At Davidson College during the 1960’s, there was growing concern that social life was at the mercy of the fraternities. Independents (non-fraternity members) did have teams participating in inter-fraternity sports, but remained socially separate from fraternities (Three). In response to this, Davidson encouraged students to found various organizations to diversify social opportunities on campus. Among these were clubs and service fraternities such as Lingle Manor and Alpha Phi Omega. The integration of women as students and degree candidates in 1972 further challenged the men at Davidson to integrate their female peers into social life on campus. This brought on the establishment of co-ed eating houses, which would set a precedent for the strong presence of eating houses on Patterson Court in later years.
Lingle Manor represents one of the first attempts to enhance Independent social life. Founded on May 4, 1962, the Manor was “an alternative or as a supplement to fraternities” (New Group). As a non-exclusive, democratic social organization it allowed Davidson independents to engage in many of the same activities as fraternities, without having to go through the exclusive selection process.
Lingle Manor operated out of what was called the “Lingle House”, a small house that was demolished in order to build Tomlinson Hall. The House, and later the organization, was named after its previous occupant, Dr. Walter L. Lingle ‘1892, a former Davidson president who remained invested in the college after his retirement. He “had an intense, abiding interest in and love for young people,” (Lingle House), so it was fitting that the house would be used as a social center for college students after he parted with it, leaving the property to Davidson College on November 15, 1961 (Davidson, Chalmers).
Though Lingle Manor did not provide boarding to its members, they used the House as a central hub for activity within the organization. It was outfitted with a TV, a record player, and a ping pong set to allow for casual gatherings, along with study rooms for when members need a secluded place to do their work (New). To keep the House in working condition, two members were selected each year to serve as custodians, maintaining it throughout the school year (Custodian contract). The organization went to these lengths to create a space that augmented both the social and academic life of its members.
A student Board of Directors ran Lingle Manor and created a constitution to outline the organization’s goals. Chief among its principles is the idea that “every student of Davidson College is eligible for membership,” and that the organization can never become a fraternity. Focusing on “students who are not taken care of socially by the fraternities”, the Manor worked to fill the social void Independents felt whenever they were excluded from a fraternity event (Statement). The Board organized parties throughout the year, including all the main dance weekends, along with various other social outings in and around campus (Johnson, Sam).
Unfortunately, Lingle Manor did not have the kind of influence on campus social life that it had hoped. Financial troubles emerged in the organization shortly after its creation, with a 1963 report a net loss. Since all the money that the organization raised was through admission dues, the hope was that a campaign to increase organization membership in the coming years would help bring more money and therefore cover its operating costs (Currie).
This did not go as planned, as the social outings that the Manor provided were extremely lacking, with both guests and members “embarrassed” to be seen at a Homecoming party hosted by them (Barney). The failings of these parties may have been caused by the low membership of the group, or the fact that their events were rarely well advertised, a sign of its organizational failures. These issues caused the club to eventually disappear from mention between 1967-68, with new talk of a social eating club to be created, perhaps in the void created by the death of Lingle Manor (Students).
Alpha Phi Omega
The national fraternity of Alpha Phi Omega was one of Davidson’s premier community service organizations throughout the seventies and eighties. The fraternity was founded in 1925, with its first Davidson chapter, Nu Chi, arriving in 1962 (Alpha Phi Omega). APO’s founder, Frank Reed Horton ‘25, based the fraternity on the values of the Scouts, prioritizing community service and fundraising. Nu Chi undertook a great variety of projects during its heyday, some of which left the Davidson community entirely.
International work, similar to that of the Peace Corps, began in the late seventies. One of the chapter’s projects was work at the Harambee school in Kakamega, Kenya. A letter by one of Nu Chi’s brothers, Andy Miller ‘80, was sent back to Davidson from this school on October 20, 1980. Within it, he requests books, including dictionaries and geography textbooks. He also requests a typewriter, which he specifies must be mechanical, rather than electronic (Miller). The fraternity contributed to international beneficence personally and financially.
Later, in 1983, Nu Chi sponsored a young boy in the Rayapuram slum of Bangalore, India. His name was Udaya Sudan. The Christian Children’s Fund wrote about him to Ms. Anne Sullivan, explaining that Udaya was having health problems related to malnutrition, but was making progress in school because of the donations (Gojer). As this example suggests, there was certainly an emphasis on service abroad.
