Chapters in the Lives of the Chambermaids

Hello, once again this is Hannah Foltz, class of 2013 and current PhD student in rhetoric at the University of Texas at Austin and this is my last post for this summer.

Since 1929, the “top” position at Davidson has belonged to two women: the Chambermaids. This honorific belongs to the stony and silent figures perched above Chambers, the cloaked statues who flank the Davidson seal on the building’s capstone. For 90 years, the perpetually young ladies have surveilled campus, serving as muses, mascots, namesakes, and even as a destination. Here are some of our favorite stories about the Davidson Chambermaids:

B/W image of two statues on the top of Chambersg
Alma and Mater “Chambermaids”

1. They have names. 

While we don’t know who christened them, a 1937 article reveals that the Chambermaids are named Alma and Mater (“Davidson Data,” Scripts n’ Pranks, Mar 1937, p. 14) . From the viewers’ perspective, Alma is to the right and Mater to the left (“Candid Campus,” Scripts n’ Pranks, Dec 1937, p. 13). 

A student dances under the eyes of the Chambermaids at Davidson’s first International/Intercultural Festival in 1986. 

2. They have different but complementary strengths. 

True to their institution, the Chambermaids represent the best of the liberal arts. Alma is more literary; she carries a book and a quill. Mater is the scientific sister; she pairs her book with a magnifying glass. (An alternate theory could be that Mater is simply farsighted.) 

3. One maid may only have four fingers. 

Davidson Data,” published in 1937, claims that one of the ladies only has four fingers—but doesn’t specify which maid is missing a digit (Scripts n’ Pranks, Mar 1937, p. 14). Enlarged photographs suggest it may be Mater, but reports have not been confirmed by this author. 

4. They’ve been known to tipple.  

In 1942, when still-dry Davidson was in the middle of one of many (many, many) arguments about drinking regulations, the campus awoke to a tin sign suspended between the two statues. It read, “Hornung’s Beer and Ale.” Enoch Donaldson, a longtime janitor at the school, had to climb to the roof and cut down the sign.

The incident prompted Al Winn, student body president and valedictorian, to compose a series of verse parodies chronicling the sign’s hanging. 

5. They’re two of Davidson’s most inspiring muses. 

The maids have inspired many creative endeavors, both visual and verbal. They are no stranger to the male gaze; many young men have admired—and exaggerated—their sensual appeal. In 1947, Sam Robinson ‘49, went so far as to imagine entertaining the ladies in his Watts dorm room. Safe to say, Alma and Mater may not put much stock in the notion of the “Davidson gentleman.” 

Robinson, Sam. “The Maidens,” Scripts n’ Pranks, Spring 1947, p. 7. 


Elliot, Jim. Scripts n’ Pranks, Summer 1947, Cover. 


Hamilton, Bill. “Okay, so what if they never look up here?” Scripts n’ Pranks, Summer 1948, p. 9. 

Alma and Mater updated for 1952. 

6. They have cousins in Columbia. 

As much as Davidsonians revere Chambers, our signature building—and its female guardians—may not be as unique as we’d like to imagine. Henry C. Hibbs, Chambers’ architect, designed many academic buildings, including the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Library (now McKissick Museum), whose dome and capstone bear an uncanny resemblance to Chambers and its maids. Davidson can take solace in the fact that Chambers was completed some ten years before the McKissick. 

Color photo of statues on top of McKissick Museum

Source: The Living New Deal 

7. They were mascots for female College employees. 

Although in the 1950s, the College was not yet coeducational, more and more women joined the ranks of its administrative staff. They formed a social group, which a professor nicknamed the Chambermaids after the statues atop the building where most of the women worked. The women embraced the name, and it’s how the group was officially known until 1982, when they changed their name to Office Support Staff. Although the group did its fair share of socializing, it also lobbied successfully for many improvements for female employees, including tuition benefits for their children, campus representation, flexible summer work hours, and personal leave. The group was active until 2009. 

The caption on this 1955 photo reads: “The original Chambermaids.” 

