Peace(ful) Protest: Preserving the Peace College Legacy
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Many of you may know that I am a proud Class of 2004 Peace College graduate. Peace is a women’s liberal arts college located in the heart of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, founded in 1854 by William Peace. On Thursday, July 21, 2011 the current president and Board of Trustees announced that the school would 1) change it’s name to William Peace University and 2) become co-ed beginning Fall 2012.
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Now, I’m all for change…Peace College has been changing for many years. However, many of us (alumni) found ourselves a bit shocked/heartbroken/betrayed that such a drastic change would come with little alumni input.
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This past Spring, Peace held a number of in-home “town-hall” meetings across the state to introduce the new president and share the college’s vision for the future. My mom and I attended in my home town…in fact, we were quite impressed with the new president (at the time) and thought that many of the changes were necessary…even if we grieved many of the old traditions that would be lost as a result of these changes.
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During those meetings, many alums expressed concern over a growing number of male students in the evening programs. A question was asked, “does Peace College have plans to go co-educational?” The response…”absolutely not.” Thus, I went home thinking that the changes were positive and that if it was a question of change or close the doors, I was certainly in favor of the proposed changes.
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Just a few months later, I feel as though my trust and support has been betrayed. Fortunately, I’m not alone. Once the announcement was released to the media, Facebook lit up like a Christmas tree and plans for a PEACE(ful) protest were set in motion.
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On Sunday, hundreds of local Peace College alumni gathered around the fountain. Many (including husbands and children) wore Peace College t-shirts…others wore all white as a symbol of our sisterhood. Roses were held high while singing our alma mater. It was so beautiful.
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After singing our alma mater, we threw our roses into the fountain in front of Main Building (this is a long-standing tradition following graduation). We then walked down to the front gate to meet with the media (the media was not allowed on campus).
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Before walking down to the gate, I waited by the fountain. Many alums took this opportunity to take pictures with fellow classmates. Children also took this opportunity to play in the fountain water. It was during these quiet moments that I captured the above scene. As sweet as this moment is, I immediately saw the future of Peace College.
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Once I got down to the gate, the media was ready and waiting to interview a few of our more outspoken alums. Mabel Dorsey, 1937 graduate, was happy to speak as our oldest alum. Even at the age of 93 she still radiates the Peace spirit.
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Obviously I don’t want Peace College to close…quite the contrary. Financially, I cannot save the college (I’m still paying off my student loans), but I was proud to stand by my Peace College sisters this past weekend…even in the 100 degree heat. My hope is that this PEACE(ful) protest opens the door for dialogue. I’m not sure if it’ll reverse any decisions, but it’s worth trying.
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If nothing else…my husband tells me that we are by far the nicest, most polite and well-dressed group of protesters he’s ever seen – thanks honey. If you are interested in reading more about our protest, click HERE (includes a video with a tiny clip of me). Also, if you attended or graduated from a women’s college, I’d love to hear your story.
Happy a wonderful Friday!
52 COMMENTS

    Oh my goodness… praying for you and all the other alumni!

    I can definitely see where that would be disappointing. Unlike you, I hate change ;) so just hearing about this makes me a little bummed and I was never even a student there.

    I’m sorry they have decided to make these changes. It must have been a wonderful experience to go to college there. The photo of roses in the fountain is just so pretty.

    That’s too bad. I would be upset too, not so much about the change, but the fact that they denied it and then went ahead and still did it!

    That’s really amazing how the oldest alum was even there, standing up for her school.

    I love the pictures with the roses and the little boy throwing his rose in is such an excellent moment captured. You really photographed this special event well Ashley….almost felt like I was there and the pictures evoked so much emotion. I’m sorry to see things going this way. Really unfortunate! The economy is so out of control right now. Sigh.

    The photos are fantastic and Mabel (although outspoken) is AWESOME!! If I live to be 93, I hope I am rockin’ it like that.

    Unfortunately, I can give no insight, but I think it is great that you are so involved as a college alum.

    I am so sorry, Ashley. I hope something comes from your protests. At least you know you tried to do something and did watch by silently. You got some wonderful captures!

    I am sorry to hear this Ashley! So sad. My son graduated from an all Male College (Wabash) and I am pretty sure he/they would react the same way!

    Keep us posted!!

