The beginning of the new millennium signified a large state of transition for Lesley University. According to the Lesley University website, “In 2000 Lesley officially became a university, and its undergraduate program was renamed Lesley College. In 2003, Princeton Review named the university as one of the ‘Best Northeastern Colleges,’ and in 2004 Backpacker magazine named Lesley’s Audubon Expedition Institute as one of the ‘Top 5 Outdoor Education’ programs.”
However, all of that pales in comparison to the decision in 2005 to make Lesley University a coeducational university. For the first time in the school’s 96 year history, males would settle in at Lesley in Cambridge, Massachusetts in pursuit of a higher education. This radical move signified a progressive attitude in an evolving institution of learning. From an outside perspective, it seems that Lesley’s modern growth and success stems from these early decisions, with the current regime of administration looking to build upon the achievements of its predecessors.
The still developing Athletics Department currently enjoys a period of prosperity and success, particularly with softball and soccer; and as of February 2015, AIB students no longer need to trek into Boston for classes, instead opting for a nice, brisk walk up Massachusetts Avenue to the new campus for AIB (which is now known as LUCAD). It seems that all is alive and well at Lesley University. Unfortunately for the most recent demographic to join Lesley University, this is not the case.
2015 represents an interesting time in society for gender equality. Ninety-four years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, society has witnessed an admirable breakthrough for women’s rights. Figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Oprah, and Robin Roberts acted as trailblazers for their gender, showing the potential and ability of women. In 2008, Barack Obama made history by becoming the first African-American man to serve as President of the United States. History could potentially be made again, with former First Lady Hillary Clinton looking like a prime candidate for the Democratic Party in the 2016 Presidential election. Such progress gives feelings of optimism about the present and future, but perhaps a call for pause and reflection is in order.
Each advancement leaves its own trail of consequences. For many members of the male population here at Lesley University, a decade after the University’s most groundbreaking move, this institution represents an environment that struggles to help the male population affirm its male identity. For the last three semesters at Lesley, all courses that specialized in gender were only focused on female. Even gender neutral courses incorporated a heavy focus on women. According to an anonymous male student, “I had a course where I was one of two male students. I felt very distracted by all the focus on women. At many times it was unnecessary and forced, which took away from the quality of the subject matter. I’m a supporter of gender equality but many times the fine line between passion and overkill was unprofessionally crossed.” This attitude often finds its way into university policy. At the exclusively female housing dorm Sacramento House, the Community Advisor (CA) informed the residents during a hall meeting that, “There are some people in this hall who feel uncomfortable with guys walking aimlessly around the house.” The CA then went on to establish a policy which mandates that unless male visitors are using the bathroom, they must be escorted by a female resident at all times. From one perspective, this makes sense; Sacramento House recently experienced a break-in with a male intruder. However this “gender profiling” is very questionable, and for some males offensive; it is basically the same type of profiling as the age-old act of a store employee constantly harassing an African-American patron. More so than any other biological difference between human beings, gender is the initial part of human identity that every human possesses, regardless of creed, or race, or any other societal difference.
Despite all of the problems, there are many positives from this situation. The fact that Lesley University cultivates an atmosphere that allows women to affirm their feminine selfhood is amazing. A place like this is important so that our society gets one step closer to not only gender equality, but equality for all; success for one group sets an example for others to follow. However, it is crucial that feminists in the search for the rights of a historically oppressed group do not become the oppressors themselves. Sophomore Casey Terzian sums up this whole idea perfectly stating, “I think feminism had great values at its start, but many Lesley individuals who identify as feminists take it to the extreme, to the point where it almost invalidates the entire campaign. Gender equality is one thing, but a lot of the ‘feminists’ here turn the term into man-hating females who deserve to be superior, and that’s not exactly the definition of equality, is it?” So, let us work together, with the hope that we can live peacefully amongst each other and embrace our differences as both females and males.