About 200 Peace College alums and their families tossed roses into the college's fountain today to protest the administration's surprise plans to admit male students and rename the institution after its founder.
Security at the private college just north of downtown Raleigh did not allow reporters to attend the protest, but the group could be observed from the college's front gate. They sang the school's alma mater, heard a speech from one of the organizers, and then tossed their roses into the fountain.
They finished with a loud cheer, then marched to the front gates to meet with reporters. A security guard worked at the lock at the gates for several minutes before getting them to open and let the protesters through.
"We're here because a travesty has happened at our college," said Jamie Averette Mitchell, who graduated in 2000 and now lives in Zebulon.
On Thursday, the 154-year-old college announced the school will become fully co-ed in the fall of 2012. The college also will be renamed William Peace University after its founder.
Alumni find the renaming galling, too. They said William Peace gave $10,000 and eight acres of land to found the school so that it would be used for the education of women.
School administrators, who did not appear to be at the event and could not be reached, have said they need to open the campus to men to make the school "bigger and better."
They say the move is not being made for financial reasons, but they believe the shift will broaden Peace's market appeal.
But alumni and students did not learn of the decision until administrators had made it public and posted an announcement on Facebook and Twitter.