As a female cadet at Texas A&M in the 1970s, Col. Pauletta Blueitt, '81, once witnessed a male cadet strike a female cadet in the eye with a guidon during an outfit run.
"We had some very angry, bitter male cadets that resented us greatly for having encroached upon that sacred unit known as the Corps of Cadets," Blueitt recalled during a panel discussion Thursday celebrating the university's 50 years of inclusion. "We endured quite a bit of hostility, in some cases violence, so I really felt very isolated from that standpoint."
A retired Air Force colonel, Blueitt was in the fourth freshman class that allowed women into what had traditionally been an all-male Aggie Corps of Cadets.
Things have changed at Texas A&M since then. While Blueitt estimated there were about 60 women in the Corps when she joined, there were more than 320 female cadets, making up 13 percent of the Corps, enrolled on the first day of the 2013 fall semester.
Blueitt was among five A&M graduates at the panel discussion who shared their experiences as students during times of transition for the once all-male, military school. The other panelists were State Rep. Gene Wu, '00; former Regent Bill Jones, '81; Regent Elaine Mendoza, '87; and, via Skype, Malcolm Hall, '63, who helped draft a referendum encouraging the admission of women to the university while serving as student body president.
More than 100 people attended the event, hosted by the Corps' Cultural Awareness & Diversity Expansion Team, meant to spark conversation about the importance of diversity.
"What if no women were obstetricians or gynecologists? Men would be telling us what childbirth is like," Mendoza said, explaining the benefits of a diversified population. "Not that men can't be Ob-gyns, but they need our input because we're the ones experiencing it."
All of those different experiences, backgrounds and ethnicities are what set this country apart and allow for economic growth, Mendoza said.
While the panelists agreed that the level of acceptance and inclusion on campus has vastly improved over time, they had suggestions for students to continue working toward further inclusion.
Among those recommendations were keeping up with current events around the world, learning a foreign language and being open to exploring new cultures. Organizer Keltin Jordan, a senior supply chain management major who moderated the discussion, was proud to see so many people show interest in a discussion about race and gender.
"It's important to get the dialogue going and not make the same mistakes we made in the past," Jordan said, referring to the discrimination the panelists experienced as students.
"We hope to continue onward and upward and be able to establish an environment that's conducive to accepting everybody," he said.