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.

Coping with College

A June 2017 New York Times article, “Colleges Get Proactive in Addressing Depression on Campus,” mentions several programs at Davidson College and quotes the recently retired Dean Shandley as well. The article explains that colleges and universities are hosting numerous mental and emotional health programs to see what works the best and for the “broadest swath of students.”

I decided to take a look at Davidson College roughly fifty years ago to see what was offered. In the 1962-63 Davidson College Reference Catalogue (part of our digital collections), there are numerous references to “counseling” and this service was found in several departments and offered in various locations on campus.

Inquiries regarding “Student Interests and Counseling” were to be addressed to the Dean of Students and this was indicated on the first page of the catalogue. In addition to the Dean of Students, there was also an employee with the title, Director of Student Counseling.

Alumni Weekend, June, 1963, Dr. William Hight,
Director of Student Counseling

The David Ovens College Union is described as a “laboratory of student management and self-expression as well as a place for informal counseling and guidance.”

Aerial photo of Johnston Gym and Richardson Stadium and Field; the roof of the Ovens College Union is visible.

As one might expect, one of the responsibilities listed for the College Chaplain was “personal counseling;” although, expectations that the Chaplain would provide counsel regarding summer employment, another stated assignment, would probably not be anticipated. The Supervisor of Dormitories was also encouraged to offer advice and counsel students regarding problems in campus housing.

Mrs. Moore, Supervisor of Dormitories, surrounded by students.

Although the term would probably not be applied the same way on today’s campus, in the 1960s, counseling began with Freshman Orientation and continued throughout a student’s career, according to “The Degree Programs” section of the 1962-1963 catalogue.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact archives@davidson.edu.

Studying in the Library: A Picture Post

Tomorrow is Reading Day, which means finals are just around the corner for Davidson College students. Students do their work in a variety of locations, although the library has always been a popular study spot – there have been four libraries throughout the history of the college: Union Library (a consolidation of the literary societies library collections in Old Chambers Building, 1861 – 1910), Carnegie Library (now the Carnegie Guest House, 1910 – 1941), Hugh A. and Jane Parks Grey Library (now the Sloan Music Center, 1941 – 1974), and E.H. Little Library (1974 – present). This week, we reflect on images of students studying in the library throughout the years:

Three students at a table in the Carnegie Library (now Carnegie Guest House), circa 1916.

A crowded studying scene in Carnegie Library, 1917.

Students working at a table in the old Davidsoniana room in Grey Library, date unknown.

A busy day in the reading room of Grey Library, circa 1960.

A more somber nighttime scene in the Grey Library reading room, circa 1960.

A student studies at a table in Grey Library (now Sloan Music Center) while wearing cowboy boots, 1968.

Students read in the Grey Library smoking lounge, date unknown.

A student reads in front of the large windows in Little Library, circa early 1970s.

A group of students gather at the circulation desk in Little Library, September 18, 1974.

Students study on the upper and lower levels of E.H. Little Library, 1977.

Three students work in an aisle of Little Library, circa early 1980s.

Two students study by a window on the first floor of Little Library, with Chambers visible in the background, 1980s.

A student uses the microfilm reader in Little Library, circa 1980s.

Two students use a computer in Little Library, circa 1993.

Good luck to all Wildcats on their final exams, papers, projects, and theses!

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 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

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 -- well before cell phones and Facebook.

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.

Issues change but face to face meetings remain constant.

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

Snow! Or a Seasonal Picture Post

While snow is a somewhat rare occurrence in Davidson, it remains an exciting time for the entire college community. This week, let’s take a look at Davidson College dusted with snow throughout the years:

Snowy Main Street in Davidson, March 1915.

Snowy Main Street in Davidson, March 1915.

Three students clear walkways on rails pulled by horses, circa 1915.

Three students clear walkways on rails pulled by horses, circa 1915.

A lone figure walks past Dana Science Building, 1969.

