April 15, 2008
A Contractual Right to Single-Sex Education?
According to the Associated Press, the Virginia Supreme Court heard on Monday from Wyatt B. Durrette, Jr., attorney for women students admitted to the Randolph Macon Women's College (now known as Randolph College) who have alleged that the college's governing board breached a contract with them by admitting men. Mr. Durrette pointed to advertising materials and brochures that touted the school's single-sex approach to education.
The suit was dismissed by a trial court last year. The school argues that the case is now moot, as 60 men have already been admitted. The case raised some interesting issues not only of contract but of education. Mr. Durrette analogized his clients' situation to that of a person admitted to a dentistry school who learned only after enrollment that it was really a veterinary school. The school countered that since students do not commit to staying at one school for all four years, enrollment in any particular school is really at most a one-semester contract. Mr. Durrette countered that it is more like a lease with an option to renew.
In a related case, the Virginia Supreme Court also heard argument in a case involving college donors to Randolph College who do not want their charitable contributions expended on a co-educational institution. As is common in such cases, the move to co-education is driven by low enrollments. Randolph's board hoped opening the college's doors to men would increase enrollment. So far, according to the AP, it has not had that effect.
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