Undergraduate male students move in at Wilson College, once all-women's

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Aug 22, 2014 4:00 AM

(Chambersburg) -- A new batch of freshmen is moving into Wilson College in Franklin County, as the start of school nears, and this class is the first of its kind - it has male undergraduate residential students.

About 25 of the 150 students in the class of 2018 at Wilson are men, and of that group, 15 are joining one of the school's sports teams. It's also the largest class at the liberal arts school in Chambersburg in more than 40 years.


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Incoming students at Wilson College, which now admits both men and women as undergraduate students, participate in an icebreaker at orientation.

Christian Wagner, a freshman from Frederick, Maryland, says looking around the room at freshman orientation, he began to count the number of guys.

"Mmmm, like 5."

How did that make him feel?

"It's different than high school. It's not 50-50, it's 95-5."

Zach Asper from Pottsville was recruited to play basketball at Wilson, and says the relatively small class initially got his attention, and then the co-ed switch convinced him to make the jump.


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Incoming students and their families take a tour of Wilson's campus.

"More excitement than nervousness. Be that first class with the males that gets to graduate so that'll be pretty neat, just to see that."

The decision to admit male undergrads as residents has met pushback.

A group of vocal alumae argues the school is going against its original charter as a women’s college, and took its case to the state Department of Education in June.

The three-member panel is expected to decide whether Wilson's decision is legal at some point this fall.

The so-called Wilson College Women say they have a lawyer ready to bring a lawsuit if the school disregards the state's decision.

Spokesman Brian Speer says the change isn't stretching its resources.

"Its gonna be one of the those things where I think we're gonna be able to handle it and learn and adjust on the fly, and make this a comfortable situation for everyone."


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

He maintains the school has been thoughtful about the changes.

"The residential experience is gonna be a little bit different. I think the students that are coming in, they expect it, and the students that are returning have really been a part of the planning for it, and so they've all embraced it."

Upperclassmen aren't due to show up until this weekend, but some were already back as orientation leaders.

Lindsey Sutton, a junior from Greencastle, Pennsylvania, says she's already had guys in her classes - some were admitted as commuters last year - and she’s excited to see what's to come...

"It's a cool change, it'll be interesting to see how the transition is. How the different dorms decide on different rules and the living situations so I think it's kinda cool."

Sutton says she didn't pick Wilson because it was an all-women's college at the time, but she knows some people who did.

Speer says the male residents will live in a part of one dorm on campus.

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