Editorial Voices, part 2

Hello! I’m Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin. This summer, I’m working with the Humanities program and the Archives and Special Collections team. I’ll be scouring the College’s archives, documenting and studying depictions and erasures of marginalized populations in historical materials. Because of my disciplinary background, I am most interested in the archives’ rhetorical role, or in other terms, how the records and materials we deem worthy of saving define the im/possibilities of not only historiography, but also of popular conceptions of identity and belonging. 

Last week I used the 1959–1960 Davidsonian to illustrate how editorial choices play a large role determining what is recorded as public opinion. A college paper, the Davidsionian presents an extreme example of this phenomenon, as the annual rotation of editors produced highly divergent editorial policies from year to year—all under the masthead “The News and Editorial Voice of Davidson College.” 

Masthead of the February 28, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian. The Davidsonian referred to as "The News and Editorial Voice Of The Davidson College"
Masthead of The Davidsonian, February 28, 1964.

As the 1960s progressed, and the newspaper began tackling more controversial issues—particularly civil rights, Communism, tensions in Vietnam, and the college’s ties to the Presbyterian Church—the assumed association between “editorial voice” and popular opinion became a source of anxiety for some. The 1963–1964 paper, under editor David Stitt, had assumed a decidedly liberal stance, reporting extensively on racial issues, endorsing a student-led march in support of the Civil Rights Act, and questioning the school’s religious commitments. 

In the first week of March 1964, David Stitt received the following correspondence from the College president: 

At the recent meeting of the Trustees the following motion was made and unanimously approved: “that the Editors of the Davidsonian be requested to remove from the masthead of that paper the words, ‘the news and editorial voice of Davidson College’ and that appropriate words in substitution thereof be worked out between the staff of the Davidsonian and the Administration of the college.” 

D. Grier Martin

Trustee meeting minutes are not available for review, so perhaps we’ll never know definitively what most irked the Board. However, there are several hints that growing critiques of Christian influence were particularly disturbing to the Trustees, many of whom were ministerial representatives of the Presbyterian Church. The Davidsonian decision came at the same meeting at which the Board had decided to amend, but ultimately retain, the Christian loyalty oath required of tenure track professors, a policy the Davidsonian had strongly opposed (“The Oath,” Davidsonian 7 Feb 1964, p. 2). The retention of the oath came on the heels of a controversial National Review article (only available to institutional subscribers), which suggested that 82 percent of Davidson students experienced “anti-religious reaction.”

Furthermore, many alumni and parents had been upset by a recent campus appearance by Michael Scriven, a philosopher of science who spoke on the “Non-Existence of God” in a discussion sponsored by the YMCA. (“YMCA’s Forum Draws Avowed Atheist, Minister,” Davidsonian, 10 Jan 1964, p.1). The event, which was covered by the Charlotte Observer and the Charlotte News, provoked many devout Christian readers to send letters of protest to the editors of the Observer, News, and Davidsonian (“Area Fundamentalists Protest Athiest’s [sic] Talk,” Davidsonian, 14 Feb 1964, p. 2)

Headshot of Dr. Michael Scriven from an article of The Davidsonian discussing his talk at Davidson entitled "Non-Existence of God"
Headshot of Dr. Michael Scriven, The Davidsonian, January 10, 1964.

Whatever its cause, the Board’s decree led the editorial board to adopt a bulker compromise masthead : The News and Editorial Voice of the Davidson College Student Body. While the change doesn’t appear to have affected day-to-day operations, it underlines the weight carried by the term “editorial voice.” It was hefty enough that it concerned the Board of Trustees, a group with undeniably greater material control over the state of affairs than any editor of the Davidsonian. With one seemingly minor copyedit, the Davidsonian’s constituency was minimized: it was no longer the voice of students, alumni, faculty, administration, and staff. It was simply the voice of the students. 

Masthead of the March 20, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian. The Davidsonian referred to as "The News and Editorial Voice Of The Davidson College Student Body"
Masthead of The Davidsonian, March 20, 1964.

In short, the scramble over the masthead provides yet another example of how rhetorical framing matters. An editor with a wide mandate has the opportunity to dictate how history is recorded. But that power is vulnerable; it is easily hacked away with a few semantic changes. With one stroke of the pen, or in this case, a few strokes on the typewriter, editorial possibilities are foreclosed and administrative power is exerted.

Editorial Voices, part 1

Hello! I’m Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin. This summer, I’m working with the Humanities program and the Archives and Special Collections team. I’ll be scouring the College’s archives, documenting and studying depictions and erasures of marginalized populations in historical materials. Because of my disciplinary background, I am most interested in the archives’ rhetorical role, or in other terms, how the records and materials we deem worthy of saving define the im/possibilities of not only historiography, but also of popular conceptions of identity and belonging.

This week, I took on the Davidsonian, the college’s weekly newspaper. In an era of “fake news” and “activist journalism,” we’re used to scrutinizing our new sources. We typically associate this with verifying claims; today there are dozens of resources devoted to this goal, including FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, and CNN’s ongoing “Facts First” features. However, our consideration shouldn’t stop there. In this post, I’ll use historical issues of the Davidsonian to illustrate the power of the editor, not only in issuing opinions that claim to be representative, but also in choosing which stories are told and how.

In the late 50s and early 60s, the Davidsionian’s masthead proclaimed: “The News and Editorial Voice of Davidson College.”  For the most part, editorials in the Davidsonian ran unsigned. Although a note in small font clarifies that “unsigned editorials are by the editor,” these articles’ framing as the “voice of Davidson”—rather than the voice of an individual—suggests they are incontestable. One gets an artificial feeling that the piece speaks for the whole community.

Thus, the editor plays a strong role writing history: a researcher referencing the Davidsionian may get completely different perspectives on college opinion depending on who was at the publication’s helm. Because the Davidsonian’s editor changes every year, this means the tone and coverage of the paper can—and does—change dramatically between consecutive issues.  

For example, consider the following editorial positions from issues of the Davidsonian:

“The editorial policy we consider most vital to the future of Davidson takes precedence over all of those enumerated in this column. If it is violated Davidson will lose far more than she will gain. We oppose the admission of Negroes to Davidson—now or ever.”

