Women at the Summit: Do We Celebrate Coeducation?

As Trinity recognizes 50 years of coeducation, the College has promoted a series of events marketed as “Women at the Summit.” Programming has involved panels, guest speakers, and celebrations throughout campus and the world. My experience at Trinity and experience as a woman has been closely entwined. Before ever beginning classes as a first-year, I was a participant in in Venture, a pre-orientation program designed with women’s leadership in mind.

I benefited greatly from being so closely and quickly connected to a network of women at Trinity, a resource I hope every female student has access to today.
In the midst of our celebrations as a community, I recognize that Trinity has a lot to commemorate regarding this historic occasion. The College has made significant strides in enrolling and supporting women. I’m incredibly grateful for the various women on campus I have regarded as leaders and role models. Because of this, I have attended many of the “Women at the Summit” events to learn more about this anniversary at Trinity and recently attended one entitled, “Women in Leadership: A Conversation with President Joanne Berger Sweeney and Board Chair Cornie Thornburgh ’80.”

The conversation between the two women was especially significant, as Trinity is the first NESCAC school with both a woman president and board chair of the College. The two women spoke perceptively about their experiences as leaders, and how Trinity has changed and grown since making the decision to embrace coeducation fifty years ago.

To contribute to the conversation, moderator of the event Sarah Cody ’95 asked about student leadership at Trinity. The two panelists named two female students. Cody, who was excited to talk about her connection to the Tripod when she was a student, asked if the paper was today run by a woman. President Berger-Sweeney didn’t know, so she guessed and suggested that the editor-in-chief of the Tripod was one of the staff’s managing editors, a man.

I (Gillian) am the editor-in-chief of the Tripod and I have been since the fall of 2017, taking one semester off to study abroad between then and now. Despite this, the male students on the Tripod staff collectively receive more associations, correspondence, and questions for editor-in-chief of the Tripod than I do any given week of the academic year. For a long time, I blamed this community-wide lack of association for editor-in-chief of the Tripod on entirely myself—I wasn’t outgoing enough or I didn’t do enough work to promote the school newspaper. When I initially joined the Tripod editorial board as a first-year, I was working with mostly male editors, typically older than me. It was extremely intimidating to help on production nights or voice my opinion on articles. However, this gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about leadership and self-confidence during my time at the Tripod.

Throughout the celebrations of coeducation, I have noticed that there is a lack of recognition for student leadership on campus. Many of the student leaders on campus are women. They are leaders of sports teams, political clubs, cultural organizations, a capella groups, just to name a few. They are accomplishing impressive things that are changing our campus for the better. As I attend each “Women at the Summit” event, I see many of the same faces in the audience and many of the same people recognized as leaders. I fear that by calling these students “women leaders,” we are losing recognition of their accomplishments.

Additionally, if Trinity only recognizes one or two student leaders and one or two administrative leaders who are women throughout this celebration, while there are dozens of notable women on campus accomplishing important goals, I fear we are doing the mission of coeducation a disservice.

Today, the staff of the Tripod is still majority male. Many members of the Trinity community still assume that the person in charge of the paper is a man. These are all personal indicators to me that there remain strides to be undertaken in this celebration of coeducation. As we commemorate this occasion, it is important to keep in mind the obstacles women still face at Trinity.

Today, I am happy to work with male students who redirect Tripod correspondence to me or shout out to correct President Berger-Sweeney. For this historic occasion at the College, it is crucial to move past the idea of noting “women leaders” and instead highlight the work of many “leaders who are women.”

-GMR