    A large change like that is heartbreaaking, so glad to see so many come out for the cause. Gorgeous captures of history in the making. I’ll send positive vibes that way for a peaceful outcome.

    I absolutely love viewing this through your eyes….beautiful photos. I’m so sorry that this is hard on you….praying for decisions that will make you all feel better.

    Your photos documented this day beautifully!! Well done and best of luck.

    I’m so glad you were able to be a part of that. Great pictures to capture the day.

    Your photos and narrative paint a vivid picture of what I am sure was an emotional day. I find it wonderful that you approached the situation in a peaceful way (you as a group… I would expect nothing different from you as a person) and I find your observation about the little boy at the fountain particularly poignant. While change is never easy, perhaps what will come of this is some amazing young men given an education and opportunity to learn equally peaceful behaviors and values :)

    I attended public, co-ed universities, so our educational experiences were probably completely different, but I totally understand why this would be hard to embrace. Change is hard and I would be really mad that they lied about it. These pictures are so emotional and fabulous. I love the one of Mabel. That’s the lady I want to be in seventy years. :)

    Marla @ http://www.blueskiesphotoblog.com

    Nothing wrong with passion. Love your hub’s comment at the end. Beautiful shots.

    Your photos are very beautiful!
    Hugs,
    Yvonne

    I hope that your peaceful protest opened dialogue at the very least and that your beloved college does not close.

    xo!
    alita

    What great photos, and your husband is funny, I love his comment.

    Good for you. I wish more people would get involved and speak up for what they believe in. Your husband is too funny. I love all of the photos of the event. The roses are gorgeous.

    History is always being made somewhere. I’m sorry to hear about your situation. That just sucks. The bright side? Yes, very well dressed and the photos are great! ;)

    What an amazing story, and one I’m sure you’ll always remember being a part of. I love that 93 year old woman! I hope I’m that active and full of life at 93–if I last that long! :)

    First I have to say how in love i am with the close picture of the roses in the fountain. Stunning. Next, these was such a great read – to learn about Peace College and be able to feel a little of what it stands for and the dilemmas the college is now facing. I love that so many of you showed up to stand up for something you truly believe and try to preserve your alma mater for future generations. I felt as if I was standing right next to you with all the pics and your story.

    this was such a beautiful story with such beautiful pictures. I hope the best for your college and i just love the captures the 93 year old women! They gave me goosebumps! :)

    Love the images,which says it all so no words are needed sometimes…….Just to share with you folks, i have a new post today on Amish Stories from the Terre Hill days even that was just held in Lancaster Pennsylvania. It was a very hot day but i was able to get i think a few good images from this event. The town is populated with a mix of Amish and old order Mennonites which only adds to its charm. They even have what has become famous in Terre Hill their “outhouse race”. The town sits on a hill so it overlooks Lancaster farmland in almost all directions. This is one of my favorite towns to visit because its free from commercialism, so if you are looking for a really all American kind of town with the added bonus of seeing its Amish and Mennonite residents at work and play, then this town is for you. Thanks folks. Richard from Amish Stories.

    Nice documentation of a passionate group of folks. Love the photo of Mabel.

    Such a lovely campus! I am surprised that they are trying to go CO-ed. I am sorry to see the change for those that went but the legacy may still rain. Lovely shots

    Ashley – my prayers and wishes go out to you (and your alumnae) for a successful dialog with the college to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. Hopefully something can happen to maintain the integrity of the college’s tradition while financially keep the doors open.

    My daughter will be heading off to Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA in a couple of weeks, so when you mentioned the demise of Peace College’s distinction as an ‘all girls’ college – you struck a chord. When we embarked on looking for a college for our daughter, the concept of an “all-girls” campus seemed both antiquated and unrealistic in this day and age. But with time and research, we came to appreciate the uniquely specialized attention and education that she could obtain from such a college. So it is without reservation that we will be proudly sending our Freshman off for what I expect will be an incredible, empowering, and top rate education.

    Best of wishes.

    Great shots, expecially the roses in the water! We had a similar thing go on here at The Citadel (of course opposite gender) but it stinks that they went back on what they said originally. Not a good way to start off a new admin!

    Change is important, but so are traditions. Without them, the world would be too radical. There are so few of Colleges like Peace, why take them away?

    beautiful shots! love the roses in the fountain, and what a heritage and tradition all summed up in the beautiful ms dorsey!!