8. They got company from time to time. 

It can get lonely at the top. Fortunately for Alma and Mater, getting on the Chambers roof was something of a tradition for Davidson students of a certain era. Those who accomplished the task were often immortalized in the college yearbook—along with the Chambermaids. 

Quips and Cranks. In clockwise order: 1939, 1967, 1952 

“The Phantom of the Night”: Cop Ed Linker

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.

Between 1939 and 1972, a lot changed at Davidson College—significantly increased enrollment; integration; the relaxation of rules related to dancing, drinking, curfews, and church attendance; the end of compulsory ROTC; even the first waves of coeducation. But despite it all, one thing didn’t change: the presence of “Cop” Edgar N. Linker, Davidson’s Security Officer. Hired as the (one and only) nightwatchman (Davidsonian, 12 Oct 1939, p. 6), Linker became an iconic symbol of probity whose flashlight and pipe struck fear into the hearts of many. In today’s post, we’ll dig a little deeper to uncover the man behind the myth. 

Cop Linker on patrol. 

Davidson’s mid-century campus security concerns seem quaint today. Although Linker did occasionally investigate external threats—notably tracking down a notorious burglar of East Coast college dormitories in 1954 (Warlick, Tom. “Linker’s Hunch Pays Off; Fields Awaits Jury Action,” Davidsonian, 12 Feb 1954, p. 1)—most of his duties appear to have been policing student behavior. Parking tickets, alcohol consumption, and amorous indiscretions were his bread and butter. In fact, he reported that on average he broke up three romantic encounters each night of a dance weekend (Duggin, Ervin. “Sixty-Three Weekends: That’s Cop’s New Record,” Davidsonian, 21 Oct 1960, p.1). He recounted his approach: 

I’m not trying to make romance unpopular….It’s the natural thing to do. But we’ve got to obey the rule. You won’t find that rule in the handbook. It’s just understood…Most boys think I get a kick out of seeing how many I can catch, but I’m always hesitant. Usually I tap my truck horn and flick the lights, then drive on slowly. If they don’t move I come back, and then maybe there’s some talking done (Duggan).

Cop Linker’s parking tickets were lamented in the 1966 Quips and Cranks. 

Generations of Davidson “gentlemen” and their dates came to know, fear, and love Cop Linker. In fact, the 1950 edition of Quips and Cranks was dedicated to this “phantom of the night” (14-15), an honor typically reserved for college presidents, deans, or long-time faculty members. One can find numerous photographs, anecdotes, and depictions of Linker in Davidsonians and  Quips and Cranks alone. 

Quips and Cranks 1950

As cultural mores and college rules relaxed, Linker’s job grew more challenging. In Duggin’s profile, Cop complains, “One thing about this modern generation. They don’t need a dark place to do their kissing. They’ll do it most anywhere.” In fact, Cop Linker’s retirement in 1972 seems to represent an official acquiescence to canoodling and a turn towards a more crime-oriented campus security force. After Linker’s departure, the College negotiated a contract with the town’s police force that eventually led to the establishment of Precinct #2, an expanded, college-focused force (McLawhorn, Dennis. “Davidson Precinct Institutionalizes Security Force,” Davidsonian, 21 Jan 1977, p. 6). In 1978, Precinct #2 was spun off into the autonomous campus police force that still exists today (Summie, Salley. “Davidson Police Department Divides,” Davidsonian, 27 Jan 1978, p.1). 

Price, Ed. “Alright, son, let’s call it a night!” Davidsonian, 19 Feb 1954, p. 2. 

But who was Ed Linker? Research in the archives of institutions beyond his beat reveals a life more nuanced than what figures in the Davidson imaginary. We were surprised to learn that the State Archives of North Carolina holds the Edgar N. Linker Papers! A subset of their Military Collection, Linker’s papers are primarily letters written to his family in Mooresville while he was serving in the Navy during World War I. Linker served on the cruiser the U.S.S. Des Moines, and the majority of his letters were posted while the ship was in port along the United States’ Atlantic Coast. Linker writes about his time in the Navy, as well as about his family’s experience with the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. Linker’s papers from the U.S.S. Des Moines are the only known complete set of World War I correspondence from the ship, and include an original menu from its 1918 Thanksgiving meal

One of Linker’s letters home mentions his vaccination against the 1918 flu pandemic.  

