Many in the crowd turned their backs on the interim president.
LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) -- Amid boos and shouts of "traitors!" Randolph-Macon Woman's College officials announced Saturday that men would be admitted to the 115-year-old institution starting in 2007.
In the eyes of the board of trustees, going coed could help stabilize the school's finances as interest in all-women schools wanes.
But when officials floated the idea last month, it drew a sharp response. Online petitions and campus protests decried the move, angry e-mails flooded in and one alumnae group even hired a lawyer to try to discourage the board by citing legal concerns.
Saturday morning, an agitated crowd of some 400 students, alumnae and their supporters greeted the board's announcement by drowning out trustees president Jolley Christman as she tried to explain.
"Today we begin to heal. We begin to write the next chapter in our history," Christman said, barely audible over the shouting.
Christman said the 25-2 vote -- she wouldn't say who the dissenters were -- followed 21/2 years of study. The board determined coeducation was the best way to preserve the school's mission of high academic standards for undergraduate students and said a coed version of Randolph-Macon Woman's College would emphasize global honors programs.
Interim President Ginger Worden told the students and supporters, "Do not, I implore you, turn your back on this college," but many in the crowd swiftly turned their backs on her in response.
"I'm sad. I'm really sad," said Gabriella Medina, a freshman from Puerto Rico. "If we can't reverse this, I guess I'm going to transfer."
Before Saturday's vote, supporters of single-gender education gathered on campus. A red-brick campus wall was lined with bed sheets turned into banners, one reading: "115 Years of Women Can't Be Wrong."
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