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Old-line Women's College Opens its Doors to Men

A couple of generations ago, there were hundreds of women's colleges in the United States. Now, by one count, there are just 60.

Or make that 59, beginning next year, when one of the oldest and most prestigious -- -- will begin admitting men for the first time in 115 years. And what shocked Randolph-Macon students who have been parading around campus with signs that read "Better Dead Than Coed" the vote by the school's board of directors wasn't even close. Even though many of the alumnae who have contributed $160 million a year to the school threatened to withdraw their support, the vote on the board was a stunning 25 to 2 to admit men.

Why are guys needed on the Randolph-Macon campus? Enrollment at the single-sex school has dropped steadily since the 1960s, as many young women and their parents perceive that the cocoon approach to teaching women doesn't work any longer in a nation in which women now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men in many workplaces and boardrooms. And a lot of young women who went to high school with boys just don't want -- or believe they need any longer -- what Randolph-Macon's founder called "a school of their own."

Randolph-Macon Woman's College will have to change its name as well as its admission procedures. It cannot just call itself Randolph-Macon College, because there's a smaller school by that name elsewhere in Virginia.

Here are some new names that might work. Or not: "Guys and Dolls U." "Adam and Eve College." "Lads and Lassies University." And, closer to the serious purpose of this highly regarded academic institution, one more: "Randolph-Macon Gender Equity College."