The archives of Linker’s church, Davidson College Presbyerian, are housed at Davidson College and also provide some information about the Cop’s life. After returning from the service, he married and ran a dry cleaning business in the Main Street space now occupied by the Soda Shop. In an article written upon his retirement, the author explains, “Mature citizens don’t have to be told why his business stopped [in 1932]; the ‘Hoover Years’ had descended on the land” (Gee, “It’s ‘Cop’ Linker….No More!,” Scrapbook, Davidson College Presbyterian Church Women of the Church Collection). It appears Linker then served as a police officer for the Town of Davidson; a 1939 Davidsonian article about his hiring mentions that he had previously been the department’s head (“Watchman Named,” Davidsonian, 12 Oct 1939). Linker was also a 50-year Mason, and enjoyed beekeeping and gardening at his home on Davidson’s South Street . 

Clipping from the DCPC Women of the Church Scrapbook 

Gee’s article mentions Cop Linker’s fine sense of humor, which no doubt went a long way during more than 40 years of policing undergraduate hijinks. In 1960, he admitted: 

Freshmen of course are the ones you get the most kick out of. You have to tell them we don’t allow mixed car parties on dance weekends. I say, “About bedtime, sonny,” and sometimes they ask, “Well where can we park?” Doggone! That’s already supposed to be settled.” 

Doggone, indeed! Cheers to a Davidson legend—and a veteran, civil servant, businessman, and beekepeer. 

Archival Choices

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. 

My posts this summer have focused on the lack of neutrality in historical records and articles, such as Davidson’s yearbooks and newspapers. We’ve discussed how editorial choices—to include, to omit, how to frame—affect the historical record. This week, however, I’ll turn my attention to the construction of the archive itself; how we must understand it not as a complete and impartial repository, but as a composition that reflects the intentions, priorities, and ethics of those tasked with creating, maintaining, and displaying it.

The 1968–1969 school year was a pivotal one for Davidson; it saw the abolishment of compulsory ROTC (“Board Follows Faculty Lead, Assents to Voluntary ROTC,” p.1),  anti-war protests (“Peace Group, Navy Vie,” p. 6), the presidential election (“The Davidsonian Report: Election–1968,” p. 3), murmurs about coeducation (“Coeducation Gets Overwhelming Support in Student-Faculty Poll”, p.1), the end of campus curfew (“Faculty Vote Opens Dorm Doors,” p. 1), the town going “wet,” (“State ABC Board Approves Permit,” p. 1)  and ongoing criticism of the treatment of black students at Davidson (“Black Students in an Ivory Tower,” p. 3). While auditing the physical collection of that year’s Davidsonians, I hit a snag. An entire issue was missing! April 11th’s paper was not included in the bound collection; however, subsequent references to the issue confirmed that not only did it exist, but that it also upset many members of the community. 

Letters to—and from—the editors suggested that an inflammatory letter to the editor had been published, one that had contained a personal attack. Elizabeth Smyre of Gastonia writes to say, “To include ‘good taste’ as a criterion for publication is an example of responsible editing” (Davidsonian, 2 May 1969, p.2). Mrs. Frontis Johnston, wife of the dean of faculty, comments that she has “never before read columns of such incredible rudeness” (Davidsonian, 18 April, p.2). The editors promise that, because of the furor, they would no longer publish letters to the editor that “constitute personal attacks”(Davidsonian, 18 April, p. 2). 

I assumed the archival omission of this hot-button item was merely a mistake. The library keeps two bound collections of each year’s Davidsonians; maybe only one copy had been saved for binding? However, when consulting the volume that is not available for public browsing, I found the same gap. 

