Guess what day it is? Go on guess. I bet you said Friday, right? Well that is only partly correct. Today is the meeting of the school board and if ever there was an event deserving of its own day, it is this one.
I will not bore you with the details of the morning or early afternoon. Let us face facts and except that nothing else of real consequence could occur on this day.
There have been plenty of board meetings before this and there will undoubtedly be plenty more after but the issues before the board today are of singular importance. It is a rare occurrence that in the face of an event such as this, one can recognize its longer term implications and significance in the history of not only our country but of the entire world.
Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit. Okay a lot, but I have never before been a participant in one of these things. I am quite nervous and a little embarrassed to be present. Who am I to speak against a fellow Primrose Girl?
I should take some comfort in the fact I am not the only girl speaking today. Actually, I believe my statements will be far less important than those of the others speaking. If I slip out the side door, will anyone notice?
Too late to try it. Mrs. Carrington sat next to me and placed her hand in mine.
The meeting was called to order and the first order of business was called up. I ignored it as it had nothing to do with me, something about boys being allowed to attend core curriculum classes at Primrose College.
Now that I think about it, I believe that was the matter Miss Meyer was agitated about in the first place. How ironic it would be the first order of business before a disciplinary hearing involving her.
I wish I could have brought along my anatomy book. At least then I could study until I was forced to testify. From pure boredom I began to count the number of wooden boards in the floor between my feet and the feet of Dean Steadward. 47, I think.
“…Primrose College.” The Dean said, catching my ear.
Next to me on the bench a girl I recognize as one of my peers, stood. Dark hair, slender build, face like a school teacher and expressions to match, you would think I would know her name. You would be wrong but you would think it.
Maybe I should pay attention and see or rather hear what is going on.
“State your name for the record.” Dean Steadward instructed as the young woman stood at the podium.
“Thank you, Miss Bowen. You have a statement prepared for the board?”
“You may begin when you are ready.”
“Thank you, sir. Members of the board, Dean Steadward, faculty, staff, students and alumni of Brown University, faculty, staff, and peers of Primrose College; Good afternoon.
When I first arrived at Primrose College nearly three years ago, it was a different place than it is today. In those early days there were not many women in attendance, most were like me, charity cases with few or no prospects beyond what was offered here. Classes were held in late afternoons and taught by the same instructors who taught the young men of Brown University.
Often, we would have to relocate to the library as the sun would set leaving us in darkness inside Primrose Hall. Dean Steadward, I am certain you recall, in those days you often sat in on our classes.”
The Dean nodded his head in acknowledgment of the truth of her words.
Edith continued her speech.
“Since those early days, Primrose College has grown. Today it employs a faculty and staff independent of Brown University. Classes are held from early morning to late afternoon and the hallways are crowded with young women from all over our great country.
Primrose College has gained a level of independence from Brown University, but no matter how independent it has grown, it still stands on the same land, within the same gates.
I will not endeavor to argue these two schools are equal, they are not, but inside these gates, these walls, there is one thing each student holds in common; We have come to this place of learning to better ourselves and through bettering ourselves we shall better the world we live in.
It stands to reason then if our goals are the same, we can be taught to reach them in the same way. The location of the classroom should not matter as much as the education bestowed upon the students within it. A teacher’s credentials do not change for the location of the wall on which they hang.
Today you have heard from three young men who sat uncomfortably through a class I shared. I will admit to being uncomfortable myself, even embarrassed to know they were present, but if I can overcome my discomfort, surely they can overcome their own.
I have no doubt that adding young men to our classes at Primrose will have difficulities, foreseen and unforseen. I believe those difficulties pale in comparission to the doorways that can be opened and the knowledge we all stand to gain. I implore this board to give change a chance and let us learn together and see where the path may lead.
Thank you for your time, kind sirs.”
Edith concluded her speech to a mild round of applause. Had she stirred me, I would have joined. I promise, but I was not stirred, more aptly I was bored. To be even more bold I feel she lacked focus and her point (assuming she had one) was lost in her meanderings.