A lone figure walks past Dana Science Building, 1969.

An unknown man leads a burro through the snow near Cunningham, December 1971.

A student leads a burro through the snow near Cunningham, December 1971.

A student walks near Elm Row, December 1971.

A student walks near Elm Row, December 1971.

Two students play in the snow in front of Cunningham, circa 1975.

Two students play in the snow in front of Cunningham, circa 1975.

A snowman in front of Chambers, 1977.

A snowman in front of Chambers, 1977.

The Presidents House looks picturesque in the snow, date unknown.

The Presidents House looks picturesque in the snow, date unknown.

Two students walk near Chambers, 1987.

Two students walk near Chambers, 1987.

A Davidson Wildcat made out of snow! Martin Science Building, circa 1980s.

A Davidson Wildcat made out of snow! Martin Science Building, circa 1980s.

Two students engage in a rowdy snow fight, 1987.

Two students engage in a rowdy snow fight, 1987.

A student works on a snow-cat - possibly the same large one in front of Martin, 1987.

A student works on a snow-cat – possibly the same large one in front of Martin, 1987.

We hope Davidsonians near and far are enjoying their winter!

Davidson & December 7, 1941

Like most Americans, Davidson students were aware of wars in East Asia and Europe but their involvement was limited.  On November 17, 1941, the YMCA announced that the annual Gift Fund project would be directed at refugees and war prisoners. Specifically, the gift fund would be purchasing Bibles to be sent to China, to prisoners in concentration camps in Germany, and to the US Navy. Using the theme of Let Use Share Our Faith, YMCA president Jim Owens stressed the need for “fighting hate and suffering with our strongest weapon, the Bible.”

19 November 1941 article following up on the Gift Fund project.

19 November 1941 article following up on the Gift Fund project.

December 4, 1941 article announcing acceptance of Davidson funded Bibles by the US Navy.

December 4, 1941 article announcing acceptance of Davidson funded Bibles by the US Navy.

College president John Cunningham and town mayor (and Latin professor) Ernest Beaty endorsed the gift fund project with Cunningham saying “I can scarcely think of any undertaking which holds the possibility of being more fruitful” and Beaty declaring “The best defense against evil in the present age is Truth as expressed through the Bible.”

Headlines for the December 11, 1941 Davidsonian –the first issue after the bombing of Pearl Harbor — focused on the latest Red and Black Masquers play, the annual Vesper service, and the cost of dance bands. The only reference to war came in one article about the ROTC honorary Scabbard and Blade.

December 11, 1941 article on the possible effect of war on a student military group.

December 11, 1941 article

Below the fold, this issue featured a photograph of the Davidson Bibles arriving at the USS North Carolina.

Front page war news after Peark Harbor still focused on Bibles.

Front page war news after Peark Harbor still focused on Bibles.

More news about the war appeared on page 2, with the text of President Cunningham’s chapel speech from December 5th:

Dr. Cunningham's speech

Dr. Cunningham’s speech

Cunningham urged restraint, noting that he was in seminary in 1917 at the outbreak of WWI, he told current students

I wish to express a word of caution today against panic and hysteria at this time. It is possible that some few students may feel that they are called to turn aside from their preparation and hasten into the military service of the country. My prediction is that there is plenty of time yet for that service. The word which I wish to stress, particularly to you today is that you are now engaged in a fundamental defense task. You must beware that you do not throw away an opportunity which has been denied approximately 97 per cent of young men– those who do not get to college. We must look further than winning a war. Winning the peace is going to be even more important.

A student editorial on the same page focused more on the American sense of humor in relation to Japanese culture.

Student editorial December 11, 1941

Student editorial December 11, 1941

The first effects of the war on campus appear in the January 29, 1942 issue with articles on changes in physical education, the introduction of summer classes, changes in ROTC staff and the first Red Cross canvas.  Other headlines show life as usual with mid-winters dances and Presbyterian student conferences.