My mind swirled with possibilities: what on earth was the archive hiding? Criticism of the administration? Offensive comments by a professor? Publication of a malicious rumor? Driven by curiosity, I asked Sharon Byrd—Davidson’s “Institutional Memory”—about the omission. She was able to point me to a scan of the microfilm of the April 11th issue. What I found answered some questions, but raised new ones. 

The item that had caused so much tumult was a letter to the editor from a Taylor Adams of New York City. Mr. Adams, an advertising executive, writes after viewing the Davidson team compete in the GE College Bowl, a popular televised trivia show. To avoid amplifying Adams’ objectionable statements, I’ll paraphrase his comments: he expresses disdain for the team captain’s North Carolina accent, explaining that, in his view, such a dialect represents stereotypes Southerners have tried to overcome. Mr. Adams minces no words and manages to malign not only the College Bowl captain, but also Davidson, the state of North Carolina, and the black community. 

The 1969 Davidson GE College Bowl team was named a champion team after winning the maximum five consecutive matches.  Men stand with sign that says "Congratulations G.E. Bowl Champs."
The 1969 Davidson GE College Bowl team was named a champion team after winning the maximum five consecutive matches. 

The preservation of a microfilm, but not a physical, record of this letter is peculiar. We’re not sure who made decisions about binding in 1961, and to be clear, we’re not certain that the omission was purposeful. However, if we speculate that it was, what would such a choice indicate? My hunch is that although this person(s) recognized the necessity of keeping a complete record, they hesitated to place an ad hominem attack on a student in the library’s browsing collection. It’s an understandable example of an intervention made in the name of ethics. But was it the right one? Although the omission prevented circulation of a malicious screed, it also obscured reality, making it more difficult for a historian of the institution to access the full record.

As is often the case in the presentation of historical texts (or statues, plaques, etc), the addition of context and framing could go a long way in mediating the frequently conflicting pressures of ethics and historical transparency. Rather than present Mr. Adams’ offensive words in a relative void, one solution could be to redact them from the printed copy, but include directions for accessing them digitally and a short explanation that the redacted item contains objectionable material. 

What do you think? If the omission was purposeful, was it the right choice? Should anything be redacted or omitted from the record—even if has the potential to hurt or offend? What kind of context should frame objectionable material?

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 Spirit(s) of Davidson

Introducing guest blogger Hannah Foltz ’13! Look forward to additional posts this summer!

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 work to define the im/possibilities of not only historiography, but also of popular conceptions of identity and belonging.


This week, I’ve been working my way through Quips and Cranks, the College’s yearbook. One of the volumes’ most popular tropes is that of the “Davidson Spirit.” Year in and year out, it is heralded as that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes Davidson a special place. Even today, College marketing centers on the notion of being “Distinctly Davidson.”

But what does it mean to possess the “Davidson Spirit?” I was struck by the evolution of this concept, which is illustrated by contrasting the Forewords of Quips & Cranks from 1933 and 1952.

Foreword of the 1933 Quips and Cranks discussing the "Spirit of Davidson." The text is framed by illustrations of campus, including male students under a tree.
Foreword of the 1933 Quips and Cranks discussing the “Spirit of Davidson.”

“Davidson’s student life is in itself homogeneous and simple. Davidson’s spirit is emblematic of the unpretentious denying itself the luxuries of form and show. Davidson’s faculty, like her students, are alike in tastes and pursuits. Davidson’s traditions are few but powerful, making evident the sameness of the mould in which we are all cast. Davidson’s athletics speak eloquently of this same spirit of modesty. Davidson’s activities add voices of modulation to the general tone.

Of this life without superfulity and unwanted ostentation Davidson’s Yearbook attempts to speak. Therefore with simple lines and plain colors we have built a monument to that Spirit of Davidson.”

1933 (Robert L. McCallie, ed.)


1952 Quips and Cranks foreword discussing the spirit of Davidson. Images of students and faculty line the edges of the page.
Foreword to the 1952 edition of Quips and Cranks.

