The Debate Intensifies
In the late 1960s, University President Edgar Shannon began to question whether U.Va. could attain a reputation as a first-class institution while excluding female students. Other all-male schools such as Yale, Dartmouth, and Princeton were moving towards coeducation. At this time, women still could not gain admission to U.Va.'s College of Arts and Sciences. A few exceptions had been made over the years, including during the Great Depression and World War II when enrollment dropped sharply. Additionally, some faculty daughters were admitted to the College starting in the 1950s.
Shannon appointed a committee to study the issue of coeducation in 1967. Professor T. Braxton Woody headed the group which included faculty members and administrators from the University and Mary Washington College. Over the next sixteen months, the committee researched the issue, consulting with lawyers, faculty, staff, students, and alumni. In the Fall of 1968, the Woody Committee published a report detailing its findings. The report stated that:
[The University of Virginia] is the only state university in the nation which by closing its main campus to college women, forces them to attend a separate, autonomous college sixty-five miles away from the parent institution.
The Woody Committee, with one member dissenting, recommended the full admission of women to the College. The Board of Visitors released the committee's report in December 1968 and directed Shannon to detail a plan for implementation. They expressed their full intention to vote for the admission of women to the University at the next meeting in February 1969.
In 1968 the U.Va. Student Council appointed a committee to investigate student reaction to women in the College; the committee concluded that coeducation was highly desirable.
Signed petitions collected at the time attest to the fact that the majority of students at the University supported coeducation in the College.
The Woody Commission report of November 1968 drew on responses from a diverse University body. The report detailed the pros and cons of becoming a coeducational institution.
Concerns expressed by the chief opponents of coeducation included the possible effect of the change on the honor system, on women’s colleges in Virginia, and on the University’s resources. Objections among students and alumni to this system were another concern.
Despite these issues, the committee asserted that University policies discriminated against women and that coeducation would strengthen the academic and social life of the University.