    It’s great that the media were even interested in reporting the story. I love those roses all scattered in the fountain.

    I saw your post about this on Facebook and didn’t really know what it was about. Now that I do, I can’t believe they wouldn’t at least consult the alumni. That’s a huge part of your school history. It seems wrong to change it so drastically.

    Someone mentioned Wellesley and I remember when I lived in Boston that more than once both Wellesley and Smith College (in Western MA) have thrown around the idea of going co-ed, but the thing is, it’s always been a dialogue. The fact that your school’s leader looked the alumni and students in the face and outright lied is very cowardly. Hopefully your voices will be heard and careful consideration will be given.

    change. never fun. sending hugs/prayers for compromise. I hope they can consider other options or tread lightly into the future!

    You’ve managed to capture what I’m sure was a day full of a lot of bitter sweet emotion so beautifully.

    I’ve been following the story on FB a little (because of your status update, by the way) and can understand why you all felt so betrayed. I really hope this can result in a solution that can pave the way for the changes that seem necessary without running over the traditions that obviously make the university so important.

    I immediately thought of you when I heard this news. I knew this post would be coming. As a Meredith graduate, I am shocked as well. I agree with everything you said in your post. I am so thankful for my college experience and just can’t imagine not offering that to other women.

    I also agree with your husband! Beautiful photos, too!

    I love the roses in the water….sooo beautiful!

    Change can be many things – sad, disappointing, but maybe there will be a silver lining to this change! Be positive!! I do sympathize though….

    The rose in the fountain shots are stunning!

    That’s really sad to hear. I’m so sorry the tradition you were a part of will no longer exist.

    On a lighter note..I absolutely LOVE the shot of the roses in the fountain. Beautiful!

    These are wonderful photographs Ashley, and I am sorry this happened. I am wondering if it is more becoming the norm though. This is done quite often at the university where I teach. The alumni puts so much money back into the university, and yet so many major decisions are made without their input. :-(

    I wish you a wonderful weekend!

    It is wonderful to see such passion. It really must have been a wonderful collage to attend.. I love your husbands comment at the end.. Your photos are gorgeous. I can see why you love the photo of the little boy by the fountain.. It is awesome..

    Hugs, Linda

    it’s admirable to see your passion for this. these photos are an amazing account of your day–really some of my favorites that i have seen of yours.

    How very sad and shocking. These are really amazing photos. You captured it so beautifully.

    Peace College must have been a wonderful place to bring all of you together to stand up for your beliefs..as always the photos are stunning.

    Tiffany

    PS: Thanks:)

    Oh, wow. What a deal. I can just feel the emotion in these photos. Your picture of Ms. Mabel brought tears to my eyes. Change is hard.

    I love that you are supporting your sisterhood and standing up for your traditions! I hope it works out the way you hope!

    Praying for things to work out Ashley! That Mabel Dorsey is quite the lady. The roses in the fountain is breathtaking pretty!

    Ashley, I couldn’t believe it when I heard it on the news. I live about 30 miles east of Raleigh. I thought the protest was wonderful and was glad to see WRAL present it in a good way. It’s hard to even imagine that big of a change.

    LOVE the pictures of the roses in the fountain. That would be a great print (hint, hint, if you ever do a giveaway ;) ).

    Wow! That would be quite a shocker! I hope that the college can come to some sort of agreement. It looks like a beautiful school.

    I LOVE the first photo of the roses in the fountain! And the first picture of Ms. Dorsey is great! You can feel her fiery determination! And so cool to see you in the video as well!

    These are incredible Ashley! I love them. You’ll have to keep us posted. I hope your protest works.

    I have chosen you as the winner of Fabulous Friday. Thanks for participating!

    I am a women’s college alum as well. :) I attended Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. I can’t imagine losing the heritage of being an all-female college. It will change the identity of Peace for sure.
    My husband is a Virginia Military Institute alum and they were transitioning from all-male to coed during his years there. He was the last all-male class to graduate. So many things had to change, from physical stuff (bathrooms, etc) to rules and programming (esp for them being military in nature). Peace will inevitably have those “pains” as well.
    Keep the dialogue open and then beyond that it’ll just mean embracing the change, out of respect for your alma mater, I suppose.
    The photographs are spectacular. If things do end up changing, your images will serve to remember a poignant moment in time.


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