“Every man in the class is different. Everything we do is unique. We are a class and as a group we have characteristics that are solely our own. We have lived together and suffered together and out of this heroic mixture we have developed a sense of brotherhood that makes us distinct from any other class before and since…

The Davidson Story is not devoted to any one class or any one group of any description. It is a blend, whether good or bad, of the character of anyone that has ever participated in the corporate life that is the college. From the President to the rawest janitor, each has a role and a line in the comedy or the tragedy that is Davidson.”

1952 ( William A. Adams, ed.)

While perhaps the dourness of 1933 can be attributed to Depression-era values or a reaction against rising fascism abroad, it’s clear that its notion of the Davidson Spirit is one that is static and inherent. It is something one is born with, something that determines membership in the community. It is very Protestant. It is a “sameness of mould.”

Fortunately, by 1952, the notion of the Davidson Spirit (or Story, in this case) had grown closer to how we conceive of it today: an ethos developed through a shared transformative experience, not through any inherent sameness. This Spirit can be taken up by every member of the community, each in his own way. This Spirit includes a recognition of the good—and the bad—in its past and present. All in all, where the other is unchangeable and exclusive, this Spirit is dynamic and welcoming.

Yes, Davidson was still far from realizing this ideal Spirit in 1952; it was still all male, and virtually all white and all Christian. And yet, this articulation of an alternative kind of unity marks an important step towards building the kind of inclusive, generous, and enjoyable educational community we are still striving to create.

Justice, Equality, Community (JEC) Student and Alumni Advisory Council

The Justice, Equality, Community (JEC) grant is a three year, campus-wide initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support increased interdisciplinary engagement with issues of race, gender, religion, and social justice within the humanities at Davidson College.

The grant documents state: “A more publicly available and promoted archives will inspire transdisciplinary coursework in the humanities through the use of archival materials, promote avenues for increased original student research in the humanities, and enable Davidson to develop reciprocal relationships with community partners—all in support of increased dialogue around issues of justice, equality, and community in the curriculum and in the community.”

To accomplish these goals, the archival component of this initiative has four main tasks:

· Identify and digitize JEC collections.

· Integrate JEC materials into at least 5 new courses.

· Expand archival collections related to JEC, particularly the oral history collections.

· Lead public programming about JEC materials, both on campus and in the larger community.

Jethro Rumple reminiscing about the college circa 1840

This handwritten reminiscence of life at Davidson College was written in the 1840s by an alumnus, Reverend Jethro Rumple. The document contains a description of the College President’s “body servant,” Esom. This item was digitized with JEC grant funds and can be found on DigitalNC.org.

In order to more effectively engage our audiences and build a stronger collection, we selected a thematic focus for each year. For the academic year 2017 – 2018, we focused on 19th century Davidson. Working with partners like DigitalNC and H.F. Group, we identified and digitized thousands of items related to this theme. These materials are available through Davidson College’s research guides – a centralized platform familiar to our students and faculty, while also being accessible to the general public.

We have built on these efforts throughout the 2018 – 2019 academic year by highlighting and expanding our records related to alumni and student activism through support for course-based oral history projects, the on-going digitization of our existing oral history collections, and more targeted student outreach. 

Some of these materials have already been incorporated into a variety of classes, including Introduction to Africana Studies (AFR 101), Environmental History (ENV 256), Slavery and Africa (HIS 366), Native Women (HIS 243), WRI 101, the Humanities Program (HUM 103, 104), US Latinx History (HIS 259), Women and Slavery in the Black Atlantic (AFR 329), and Origins of the American South (HIS 242).

Green Books, Contempo magazine, For 2 Cents Plain, and MLK publications arranged on a table for a Humanities course.

Special collections material pulled for the Fall 2018 Humanities course.

In many of these classes, as well as others, students often express concern that “Davidson is always talking about where we’re going, but rarely talks about where we’ve been.” Students wonder about how their legacy will be represented—and if it will be represented.

