The first formal student organizations on Davidson’s campus were the Philanthropic and Eumenean Literary Societies founded within months of the college’s opening. Along with providing students opportunities to debeate and practice public speaking, the literary societies helped organize events around commencements and supported the first student publications. As the 19th century turned into the 20th, students began to organize additional clubs and societies around shared interests and desires for more social activities. With the increasing number of student groups came an interest and need to provide coordination and in some cases regulations for them.
Fraternities have been a part of campus social life at Davidson College almost since its inception. In 1858, Davidson saw the creation of its first on campus fraternity, the Phi Alpha Chapter of Beta Theta Pi. As the first Greek letter organization on campus, Beta Theta Phi set the precedent for fraternity conduct the years to follow even after the revocation of its membership in 1971 .
By the turn of the 20th century, the college had at least three additional fraternities: the Kappa Alpha Order in 1880, Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 1883, and Kappa Sigma in 1890 . On campus fraternities were independently run and held to independent organization standards.
In his 24 May 1906 President’s Report to the Board of Trustees, Henry L. Smith proposed new regulations for the college fraternities, particularly around recruiting new members. Included was a recommendation of “the formation of a Committee to be known as the ‘Pan-Hellenic Council,’ consisting for one duly elected member from each Fraternity, who shall formally investigate breaches of these regulations, and transmit their report in written form to the Faculty for discipline.”
Smith’s recommendation anticipated the creation of a national oversight organization. In 1910, campus fraternities nationwide were changed when the national Interfraternity Council (IFC) was established. The IFC began as the standardizing and governing body of a host of over 20 different Greek letter organizations. On the national level, the IFC served to, “[govern] thirty social fraternities” and “promote the shared interests and values of the member fraternities” (Patterson Court Council Website). The IFC highlighted values such as leadership, service, brotherhood and scholarship that they believed encouraged holistic development of a young man (Patterson Court Council Website).
At Davidson, the Pan-Hellenic Council joined the IFC and upheld the national standards for activity and conduct that were regulated and determined by the IFC at their annual, national conferences (IFC Annual Report). The Council’s focus on regulation expanded in the 1920s. They sought to include non-fraternity men on campus and even made an active effort to promote a greater sentiment of harmony amongst students on campus (Davidsonian 9 March 1924). With the construction of off campus living spaces, fraternities invited both non-fraternity men as well as women to their events to foster greater campus unity.
By 1933, the Pan-Hellenic Council was taking a more active role in bringing social events to campus. An article in the 12 December 1939 Davidsonian reported that fraternities were still actively rushing new members and planning for a, “big year” of activity on campus (Davidsonian 21 September 1939). However, once the United States entered World War Two after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, students began leaving college to enlist in the armed services. During the war, with the student population diving below 200 students, the number of active fraternity members fell (Blodgett 146). Unlike some colleges, Davidson fared relatively well, losing only a single fraternity from campus due to war related member depletion and financial difficulties.
In 1952, the Panhellenic Council became Interfraternity Council . The IFC continued to be responsible for organizing many prominent campus events as well as facilitating student social life, including Homecoming Dances, the Mid-Winters Dances, Spring Frolics, and their own fundraising Skit Nights. (Quips and Cranks 1964) .
Tickets to IFC events were often referred to as membership cards, and were considered to be valuable social currency. The cards served as one of the earliest forms of identification for Davidson’s fraternity members as well as permission to attend and bring a date to IFC functions.
Most IFC dances were formal and held over a period of two nights, with attire for each being specified on the invitation. Starting in 1959, the social weekends shifted from formal to informal (1959 Spring Frolics Invitations).
By 1962, under the leadership of John Rogers ‘63, the IFC completely de-formalized Spring Frolics and introduced a concert. After this time, Spring Frolics, like the majority of other campus-wide dances and events, would become the responsibility of the Union Board.
