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Tiny Deep Springs College votes to enroll women for first time

Photo: Deep Springs College students take an informal meeting. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times Trustees of Deep Springs College, an unusual school in California's high desert that combines ranching with the study of liberal arts, have decided to open its doors to women, the campus president said Tuesday.

After an extended debate, the trustees voted 10 to 2 over the weekend to end the 94-year-old college's tradition of an all-male student body.

Summer 2013 would be the earliest that the first women could enroll at the highly selective campus, which now has 28 students, said Deep Springs President David Neidorf.

The change will require significant planning and some legal procedures to allow the school to veer from the all-male mission in its founding trust.

Located on a 120-square-mile ranch north of Death Valley, the college was founded by banker and electric power pioneer Lucien Lucius Nunn as a place where young men could learn and develop away from the distractions of women, sports and drinking.

Deep Springs students all receive full scholarships and, in exchange, are required to perform a lot of physical labor, including mending fences, baling alfalfa and doing other chores during their two-year  program. Many then transfer to prestigious universities.

Officials said financial pressures did not prompt the change. Instead, trustees said Nunn wanted to train future leaders and that "in today’s world, this group includes women. Most trustees believe that effective training must include women and men working together," Dave Hitz, chairman of the board of trustees, wrote in a letter to alumni this week announcing the decision.

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-- Larry Gordon

Photo: Deep Springs College students hold an informal meeting.

Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

 
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