Over the chapter’s twenty-nine-year history, Nu Chi developed close ties with several local charity organizations through service work. One such group, the Easter Seal Society, became a regular partner for Nu Chi’s fundraising. The Davidson APO chapter acted as a host for the Society’s “Community Roundup”, an event for the disabled within Davidson and its surrounding area (Melton). The nearby Camp Dogwood for the Blind was also a service outlet for the fraternity. Nu Chi traveled to their Lake Norman Campus on at least two occasions for volunteering (Burts). During the early eighties, Nu Chi took up a new fundraising campaign. They put on the annual “Ugly Man on Campus” competition to raise money for cystic fibrosis research, earning $500 in 1983 and $450 the following year (Ugly).
Alpha Phi Omega’s Davidson chapter began to struggle financially as early as 1983. The national fraternity policy was to declare a chapter inactive after two consecutive years of inability to pay dues. Nu Chi had a brush with this fate in the early eighties, but managed to regain good standing with the national office. However, by 1989, monetary complications resurfaced. The required fees at this point were eight dollars for each active member of the chapter. Nu Chi planned to go inactive voluntarily while the required money was gathered. This would have allowed the chapter to return at a future date. However, this plan was not implemented quickly enough, and the national office of Alpha Phi Omega ordered Nu Chi to be dissolved (Cain).
Co-ed Eating Houses (1971-1990)
Historically, fraternities at Davidson College had male students participate in a “rush” period during the first week of classes, culminating in a “bid” to a fraternity. In an effort to decrease the hazing that came with the fraternity rush process, Davidson College instituted the rule that fraternities were required to accept any student who wished to join their organization. Initially cancelling the the rush process in 1965, the Davidson administrators were met with significant student unrest in the following Spring. Fraternity rushing was therefore allowed to continue until the strict, final decision was made in 1971 to entirely end the rush process, making fraternities self-selecting for students (Beaty 392).
After Davidson’s ruling to make fraternities self-selecting in 1971, six national fraternities on campus disbanded. In their place rose eating houses such as PAX, Fannie and Mable, and Emanon. With the addition of females in the freshman class in 1977, co-ed eating houses on Patterson Court became even more popular. Until their eventual demise over the course of the next twenty years, these houses were a focal point of Davidson social life; they provided opportunities for food, fun, and friendship.
Emanon, “No Name” spelled backwards, was one of the four eating houses established at Davidson College in 1971. With a spot on Patterson Court, Emanon became the first co-ed eating house on campus. Always remaining true to its tradition of serving meals to both males and females, Emanon’s waiting list was at times so long that individuals had to be turned away. Summarized in the 1985 Quips & Cranks, Davidson’s yearbook, Chris Sullivan ‘87, a member of Emanon, states “the recipe for a successful co-ed eating house is 70 members; a social life with something for everyone; great fellowship; and good meals. Emanon has all this and more” (Q&C, 1985, 40). Emanon featured their own gifted chef, a common trend in the Patterson Court eating houses. Odessa Hunsucker prepared meals for which the students considered themselves lucky to have the opportunity to eat (Q&C 1982).
However, Emanon was forced to close in 1987 after only six freshman joined the eating house in the Spring of 1986. As Will Terry ‘54, dean of students, explained in an interview, “There’s a definite trend back toward single sex houses. The watershed event (for Emanon’s closing) was the establishment of Rusk House. That opened up a third option (in addition to coed houses and the Commons) that women increasingly adopted. I lament the closing of one of those options now” (Campus Chronicle 1). With its closure in 1985, the PAX eating house remained the only co-ed eating house at Davidson.
Fannie and Mable
After Kappa Sigma lost their charter on campus in 1971 during the shift to self selection, a newly formed co-ed eating house rose in its place. Kappa Sigma’s famous cooks, Fannie Brandon and Mable Torrence remained behind with the house. The students enjoyed the food made by these two women so much that they decided to name their eating house after them. Fannie and Mable served as the cooks at their house on Patterson Court until the Eating House dissolved in 1985 and always “churn[ed] out some of the finest meals on the Court” (Benedict, 1982).
Reminiscing on their time cooking at Davidson, Fannie states, “We just love the kids.” With regard to the development of the town she also explains, “It’s the girls. That’s the big change.” The love surrounding the two women was abundantly apparent as many alumni of both Kappa Sig and F&M would frequently visit throughout the eating house’s existence in Patterson Court. The students even established a retirement fund for the two women as a result of Davidson not offering retirement packages to Court employees. Jeb Benedict ‘84 explains, “The students of F&M express their appreciation for Fannie and Mable’s years of thoughtfulness and devotion by making their futures a little brighter” (Davidsonian, 1982).