“It is disappointing to see prejudice sneak into the meetings of the policymaking body of the college. This prejudice is almost unavoidable to a person who was reared in the South. But try as we have to find one, a significant justification of a segregated Davidson is almost non-existent.”

With such divergent arguments, one might assume these excerpts represent different eras. After all, remember that the Davidsionian’s masthead claims the paper is “the news and editorial voice of Davidson College”—for public opinion to have swayed so significantly, considerable time must have passed, right? Wrong. The first passage is from 15 January 1960. The second is from 16 February 1960.

In all likelihood, the student body’s consensus on integration did not change dramatically during those 32 days. What did change was the editor of the Davidsonian. The former position was articulated by editor Ed Armfield Jr, who graduated in January 1960. The second position was penned by Dick Smith, who assumed the role of editor on 5 February.

Editorial impact goes beyond editorials, of course. The previous year, the school’s trustees had voted against opening admission to black students. Rather than settle the issue, this sparked even greater controversy. In response, under Armfield’s leadership, the Davidsionian provided significant coverage—articles, interviews, speech excerpts—to figures such as Thomas R. Waring, notable proponent of “states’ rights” and segregation. It also republished inflammatory racist editorials from publications around the South, as well as 19th-century Davidson addresses that bemoaned abolition and civil rights. Armfield’s Davidsonian portrayed Davidson as a reactionary campus hostile to integration. On the other hand, Smith’s Davidsonian took a progressive activist bent, even going so far as to publish a special “Trustee Issue” that not-so-subtly devoted the majority of its content to persuading the board to reconsider their decision on desegregation.

The “truth” of public opinion probably lay somewhere in the middle—an unofficial Chapel poll in 1960 showed 297 against integration, 121 for immediate integration, and 178 for providing a path for integration. The contrast between the poll’s indecisive results and the Davidsonian’s (two) editorial stances underscores the rhetorical power of the editor. This individual chooses what is recorded as representative opinion. He (or she, after 1977 when Catherine Landis became the first female Davidsonian editor) chooses what stories are told, what figures are profiled. His or her decisions will inevitably shape how histories are written. In evaluating both present-day and historical news sources, we must consider editorial intent and influence. Who is reporting and who is editing? How are opinion pieces framed and flagged? Which stories and perspectives have been included and which have not? Perhaps most importantly, who benefits from drawing attention to this story or promoting this viewpoint?

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of this series, which examines outside influence on the Davidsionian’s editorial board.

The Davidson College Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns, 1984

The Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns was appointed by Davidson College President John Kuykendall on September 10, 1984 in response to growing student frustration around support for students of color, particularly as related to academic resources and campus social climate (see page 28 of the Report).

Page 28 of the Task Force on Racial Concerns which lists the "past and current actions" of Davidson's Black Student Coalition between 1970 and 1984.
From page 28 of the Final Report: “The Black Student Coalition works to present black cultural events and opportunities to learn more about the Black Experience.”

Twenty appointees and one recorder made up the Task Force’s membership. Those members were chosen by either the college president or by a committee as representatives of five distinct groups, each delineated, below:

Students:

  • John C. Laughlin (Student Government Association President)
  • Janet Stovall (Black Student Coalition President)
  • Andrew Yon (R.A.C.E President)
  • Atondra Williams (Appointed by Student Senate)
  • Rodney Holman (Appointed by Student Senate)

Faculty:

  • Dr. R. Bruce Jackson (Co-chairman, appointed by the president)
  • Dr. John Kelton (Vice Chairman pro-tem of the faculty)
  • Dr. Lauren Yoder (chosen by faculty executive committee)
  • Dr. J. Alberta Hernandez-Chiroldes (chosen by faculty executive committee             

Administrators:

  • Will Terry (Dean of Students)
  • Dr. John Griffith (Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, co-chairman, appointed by the president)
  • Dr. T.C. Price Zimmermann (Dean of Faculty)
  • Paula Miller (appointed by the Advisory Committee on Minorities)
  • Dr. Leland Park (Library Director)

Alumni:

  • Daniel Clodfelter
  • Dan LaFar, Jr.
  • Calvin Murphy

Trustees:

  • Dr. Thelma Adair
  • John A. Mawhinney, Jr.
  • Dr. J. Randolph Taylor

Recorder:

  • Dr. Malcolm O. Partin

These members were then divided into one of the four following committees: Past Davidson Committee, Current Davidson Committee, Higher Education Committee, and Policy Committee. Each group conducted in-depth research on their respective topics for inclusion in a report due to the campus community “no later than November 30, 1984.”

A paragraph snippet from page 3 of the Task Force's final report. The paragraph states, "Through a series of discussion forums, to be held in early January, the Task Force plans to record, consider and include in the report the reaction of faculty, staff, students and alumni of Davidson College."
From page 3 of the Final Report: “Through a series of discussion forums, to be held in early January, the Task Force plans to record, consider and include in the report the reaction of faculty, staff, students and alumni of Davidson College.”

After submitting the report, the Task Force made the document available for comment and critique through a series of forums. This feedback was either included or reflected in the final report submitted to the college president in February 1985.   

The Report presented several critical conclusions that later led to some institutional changes, a selection of which are paired and outlined, below:

Screenshot of page 10 of the Task Force's Final Report. The report states: “While, in the judgment of the Task Force, Davidson's current efforts in student, faculty and staff recruitment are similar to the best efforts of a number of the schools visited, our efforts in terms of social and academic support for black students are less adequate.”
From page 10 of the Final Report: “While, in the judgment of the Task Force, Davidson’s current efforts in student, faculty and staff recruitment are similar to the best efforts of a number of the schools visited, our efforts in terms of social and academic support for black students are less adequate.”
A memo dated September 3, 1986 sent to all faculty and staff about the formation of SCOPE (Standing Committee on Pluralistic Environments) in response to findings from the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns. Membership included: Paula Miller, Brenda Tapia, William Brown, Charlie Summers, Gary Mason, Tom Jennings, Mark Lomax, Debbie Young, Ruth Pittard, Jack Perry, and Ruth Ault.
Memo sent to all faculty and staff about the formation of SCOPE (Standing Committee on Pluralistic Environments) in response to findings from the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns (September 3, 1986). SCOPE facilitated and promoted programming designed to inform the campus community about pressing social issues and discrimination.
A group of about one dozen students balancing on a log as part of the August 1984 FOCUS Davidson College orientation program.
FOCUS, August 1984. FOCUS was a Davidson College orientation program that was re-organized to better address the needs of incoming African American students after the Task Force report was completed.
Excerpt from page 27 of the Task Force's final report that states: “Surveys of and interviews with black students point to this as a significant area of concern. Naive comments and stereotyped images projected by some students, faculty and staff reflect a lack of experience with and sensitivity to blacks. Recognizing this fact as a failure of our educational system, blacks and non-blacks alike have called for more opportunities to address this concern. The Project '87 proposal (see Appendix 16) represents a culmination of this expression of concern and focused on: the academic program, minority representation in the community, programming and social life.”
From page 27 of the Final Report: “Surveys of and interviews with black students point to this as a significant area of concern. Naive comments and stereotyped images projected by some students, faculty and staff reflect a lack of experience with and sensitivity to blacks…The Project ’87 proposal (see Appendix 16) represents a culmination of this expression of concern and focused on: the academic program, minority representation in the community, programming and social life.”
A scan of the second page of the February 1988 Black Student Coalition newsletter. Included is the date for the formation of the Davidson Black Alumni Network (DBAN) - January 30, 1988.
This is the second page of the February 1988 Black Student Coalition newsletter. The newsletter details resources available on campus, as well as the formation of the Davidson Black Alumni Network (DBAN). Support for DBAN was specifically requested in the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns (1984).
This is the third page of the Davidson College Black Student Coalition newsletter from February 1988. Note the closing message - "Sometime in February, black alumni will meet with Dr. Kuykendall once again to follow-up on the task force report.
This is the third page of the Davidson College Black Student Coalition newsletter from February 1988. Note the closing message – “Sometime in February, black alumni will meet with Dr. Kuykendall once again to follow-up on the task force report.”
A black professor assists a black student with a microscope as part of the 1995 Love of Learning summer program.
A professor with the Love of Learning program assists a student (1995). Love of Learning was established and led by Davidson College assistant chaplain Rev. Brenda Tapia in 1988 when four classes of 8th grade African American students were selected for the pilot five year program. Through Rev. Tapia, Davidson College, in partnership with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, designed the program to enable secondary and post-secondary educational success for “at risk” and “promising” students by considering the whole person in addition to their academic needs.
The 1988 pilot class for the Love of Learning program. Rev. Brenda Tapia, the newly hired assistant chaplain, stands in the middle of the photograph in the red t-shirt.
The 1988 pilot class for the Love of Learning program. Rev. Brenda Tapia, the leader of the Love of Learning program, was hired as an assistant chaplain in direct response to the Task Force report. Rev. Tapia stands in the middle of the photograph in the red t-shirt.

The Task Force ended their report by stating, “…we hope that the “wheel will not need to be reinvented” when there is significant representation of another racial/ethnic group in our community. It is important that members of the community think creatively about implementation of strategies so that members of other racial/ethnic groups can avoid the problems blacks have experienced,” (41). One way the Archives facilitates this closing goal is by preserving and providing access to documents that detail the work and responses of previous generations.

A screenshot from page 41 of the Task Force's final report that states: “…we hope that the "wheel will not need to be reinvented" when there is significant representation of another racial/ethnic group in our community. It is important that members of the community think creatively about implementation of strategies so that members of other racial/ethnic groups can avoid the problems blacks have experienced,”
Page 41 from the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns, 1984.

If you are interested in reading the full report, Archives & Special Collections is open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. You can read this report and similar documents upon appointment – simply email archives@davidson.edu with your research question and we will find an available time.

Hidden History: Writing and Watermarks–John Rennie Blake

Between 1871 and 1877, Davidson College was without a president. The College was not, however, lacking in leadership. Following President George Wilson McPhail’s death in 1871, the Board of Trustees decided to replace the role of president with a chairman. The new role was assumed by Professor John Rennie Blake (1825-1900) from Greenwood, South Carolina. Professor Blake was educated at the University of Georgia and Harvard University’s Lawrence Scientific School. Prior to his election as a professor of Natural Philosophy in 1861, Professor Blake also served as an educator at the Presbyterian Female School in  Georgia and LaGrange Synodical College in Tennessee. Although governing a college during post-civil war reconstruction was no easy feat, Davidson produced two notable alumni under Professor Blake: Woodrow Wilson (attending from 1873-1874) and Robert Broadnax Glenn (class of 1875) who went on to be the first Davidson alum elected governor of North Carolina. Unfortunately for Professor Blake, the Board of Trustees moved to reinstate the office of the president to the college in 1877 and, not being ordained by the Presbyterian Church, Blake was ineligible for presidency. However, he remained on campus acting as the College’s Vice-President and teaching astronomy and natural philosophy courses until resigning in 1885.

The Davidson College Archives holds a document by Professor Blake with a remarkably clear watermark and a reflection on the importance of classic poetry, transcribed below. Favorite Watermark.png

The Poet – John Rennie Blake (date unknown)

We would fain survey the unfading laurels won by the Poets tunefull [sic] hands. And who merites [sic] more the praise and love of man? They enhance the glories of worthy, and the depravities of the aricious [sic]. They beat the strains gentle yet startling which the wourld [sic] hears and bending listens with alternate ebbs and flows of soul as glory, or crime is the burden of the song. He may not now—as once—like the schrill [sic] tones of the clarion call to battle but he can breath a melody that will come upon the troubled heart “like an angel’s whisper.” We “brings fresh showers to the fainting flowers.” The stern realities of life melt by the soft touch of his magic wound with his sweets that sink into the inmost heart. He creates “pure fountains of thought” whose cooling waters “change the barren desert of the heart into a green oasis, as reviving to the troubled soul, as the breath to the fevered brow. The tears of bitterness, the sighs of woe—the greifs [sic] an cares that embitter the young heart—die silently away before the magic influence of the poet. Who can tell the genial flow of soul, the fervent gushings of feeling, and the divings of thought into thoughs [sic] boundless sea to bring to light some “precious pearl of truth,” that have been incited by such gifted minds, and eloquent tongues. What patriot amid the general rejoicings and the glory of his country does not see that glory enhanced and illuminated by the shining literary lights that start its skies. Supose [sic] that the sacred scroll bearing the gilded, and emblazoning names of Shakespeare, Milton, Biron [sic], and many others, should be cast into the fountain of oblivion. Is that would then harmonize the discordant elements that would then rime [sic] throughout Old Europe. Around what human after could mankind then bow in common and mutual veneration But thanks to the age those names can never perish. What lights in the distance “which lends an enhancement to the view” would then shine upon the path of the solitary scholar to pilot him to the temple of fame. The influence of the tryumphs [sic] of poetry are coexistent with time. In conclusion I will give an example of genuine poetry which cannot fail to touch the coldest heart.  

