September 10, 2006

Randy Mac Attack - Alea Iacta Est Update

The Board of Trustees of Randolph Macon Woman's College voted this weekend to take the school coed by next year. Apparently, it was a pretty ugly meeting.

Saturday morning, an agitated crowd of some 400 students, alumnae and their supporters greeted the board's announcement by drowning out trustees president Jolley Christman as she tried to explain.

"Today we begin to heal. We begin to write the next chapter in our history,," Christman said, barely audible over the shouting.

Talk of "healing" is, of course, well known p.c.-speak for "siddown and shaddap".

So here is Randy Mac's dilemna. The student body and alumnae are furious both because of the decision itself and because of the perception that the Board made it on the sly. Expect donations to crash and transfers out to spike.

At the same time, because there is already another Randolph Macon College, the school is going to have to come up with a brand new name and begin marketing to both male and female prospective students from scratch. And this in a Commonwealth already stocked with a first-rate state school system and several very well known private schools.

Color me dubious about the chances for success.

YIPS from Steve-O: Here's the USA Today version. I think the main problem they are having is that they've been saying for quite awhile that things were going well financially. If you are going to make a core change like this, there has to be time for the reality of the financial statements to sink in for their to be sucessful buy-in, as at schools like Wells and Hood that have made this change (and subsequently seen their enrollment numbers go through the roof). There's also something to be said against bad timing: this decision has been known on the ground as de facto having been made since before the end of the spring semester. Letting it hang out there like this was a case study in bureaucratic bungling of timing. At the end of the day, colleges and universities are firms in a peculiar market, but a market nonetheless. If their financial numbers are underwater, the only way to prevent the firm from going down is increased subsidy. For a private college, that's the endowment. But there are limits to even that, even for a wealthy school. Only 3% of young women will consider even applying to a women's college, and that's an increasingly tight demographic to compete in.

Posted by Robert at September 10, 2006 05:13 PM | TrackBack

Alia? Someone threw Muad-dib's little sister?

Posted by: Jeff at September 10, 2006 09:30 PM

Students and alumnae are not giving up.

There is a fund for legal defense and alumnae have hired a prominent Richmond, Va. firm.

Either the Board reverses this decision, or they face some very ugly legal consequences.

In addition, the student body has been protesting as loudly and civilly as it can. These weomen speak volumes about the confidence that a women's education gives.

Posted by: Emily Thompson at September 14, 2006 05:32 PM