In the late 1960s, a dialogue about exclusivity and the divisive nature of fraternities arose on campus. In October of 1970, the Committee on Campus Social Life called for, “a social program which best serves the entire student body” (M. Beatty 392). The reevaluation of the fraternity program that followed led to a new process for receiving membership, the self-selection process. The self-selection process would allow students to choose the fraternity, not the other way around.
Any fraternity that wanted to leave Patterson Court as a result of this decision and move their organization elsewhere would not be allowed to operate as living or dining venues as would their on-campus counterparts. The college held to strict self-selection standards making a formal decision in 1971 prohibiting off-campus organizations to be affiliated with the school itself (Davidsonian 14 May 1971). Many campus fraternities, including Kappa Sigma and Beta Theta Pi, withdrew their organizations from campus. Beta Theta Pi would never return.
In late 1973, Sigma Phi Epsilon violated the firm self-selection procedures implemented by the college with a decision to bid new members in the fall as opposed to in the spring (Davidsonian 9 November 1973).
The resulting tumultuous relationship between the college and the fraternities was the subject of campus debate. In 1974, it was widely agreed upon that the transformation of the fraternity system at this time was one of the most significant developments to campus social life, a claim rivaled only by the move to coeducation in 1972. By this point, fraternity life was considerably more regulated and open to a wider variety of students, a feat credited to the IFC board at the time (29 Davidsonian March 1974).
The 1980s saw the return of many fraternity chapters to the Davidson campus, the last of which was Phi Gamma Delta in late 1989. Many chapters that left the college never returned to the campus, although they did retain IFC member status. Fraternities that remained on the Davidson campus followed the national guidelines outlined by the IFC as well as the new, firmly held, college code of conduct: self-selection was not formally endorsed by the college’s IFC (IFC Annual Report).
In 1993, the Patterson Court Council (PCC) became the primary facilitator of Greek life on campus and has retained this position through the 2010s, however, fraternities on campus continue to be held to the national IFC standards of conduct.
The Publication Board
Started in 1924, the Publications Board, or Media Board, is a committee tasked with administrating various student publications at the college (Young Men’s Christian Association). To aid in the Board in their task, the Student Government Constitution granted the Media Board a plethora of oversight powers, such as appointing and dismissing the General Managers of the media clubs, regulating the finances of the various publications, and ensuring that the student media outputs adhere to the college’s moral standards.
The Board also ensured that the members of the media clubs were educated in regard to media laws, heard complaints directed towards and dispensed justice upon its editors, and provided legal counsel to those accused of libel (“General Policy for the Student Media of Davidson College”). The Media Board employed many of these powers, organized club events and controlled their clubs’ physical resources in addition to their finances.
The Publications Board consisted of both students and faculty working together to moderate the student media of the college (Young Men’s Christian Organization). However the board’s size has varied over the years, having had memberships of five, nine, and more (Media Board).
Once an individual got on the board, he or she had a voice in regulating a rather inconstant list of publications. From 1948-1958 the Publication Board was responsible for the newspaper, The Davidsonian, the annual year book, Quips and Cranks, and the humor magazine, Scripts and Pranks (Financial Reports in file Publication Board Minutes 1948-1958 RG 6/14.3).
This appears to have changed in 1963, when Publication Board Minutes saw The Wildcat Handbook added to the financial reports. While, it did not give a reason for this change, the minutes did detail the transition of the handbook’s staff into the jurisdiction of the Publication Board stating that “the old staff [of the handbook] will give up membership on the [Publication] Board after the new staff is elected in the fall. Officers of the Publications Board will be elected in the spring” (David). This indicates that along with the Wildcat Handbook came considerable change in the Publication Board’s structure, with members of the new Publication gaining at least a temporary seat on the council.
More changes soon came. In December of 1965, the first volume of The Miscellany was published (The Miscellany Vol. 1). By February 1966, the new publication was struggling and under Publication Board control, based on the number of public announcements made to find interested editors to staff the magazine (Welling). A publication containing everything from essays and interviews to poems and more, The Miscellany continue to be published for twenty more volumes, with the final volume being published in 1984 (The Miscellany Vol. 20).
