Gender-based policies restricted female students

Though the sight of male and female college students partying together until the wee hours of the morning is common at GW today, 35 years ago unsupervised coed socializing was tightly restricted.

Until the social liberation of the 1960s, the GW administration acted as a parent’s surrogate in supervising its students. It was not until Lloyd Hartman Elliott’s presidency began in 1965 that the University began to increase students’ freedom and responsibilities.

Most of the regulations in place at the time governed female students, while male students escaped many of the harsher regulations.

First-year undergraduate women were not allowed out after 11 p.m. during the week, and were required to be in their residence halls by 1 a.m. on weekends.

As late as the fall of 1965, female residents were still required to submit parental permission slips at the beginning of each school year, which allowed University authorities to determine if female students were allowed sign-out privileges, according to From Strength to Strength, a university archival publication.

Parents could give blanket permission, allowing their daughter “to select hostesses at her own discretion.” Stricter parents specified the places their daughter was allowed to spend the night.

Women were required to wear skirts or dresses at all times while on campus. Women were not allowed to wear slacks in the social or “date” rooms in the residence halls.

The dress code also required women to wear coats over their gym clothes when traveling between buildings.

While the University allowed upperclass men to live off campus, upperclass women had to live in a University residence hall or with their parents.

Beginning in 1965, the University permitted junior and senior women to petition to live off campus.

Four years later, unmarried sophomore women were allowed to live off campus. At the time, GW had no official opinion on “sex.”

In 1966, a female student requested a prescription of Enovid, a birth control pill, from the student health service.

“We wouldn’t give you any . we’re unofficially opposed to it,” replied the physician on duty, according to From Strength to Strength.

GW allowed men to drink in residence halls, but women were given that privilege. A GW Hatchet editor asked the dean of men, Paul Bissel, and the dean of women, Virginia Kirkbridge, about the difference in the drinking policy.

Bissel replied that “men and women are different.”

For the first time in 1969-’70, the student handbook included a letter from the president of the student assembly, Neil R. Portnow, in addition to the traditional letter from the University’s president.

“No college is perfect and no university is above the need to re-evaluate and make change,” Portnow wrote. “We are faced with updating an old institution steeped in tradition and values of the past.”

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