Jack and Bill went up the hill 

After a bucket of water 

Jack fell down and broke his crown 

And Bill came tumbling after 

Guest Blogger: Jalin Jackson, “I Don’t See Greek: Diagnosing Blindness and Redefining Inclusivity at Davidson College” Part 2

This is part two of a two-part post.

           Interestingly, this back-and-forth surrounding the black fraternity debate in 1989 was covered by a writer for the Charlotte Observer, Ricki Morrell. In her coverage, she mentions opposition within Davidson’s fraternities and dormitories against the idea of a black fraternity on campus.[7] In a short column commenting on Morrell’s piece, President of Patterson Court Council Bennett Cardwell sought to provide a clearer picture of where the Davidson student body generally was in terms of the debate. In a piece titled “Story Is One-Sided,” Cardwell identified Tom Moore as “a random senior” dissenter whose opinions did not “in any way represent those of the student body in general.”[8] Cardwell assured that the opposition to diversifying Patterson Court was much smaller than Morrell led everyone to believe; he even stated that many white students were in favor of the idea of a black fraternity.[9] Second, Cardwell rejected the notion that there were “white fraternities” at Davidson, assuring his audience that there were black members in the fraternities on campus.[10] At the time, the members in Davidson’s six fraternities comprised about sixty percent of the student body. If Cardwell was the voice of reason in this debate, then given the fact that the interest in diversifying Patterson Court persisted as time went on, why did it take until 2003 to bring any black fraternity to Davidson College?[11] Aside from later concerns of sustainability from Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc., the college still holds a large portion of that responsibility.[12] Some within the Davidson College community continued and continue to faithfully adhere to the inclusivity argument against diversification, reinforcing Davidson’s culture of color-blindness. Historically, when that argument did not work, some attempted to augment it by expressing concerns of the further fragmentation of the Davidson College community. These arguments lend themselves to the notion of minimal representation. If color-blindness has been Davidson’s modus operandi, the goal of minimal representation is Davidson’s subconscious impetus.

color photogrpah of 15 women of the AKA sorority in 2008

Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sigma Psi Chapter 2008

 

Minimal representation in this context refers to Davidson College’s tendency to strive for the bare minimum in terms of social representation so as to diversify and simultaneously be able to maintain color-blind tendencies as the institution evolves. That way, the college can comfortably fight for change and minimize social backlash on campus. The push for minimal representation is especially evident given Davidson’s decision to establish the BSC so early in the institution’s history of diversification, yet struggle with the diversification of Patterson Court for such a long time. The reluctance to establish any sorority on campus primarily due to the presence of eating houses also illuminates the desire for minimal representation. In a letter dated December 1,1997 and addressed to the President of Davidson College at the time, Robert F. Vagt, several members of the Executive Committee expressed why the college should not allow any sororities on campus. The committee stated their arguments clearly: sororities are organized around social exclusivity, eating houses are an inclusive system, and academic life would be adversely affected.[13] At this time, all of Davidson’s Patterson Court institutions were predominantly white and no sororities existed. The Executive Committee’s letter exposes the same trope evident in the 1989 black fraternity debate: the inclusivity argument, and other arguments to fall back on should the former fall through. Davidson reveals itself to be suspicious of diverse social forms and exposes its affinity for the status quo.

Insignia for sorority AKA with motto

Alpha Kappa Alpha Insignia

 

A status quo is not an inherently bad thing. However, when we consider Davidson College’s constant need and desire for structural improvement, using color-blind materials is not the way to go. In fact, it is a contradiction. Color-blindness has to be removed from Davidson’s toolbox if we are to improve this institution. If Davidson directly or indirectly utilizes blindness as a tool for its enhancement, nothing is actually ameliorated, hence the status quo. Some at Davidson College still pride themselves on their color-blind ideologies, and other types of blindness as well. Color-blind arguments coupled with minimal representation kept black fraternities off of Davidson’s campus until the early to mid 2000’s. The 1989 black fraternity debate and later opposition against sororities are prime examples of the resilience color-blind ideologies have had within the Davidson College community. That is to say that Davidson College, as the institution exists now, has been compromised, just like the United States. Nevertheless, Davidson’s flaws are to be neither accepted nor celebrated unless the status quo is something we enjoy seeing.

 

Bibliography, Part Two

[7] Ricki Morrell. “Black Davidson Students Push For Black Fraternity,” The Charlotte Observer, Article, November 21, 1989.

[8] Bennett S. Cardwell, “The Story Is One-Sided,” 1989.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ricki Morrell. “Black Davidson Students Push For Black Fraternity,” November 21, 1989.

[12] Lincoln Davidson, “Alpha Phi Alpha marks 10 years at Davidson College,” November 3, 2013.

[13] Executive Committee, “Sororities at Davidson College,” Letter to College President, December 1, 1997.

 

Guest Blogger: Jalin Jackson, “I Don’t See Greek: Diagnosing Blindness and Redefining Inclusivity at Davidson College”

This is part one of a two-part post; the second post will be on Wednesday of this week.

I am a Class of 2019 Africana Studies and Latin American Studies double major at Davidson College from Camden, New Jersey. My interests range from the social and cultural intersections of the African diaspora and Latin America to the political and linguistic disparities between the two.

