Tuesday, April 26, 2011

University Women's College, University of Melbourne

Original entrance to University 
Women's College
University Women's College, University of Melbourne

Location: Parkville, Australia

Opened: 1937

Closed: Went co-ed in 1975, and name changed to University College

A couple of things I noted in the college's official history below.

There were four men's residential colleges associated with the University of Melbourne before a residential women's college was started. This is a typical mismatch of men's institutions to women's institutions.

Despite this mismatch, it was still a 16-year struggle to get University Women's College off the ground. So much for an immediate redress to inequity...

From the College website:

Planning for the college's establishment began in 1917, when a group of women and men associated with the University of Melbourne organised a Provisional Committee to found a residential college for women, equal in status to the then existing four men's colleges of the University. In 1933, after a 16 year period of struggle and endeavour, the Provisional Committee was granted by Act of Parliament five and a quarter acres on which to establish a college for women attending the University of Melbourne. The foundation stone of University Women's College was laid in 1936 by Lady Huntingfield, wife of the then Governor of Victoria.

The first wing of the college (The Georgina Sweet Wing) had yet to be completed when the college opened for the 1937 academic year with nine students. A third storey was added in 1938, as was the Ellis Wing, which was opened in 1939. The full complement of residents was 42 students and four tutors. In the following years the College rapidly expanded and the wings of Syme (1953), Fraser (1958), Williams (1959), and Roper (1963) were added to the original building.

Of course, when the college went co-ed in 1975, it changed its name. After all, we wouldn't want "the menz" to be uncomfortable or anything. This is also a common pattern when women's colleges go co-ed. They bend over backwards to be accommodating and encouraging to men, even if it means changing their very name. (The administration of the Mississippi University for Women, now co-ed by court order, is also trying to impose a name change despite widespread alumnae opposition.) By contrast, men's schools tend to make very few changes after going co-ed, except for maybe adding a few more bathrooms.

By the way, St. Hilda's College, Melbourne's only other residential women's college, wasn't founded till 1964. But less than ten years later, it was co-ed as well (1973).

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