Rho Alpha Chi, PAX, was the longest lasting co-ed eating house at Davidson College. Opening its doors in 1971, the organization sustained membership until 1990. In the wake of the self-selection debacle in 1971, PAX was able to occupy Sigma Chi’s old house (#9) in Patterson Court. The group named themselves “PAX”, meaning peace in Latin, to reflect the student’s’ anti-Vietnam War tendencies at the time of its establishment. According to their members, they had the best food on campus thanks to cooks Nora and Brown (Q&C 1978).
But, like the other co-ed houses, PAX did not last. In the Spring of 1990, only six freshmen and three sophomores decided to join PAX. With the pressure of having to rush students to join to keep their house afloat, house members felt tension which eroded the strong sense of community amongst the members of the house and forced the house to be dissolved (Craymer). The closing of PAX marked the end of the era of co-ed eating houses at Davidson for the time being.
The end of co-ed eating houses at Davidson seemed inevitable as the rise of women’s eating houses, the increasing quality of food at the campus cafeteria (the Commons), and a renewed favorable image of fraternities led to the demise of the co-ed eating system. As Dean of Students, Will Terry, previously described, there was a progression from co-ed eating houses to the desire for single sex fraternities and eating houses towards the latter half of the 1980’s (Kelley). The establishment of the first all-female eating house, Rusk House, in 1977, attracted 48 women within its first year of existence. While Fannie & Mable, Emanon, and PAX had 76, 80, and 84 members respectively at this time, the addition of Rusk House drew a significant number of females away from the co-ed eating house experience.
Also contributing to this issue was the increased legal drinking age. When the drinking age was 18, almost all Davidson students presumably could legally consume alcohol. However, after the raising of the legal drinking age to 21, fraternities became known as a place for under age students to drink. This proposition led male students away from joining eating houses to rather joining fraternities instead. Davidson College would not see another coed eating house until the 2000s.
In May of 2000, a new house was created on Patterson Court. In the old PAX house, 10 years after the last co-ed house closed, Ben Carter ‘01 and Dane Erickson ‘01 attempted to revive the old school tradition (Sams, 2000). CoHo, The Co-ed Eating House of Davidson College, opened its doors.
Carter ‘01 got the idea during an SGA, Student Government Association, meeting that was focused on relationships between the sexes on campus. At the time there was no real place for men and women of different backgrounds to mingle in a social context. There was a bit of push back from the administrators, fraternities and other eating houses due to the breaking of social norms, but staff support, from professors such as Scott Denham, and student interest, mainly from sophomores and freshman, helped the project prevail (Denham, 2016).
Though the idea was presented in 1999, the house could not be instated until 40 people had signed their intent to join and paid a $50 deposit. In 2001 that it became available for self selection by students, and followed the rules put forth by the women’s eating houses already residing on the court (Sams). The House set its own rules as well and worked to uphold its mission statement:
“CoHo strives to create an inclusive community that promotes friendship, service and diversity. As responsible, committed members of the college community, we engender a healthy environment of camaraderie, scholarship, and silliness (CoHo).”
They had ideas about bringing adults to Patterson Court by offering meal plans to faculty and “lightening lectures”, short presentations about any interest a professor had (Carter). They celebrated with open mic nights and unique parties. In 2002, they gained 39 freshman which was the highest the house ever got (Quips and Cranks, 2002).
From the beginning the house had issues with low membership, struggling to pull in the same amount of freshman as the fraternities and all-girl houses. William Brown, Director of Student Activities 1999, states, “These kinds of things are cyclical. Students are interested in some things today that they won’t be in ten years from now (Co-ed Eating Houses, 1999).” Low membership led to money issues for the house. In the fall of 2005, CoHo changed from a eating house to a social organization (Iordanou, 2005). Like BSC, Black Student Coalition, they no longer had a meal plan available for the students, which lowered cost for membership.
In the spring of 2006, CoHo closed. Like the co-ed houses before it was unable to survive the pressures. In their last year on campus they had one freshman join them. The group had considerable debt that accumulated over the last couple years and were unable to keep their doors open any longer. Even though the group faced adversity, the houses’ sense of humor and goodwill carried on throughout (CoHo Page, 2006).
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Authors: Cameron France, Alex Hazan, Grant Kelleher, and Ben Walters
Cite as: France, Cameron, Alex Hazan, Grant Kelleher and Ben Walters. “Extracurricular Activities – Independents.” Davidson Encyclopedia. November 2016. <http://libraries.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/extracurricular-activities-independents>