OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Cash-strapped Mills College in Oakland is about to go through a round of layoffs.
Some all-women’s colleges are now allowing men on campus to boost finances, but not Mills College.
The college has taken drastic measures to remain an all-female undergraduate student body, including the recent decision to fire faculty.
On the Mills College campus, a sculpture called ‘Power of Women’ is a symbol of the all-female legacy.
But it was recently challenged by financial hardships with possibilities of making it a co-ed college.
Beth Hillman, president of Mills College, said rather than admitting male undergraduates to boost admission and raise money, the school trustees voted to fire a handful of tenured professors — five of them to be exact.
“It’s a volatile environment in higher ed,” Hillman said. “All decisions like this are very difficult but this lets Mills double down on its strengths, focus on academic excellence, on applied learning and global understanding.”
The college was established in 1852 as an all-women’s campus. And it has stayed true to its original mission, Mills is one of only 36 women’s colleges remaining in the United States.
Chelsea Ekholm, a Mills College graduate who is studied French language and culture is now employed on campus.
Ekholm said the all-female college is important “because there are so many missed opportunities for women in this country — around the world in general — with the gender pay gap, with the gap in women running for public service offices. And Mills builds and help connect women who can fill those gaps, who can help take on those challenges.”
In 1990, students resisted efforts to make the school co-ed. Hundreds of students occupied the campus for 13 days until the school’s trustees reversed their decision to make it a co-ed college.
“I’ve been listening to our students all year — they certainly have not suggested to me that they would like us to change our undergraduate admissions policy,” Hillman said
The college said it doesn’t anticipate future reductions. In addition to the layoffs, some faculty members are looking at retirement options.
Today the school has approximately 1,345 undergraduate and graduate students.
Rep. Barbara Lee is among the college’s notable alumni.