The Class of 2020 is on campus. Another academic year is launched so what better time to look back at the beginnings of the classes of 1870, 1920, 1970, and 1995.
Class of 1870
In the fall of 1866, only 3 students enrolled as freshman raising the total enrollment to 27. Unlike many classes, the class of 1870 grew over the next for years, ending with 13 seniors at graduation. For those 3 and the 10 that joined them, there was no formal orientation. Students were expected to find their way to the college and to a faculty member who could help them find their dormitory room and classrooms.
Class of 1920
By the fall of 1916, the 129 entering new students were not left so adrift. The YMCA had begun regularly publishing a handbook full of useful information in 1904.
Today’s class might find the phrasing of the 1916 advice a little odd:
– To the man who is just entering upon his college course the transition from High or Preparatory School to College is filled with possibilities for either good or evil. The effect which a four year’s residence in a college is going to have upon a man is largely determined by the ideas which he absorbs, the standards which he sets, and the companions whom he selects within a short time after the opening of the session.
The handbook also provided a “Definition of Provoking Hazing”:
Provoking hazing is any willful act by any Freshman toward any upperclassman contrary to the existing traditions for the conduct of Freshmen on the campus, such as: jibing, making slighting, objectionable remarks, treating with undue disrespect upperclassmen, giving class yells, making Freshman numerals conspicuous, etc.
The reference to making “Freshmen numerals conspicuous” shows that memories of the Freshman Riot of 1903 had yet to fade. Perhaps because the class of 1920 was another large class – 129 new students to 48 seniors (394 students total).
The college administration took more of an interest in orientation that fall, launching a new initiative of mandatory “Freshman Lectures.” The first speaker was college president William Martin who also had proper conduct and hazing on his mind. His talk was described (by an upperclassman Davidsonian reporter) as “a strong appeal to the Freshmen to realize that they are expected to conduct themselves in a manly way and abide by the traditions of the campus in regard to their attitude toward the older students.”
Class of 1970
Although the class of 1920 was a large class, the overall enrollment numbers by class were closer in the fall of 1966: 279 freshman out of 1008 students total.
The Wildcat Handbook was no longer published by the YMCA but continued to provide useful information with a few editorial comments and warnings added in:
Dear Freshman, You will enter a “New Davidson” this fall. It had its “face lifted” this past year through the combined efforts of students and faculty., in some cases. With some of the new liberties that you will enjoy must come some new responsibility. The “drinking rule” was eliminated from the Student Body Regulations, but the faculty still have a rule against it. Unless you are willing to suffer the consequences, it is not advisable to drink on campus. If you are caught you have only yourself to blame.
The “gambling rule” was also repealed. This has led to a great deal of “reactionary” gambling. It has also led to some richer and poorer Davidson students. This is still against the ruling of the faculty. Do not get into these games so early in your college career. They can cause you more worry than they could possibly be worth and will take away from your study time tremendously.
Gone were the mandatory lectures, instead the college offered a 2 day orientation camp and the YMCA started a series of freshman “talks” in the residence halls.
Class of 1995
Between the fall of 1966 and 1991, total enrollment grew by 500 students. The class of 1995 made up 395 of the 1,500 students on campus with 218 men and 177 women.
The editors of the Wildcat Handbook took a lighter tone then their predecessors and promoted a balance of work and play.
Self-discipline is one phrase that you’ve probably heard many more times than you wish. At Davidson, it’s imperative that you possess this virtue. Using your time wisely is a skill you quickly need to acquire because a typical day here is nothing like your 8:30 to 3:30 high school schedule. . . . Of course, Davidson is not all study and no play. Recreation and just goofing off are essential to our physical and mental health. It is humanly impossible to study all day and night, and with so much going on at school, who would really want to, anyway? Naturally, you wouldn’t want to spend your study breaks down at Patterson Court every night, for these seem to last well past your intended time, and in many cases you never make it back to the library. But some time “on the court” or the Union does have a tendency to relieve tension.
The keys to surviving your freshman year are self-discipline and time-management. But aside from that, enjoy! Study, work hard and spend your time wisely, but remember, to do all this, you’ve got to mix in some fun, too.
By time class of 1995 graduated, the college had expanded orientation to include special events for parents and even more events for students.