RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – A group of students at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College sued the school Friday, challenging its decision to begin admitting men next fall.

The lawsuit, filed in Lynchburg Circuit Court, claims the 115-year-old school’s governing board breached its contract with the students by voting to make it coeducational.

The lawsuit, brought by four freshmen, one sophomore and four juniors, seeks to delay the enrollment of men until at least 2010, when currently enrolled students should have graduated.

“They’re in shellshock,” alumna Diane Montgomery said of the college’s approximately 700 students. “They feel their voices are not being heard. No one told them this college was going to go coed.”

Montgomery is secretary of the board of Preserve Educational Choice Inc., an alumnae group formed to fight the board of trustees’ decision Sept. 9 to adopt coeducation. Administrators have said the decision is intended to achieve more financial stability.

“I’m saddened that we’re in litigation with our own students but recognize they have the right to do that,” Ginger Worden, the college’s interim president, said in an interview.

Worden said the board of trustees is the proper body to make decisions about the college’s future, and added that delaying coeducation until 2010 is impractical. “How would you recruit a student for next year if you say it’s a women’s college now but will be coed your senior year?” she said.

The lawsuit claims that the nine plaintiffs chose Randolph-Macon because they wanted to obtain a four-year liberal arts college degree from a women’s college and that none of the official materials provided to them indicated school officials were contemplating a change.

The plaintiffs also asked the court to expedite the case.

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