As Edith took her seat again, she trembled. I could see the faint glean of perspiration on her skin. Her friends gave her smiles and nods of support and I gave one as well although were I her friend I might have asked if she was satisfied with her performance.
At long last, Lucy Meyer became the topic of discussion. I was called forward first. My legs trembled as I approached the podium and my throat suddenly dried.
“State your name.” Dean Steadward ordered.
“It says here,” The Dean spoke while looking a page, “you reported on Miss Meyer’s bragging in regards to deeds done by her to Miss Sumter. Is that correct?”
“What is your relationship with Miss Meyer?”
“We are both students at Primrose College. Our rooms are in the same wing of Carrington Manor. Beyond occasionally crossing paths due to those two matters, we have no relationship.”
“What is your relationship with Miss Sumter?”
“Quite the same as with Miss Meyer. I have seen her about but rarely have spoken with her.”
“Why on this occasion did Miss Meyer proceed to confess to you?”
“I believe to categorize her speech as confession would be inaccurate, sir. Miss Meyer was bragging.”
“Very well, why do you believe she bragged to you?”
“Because I was present.”
“Your mere presence was enough to inspire, Miss Meyer to bragging?”
“No, sir. My presence was mere even to her bragging. Miss Meyer’s bragging was brought about by the apparent success of her plan.”
“Thank you, Miss Spooner. You may reclaim your seat.”
Relieved I did as he suggested and sat. Dean Steadward called for Penelope Sumter next. I admit to a modest amount of curiosity in what she would say.
“State your name.” The Dean ordered her.
“Penelope Sumter.” She replied.
“You have a statement for the board on the matter of Miss Lucy Meyer?”
“You may begin.”
“Thank you sir.” She replied.
She looked back over her shoulder and her eyes seemed to settle on Lucy for a moment. She cleared her throat and returned her gaze to the board.
“Lucy Meyer is a friend. She has been my roommate, my confidant, for the better part of a year. No one was more disappointed than I to learn of her treacherous behavior. A Primrose Girl should know better, should be better.
But, in fairness to Lucy, we do not always live up to what we should be.
A few moments ago, you heard from another Primrose Girl on the matter of allowing young men to attend classes at Primrose College. Miss Bowen strongly supports this measure as a logical step into the future of education.
I realize these matters at first seem unrelated but in fact they are so tightly related one cannot be discussed without the other.
Lucy Meyer is afraid of that change. She shudders at the thought of young men sitting beside her in class. She cringes at the very thought of those same young men establishing an opinion of her based on what they witness inside the classroom. Miss Meyer feels her very reputation is at stake.
I do not share her view, but I understand it. I spoke out in favor of this change between the two great schools represented here today. I believe it is the right path at this time for our two school to traverse.
Change, however, is always met with resistance and fear from some. The unknown can be a frightening prospect and it is natural to cling to the familiar in the face of it.
Lucy Meyer is clinging to the familiar. She is lashing out at the unknown and those who would seemingly force it upon her when she is not yet ready. She is only guilty of fear.
Were this board to do my bidding, it would be to declare the measure to offer joint classes approved but in such away that only those students and teachers who wish to participate will participate. Let the Lucy Meyer’s of our schools have the time they need to adjust. Let them cling to the familiar a bit longer while we daring explorers discover whether such things are worth while.
In the matter of Lucy Meyer’s transgressions against me, I ask this board be forgiving as I am. Let this board be understanding of the fears that drove her actions. Let none of us forget, we have all taken steps down a wrong path.
Miss Lucy Meyer is a friend, a Primrose girl, and she made a mistake. No more mistakes need be made.”
Penelope looked back to the place where Lucy Meyer sat. Unsurprisingly, Lucy’s face was wet with tears. I sensed a bit of shock in the Carrington’s beside me.
Penelope turned back to the board.
“Thank you for your consideration of my words.”
The Dean nodded to her and she stepped away. Every student of Primrose College stood as she walked and applauded her. Penelope blushed and smiled. She walked down the center aisle and exited the building.
I have gone a long time without making real friends at Primrose, but today I see two worth making.