Deep Springs College on Wednesday formally invited women to apply for admission to the class that will enroll in the fall of 2013. Deep Springs announced last year that it would admit women, but the college didn't specify a timetable. The college is a small, unusual institution that admits very small classes (currently, enrollment in the two-year program is 26, and there are no plans to increase enrollment with coeducation) of highly intelligent students who take intense courses while managing both the college and its farm in an isolated spot in the High Desert of California. Students who complete the program are admitted as transfer students to some of the most competitive colleges in the country. All students receive a full scholarship (worth $50,000 a year).
David Neidorf, the president, said in an interview that the college would make no changes -- "none whatsoever" -- in its academic or non-academic expectations of students. He said that the main decision the college faced, after deciding to admit women, was whether to go gender-blind in admissions or to aim to admit classes with roughly equal numbers of men and women. The college opted for the latter approach for now, with the goal of "critical mass," he said. He said he expected that at some point in the future, the college would become gender-blind in admissions.
Some alumni who disagree with the decision to admit woman have sued the college to block coeducation. The official invitation to women states that, due to litigation, "we may be prevented from admitting them to the college," but goes on to express optimism that coeducation will start in 2013. Neidorf said that much of the legal challenge focuses on a specific trust that was set up to support the education of men. He said that this trust provides only about 9 percent of the college's funds, so that Deep Springs plans to rely on its other financial resources until the litigation ends.
Some critics of coeducation at Deep Springs have questioned whether student romances may become more prevalent and potentially problematic at Deep Springs with both male and female students present in an isolated, closely knit environment. Neidorf said that there will be "no hard and fast rules," but that there would be discussion of the values of "self-conscious introspection" and "collective responsibility" with regard to the personal choices students make.
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