Deep Springs College, an unusual liberal arts school cum cattle ranch and alfalfa farm, offers manual labor, intense academic study and close-knit community living in an isolated valley in California's high desert. The highly regarded two-year college has a student body of just 26, and for the 95 years of its existence, it has been all-male.
Now, following the path of many schools before it, the board of trustees, supported by the college's president, wants to break with tradition and admit women. But to do that, the board must get permission from Inyo County Superior Court to reinterpret the founding documents that specify a school for "promising young men." Two dissenting trustees recently filed papers asking the court to block the change in enrollment policy, arguing that it is a violation of the trust that established the school.
In a letter to the school community, the chairman of the board of trustees said that making the school coed is not just a philosophical change but also a practical one. As prestigious as the school is, its all-male status hinders fundraising and the recruiting of faculty and students, he wrote. The dissenting trustees dismiss that in their court filings, contending that the school is flourishing in every way.