Reflecting on his decision 41 years ago opening the University of Notre Dame to female undergraduates, University President Emeritus Father Ted Hesburgh, described why he chose to make the institution co-educational.
“I said, ‘Look, I’m in charge, and this is what I think is important,” said Fr. Hesburgh, who led the University between 1952 and 1987. “If we we’re going to be the greatest Catholic university, we should be open to women as well as to men.’”
While he supported opening the campus to female students, he resisted efforts to make the residence halls co-ed.
“I can see where women can entertain men in the halls, but come midnight, the old bell goes off and the men leave, and the women get in their PJs and talk women talk,” said Fr. Hesburgh. “The space is all theirs.”
In the article, Fr. Hesburgh also describes the “impossible conditions” – including overlapping programs and departments – that have repeatedly prevented the University from merging with the nearby St. Mary’s College, which has remained a women's college.
“Women more and more have had their say on campus. … Men and women tend to think very much along the same lines at a Catholic university,” he said. “I’d have to work hard to scrape up a problem [between men and women]. … I think we get along as a happy family where we’re both making good contributions to the good of the whole enterprise.”
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