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BMC and HC Contact Zone

Project Proposal- BMC and HC Contact Zone

A COS Student and Alison Shao

October 23, 2015


In the following six weeks, we are going to investigate the different social environment in Bryn Mawr and Haverford and find out the possible contact zone between the two schools. Women's colleges such as Bryn Mawr exist as a unique group among the universities and college in America. The famous league of women colleges, Seven Sisters, has one thing in common: they all connect with the co-ed schools around them. For example, Bryn Mawr has connections with Haverford and Swarthmore; Mount Holyoke College and Smith Colleges are involved in the Five College Consortium with Amherst, Hampshire, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This interesting fact inspires me to think about the relations between all girls schools and schools with mixed genders.  We want to know the difference between the two kinds of schools and how does they interact with each other using Bryn Mawr and Haverford as examples. In our research, we will address this issue and the following sub-questions. In what way does the environments change with or without males(at the sage age)? What differences in environment of Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College are due to the difference in gender? What is the possible encounter here between school, students or other parts? Finally, can Bryn Mawr remain its essence when it has such intensive connections with co-ed school?

We originally had very different ideas for a project; I (COS Student) wanted to focus on the relationship between humans and the destruction of the environment, whereas Alison wanted to focus on the distribution of all women’s schools. However, after discussion, we decided to do our six week long project on the relationship between Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College. We want to mainly analyze the social and physical interactions between these two campuses, such as the relationships between the single sex and co-ed environments, the physical distance and connections between the two campuses, the perceptions students have of the students at the other school, and the overall cultural differences of the two schools.

To explore this topic, we have several ideas of how to research this relationship. First, we can look at social media sites to examine social relations between the students at the two campuses. Facebook pages, such as one titled “Haverbro Quotes”, suggest poking fun at a stereotype of male Haverford students. We can look at who made this page, who liked it, and how students interact with it to explore the deeper cultural themes of the two campuses. Other social media platforms, such as the Yik Yak app where local students can post anonymously, can tell us about how the two schools perceive each other. Many posts about the stereotype that Bryn Mawr students are “radical feminist lesbians” and all Haverford students are “haverbros” denote cultural perceptions that we’d like to investigate in depth. While these social media platforms have several limitations (such as the anonymity of Yik Yak that brings validity of the research into question), it can be a good place to start.

Secondly, we want to interview many students to get a wide variety of input. Rather than looking at social media for indirect investigation into students’ thoughts, we can ask them directly. We can make a survey concerning the contact zone of Bryn Mawr and Haverford and ask students to fill this out. This survey can include questions with multiple choice or yes/no answers, so we can analyze the results quantitatively. Getting statistics through a survey would be helpful to this project.

Third, we’d like to research the data that concerns the interaction of BMC or HC students at each other’s campuses.  For example, we want to find the numbers of how many Haverford students take classes at Bryn Mawr and vice versa, or how many Bryn Mawr students party at Haverford or vice versa. We’d like to look at the physical connections between the campuses that allow for these relationships to form, such as the blue bus, which gives students opportunities to extend beyond their own campus. We can research the number of Bi-Co clubs. We can also research the history of the bi-college consortium, and what the original goals of this connection between the campuses were. We can look at the policies and rules of the Bi-Co.

Much of this research can be accomplished by Alison and I alone through observation, interviews, and statistical analysis. However, to research the history of the Bi-Co and the numerical measurements of the BMC and HC student interactions, we would need to BMC officials who would have this data.

Overall, Alison and I would like to research in depth the bi-college social consortium, how it positively or negatively affects the environments of the schools in the social and academic aspects, and the consequences of the contact zone between BMC and HC students.


Anne Dalke's picture

Caitlin and Allison—
so interesting to hear how your two very different projects have found common ground, and I’m very much liking the several layers you’ve laid out, from researching the history of the bi-college consortium and its original goals, through tracking data about current interactions (classes, clubs, parties) to looking @ social media representations and then surveying students directly.

As my catalogue above suggests, I’d recommend that you reverse the order you’ve laid out, starting with the history and working towards current opinions. Knowing where all this came from could really inform what questions you want to ask @ this point. Also: I’m curious about your own experiences in this regard: Are you also interested in intervening in the dynamic you’ll be tracing?

After you’ve done some digging into the deep history of the Bi-Co, I’d recommend that you learn about some of the points of engagement since. Important here is both HC’s decision to go co-ed (which BMC fought VERY HARD to stop!). There’s even a report on this on Serendip :


There are a couple of other moments in the history of bi-co relations that you should probably learn a little more about, such as a theft of Athena in 1996 (a report which reached from the Bi-Co News to both the Philadelphia Inquirer and NYTimes):

And there has been a changing history of co-habitation; see, for example, this report:

After you have a better sense of the history, I think your decision to examine social media to get @ some of the “deeper cultural themes of the two campuses” is an interesting one, though I also like it that you recognize that the relationship  between what is happening in the bi-co and what is represented on social media isn’t necessarily either direct or transparent.

Once you’ve worked your way through that material, let’s brainstorm the best way to set up a survey: a large general one won’t get much feedback; how to target your audience? Do you have friends @ HC who could help you? Is either of you taking a HC class? What if we paired responses from our two ESems with those from two writing seminars @ HC? (I know a number of folks teaching these, who might help us out here…)

I’m not sure this will alter the direction of your project, but I do want to mention that I have some questions about the dichotomy you set up between “single sex” and “co-ed” schools, since the whole definition of what a “women’s college” is very much under flux, with the definition of “woman” becoming increasingly fluid. I’m leading a discussion with the Philadelphia 7Sisters Alumnae Group tomorrow night, for instance, which highlights the diversity of gender identities on BMC’s campus: (check out the three readings assigned, in order to get something of this history; see also BMC’s new policy re: admission of people who are transgender @

You might also be interested to see how Akane and Amaka are taking up some of these questions: /oneworld/changing-our-story-2015/gender-bryn-mawr-college-proposal

And Caitlin! don't miss the project just beginning, in Jody's section, on interspecies relationships!
/oneworld/comment/26529 !


jccohen's picture

Here are a few further comments from Evan McGonagill, college archivist:

-BMC and HC: the bi-co News might be a good record of this relationship. I imagine it would illustrate the tension of collaboration between the two schools as a sort of microcosm of their larger relationship. It's available online 2007-present –  Earlier issues you can find on Archive-It (internet archives) and before that paper copies and microfilm in the Archives.  Other archival possibilities:  Presidents' reports and papers might also provide some history by showing when the first blue bus was established, and discussions between the two schools on how to manage shared academics.