Understanding we were uniquely positioned to address this concern, we formed the JEC Student and Alumni Advisory Council—if we were targeting students, we wanted to empower students as full archival partners to recognize their labor for us, as well as in the community.

The JEC Advisory Council, composed of Davidson College students and recent alumni and led by the JEC Project Archivist, was established in the Fall 2018 semester to document and publicize the ways in which students have engaged with and responded to historical and contemporary manifestations of injustice and inequality in Davidson and the surrounding area.

Image of students, townsfolk, and professors interacting with archival materials in the fishbowl as part of the Davidson Disorientation Tour in 2018.
Attendees interacting with archival materials during the debriefing session for the Davidson Disorientation Tour co-led by one of our council members, H.D. (April 2018).

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

Supported by the archival portion of the JEC Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, we are working to synthesize information from academic, administrative, and social spheres for a better understanding of campus culture and greater acknowledgment of student work. The ultimate goal of this project is to address gaps between student needs and institutional responses, empower students to better leverage archival resources, and to promote dialogue around increased accountability for supporting student-led projects. 

To accomplish this, we will identify, collect, and digitize the data, records, and oral histories of student organizations and their community partners, both through the acquisition of existing documentation and the recording of information that does not exist in a formal or textual source; following this, we will organize programming according to our findings in order to facilitate meaningful conversations and tangible impacts. 

We are confident that, in addition to meeting our primary goals, this project will also promote a better understanding of the archives as a resource and increase transparency around the processes and accessibility of college documentation, thus creating a foundation for future projects and coalitions.

MEMBERSHIP

Kaitlin Barkley, ’21

Yashita Kandhari, ’20

H.D. Mellin, ’20

Carlos Miranda Pereya, ’18

Arianna Montero-Colbert, ’19

Jonathan Shepard-Smith, ’18

The statement of purpose was written and approved by the inaugural members of the JEC Student and Alumni Advisory Council in March 2019. The group has met on a monthly basis since January 2019. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Jessica Cottle at jecottle@davidson.edu.

Guest Blogger: Dahlia Krutkovich, “Petition for Jewish Studies at Davidson College”

Hey everyone,

A group of students has been organizing to create an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program at Davidson. This comes as part of a broader response to the events of last semester (the Pittsburgh shooting, “Hitler did nothing wrong,” and the neo-Nazis on campus).

This wouldn’t be possible without the work of students who came before us. We acknowledge and admire those who fought for Africana and GSS at Davidson and those continuing to advocate for Asian-American Studies, Indigenous Studies, and other initiatives that will ultimately make Davidson a place more people can call their own.

We hope that you’ll sign on, but we also want to answer your questions in person. Members of the working group will be at the tables by the fireplace in the Union this Monday to Friday from 11 to 3. This petition and its signatories will serve as proof that the Davidson community sees this as an urgent need. Talk to your friends, professors, alum friends and parents, etc. Thank you for your support.

Petition for Jewish Studies at Davidson College

1/27/19

To the Davidson College community:

The unmasking of Davidson students with neo-Nazi affiliation in November 2018 has left many students to wonder about Davidson’s commitment to its curricular and social values. We believe the creation of a Jewish Studies program at Davidson is crucial to the College’s wellbeing.

This is not the first time the College’s commitment to religious inclusion and academic integrity has been called into question. Less than 50 years ago, Davidson refused to hire a Jewish professor because he denounced a tenure policy that required professors to promote Christianity on campus (1). In response to student outrage and national attention, the first Jewish professor in Davidson history was hired two years later, in 1979 (2).

The Anti-Defamation League reports an 89% increase in anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses between 2016 and 2017 (3). Over the same period of time, FBI Hate Crime Statistics Report show a 37% increase in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide (4).

Just a few months ago, we confronted anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism on our own campus. Though our push for Jewish Studies is a response to homegrown white supremacy, it is also informed by conversations Jewish students had following the exposure of the radicalized students’ twitter feeds. Suddenly, Jewish students were burdened with explaining everything from the differences between Reform and Hasidic Judaism to the concept of conditional whiteness, while also processing neo-Nazism so close to home. Even though non-Jewish students were willing and eager to learn about Jewish identities, it is unacceptable that these conversations were catalyzed only by tweets including “gas the kikes” and “I don’t actually give a ____ about Jews getting shot up” (5).