In the United States, many criticize the system for its failure to provide change inclusive enough to satisfy diverse populations. This system, whose evolutionary apparatus has been a combination of racism and white supremacy, cannot improve as long as its inconsistencies remain unchanged or are changed without its history in mind. In my opinion, Davidson College has done a decent job at separating itself as an institution from the greater system within which it exists. While the college has undone most discriminatory practices, blindness has been a leading instrument in the college’s push for improvement throughout its recent history. A system built on blindness – whether color-blindness, class-blindness, or any other form – is as flawed a system as one built on racism. This is not because one or the other is more prone to oppression, but instead because blindness does not work toward its own eventual goal of undoing structural oppression and underrepresentation. Davidson’s present reality of incomplete social inclusivity and color-blind ideologies can be attributed to its history of color-blindness as an apparatus of change in Davidson’s social realm. Contradictions of inclusivity within Patterson Court organizations, arguments against the diversification of Greek life, and minimal representation on campus have prolonged Davidson’s improvement historically.

Davidson College’s preference for color-blindness does not mean it is incapable of making anti-racist decisions. In terms of black student admission, Davidson had its first African American alumnus in 1968 with Wayne Crumwell, officially admitting him in 1964. This goes against the common narratives of near universal southern pushback against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that called for scholastic integration.

Black and white photograph of Wayne Crumwell, portrait style, 1968

Wayne Crumwell, Class of 1968

 

Just five years earlier, the Davidson College Board of Trustees insisted that 1959 was not a time when the “admission of Negroes” was in the “best interest of the College, of the Church, of the Students, or of any Negroes.”[1] In that same vein, in a pre-1964 majority report by a few higher-ups at Davidson College, there were some interesting arguments against the admission of African Americans to Davidson College. These ranged from how the college would have to “lower the quality of its education” to how the admission of blacks would encourage miscegenation, which was outlawed at the time.[2] Yet, as soon as the civil rights law compelled Davidson to comply with integration, the college as an institution did so relatively quickly. In addition to that, by 1970 the Black Student Coalition was founded on campus.[3] Davidson’s speed in diversifying its student body and providing representation for its minority student demographic are evidence of the college’s ability to push toward anti-racism and cultural representation despite strong opposition within the community. However, following the increasing level of diversity on campus in terms of gender and race, Davidson began to favor a color-blind ideology that guided decisions that would soon alter the appearance and atmosphere of the space.

By 1989, Davidson College had six white fraternities in Patterson Court. In that same year, a student debate regarding whether to introduce a black fraternity to Patterson Court surfaced. On October 25, 1989, a white Davidson College senior named Tom Moore wrote a piece responding negatively to one written by a Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., interest group a few weeks earlier. In his piece, Moore argued that a black fraternity “would segregate the campus” and that assimilation is the “best way to improve lines of communication”; he even contends that a black fraternity sounds like “the rationale for the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine” and that minorities on campus should just assimilate because Davidson’s predominately white social circles reflect the social reality of America.[4] Although radical, Moore’s comments illuminate the basis of the inclusivity argument that: existing social organizations at Davidson are already inclusive and the exclusivity of a different organization would fragment the campus. This inclusivity argument, as one will see, goes on to repeat itself throughout Davidson’s evolution. In response to Moore’s statements, black junior Darry Strickland published in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian what would be the opposite pole of the debate. Strickland called out Moore on his “ethnocentric attitude” and communicated how black males at the college were forced to assimilate into white fraternities if they wished to participate in Greek life on campus at all.[5] Even though white fraternities at Davidson College were not allowed to racially discriminate explicitly at the time, there is a reason that black male students interested in Greek life were not joining these fraternities at the college en masse. The organizations may have been inclusive on paper, but not diverse enough. They maintained their inclusivity, neglecting why it failed in the diversification of white organizations. Although this contradiction of inclusivity was not necessarily the fault of the existing organizations on campus, Moore failed to acknowledge what black students wanted.

black and white photograph Melissa Givens, portrait style, 1989

Melissa Givens, Class of 1989

 

Black senior Melissa Givens makes this clear in the November 1, 1989 edition of the Davidsonian as well, providing more insight into how blacks fared in the Davidson social scene. In her commentary, she calls on Moore and the Davidson College community repeatedly to “accept and celebrate the differences” as opposed to recognizing them without their celebration, as the college had been doing.[6] In other words, some within the Davidson College had been viewing differences as divisive, including Moore. I agree with Givens that assimilation silences those voices that are not a part of the majority. Her argument combats color-blindness directly and is one of the earlier moments of analysis identical to mine.

 

Bibliography, Part One

[1] Davidson College Board of Trustees. Meeting Summary, 1959.

[2] Davidson College Admissions Committee, “The Majority Report of the Admission of Negroes to Davidson College.”

[3] “Black Student Coalition House Showcases New Student-Painted Mural,” Davidson College News, September 11, 2013.

[4] Tom Moore. “Here’s how a black fraternity could be a bad idea,” Davidsonian Column, October 25, 1989.

[5] Darry Strickland. “A black fraternity is not an insidious plot,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989.

[6] Melissa Givens. “A frat is not separate but equal—just different,” Davidsonian Column, November 1, 1989

Digitization and Historical Context: Analyzing Trustee and Faculty Minutes

The archives hold several bound volumes of minutes from the meetings of the trustees and faculty of Davidson College. The trustees met at irregular intervals throughout the nineteenth century, beginning in 1836, as they discussed monetary issues, student deportment, lack of students, faculty turnover, and the strain imposed by Civil War drafting and rationing. The trustee meetings initially took place at local churches, with several of the trustees representing the various presbyteries that supported the nascent Davidson College.

Though Davidson College classes officially began in 1837, no faculty meeting minutes were kept until 1845. Members of the faculty met weekly between 1845 and 1921 and discussed issues similar to those of the trustees. In 1921, the meetings moved to monthly sessions, meaning there are significantly fewer volumes found for later years.

The first volume of Faculty Minutes for Davidson College also contains the minutes of the Trustees of the Western Carolina College between May 1821 and June 1824. The North Carolina General Assembly authorized the establishment of a college in 1820, subsequently appointing trustees to oversee its development. These trustees met for three years, but were ultimately unable to raise sufficient funds for the effort—though this later gave way to the establishment of Davidson College.

