Fifty years ago I was a senior in high school beginning my college application process. One of the applications was to the University. Little did I know that I was going to be a “pioneer.” Campus was about half the size it is today. I wanted to go to the best university to give me the best future. The process was “snail” mail and computers were not part of our lives. The wait period seemed to take forever — no universal notification or class celebration. Four hundred new students joined the 375 women from the 1972-73 year. We made up about 10 percent of the student body — about 6600 total in the late ‘70s.
Given the task to write a “50 years of Women on Campus” reflection, I wonder what is it that I want new students to know about what was and what is now. Do I want you to know what campus looked like 50 years ago? What was here, what intentionality was given to have women here? Women were given a men’s hall — which definitely was built for men. The first year Badin and Walsh Halls were occupied by the first 350 women with Farley and Breen Phillips the next to go to women students and upping the total to 650. The halls opened with urinals in the bathrooms, which were quickly filled with a flower pot. The women’s halls received washers and dryers in our basement as the men had laundry service. Yes, that was only the beginning of the noticeable differences. The women’s halls had “detex” entry systems and evening guards at the doors. Male classmates had to be escorted by their host.
After working with the women for the past eight years, I wonder about our similarities and what have we done to move women to a new place. Speaking with the women students I realize we all suffer from the “imposter syndrome.” We worked to climb to the top in high school. Studied to achieve the best grades, held leadership positions, volunteered, membership in interest clubs, vocational experience, etc. There were no gaps in our experiences. We then decided to apply to the best of the best universities that would provide us with the best future options. We were achieving the next “steps.” Not sure if we set the visions or if it was assumed from our influencers. Somehow, we didn’t or haven’t learned that we are capable and talented women deserving of the gifts and earned accomplishments. THIS IS ONE WISH FOR ALL: YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!
Campus was significantly smaller — no mod quad, east quad, nor west quad.
Women wanted the opportunity to participate in athletic competition. During the first five years women had to initiate the sports; field hockey, fencing softball, volleyball, rowing. It is wonderful seeing women in Fencing, Swimming and Diving, Lacrosse, soccer, Basketball, softball, track and field, etc. In addition, the representation with boxing, rugby, etc., have provided the much needed athletic outlets. The participation includes more reasonable times for practice and quality of equipment. We are also celebrating 50 years of Title IX-women or girls did not have the opportunity to participate in sanctioned sports. How exciting! Domer women will have been given many opportunities.
The one thing that remains consistent is the transitional journey. I still remember the uncertainty and feelings of being out of place. We all do what we need to do to make it comfortable, making friends, participating in sports, walking around the lakes, taking naps, crafting, etc. Home under the Dome takes time and work! The noticeable difference is that women are on campus and it is as common as seeing another male student! This has not always been the case. We can thank Fr. Hesburgh for his insight and desire to make campus more inclusive, in all ways.
I had the privilege of returning to the University as a Rector, after 35 years in higher education having worked in private and public universities. The past eight years I have been able to serve the students and the university in this role. The experience has been so exciting to see the changes the University has made to assist women and all students.
The overall growth (6000 to 10000) of the university has continued to bring the gender into balance. To walk on campus and NOT have a clue that 51 years ago campus was all male is a great achievement. To see the influences from women — academically, administratively, athletically and aesthetically has improved the overall beauty and comfort. I know Fr. Ted is smiling down, along with Our Mother, marveling at the women’s presence.
Carol A. Latronica
class of ’77