the question, conduct listening forums with alumni and friends of the college at selected sites around the country, solicit correspondence and input online, and hold community meetings at the campus. Board Chair Dave Hitz solicited input in a letter to the extended Deep Springs community, the contents of which are below. Following discussions throughout the summer, the board will consider the question formally at their September meeting and vote whether to continue the all-male policy or to initiate planning for an eventual transition to coeducation. Questions regarding this process may be addressed to David Welle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Letter from Trustee Chair, Dave Hitz
March 28, 2011
Dear Alumni and Friends,
In the early 1990s, a TDS discussion on whether Deep Springs should become co-educational ended as the board realized that – coed or not – the school might not survive another decade. The participants quit the debate in a stalemate, set aside their differences, and came together to save the college. Since then, we have rebuilt much of the physical infrastructure of the college, added a new student dormitory, built a solar field, rebuilt a hydro plant, and grown our endowment investments to $15 million.
In light of this progress, and as part of our on-going strategic planning process, the board has decided to spend the next 6 months deliberating on whether or not Deep Springs should become co-educational. At the next board meeting, in September, we will vote on whether to begin planning for a transition.
In past deliberations, as I understand them, the question of whether to become coed was combined with the question of how to do it. This time, we decided to focus first on whether; we will only spend time planning how if we conclude that co-education would be desirable. We agreed that such an important change should require a two-thirds vote of the board.For our deliberations, we plan to review our earlier studies and reports, and we also want to solicit input from alumni and friends of the college. We are looking for thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of co-education, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of being all male.
If you have any insights or experiences to share, please send them to email@example.com or to:
Coed Discussion Deep Springs College HC 72 Box 45001 Dyer, NV 89010-9803
We also plan to conduct listening sessions that will allow trustees to hear from friends and alumni in person. We will use already planned gatherings, including the reunion over Memorial Day and the visits to New York and Washington, and we hope to schedule more. My personal view is that we have two reasonable alternatives. There are legitimate arguments in favor of an all-male Deep Springs, just as there are good arguments in favor of the all-female schools that exist. And likewise, there are legitimate arguments in favor of coed. Both have advantages, and surely also disadvantages. But this is just me. We’ll find out what everyone else thinks.
In the past, the cost of going coed has often been the elephant in the room. The exact cost is unclear, but we might lose gifts, might need to replace part of the endowment, and will probably incur facilities costs. To defuse this issue and allow us to discuss what we want to do rather than what we can afford to do, I offer to underwrite the incremental costs of going coed so as to make this decision financially neutral for the college. I do this with trepidation, because I hate conditional donations that attempt to control the college. I don’t want to sway the decision; I want only to eliminate the financial concern. I have been a strong contributor in the past, never with strings attached, and I fully intend to continue supporting Deep Springs whether it is single-sex or coed. This brings me to my final point.
To help establish the tone of this discussion, I make the following pledge: I commit to love, support, and nurture Deep Springs, whichever way the coed decision turns out. This pledge may be easier for me than for some because my own views are conflicted – my instincts change from day to day. Still, I hope others will join in this pledge. To keep our deliberation cordial, let us all try to keep our minds open, listen to each other with respect, and restrain ourselves if the tenor slips from cooperative discussion into contentious debate. On behalf of the board, let me again welcome your thoughts and experiences.
Dave Hitz DS’80
Chairman, Trustees of Deep Springs