The trustee and faculty minutes contain information about college assets, personal finances, student grades and conduct, curriculum development, and admissions policies. For this reason, minutes taken at these meetings typically have some restrictions to protect the privacy of those involved. Davidson’s trustee minutes have access restrictions for 75 years. There are no restrictions on nineteenth century faculty minutes. The Archives & Special Collections department is making a concerted effort to digitize these volumes, beginning with meetings that shed light on Davidson College’s relationship to and within the slave system, as well as systemic racial discrimination.

One of the most enlightening faculty minutes accounts dates to December 27, 1853, stating:

                “The Faculty having heard that a fight had occurred on the 26th inst., at the lower store, between some of the students and some men from the country, proceeded to investigate the facts in the case. They found as follows:

                That there was a wagon near the store, and several negroes, together with two young men by the name of Washam, near it. Two students, Robert A. H. Neagle and H.T. McDugald, in passing the wagon, accosted some of the negroes, telling them to take off their hates, and on their declining to do so, Neagle knocked off the hat of one of them; these two students then passed on into the store, where they met more negroes whom they accosted in the same way and McDugald, with a stick in his hand, knocked off the hat of one of them.

                The two Washams followed them into the store and asked them if the store belonged to them, and repeated the question when, after some dispute and rough language between the parties, the students came back upon the College Hill to get help and several other students went down and among them, J.T. Kell, who, when he entered the store before the other, enquired for the man (or as some would have it, the negro) who would not take off his hat.

                 One of the Washams came out of the counting room, and replied to him. Neagle and McDugald came in after Kell, and after some words passing between the parties, one of the Washams hit Neagle and then a voice was heard from outside of the door to Kell – “hit him,” and he knocked down Washam with a club which he had brought with him, and Neagle either jumped on him or kicked him in the side, when the other Washam attempted to interfere, but the parties were separated.”

The three named students responsible for the degrading altercation were suspended from the college by the faculty for the remainder of the term the following month.

 

This image is a scan of the first page of the faculty minutes from December 27, 1853. The typescript appears in the main body of the posting.

Davidson College faculty minutes from December 27, 1853.

 

This image is a scan of the second page of the faculty minutes from December 27, 1853. The typescript appears in the main body of the posting.

Davidson College faculty minutes from December 27, 1853, continued.

 

There were also several recorded instances of blackface during the Civil War period. One of these instances was discussed by the faculty on February 19, 1863:

               “Mr. W.H. Scott (pupil in the preparatory department) had been seized by Messrs. Moore, Knox, Glover, Troy, and Watts, and blacked and otherwise insultingly treated by them, and Mr. H.W. Scott, brother of the aforesaid Scott, had been beaten by Mr. Troy for resenting the treatment that his brother had received.

                The two messrs. Scott being called before the Faculty, H.W. Scott was found to be very much bruised about the face, and had evidently been very seriously beaten. Mr. W.H. Scott testified that he went into Mr. Glover’s room on Wednesday night, and having been there a very few minutes, he was seized from behind by Mr. Moore and thrown on the bed and held there by Moore, Knox, Watts, and Glover, and that Mr. Troy blacked his face with soot and tallow. That after he was released, an attempt was made by the same students to make a negro boy kiss him.

                H.W. Scott, being asked the cause of the fight between himself and Mr. Troy, said that he was not present when his brother was so much insulted, but that he went to Mr. Gibson’s room immediately after he heard it, and that Mr. Troy was there’ that Mr. Troy said to him “You ought to have been around to see us black Heathly,” and that he replied that if he had been there it would not have been done without a fight, and that we would cut anyone with his knife who attempted to black him. That Mr. Troy then called him a “damned South Carolina son of a bitch,” and that he (Scott) struck him, and the fight ensued.

                Mr. Troy was called before the Faculty and frankly acknowledged all that he had done and said, which was substantially the same testimony given by the Scotts; and said moreover, that the Scotts had been guilty at various times of stealing wood and other things, and that the blacking was intended to drive them out of the West Wing. That he could prove that they had been guilty of theft, though he had not seen them himself in the act, that could mention those who had, and that he was ready to prove it.”

 

This image is a scan of the first page of faculty minutes from February 1863. The typescript is in the main body of the text.

Davidson College faculty minutes from February 19, 1863.

 

This image is a scan of the second page of faculty minutes from February 1863. The typescript is in the main body of the text.

Davidson College faculty minutes from February 19, 1863, continued.

               

In this case, the students were not initially suspended or expelled from the college for their behavior, but they were publicly admonished. Nearly one month later, on March 10, 1863, the faculty voted on a proposition to make “any student who disguises himself by blacking his face, altering his dress, or by any other means, guilty of a serious offence liable to immediate dismission from College.”

Although these striking accounts occasionally seem vague, we can learn a lot from what language is used, from what information is left out, and comparing these accounts to other records left from the period in question. Making these primary sources publicly available allows researchers to make those comparisons and bring often untold stories to light, while also revealing the historical roots of modern discrimination.

Guest Blogger: Tiffany Waddell Tate, Recognizing Synergies Among Staff

As I step into the role of Staff Council chair for academic year 2018 with an excellent executive team and representatives of every area of campus, I’m excited to share a snapshot of the organization’s history, evolution, and current vision for the future at Davidson.

Tiffany Waddell Tate standing in front of Career Development

Tiffany Waddell Tate, current Chair of Staff Council and Associate Director for Career Development

Staff Council (formerly known as AAG) was established in 1996 by the Davidson College President, after a small group of exempt (salaried) staff began to realize that the expertise and experience they were contributing to the broader college community did not coincide with the level of voice or impact needed around campus issues. At the time, this group felt the strength of faculty and office administrative / support staff, but identified a gap for a large faction of the professional community on campus. Out of these early conversations, the Administrative Advisory Group (AAG) was born.

