Hey you, average male student over there! See that girl standing in the Pit? Well, take a good look and think about how over 50 years ago there was no scoping of the chicks on this campus. That girl wouldn’t even be standing there in the first place because the Pit didn’t exist – Wilson Commons opened in 1976 – but also, UR was not a co-educational school. So, technically, she would not be allowed to stand by the Pit even if there were one.
In the fall of 1955, UR decided to allow women to move onto the main River Campus and to convert the classrooms into co-educational settings. Despite the fact that Rochester had been a pioneering city in “girl power,” thanks mostly to Susan B. Anthony, women had been educated separately at a campus located on Prince Street. The university merged the campuses largely for financial reasons – it was more expensive to maintain two campuses.
The men lived in the already existing dorms such as Burton and Crosby, while new residence halls were built for women on the opposite side of campus. If men were to visit women, they were only allowed on the main floor. The women were also given a curfew – gasp! – and had to sign in and out. Back then, Todd Union was considered the cool place to mix with the opposite sex, usually over a game of bridge.
Certain compromises were made to represent the voices of both “the princesses'” – women’s – and “river rats'” – men’s. A prime example would be the collaboration of the two campus newspapers – The Campus (River Campus) and The Tower Times (Prince Street Campus). This was merged into the Campus Times.
This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the admittance of women to the UR. So, next time you are sitting in class and two annoying girls are chattering behind you, just remember that 50 years ago they wouldn’t have been there at all. Then you would have to pay attention to the professor, and what good would that do?
Lepore can be reached at email@example.com.