Twenty Five Years Later: Gender Equality at L’ville

Lawrenceville has gone a long way since the first female student stepped foot on campus twenty-five years ago in 1987. Once a conventional single sex boarding school, Lawrenceville has progressed tremendously to incorporate co-education and thus bring our school one step closer to true gender equality. Without knowing the history of Lawrenceville, one would have never guessed that dresses were once nonexistent on campus.

The most notable piece of evidence that demonstrates Lawrenceville’s gender equality is the gender-diversity found in many areas of our community. Today, the School’s student body proudly comprises an approximate 1:1 ratio of male and female students, while the faculty also consists of a commendable balance between male and female masters. Moreover, the Student Council is usually occupied by a more or less balanced number of males and females. This year’s Student Council, for instance, upholds a perfect balance between the two genders. Moreover, most club leaders have also interchanged constantly between males and females. Above all, the School has also stopped considering gender as a factor in housemasters assignments; in response to the leave of English Master Ms. Caroline Lee as the assistant Housemaster of the McClellan House, the School has appointed Mathematics Master Mr. Brent Ferguson as the new assistant Housemaster of next year. With Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Pier Kooistra leading McClellan together, the School has broken its tradition of assigning at least one female Housemaster to each Crescent House. In short, our remarkably gender-diverse community represents the student body’s and the Administration’s acceptance that gender simply isn’t a factor when choosing club presidents, Student council members, or even housemasters.

At first glance, it seems that certain gender stereotypes still exist on campus.  For one, boys receive a far higher expectation from peers, parents, and faculty to participate in sports than girls do, and even those who prefer arts or music are often pressured to partake in athletics. On the other hand, girls seem to be stereotyped as much more predominant in community service events or artistic extracurricular activities, such as art, dance, or design, than boys are. The positions of Vice Presidents of Arts and Community service have cycled through both boys and girls over the last few years, and many of our female athletic teams are just as high-profile and successful as their male counterparts.

However, a more nuanced analysis of the de facto culture of the school might suggest that sexism has not completely evaporated from the Big Red fields—specifically, from the fields of House Athletics and from the fields of the Circle. It’s true that the Girls houses lack a specific house rivalry comparable to that of the Crutch, and that the Boys’ Houses are more inviting, as well as more historical historically significant than the Girls’. Despite these seemingly unequal statuses, however, many of these differences are merely antiquated artifacts of our single-sex history.  Just as how the administration cannot raze the Woodhull House and replace it with another Crescent model so as to bolster gender equality, it also cannot suddenly create a new House rivalry and expect the enthusiasm and passion associated with a hundred year old tradition. A handful of vestiges from a less progressive era still linger even after 25 years of co-education, but they do not, in any way, conclusively exemplify the School’s current perception toward gender equality; in fact, these remnants pale in comparison to the dramatic leaps in progress that the school has made.

In the past two-and-a-half decades, Lawrenceville has embraced the essence of gender equalit. Around the Harkness table, we see an equal number of boys and girls; on the turf fields, we see a Boys’ Lacrosse and a Girls’ Lacrosse team; in the dormitories, we see both male Housemasters and female Housemasters. Lawrenceville has come far, indeed.

Julia Yao ’13