In the years since its launch, the work of AAG representatives has led to stronger connections between staff and administration, increased transparency & communication, and a highlight of the great benefit and values associated with signing on to work at Davidson – in any capacity. Tangible outcomes from the tireless work of AAG representatives and working groups over the past two decades include:

• Exempt staff representation on campus-wide committees / working groups that impact the full campus community
• Campus-wide review of staff positions and staff equity funds, led by Human Resources
• Launch of pilot parental leave program for staff

Past AAG Officers, William Brown seated, Meg Kimmel and Carl Sorrenson standing, ca. 1996-2001

Past AAG Officers, L to R, William H. Brown, Meg Kimmel, Carl Sorensen

Past AAG Officers, Marcia Makl, Kurt C. Holmes, William Brown standing before a portrait gallery ca. 1996-2001

Past AAG Officers, L to R, Marcia Makl, Kurt C. Holmes, William Brown

The original design of Staff Council was connected to a broader vision for the staff community at Davidson, and the group mobilized to promote and affirm the mission and goals of the College – which is simply not possible without facilitating conversation and action that highlights the value of all staff contributions to the robust education environment in which we work and live. Today, we inherit that legacy, and are committed to the great responsibility required to continue the work.

In summer 2017, we had an overwhelming majority of staff vote to shift Council from a group that only included exempt salary staff, to one that is inclusive of all staff at Davidson. This shift in bylaws reflects a modern-day landscape of our community – one that includes all staff, regardless of position status – and allows us to recognize and identify synergies among the veritable brain trust we have among the entire staff community.

We are excited about this (and the name change!) to assist us as we continue the work of our predecessors to create opportunities for information sharing, networking, and heighten community impact & engagement of the staff community.

Our focus is clear – and we are excited about carrying the torch forward to continue to build connections among the staff community on campus, across divisions and with faculty and senior administration alike.

In Partnership,

Tiffany Waddell Tate

Behind the scenes of the Presidential Portraits Tour

This week’s post was written by Caroline Turner ’17, a volunteer in the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections and a future archivist!

When I first heard the presidential portraits were getting moved out of the library, I was initially stunned and more than a little unnerved. How would I be able to work on the first floor without the presidents smiling down encouragingly (or glaring down ominously)? To me, the portraits represented Davidson’s leadership and tradition as well as the college’s arc through time. As a history and art history double major, I felt like the portraits held a special place all together on the library wall, watching all the students working (or socializing). But as I found out more about the project, I knew I wanted to get involved.

Former Presidential library corner with portraits of previous presidents

Former Presidential library corner

Portrait of Walter Lingle sitting in a chair with a book under his hand

Portrait of Walter Lingle – holding students to higher standards.

I work with Jan Blodgett in the Archives on the second floor of the library, and with Lia Newman in the College Art Galleries over in the VAC. By working in both environments, I had learned the tools of both trades, which would come in handy as I navigated between the art and the history. I was tasked with researching each president and his experience at Davidson and then writing the accompanying label for the portrait, including information about the president’s life and presidency, as well as tidbits about the artist and portrait itself. Each president would be given a new place of honor based on his personal legacy, and I would connect the place to the president in the label.

I worked from most recent president (Thomas Warren Ross), backwards. I began by pulling out each president’s clipping file from the archives and reading through. I expected to quickly find, somewhere near the back of the file, a summary of each president’s contributions to Davidson, perhaps with an announcement of his retirement. But as I opened each file, I found masses of information and I quickly forgot my plan to skip to the back. Often there were cautious announcements of the new president, clipped from The Davidsonian and The Charlotte Observer. Who was he? What will he do? What has his experience been? Then I found invitations to inaugurations, wrapped in tissue paper. Then came the pictures of each president at athletic events, the Cake Races, and speaking at Commencements. These middle pieces were filled with gems.

Tom Ross penned this Davidsonian article to introduce himself, "12 things you want to know about Tom Ross"

Tom Ross penned this Davidsonian article to introduce himself.

One of my personal favorite finds was a debacle resulting from President Bobby Vagt hosting a party for graduating seniors. The Charlotte Observer wrote an article titled “Beer, pizza at college bash? Yes, and president’s buying,” in which the author tsked tsked for a president caring more about being popular among, and having fun with, students than about being respected and attending to important college business. Comments streamed in supporting President Vagt, and admiring his dance moves. One local said parents should be grateful their children were attending parties with the “best qualified chaperone.” It was clear from the other notes and Davidsonian articles that I found in President Vagt’s file that the students held him in high regard.

 

Charlotte Observer headline, "Beer, pizza at college bash? Yes, and president's buying"

Charlotte Observer headline

President Vagt in a more serious pose leaning on a chair

President Vagt in a more serious pose

 

Another fun moment for me was finding out that one of the portraitists never existed. When I got to Dr. Grier Martin’s portrait, I searched for information on the artist, Charles J. Fox. I found some scanty information on how he was a New York businessman and artist, but not a whole lot more. But then I found that Charles J. Fox was actually a pseudonym for Leo Fox, who was actually a New York businessman. He had photographs sent to him for portraits but then sent them right on to Irving Resnikoff, a Russian immigrant. Resnikoff was trained as an artist in St. Petersburg and left Russia in 1917 to go to New York City. He never met any of the people he depicted in portraits, which included many leading figures in government, including John F. Kennedy as well as our President Martin.

 

D. Grier Martin portrait with his cap and gown on

D. Grier Martin portrait.

I also enjoyed delving deeper into the history of Davidson and realizing how different the College was in its earlier days. I had to blink when I read one quote from a student who said that Reverend John Rood Cunningham “possessed a magnetic presence when riding his horse” and I suppressed a chuckle when I read that President Morrison (who reigned over Davidson from 1836-1840) was in charge of corporal punishment of the 60 boys that attended. He accompanied his physical punishment with a long prayer for the penitence of the sinning boy. One source noted that many boys simply requested two beatings if they could skip the prayer.

Davidson's first president as painted by his daughter. in a golden picture frame

Davidson’s first president as painted by his daughter.

I found that poring over the presidencies gave each president a more individual life. No longer were they a row of former presidents scolding me for going on Facebook when I should be writing my history essay. Now I think of Reverend Cunningham when I pass by Belk, which was built during his presidency. I think of  the raving reviews of students and faculty alike of President Vagt’s “Donut Wednesdays” when I pass through Chambers lobby. I think of Dr. Kuykendall when a friend discusses their Dean Rusk grant, since the Dean Rusk Program was established under his leadership.