19420129_001

Back on page 3 of this issue, the college library gets credit for collecting books (other than Bibles) for the military.

19420129_003

The first war bonds cartoons appeared in the February 5th issue. One on the editorial page.

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And one on page five next to an article on draft deferment policies:

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The Trustees began to address war-related issues later in February.

Headline from February 26, 1942 as the trustees approve war-related changes

Headline from February 26, 1942 as the trustees approve changes

Noticeably absent are any articles on international events. The student paper has rarely covered much in the way of national or international news and in the initial weeks after Pearl Harbor that focus didn’t change. The first reference to Davidson alumni in the military appeared in the February 26, 1942 issue.

First recognition of Davidson students entering the military

First recognition of Davidson students entering the military

A few weeks later, the Davidsonian reported on the civilian defense as the college began organizing air raid and fire watchers. Davidson was an unlikely target but we were prepared.

Time to start watching the skies

Time to start watching the skies

The war became more prevalent –even without wire stories from the front– when advertisers started using military themes.

First war-themed advertisement

First war-themed advertisement

Margaret’s Johnny

The Margaret in question is Margaret Truman, daughter of Harry S. Truman.  She came to campus 67 years ago as part of the college’s Artist Series. Davidson was a brief part of her singing career.

President and Mrs. Cunningham with Margaret Truman. From 1950 Quips & Cranks

President and Mrs. Cunningham with Margaret Truman. From 1950 Quips & Cranks.

Her appearance rated a bold headline in The Davidsonian:

Truman's appearance coincided with Homecoming Weekend

Truman’s appearance coincided with Homecoming Weekend.

The paper reported that while she was on campus, she attended a small reception at the Guest House and a dinner with the president. She was joined by members of the fund-raising Development Drive and “close friends of Dr. Cunningham.”

Front of Truman's concert program

Front of Truman’s concert program

She may have been a popular dinner guest but her performance met with some criticism, including a comparison with a “certain Madame Jenkins who used to convulse her Carnegie Hall audiences with her erratic cacophonies.”  The review continued, “To descend to the serious, Miss Truman seemed to have a technical understanding of what she ought to do, but let’s face it, Miss Truman has simply not got a voice. . . . To me, her German Lieder were most satisfactory. Her feeling for these songs seemed to be free of spurious responses and the comparatively restricted range of these songs seemed to suit a voice which leapt nimbly but unconvincingly over the thin and crackling ice of both low and high registers.”

October 28, 1949 review in the Davidsonian.

October 28, 1949 review in The Davidsonian.

Not reported in any of the papers were the behind the scenes concerns of suitable accommodations for this celebrity.  A townswoman in the know, wrote to her daughter, “I’ve found out the campus as all agog last week when it was discovered that there was no toilet for Margaret Truman. Such hurrying and scurrying. Mrs. Erwin fold me that they said it had to be one nobody had used. So at the cost of $200.00 the college transformed a dressing room near the stage into a “Johnny.” At every party somebody reported on the progress of “Margaret’s Johnny”– well, finally Thursday night, Mr. Hobart sent out a bulletin–all the fixtures had been installed, everything was in readiness– but the thing wouldn’t work!! Great was the concern- Margaret must have a johnny! Well, at the time of the concert, everything was lovely. Shortly afterwards this inscription was found on the newly painted commode– ‘Margaret Truman sat here!’ written with nail polish for all to see! Who would suspect staid, dignified Davidson to be seething with such carryings on! Margaret caused talk, but not like she imagined.”

Hocsak Family

Last week’s Around the D looked at student responses to conflict in Nicaragua in 1985. In 1956, Davidson students reacted to another conflict and refugee crisis by sponsoring an Hungarian family. It began with the college bringing in speakers to share their experiences of the Russian invasion and subsequent strikes within Hungary.  Students followed through on their concerns by working with Church World Service to find a refugee family to sponsor.  This effort was funded through the annual YMCA gift fund.