The Board stopped its publication of Scripts and Pranks in 1965 , so by the end of the 1970’s, the board was still responsible for five publications: Quips and Cranks, The Davidsonian, The Wildcat Handbook, The Miscellany, and literary journal Hobart’s Park (Scripts and Pranks Feb. 1965, Doss).
The board had the power to censor its publications, which fostered discussion about the qualifications of appropriate material and keeping most publications clean (General Policy for the Student Media). In 1956, the board discussed whether to allow copies of the Davidsonian, which included articles criticizing the college, to be sent to scholarship applicants. (Publication Board Minutes 28 Nov. 1956). The board also ensured that the photos of streakers in the 1974 Quips and Cranks tactfully showed neither the runner’s face nor his genitals (Quips and Cranks 1974).
Sometimes the Publications Board struggled to regulate staff activities. The April 6th, 1979 Davidsonian contained an article simply entitled “A Guide to Courses at Davidson.” It included a preference nominally written by Media Board Chairman, Harry R. Greyard ‘79, explaining the article as comedic and an satire of Davidsonian editor Charles Erwin ‘80, followed by a long list of professors with often brutal and inaccurate insults of each (“A Guide to Courses at Davidson”). Henry Greyard later released a public letter claiming that he did not write the introduction to the scandalous article, nor were any of his fellow board members aware of the articles contents before it was published, a grave failure on their part (Greyard).
In reaction, the Board received about two dozen complaints from the college community. This was followed by an open meeting on April 9th, in which Charles Erwin resigned from his office, and the complaints and opinions of the gathered hundreds were heard. The board then accepted Erwin’s resignation, as per its power under the College Constitution, and assigned new editors to the paper (Spencer).
The Publications Board did not just enter the wider community of Davidson in the event of scandal, for the board sometimes used its financial powers of the media clubs to interfere. They owned shares in a photo enlarger which they hoarded, preventing the Camera Club from expanding their resources (Hood). The board, whose staffs often needed transportation off campus, also attempted to secure rights to the YMCA’s car, or at least lower its rental costs (Currie). However, negotiations with the YMCA fell through, and the car remained the YMCA’s and just as expensive (Publication Board Minutes 19 Jan. 1959).
In the 1959-1960 school year, the board partially funded the construction of a new darkroom and worked with the college to gain additional resources for the project (Armfield, Cornwell). In the later 1950s, the board even seems to have attempted to gain the Camera Club’s favor by purchasing pages for them in Quips and Cranks (Publication Board Minutes 20 Nov. 1957).
As the censors and financial managers of publications, the Publications Board could influence outside businesses through advertisements, but this power seems to have been used sparingly, for while the board did hound business who were late on their payments to the college, the board seems to have allowed a wide variety of products to be advertised (Minutes of the Publication Board 14 October, 1958). Such products ranged from surgical and lab supplies to cigarettes and sodas (Quips and Cranks Vol. 73).
Despite the board’s influence, much of their work was still done quietly, lacking the showy displays of the other organizational board’s grand dances and social events. A notable exception to this rule where the Publication board banquets (Publication Board Minutes 28 November, 1956). By 1959 the meal became a recognition banquet for the staffs of the varying publications and seems to have remained so till at least 1963 (Minutes of the Publication Board 9 Mar. 1959, David).
Beginning in 1958, the Board also organized publication conventions. The publication board helped support these functions by crafting requirements for students to attend, such as their publication, and helping publication staffs set aside funds in their budgets to send their members to these events. The board even helped work with the college to supply reduced taxi transport for the students (Policy for Publications Convention Attendance).
