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Remembering a Residential Revolution

Terps Look Back on 50th Anniversary of UMD’s First Co-ed Hall

By Annie Krakower

Two women's legs, colored pink, crossed around a man's legs, colored blue, as they read the newspaper

Photos courtesy of The Diamondback/Maryland Media

In Fall 1969, Hagerstown Hall became the first co-ed residence hall at Maryland after Dr. Roy Eskow ’68, M.A. ’71, then a resident assistant in Cumberland Hall, drafted the proposal.

Only 50 years ago, curfews barred female undergraduates from venturing outside their residence halls after midnight on weekdays and required them to sign in and out.

Mike Meliker ’71, M.A. ’74  I grew up with no sisters. It was neat to interact with girls as friends at all hours. That was really an eye-opener for me—bathrobes and curlers. Academically, socially, Hagerstown was just great for me.  Ruth Polinsky Rothschild ’71  I lived in Hagerstown Hall all four years. My junior year is when it went co-ed. My roommate and I decided we wanted a room right behind the elevator. There were only two rooms there—we called it “the groove.” Our room was the only one with a wall shared with the guys on the other side. I enjoyed the experience living in Hagerstown, both when it was all-female and when it was co-ed—I think I liked it better when it was co-ed.  James Scherlis ’72  I participated in anti-Vietnam War, civil rights, things of that nature. Demonstrations were so massive on campus, at one point we were occupied by the National Guard. It was very stimulating to converse with friends and women with regard to their feelings with all that was happening.  Dr. Barbara Steinberg ’72 The floor that I was on was still all women. I was very much into the whole hippie thing. I walked around in my army jacket and jeans and moccasins. Times were changing. In the ’60s, things became a lot freer. The boy-girl relationships were becoming freer. Ideologies as far as sex were changing. This just went along with those changes that we were seeing.It was the era of the Vietnam War, Woodstock and the moon landing, yet allowing men and women to live in the same building was still called “far out.”

But in Fall 1969, Hagerstown Hall swung open the doors to the women’s lib movement and became the first co-ed residence hall at Maryland.

The idea came from Dr. Roy Eskow ’68, M.A. ’71, then a resident assistant in Cumberland Hall, who drafted the proposal to house men and women in opposite wings on six of the eight floors in Hagerstown Hall, then a women’s dormitory.

The administration signed off, with a few conditions: Male applicants needed upperclassman status, at least a 2.0 GPA, proof of interest in student activities and a recommendation from their previous hall.

Some parents voiced concerns, while The Diamondback sarcastically suggested in an editorial that the change “would be just another step down the road to eternal fire and damnation.”

But the “experiment,” as it was called, was a hit.

“Fears and anxieties that parents had never materialized,” said Eskow, who served as a Hagerstown RA. “Students treated each other with the same respect they did anywhere else on campus.”

So popular was the concept that trailers by Fraternity Row, formerly all-male, also allowed women for the first time that year as well. A mere plywood board separated the genders.

A handful of other buildings sought co-ed status the next fall, and now, the all-female Cecil is UMD’s only remaining single-sex residence hall.

 

 

 

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