Although Davidson already offers some Jewish Studies courses, two or three classes a semester is not enough; a more complete curricular program in Jewish Studies would humanize and demystify Jewish culture, history, and identity. The student authors of this petition are advocating an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program, which would span at least three disciplines and include at least one tenure-track position devoted to the study of Jewishness, be it through Religious Studies, History, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and/or Literary Studies. We envision Jewish Studies courses as dynamic, enriching spaces where students can more deeply engage with their academic pursuits.

Of the twenty institutions Davidson cites as its peers, nine have interdisciplinary or formal Jewish Studies departments, while eight others have access to programs or offer a significant number of courses devoted to a more expansive study of Jewish identity (6). If Davidson wants to maintain its status as a leader among other top colleges and continue to expand beyond its origins as a regional institution, adding a Jewish Studies program must become an immediate priority.

As an institution of higher learning that claims to serve as a “place where those who live, work, and study see differences as an opportunity to learn about themselves,” we have a responsibility to learn from our differences, engage with complicated topics, and combat ignorance with education (7). We hope the foundation of an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program will move Davidson towards a greater, more inclusive understanding of Jewishness. Community support is vital to our success, so we implore those of you invested in the future of Davidson to show solidarity.

To demonstrate your support, sign your name below.

Sincerely,

The Student Working Group for Jewish Studies

References:

1. http://library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19770422.pdf
2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1977/04/25/christian-nc-college-rebu
ffs-jew/bff9b129-00d3-499e-8978-5da6a9b3cfb0/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9ac
82f27a402; http://davidsonjournal.davidson.edu/2010/03/another-news-story/
3. https://www.adl.org/media/11174/download
4. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2016/tables/table-1;
https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/tables/table-1.xls
5. https://twitter.com/WorkersCarolina/status/1060331304741453824?s=20
6. https://www.davidson.edu/offices/institutional-research/peer-institutions
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1mnuIWvvhtnU_A4ubsWBnjcclX-H2
KjWRak37valaPFc/edit?usp=sharing
7. https://www.davidson.edu/admission-and-financial-aid/diversity

Guest Bloggers: Abby Fry, Mia Hodges, Hartlee Johnston & Erin Major, “Digging in the Davidson Archives: A Look at HIV and AIDS at Davidson”

Throughout this semester, we have been involved in an independent study class under the guidance of Dr. Wessner investigating the biological and social impacts of HIV and AIDS. We each entered this class with our own particular interests and experiences in this realm – Mia worked at the Mwandi Mission Hospital, Abby conducted research in Ghana on reproductive healthcare, Hartlee worked at an LGBTQ+ health nonprofit, and Erin worked at a harm reduction organization and needle exchange program. We were each able to bring our individual experiences to deepen our group’s discussion of the various scientific papers and books we read and movies we watched.

As the semester went on and we began to discuss what we wanted our final project for this class to look like, the topic of HIV on Davidson’s campus emerged. Though we each had knowledge of the AIDS Crisis both in the United States and abroad, none of us had ever heard much about the ways in which our campus was impacted by these events. We decided to expand the existing programming for World AIDS Day to encourage students to better understand the history of this infection both broadly and on Davidson’s campus, as well as to see that HIV is still an important and relevant issue. Our goal was to tie in several parts of campus for a series of exhibits and events that would be visible to our entire Davidson community.

Through the extensive and much appreciated help of the Archives and Special Collections staff, we were able to find pictures of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in the Johnston Gym (now the Union) and records of the group that brought the Quilt here in 1994, as well as photos from their trip to Washington D.C. to be a part of the showing of the Quilt on the National Mall. We explored how the LGBTQIA+ community has grown on campus and found the documentation of the formation of different groups such as F.L.A.G. (Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Q&A (Queers and Allies), and YANASH (You are Not a Stranger Here). Some of our favorite things to explore were the Davidsonian articles that documented the slow progression of the discussion surrounding HIV and AIDS on this campus juxtaposed next to articles about the regular goings-on of the school.