The Union Board
The Davidson College Union Board was founded in 1956, five years after the first student union was built on the Davidson campus (Union Board Website). The Union Board was created in the hope offering students a broader range of activities and events outside of the classroom. The Union Board funded and assisted in the creation of a wide variety of other student organizations. Without the Board’s vigilant handling of its budget, the social and extracurricular opportunities Davidson provided on campus well into the 21st century would have been far less diverse and interesting, for the Union Board is responsible for a number of Davidson classics such as Frolics and Davidson Outdoors (Union Board Newsletters).
The Union Board started as a small group of students– a mere fourteen students representing eleven organizations–with an equally small budget. (Rosters-Union Boards, 1956-1996)
Once the Union Board began, it required each committee on the Union Board to submit a budget detailing expenditures for the year. The Union Board budget shifts yearly to meet the growing demand for funding as new organizations are created and existing ones expand. In 1971, the Union Board had a budget of $50,000 (Union Board Minutes, March, 1971). By 1996, this number had grown to $181,000 (Union Board Minutes, 1996).
The Boards official statement of purpose in their revised 1972 By-laws is “the Union Board shall …. promote and coordinate the activities of the Davidson College Union” (Union Board By-laws 1972-1983). Revised in 1972, this document included guidelines on membership, powers, duties, structure and executive power on the Board.
Twenty years later, the Union Board had 36 members representing 22 organizations (Rosters-Union Boards, 1956-1996). These students were tasked with providing the student body with activities and events anyone could participate in. This meant having to balancing all students’ extracurricular pursuits and social interests. While the social committee offered weekend dances with live music, the Union Board also funded organizations such as the Fine Film Committee to show important films in the Union.
The Union Board continues to evolve in response to student interests. If a large number of students are interested in an activity offered by an organization, the committees advocate on the Union Board will submit to the board at large a proposal requesting funding for the event. Each Davidson Organization is allowed one member a position on the Union Board as their club’s spokesperson and advocate (Union Board By-laws 1972-1983). This student reports to the board on the success or failure of their events, which is how the Union Board monitors how their money is used. The success of a committee is determined primarily by the attendance size of their events. (Union Board Minutes 1978-1988)
One successfully funded and popular event was the Midwinter’s Weekend. Originally organized by the Pan-Hellenic and later Interfraternity Council, under the Union Board Midwinter’s moved from being a February dance weekend to informal activities in December These festive weekends were an opportunity for students to take a break from studying and have some fun. It was common for students to invite significant others to visit and join them in the fun. At the 1985 MIdwinter’s students were treated to disco and dancing in the 900 room along with a performance in Commons from the popular band “The Voltage Brothers” (Quips and Cranks, 1985).
Under the Union Board’s guidance, clubs have rapidly succeeded and grown or eventually died out. Founded in 1984, Davidson Outdoors is one example of an organization that has rapidly grown as a result of substantial student interest in its activities. Davidson Outdoors started as a small committee supported by the Union Board and has since grown into its own independent organization.
- Self-selection was one of the most essential practices regulated by the IFC and Davidson College campus. The process was outlined essentially as the ability for men to choose their fraternities and not the other way around. Many fraternities lost their their privilege to be active on the Davidson College campus for refusal to follow guidelines outlined by the IFC.
- This article only mentions the establishment of fraternities on campus that still exist at the college as of 2016.
- The organization changed its name from the Panhellenic Council to the Interfraternity Council to more appropriately situate itself as an organization of fraternities, because the title Panhellenic refers to the association of women’s sororities.
- Skit Nights were some of the earliest events put on by the IFC at Davidson College. The nights were comprised of various skits and performance acts, performed by the pledge class of each fraternity on campus. The programs were regulated by the president of each fraternity on campus, the serving board of the IFC, and often included minstrel and other racially undertoned pieces.
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Authors: Taylor Erhardt, Juliet Scott, Andrew Swann
Cite as: Erhardt, Taylor, Julie Scott and Andrew Swann. “Extracurricular Activities – Activities Planning Boards.” Davidson Encyclopedia. November 2016. <http://libraries.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/extracurricular-activities-activity-planning-boards>