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Monday, May 20, 2014

Dear Alumna,

A day we have been waiting for is soon to arrive.

On March 18th we wrote to you let you know that the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will conduct a public hearing in Harrisburg on June 16, 2014, to evaluate the application by the Board of Trustees of Wilson College to make fundamental changes to its Articles of Incorporation (Charter), including becoming coeducational in all of its programs.

A public hearing means that you can attend. The PDE has reserved a large room for the hearing to accommodate all those who would like to be there. Here are details to help with your planning.

Alumnae are gathering, beginning on June 15th, in Harrisburg. The hearing commences at 9:00 a.m. the next morning in the Honors Suite of the PDE at 333 Market Street, 1st Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17126.

Members of Wilson College Women have made arrangements for discounted hotel rooms so that you can attend. Please see the details later in this email. Alumnae from as far away as Texas and New Hampshire have already confirmed they will be attending. Let us know what state you will add to the roster!

If you have time, please read all of this email. This opening is followed by four sections. If you don't have time, scroll directly to the section of interest:

  • What will happen at the hearing?
  • What does the testimony submitted by the women who will represent alumnae say?
  • Recap of the events that have brought us to a public hearing
  • Where to stay in Harrisburg and other helpful information for your trip

What will happen at the hearing?

The PDE will conduct an informational hearing that will be presided over by L. Jill Hans, Deputy Secretary for Postsecondary and Higher Education. As the Hearing Officer, Ms. Hans will seek information to determine whether Wilson's Application to amend its Articles of Incorporation meets PA Code standards.

Wilson College Women, and all other supporters of Wilson remaining a women's college in its residential undergraduate program, will be represented by four alumnae who were granted “limited participation” status for the hearing by the PDE:

  • Gretchen Van Ness ’80 (former Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees)
  • Paula Tishok ’71 (former President of the Alumnae Association and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees until her resignation in May 2013)
  • Kendal Hopkins ’80 (current Vice President of the Alumnae Association)
  • Melissa Behm ’76 (former Alumnae Trustee).

Representing the College will be Elizabeth Maguschak of McNees, Wallace & Nurick, LLC, Harrisburg, counsel for Wilson College. We anticipate that President Barbara Mistick, Board Chair John Gibb, and other trustees and administrators will be present. Here are key steps that led to the hearing and will determine its conclusion:

  • Both the limited participants and the College attorneys had to submit written testimony to Ms. Hans by March 17th. All parties submitted extensive statements with supporting documentation. The statements are available to read on the Hearing Documents page of the Daisies Can Tell website.
  • The testimony of each side was shared with the other, and the limited participants and the College next were asked by the PDE to submit written responses to one another's testimony, as well as to propose questions for Ms. Hans to ask during the hearing. These responses and questions, submitted on April 14th, are also available on the Hearing Documents page for your review.
  • Ms. Hans will prepare a hearing agenda, which is not yet available. Based on earlier information from her, the following is expected. Wilson will first present its written testimony and supporting documentation, after which Ms. Hans may question Wilson's representatives. The limited participants will then present their written testimony and supporting documentation, and Ms. Hans may question them. She has not set a time limit for the proceedings but has indicated she does not expect the hearing to take more than one day.
  • After the hearing, within one week, the limited participants are to submit a brief written statement addressing the issues. One week later, Wilson is to submit a brief written statement addressing the issues. At this point, the proceeding will be regarded as closed.
  • Ms. Hans will submit a proposed report for consideration by the Acting Secretary of Education. “If the proposed report recommends that the application be denied, or denied in part, Wilson may file exceptions with the Acting Secretary of Education, as specified in 1 Pa. Code §§ 35.211-212. Briefs opposing exceptions may be filed in response” (Hans letter, January 6, 2014).

To have a large group of alumnae and other supporters of Wilson as a women's college at the hearing will be a clear demonstration of just how widespread is the resolve that Wilson should remain a women's college in its undergraduate residential program, and should not alter the description of the course of studies, eliminate language that refers to the minimum number of full-time faculty, or revise the description of Wilson’s minimum required endowment.

What does the testimony submitted by the women who will represent alumnae say?

Wilson College alumnae pointed out the following in their testimony, which is available in full for your information on the Hearing Documents page of the Daisies Can Tell website:

  • The Board of Trustees, President, and College administration have begun to implement coeducation without the legally required approval of the state
  • Other proposed changes to the College Charter fail to recognize minimum standards in the PA Code
  • The President and Board of Trustees made critical decisions about Wilson's future, despite evidence that data considered during the Commission process were flawed and incomplete

There is much more in the testimony, and we encourage you to read it. You will find strong evidence of poor governance by the president and Board of Trustees, mismanagement of College funds, and the manipulation of data in ways that support what now seem to have been foregone conclusions about a range of decisions including coeducation. Beside the improper and inappropriate actions of a Board of Trustees and College president, there is also the question of actions taken by the College that appear to be outside the stipulations of Pennsylvania law. It is these matters within the jurisdiction of the PDE on which the limited participants will focus their attention. If the PDE denies approval of part or all of the proposed changes to Wilson's Charter, the Board of Trustees would need to revisit their decisions about the future of Wilson, and, we hope, take the time to utilize data that are more complete and accurate when they deliberate and confer in meaningful ways with all constituencies of the Wilson community.

