It was business as usual, almost, last week at Goucher College, as the new academic term began at the school in the Baltimore County seat of Towson.
What was different was the freshman class. For the first time in the school's 102-year history, there are men in it, 32 out of 290. In addition, the upper classes include six male transfer students, one of whom began attending classes at Goucher last spring.
"It's noticeable, but it's nice," said Amy Maiers, a freshman from Kansas City, Mo., who said academic programs and location were why she chose Goucher.
Matthew Dolan, a sophomore transfer student from Prince George's Community College, said he chose Goucher because he had heard from female friends he knew there that "they worked hard and they partied hard."
Dolan said his presence in classes has caused little stir, except in his women's studies course, where he is the only male student.
"I can just feel a little tension and hostility," he said. "No one said a word. But every five minutes, I felt another pair of eyes burning into the back of my head, like, 'What are you doing here?' "
In an effort to reverse declining enrollment, the school trustees voted last year to go co-ed, following a trend that has changed the one-sex student bodies of men's and women's colleges from Harvard to Vassar.
To help sexually integrate the school, Goucher hired its first two male recruiters and also a men's soccer and lacrosse coach. Also, it dispatched its new recruiters to all-boy high schools as well as other co-ed schools.
"We were trying very carefully to recruit men able to do well in the experience of being a minority," said Judy Phair, vice president for public relations, who predicted that the male enrollment will gradually rise.
Overall, she said, applications were up 50 percent for this year's freshman class. Twelve percent of the applicants were men, she said. She said that the school did not lower its standards to admit more men and that it rejected several.
The male students are housed on separate floors in two of three dormitories on the suburban campus. The other two floors of the three-story dorms are occupied by women, but the students all eat together.
"It's strange, after going to a women's school for three years, seeing guys eating at my lunch table," said senior Cami Colarossi. "It's a refreshing change. We're all in it together. In a sense, we're a family. We don't really view ourselves as the women and the men."