”If they want to be boys, they should go to a co-ed school,” says one alumnus from the 1990s, who did not wish to be named for fear of being labelled intolerant. “Women go to Smith because they only want to learn with other women.”
For these students, who pay $37,000 a year in tuition fees, Smith is first and foremost for women. Women, they say, learn better without the distractions of male classmates, and if an all-women college accepts, teaches and graduates male students, it will go down the path of the other “seven sister” colleges and lose an invaluable part of its heritage. Women’s colleges are an endangered species - Sarah Lawrence and Vassar have gone co-ed and Radcliffe has been subsumed by its former brother school, Harvard.
But the traditionalists at Smith -- according to the article -- are not the dominant culture:
For those students from the progressive, feminist tradition of Steinem and Friedan, Smith’s transgender students fit naturally on a campus that has long been tolerant of sexual difference. Notably tolerant. When the widely read Princeton Review of US colleges is released each year, Smith is regularly rated one of the top 10 most “gay friendly” colleges in the country. Students joke that the college’s motto should be “Queer in a year or your money back”. The campus has long been home to organisations such as the Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Alliance’s Women of Colour Committee. The National Enquirer tabloid once dubbed Smith’s hometown of Northampton “Lesbianville USA” because of its visible population of gay women. (One Smith student told me it is the only place in the US where local 14-year-old boys are mistaken for university students.)