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Chatham University trustees set vote on going co-ed

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 11:24 a.m.
 

Chatham University trustees, who have been weighing a proposal to take the school's 145-year-old undergraduate women's college co-ed since February, are scheduled to vote behind closed doors on Thursday on whether to admit men to the college, reorganize Chatham's academic units and establish the Chatham University Women's Institute.

Chatham spokesman Bill Campbell confirmed that the three-part proposal is on the agenda for the 1 p.m. meeting. He said the university scheduled a press briefing with Chatham President Esther Barazzone, board chair Jennifer Potter and former board chairs Sigo Falk, Murray Rust, Louise Brown and Jane Burger to discuss the outcome of the vote.

Kelly McKown, a 2002 Chatham graduate who has been working on an alumnae campaign to keep Chatham a single-sex school, said alumnae who have petitioned the board to delay the vote for a year will attend on Thursday to urge trustees, again, to delay the vote.

“It's not a surprise to us that they're voting. We suspected it was a foregone conclusion and that the discussion period for alumnae to speak out was little more than due diligence and appeasement,” McKown said.

She said the Save Chatham Facebook page has tallied more than 26,000 views in the past week, and a letter seeking Barazzone's resignation attracted more than 170 signatures.

Barazzone has cited soaring costs and dwindling enrollment in the women's college as being among the reasons officials are considering admitting men.

On Tuesday, Chatham announced that Karol Dean, dean of the university's undergraduate college for women, resigned. Wenying Xu, Chatham's vice president for academic affairs, said Dean will become dean of the school of social and behavioral sciences at Mercy College in New York. The college has four campuses and an enrollment of 11,000 students in the metropolitan New York area.

In an email, Dean, who joined the staff at Chatham in January 2012, said she is grateful for the opportunities she had there.

“Chatham College for Women benefits from a devoted and inspiring faculty, engaged students and dedicated staff who together create a profound learning environment.

“Because of the decline in the number of high school graduates in the Western Pennsylvania region, I join the faculty in encouraging the Board of Trustees to examine all options, including the option of expanding the primary undergraduate program to become a mixed-sex program, in the interest of maintaining a vibrant intellectual community,” she wrote.

Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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