Glass exhibit cases filled with artifacts and articles about AIDS at Davidson

World AIDS Day exhibition

 

Additionally, we were shown Quilt squares made by Scotty Nichols, the former director of RLO, who made these pieces to honor Davidson students and staff who had passed away due to AIDS. To read about these students, see their pictures, and hear the ways in which Scotty honored them, was a poignant reminder that Davidson was not immune to the effects of the AIDS Crisis.

Many of these artifacts from the archives are currently on display in the Library, but many more will be shown during Common Hour (11am-noon) on Tuesday, November 27th and Thursday, November 29th in the Library Fishbowl. In addition, the documentary “The Last One” about the making of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be screened, and four blocks of the Quilt will be on display for that whole week (Nov. 26th – Dec. 2nd) in the Union Atrium featuring the squares of four Davidson students. On Friday, November 30th at 4:30pm, the Visual AIDS presentation will be held the Wall Atrium. Please join us for any and all of these events, as well as taking a look at the display cases in the library.

Poster listing World AIDS Day events

World AIDS Day Events 2018

We would also like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone in the library and across campus who have provided their expertise, time, and materials to this project!

Guest Blogger: Andrew Rippeon, Ph.D. Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing, “More Frankenstein”

Broadside with the silhouette of a human with cross hatches of green surrounded by quotes regarding monsters and Frankenstein

Broadside Celebrating the Bicentennial of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Halloween 2018

It’s been 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s story of a creature created in a laboratory.  In the cinematic adaptations, the creature is stitched together, composed of body parts taken from corpses and medical specimens (and a famously “abnormal” brain).  Given this collage-like nature of Frankenstein’s creation, it seemed fitting to mark both the bicentennial of Shelley’s publication and Halloween 2018 with an “exquisite corpse”-style letterpress print.  In the Surrealist technique of the exquisite corpse, multiple authors or artists contribute short fragments to a single composition, with the result being a collaboratively composed final work that often demonstrates striking, unexpected juxtapositions.    

In our practice of the exquisite corpse, volunteers from Professor Sample’s WRI-101 course (“Monsters”!) visited the new and developing Letterpress Lab in the Wall Center for a brief overview of typesetting and letterpress printing.  After an introduction to the anatomy of moveable type (including the face, foot, belly, shoulder, and beard of the individual pieces of type, known as “sorts”), and the basics of typesetting (upside-down, from left to right), students selected typefaces and then set short quotations they’d brought with them, drawn from their readings in all things monsterish.  Some had chosen extracts from novels, while others had more theoretical excerpts.  When typesetting was complete, the students’ individual quotations were then gathered together onto one of two mid-century Vandercook proof presses, and locked into place in the bed of the press.   

The following day, students returned to print their type on large-format sheets previously printed with an appropriate background: a monsterish, vaguely human silhouette emerging from a visually noisy background.  Perhaps appropriate to the occasion (a celebration of what is sometimes called the first work of science fiction), these background sheets were produced on the letterpress but by means of a decidedly twenty-first century technique known as “pressure printing,” and in this specific case enabled by the technology of the laser-cutter in the college makerspace Studio M.  Pressure printing is a little bit like stenciling, but rather than applying pigment onto a sheet through a stencil, the stencil itself is placed behind the sheet, and the pair are run through the letterpress.  Ink transfers unevenly from the press to the print—a “mistake” in traditional letterpress practices!—according to the presence or absence of the material behind the printed sheet.  In this case, a negative and then a positive stencil were used to create, respectively, the background field (silver) with a silhouette removed, and the foreground figure (variably inked) with the background removed.  Hand inking of the figure produced a stitch-like effect, which continued the monsterish and collage-oriented approach to the print.  In the short edition (limited to 40), no two prints are the same.