We have posted the complete testimonies from the Limited Participants for your review on the Hearing Documents page of the Daisies Can Tell website.

We have also posted the testimony submitted by attorneys for the College. The College, in both its testimony and its response to alumnae testimony, argues that Wilson has been coeducational since 1970. We think you might want to read this startling interpretation of the College's history.

The option for a higher education at a college for women is too important to see Pennsylvania lose Wilson as a women's college. Despite contentions that women's colleges are no longer needed, evidence abounds that women's colleges still provide unique opportunities for young women to learn, grow, gain confidence, and become leaders. Even information presented by Stevens Strategy, the consulting firm hired by the College for the Commission process, pointed out in 2012 that women's college students are more likely than students at co-ed colleges to serve in leadership roles, complete a graduate degree, say they developed moral principles that guide their actions, be involved in student government, and become leaders in their professions. A 2013 College Stats report states, “There are still plenty of reasons to explore women's colleges as an option, particularly when it comes to honoring the objectives around which they are founded—lessening the gender gaps and ensuring the safest, healthiest, most supportive spaces where women can learn.”

Recap of the events that have brought us to a public hearing

January 2013: The Wilson College Board of Trustees votes to make the College coeducational; the College immediately announces it is coeducational and begins to recruit male students.

May 2013: The Board of Trustees approves a series of changes to the College's Articles of Incorporation (Charter) that includes becoming coeducational across all programs. PA law requires that these proposed changes must be submitted to the PDE for approval.

July 2013: The PDE publishes notice of an opportunity for a public hearing on the College's application to change its Charter.

August 2013: Forty people submit letters to protest the Board's proposed changes to Wilson's Charter and a request for a public hearing is included.

October 2013: The PDE delegates the College's application to the Office of Postsecondary and Higher Education for review.

November 2013: The PDE's Office of Postsecondary and Higher Education grants a public hearing and designates Gretchen Van Ness ’80 to speak on behalf of alumnae.

December 2013: The PDE agrees to hear testimony from three additional alumnae: Paula Tishok ’71, Kendal Hopkins ’80, and Melissa Behm ’76.

February 2014: The PDE schedules a conference call with the College's legal counsel and the four alumnae to discuss the process of submitting testimony and other issues related to the pending hearing.

March 2014: Both sides submit written testimony to the PDE and share the testimony with the opposition, as the PDE required.

April 2014: Each side submits to PDE written responses to the testimony of the opposition, and shares it with the other side.

June 2014: The PDE will hold a public hearing to consider proposed changes to Wilson's Articles of Incorporation and objections to those changes.

Where to stay in Harrisburg and other helpful information for your trip

Located along the shore of the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg is a small city that doubles its population during the work week as thousands of state employees enter the city to work in and around the capitol. To avoid traffic, we recommend arriving in Harrisburg Sunday evening.

Primary Downtown Hotel

Comfort Inn Riverfront
525 South Front Street
Harrisburg, PA 17104
(717) 233-1611

Wilson College Women has arranged a special room rate of $85.99/night. To get the special rate, you must make reservations by calling the hotel directly at (717) 233-1611 and asking for the Wilson College Women rate. Book soon, as this rate expires May 23rd.

Driving & Parking in Harrisburg

Keep in mind that the hearing is at the start of the work week. You and thousands of state employees will be parking in Harrisburg. Make sure you leave plenty of time to find parking. Parking options can be viewed at the Harrisburg Parking Authority Website.


Need a lift? Do you want to help bring alumnae from your area to the hearing? Drivers and passengers can join our ride share network by visiting our unique carpooling site.

For more details about travel and accommodations, visit the PDE Hearing page of the Daisies Can Tell website.

See you in Harrisburg on June 16th!

Firmly pledged to love and honor...

Deborah Barnes ’71
Melissa Behm ’76
Kendal Hopkins ’80
Nicole Noll ’03
Carol Noon ’87

The website was established on October 11, 2012 by a group of Wilson College alumnae to persuade the Board of Trustees and President of Wilson College to ensure Wilson's success as a women's college. Since the Board's vote on January 13, 2013 to make Wilson College coeducational across all programs, we have worked independently of the College to keep alumnae informed about events, activities, and decisions that affect our alma mater. In January of 2014, the site was moved to

Visit Daisies Can Tell