To me, the presidents have become individual leaders and representations of Davidson’s evolution. I hope that their placement and labels encourage students to learn more about the College’s history and connect more with each president. Hopefully the presidential portraits will no longer be just faces of presidents past, but instead will become individuals with stories and experiences that connect with current students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Deans of Students

For the first decades of the college, faculty carried not only teaching duties but also most administrative tasks as well. They took on being bursar and librarian, registrar and supervisor of buildings and grounds. Over time, the college began hiring staff to relieve faculty of extra duties but the transition went slowly.

In 1920, the college created the first Dean of Student position and it was filled by a faculty member.  Mark Edgar Sentelle, Davidson class of 1894, continued to teach religion and philosophy classes for the 21 years (1920-1941) he served as Dean. Initially, the Student Life office consisted of the Dean and a secretary, Dorothy Finlayson, he shared with the college treasurer. Sentelle joined the faculty in 1903. Fellow professor, Ernest Beaty described his career in the September 1941 Alumni Journal:

Mark Sentelle in 1922

Mark Sentelle in 1922

As a member of the faculty, he soon evidenced such sense of judgment in dealing with men that this special talent was immediately put into use. President Henry Louis Smith (1901-1912) requested Dr. Sentelle to handle student absences, and this he did for some time, drawing up absence regulations under which the College functioned for years. In 1910 President Smith again turned to Dr. Sentelle, asking him to  head up a committee on supervision of scholarship. Dr Sentelle soon had in effect regulations which served notice that Davidson College would not give indefinite residence to students who were not keeping up the Davidson standard of work, whether failure to do so were due to an unfortunate lack of preparation or to culpable slothfulness.

Beaty went on to note that it was

natural then, that upon Dr. Sentelle’s election as Dean in 1920, the enforcement of both absence and supervision regulations should be centered in his office. Hence, year after year, the big ‘Doom Book of Absences’ has reposed in the Dean’s office, and excuses of infinite variety have been poured into his ever receptive, but not always ‘acceptive’ ears.

Bailey in 1949 with a student. It is not clear if any of this books on his desk is a "Doom Book of Absences."

Bailey in 1949 with a student. It is not clear if any of this books on his desk is a “Doom Book of Absences.”

Upon his retirement in 1941, another active faculty member took on the role of Dean of Students. John Crooks Bailey, Davidson class of 1920, continued his courses in Greek and Religion during his 2 tenures as Dean (1941-1954, 1958-1961). The office he inherited had focused heavily on discipline and regulations and had consisted of the Dean and a secretary. Bailey began to interact with the social side to students as well.

By 1941, the college had a YMCA secretary, a new college union, and later a chaplain. Bailey was also a member not only of the honorary fraternities Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa but of a social fraternity Kappa Alpha.  Ernest Beaty deened him qualified to be a dean because of his “unusual alertness in the observation of facts and persons and a marvelous keenness in analyzing them” along with “a fine vein of humor, that saving virtue which makes life attractive” ( and presumably visits to the Dean’s office a little less uncomfortable).

 

Dean Bailey provides a good example of how his office dealt not only with students but also with their parents. In a 3-page memo to parents and guardians of Davidson Freshman written in August 1960, he included “A Word to Mothers” admonishing them to “let your son and his roommate have the satisfaction of doing their own unpacking unsupervised and let them arrange things in the way they want them. Their arrangement may be different from what yours would be, but they are the ones who will be living there.”  He further noted — with underlining,

Our experience leads us to think that most boys are secretly, if not openly, embarrassed when their mothers insist on staying in the dormitory rooms to supervise unpacking and to arrange the rugs, etc.

Dean's warning to mothers.

Dean’s warning to mothers.

Presumably, fathers in 1960s were less interested in their offspring’s accommodations.

Serving between Bailey’s years was a familiar Davidson face, Samuel R. Spencer, class of 1940 and future president. Spencer had already served on the faculty in 1941-1943 as a professor of military science. He kept up the dual faculty-dean role by teaching in the history department while Dean.

Sam Spencer as Dean of Students standing at a podium with President John Cunningham in the background.

Sam Spencer as Dean of Students with President John Cunningham in the background.

The next Dean of Students broke the mold by not being a Davidson graduate (Furman instead) and not teaching. Instead, Richard Burts (1961-1970) spent his 9 years solely as a dean and then became college registrar from 1970 to 1985. During his tenure, the Dean of Students office added an assistant to the dean and advisor to fraternities, extending the social role of the office.

Dean Burts engaging with students, everyone is wearing a suit and drinking out of teacups all around a small round table sitting on a couch

Dean Burts engaging with students

When he started as Dean, all his students looked like the young men in the photo but shortly after his arrival, the first African and then African-American students joined the student body adding the issues of integration to his work.

William Holt Terry, Davidson class of 1954 replaced Burts and added the challenges of co-education to those of integration. In 1977, the office added Sue Ross as the Assistant Dean of Students. Her successor, Paula Moore, hired in 1985 was the first black assistant dean.  During his tenure (1971-1994), the Dean of Students office expanded to oversee Residence Life, Careers, College Union, Chaplain’s office, Student Health and Counseling, and Community Service. By 1994, the Student Life had 43 full and part-time staff covering student — and still parental– activities and concerns.

Counseling Will Terry style, a man sitting with a student and a cord telephone in front of them

Counseling Will Terry style — well before cell phones and Facebook.

 

Dean of Students Office -deans and administrative assistants, c1983

Dean of Students Office -deans and administrative assistants, c1983

Tom Shandley, the most recent Dean of Students came in 1994 and will retire in 2017. Like Will Terry, Shandley has seen the issues Student Life faces expand along with more staff. Mark Sentelle, even as a philosophy professor, likely never dreamed of addressing gender-integrated housing, therapy animals, sexual harassment policies or nutrition guidance.  All the deans have met with students over academic pressure, alcohol violations, health concerns, and roommate conflicts. Ironically, even as colleges have stepped back from “in loco parentis” roles, the work of the Dean of Students has expanded. Students face a more complex world and expect that co-curricular activities will enhance the academic experience.  Sadly, few records remain for the earliest deans ( the Doom books are long gone) but the records the archives does hold await exploration and discovery. The history of Davidson’s  six Deans reveal the changing roles college governance, the changing nature of college students, and the context of college experience in American culture.

Tom Shandley with SGA President Warren Buford on a bench outside

Issues change but face to face meetings remain constant. Tom Shandley with SGA President Warren Buford