Chatham Speaker Highlights Value of Women’s Colleges
This evening, Gwen Ifill, managing editor and moderator of “Washington Week” as well as managing editor and co-anchor of “PBS NewsHours” will be speaking to Chatham and the Pittsburgh community as the 2014 Elsie Hillman Chair in Women and Politics for the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics.
The event, from 6 to 7:30 pm, will be located in the Chapel and is free to the public.
Ms. Ifill is an alumna of Simmons College, a women’s college in Boston, and, in past interviews, she has been outspoken about the benefit of her women’s college education.
One of the major arguments that Dr. Barazzone and the Board of Trustees have used to support the proposal to go co-ed is that only 2% of women are looking for a women’s college. Yet Ms. Ifill stated in a Reddit AMA interview in 2013 that she, like many women’s college graduates, was initally one of the 98%-ers, “I didn’t really mean to go to a women’s college.” She continues, echoing the sentiments of many Chatham alumnae. “It turned out to be one of my best decisions…. My Simmons education has always served me well.”
When asked in an interview by Laura Liswood, “How do we get women to assert their leadership entitlement?” as opposed to the more natural of men to lead without questioning their right to do so, Ms. Ifill again pointed to her time at Simmons. “See, going to [a] women’s college – in ways that I didn’t realize until I was out of school for years and years – really made a difference in that. And I still discover when I run into people now who went to women’s colleges or went to my college. Part of it is because we didn’t realize we were being taught it.”
The education a woman receives at a women’s college is more than just the book she reads, or the grades she receives. It is even more than the very specific career training she may be a part of. A common thread among women’s college graduates, Chatham alumnae included, is that their women’s college education prepared them in ways they couldn’t even begin to understand until they were out in the “real world.” Yet the advantages of a women’s college education are significant.
Unfortunately, despite the quantifiable benefits, attacks on women’s colleges are not new. In 2013, Wilson College voted to go co-ed amidst massive opposition from its students and alumnae. During that time period, Ms. Ifill was asked specifically about the fight at Wilson. Here is her response from an online Q&A:
While that says it all, there is one more statement that Ms. Ifill made that we feel is important for the Chatham administration to see.
In a commencement address she gave, Ms. Ifill stated, “I have a fairly simple piece of advice for you today. It’s this: look up. We are looking down these days as we walk, as we talk, as we text…It’s so much simpler to look down. Your feet are down there. Our screens are down there. But, out fears are down there too. Look up and away from the fear and you will see destinations and opportunities. Look up and you will see the chance to speak and act on behalf of the discouraged and the diminished. Look up and you will see the expectations you set for yourself can only be exceeded by the expectations we have of you. Look up.”
We understand that saving the College for Women may not be the easy choice., however it is absolutely the right choice. And we ask Dr. Barazzone and the Board of Trustees to look beyond their fears and to see the opportunities that exist for the women’s college in a sadly shrinking subset of education. It is imperative that as the stewards of 145 years of history, and the many, many years of Chatham’s future yet to come, they LOOK UP!! And we, as concerned alumnae will take Ms. Ifill’s words to heart and RESIST!
If you’re interested in hearing Gwen Ifill speak, you can find more information here: http://www.chatham.edu/events/details.cfm?eventID=11402