Kirkland Perspectives: now and then

As an educational institution dedicated to innovation as well as excellence, Kirkland College was constantly questioning, examining, and redefining itself throughout its all too brief existence.  In 1974, approximately halfway through its brief lifespan, the college's Particulars catalog presented the results of two student surveys whose common theme was: "Where do we go from here?" The questions included:
    What were your main reasons for choosing Kirkland?
    What do you like about Kirkland now?
    What, if anything, would you change?

Former resident faculty member Carol Locke made the following comments about one of the surveys:

"A significant number of seniors felt that Kirkland, particularly its student body, is becoming too homogeneous.  Allied with this was a real fear that both new students and faculty have lost the 'pioneer spirit' and are less willing than their predecessors to take risks and work hard to make Kirkland function as a truly innovative college.  Both of these concerns were linked to an even  more widely shared conviction that Kirkland is suffering, increasingly, from a 'reality/rhetoric gap: that is, we claim to be something we are not, something which, perhaps, no college can be.  By and large, the seniors retained a large reservoir of confidence that Kirkland can make good on its initial promises."

Twenty five years later, the Kirkland Committee sent out a similar survey to three Kirkland and three Hamilton classes that graduated during the Kirkland era.  The Committee, composed of about forty Kirkland alumnae, is dedicated to fostering the spirit and principles of Kirkland College on the Hill.  The survey was designed to complement the Kirkland Generation panel discussion by providing a broader take on what Kirkland has meant to those who experienced it first hand.

Going over the responses, I was struck again and again by how much they have in common with the viewpoints expressed by Kirkland students in the 1974-75 issue of Particulars.  The major difference: students back then were providing feedback which they hoped would help shape a living institution they assumed would last indefinitely.  The 2009 survey tapped a deep vein of anger and bitterness because of what happened in 1978.

Still, the intensity of the feelings expressed (both negative and positive), the soul searching, and above all the earnest questioning of Kirkland's purpose and ultimate value, remain the same.  And for those of us who loved Kirkland, men and women alike, the memories are still vivid and alive, after all these years

Elisabeth Horwitt K73

The Kirkland Perspective: 1974

From a survey of seniors (class of 1974):

What is most important to you about Kirkland now?

The freedom it allowed me . . .to grow, to make mistakes, and to learn the way I felt I had to, in a very independent, personal way.

The students with whom I'll graduate, the deep friendships I have made, and the people I love here.

The one-to-one academic atmosphere

The lack of grade pressure

Do you now feel Kirkland was the right choice in terms of social satisfaction?

Initially my attitude was totally anti-fraternity and anti-Hamilton, but much to my surprise I found I enjoyed many of the Hamilton men I met and many of the fraternity social activities.  I've met some people whom I genuinely like as friends, although their attitudes may conflict with my own at points.

From a survey of all four classes:

What were your major reasons for selecting Kirkland over other colleges? (three answers allowed; selected responses)

Because it's:
a woman's college: 5%
Coordinate with Hamilton: 28.9%
Evaluations instead of grades: 40.9%
Innovative: 34.6%
Non-traditional: 34.6%

Editors' note: More than 20 students who chose "because Kirkland is innovative" followed it with, "or so I thought."

When you decided to come here, how important was it to you that the social life was coed?

Very important: 65.1
Somewhat important: 26.6%

Do you believe the social life here is

Very good: 4.3%
Good: 20.6%
Okay: 38.5%
Bad: 24.3%
Very bad: 9.6%

Do you believe that coordination promotes healthy or unhealthy relationships between the sexes?

Very unhealthy: 6.0%
Somewhat unhealthy: 25.9%
Neutral: 20.9%

Do you think it would be a good idea to change Kirkland's academic model to:

A women's independent college: 3.7%
A coeducational independent college: 8.0%
A merger with Hamilton: 8.0%
A coed school, still coordinate, with an emphasis on women's concerns: 22.2%
Remain the same: 40.5%

To read selected survey results, click here.


Office / Department Name

Alumni & Parent Relations

Contact Name

Jacke Jones

Director, Alumni & Parent Relations

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