Davidsonian headline

1956 Davidsonian headline showing student interest in world affairs

Even as the students acted, conditions in Hungary shifted making it harder for families to leave.  Church World Service recommended trying to assist young men rather than families but finally was able to connect Davidson and the Hocsak family.

Bold headlines document the family's arrival and student political interests.

Bold headlines document the family’s arrival and student political interests.

The Hocsaks came to Davidson on January 18, 1957 and were provided housing in a former faculty home on Main Street.   The family included a young couple, their 3 year-old-son, and Mr. Hocsak’s mother. Mr, Hocsak had been an engineer in Hungary and also involved in actions against the secret police. Their escape from Budapest began on December 4, 1956. Using a truck from his company, they drove first to Vienna, crossing the border without trouble and then to Munich. They were flown to New Jersey and then sent to Davidson.

As the family settled in, students took time to visit the family.  They appeared to be particularly fond of the youngest Hocsak, jokingly comparing him to a popular cartoon character of the time, Dennis the Menace.  He earned the comparison in part by his antics on his tricycle.

February, 1 1957 article on the youngest Hocsak

February, 1 1957 article on the youngest Hocsak

Over the next few weeks, the Davidsonian published a 3 part series narrated by Istvan Hocsak about their experiences and political conditions in Hungary. In the first article, he described how he became involved in the freedom movement,

“In early October the first step toward revolution was taken. The students at the University in Szeged broke away from  the old Communist youth organization, ‘Disz,’ and formed a new group. This group drew up a proclamation demanding a free press, a release from compulsory study of Russian, and a promise that Hungarian uranium be left in Hungary and not shipped to Russia.

I heard about this movement on October 20, and spent the next couple of days trying to find out more about the proposals. After the twentieth everybody was talking about revolution. In my office we were all exhilarated by the thought that perhaps the oppression was nearly over.

On the 22nd a great mass meeting was held at my university, the Polytechnical University of Budapest. Nearly all of the 11,000 students in the school were there. . . . I was at work and could not be at the meeting, but a colleague of mine brought me a mimeographed copy of the Proclamation. We typed as many as we could and distributed them in the building. Everybody was excited. Enthusiasm was sweeping through the people like a fever.”

He went on to recount that at 6pm that same day, a crowd gathered in front of the Parliament building. They waited until 8:30pm when Insre Nagy came out.  His speech disappointed the crowd. “I decided to go home and see if my family was safe. During the time that I was home, between 9 and 10 o’clock, a group of students decided to broadcast the proclamation. When the crown reached the broadcasting station, they were met by the Secret Police. They told the crowd to go away, but the crowd moved on toward the building. The police fired, and the Revolution had begun.”

First article in series - 8 February 1957

First article in series – 8 February 1957

2nd article in series - 15 Feburary 1957

2nd article in series – 15 Feburary 1957

Last article in series - 22 February 1957

Last article in series – 22 February 1957

By the following fall, the Davidsonian was reporting that the Hocsaks were well settled – now on North Thompson Street.  Istvan, now being known as Steve, was employed by a Charlotte firm as a draftmen and Rosie Hocsak was working for the Ivey’s department store company. Their language skills had improved through tutoring by local teaching legend Maude Vinson.

In 1962, the Charlotte News did another follow-up article on the family. By then they were living in Charlotte with Steve having recently changed jobs.  According to the News, “Today the Hocsaks are Charlotteans with Hungarian accents just five years out of Budapest. They live in a $14,000 home on Birchcrest Drive, they own a second-hand Buick, they watch television, they have an air conditioner, they belong to the Third Presbyterian Church and the PTA at Windsor Park School, they pay taxes, they have a mortgage, they both work– and they have a swimming pool.”

A swimming pool might seem an oddity in this story but the Hocsaks met at a pool. Steve was a competitive swimmer in college.  The article doesn’t mention if they ever go back to visit Davidson but does provide evidence that the YMCA gift fund and student support made a significant difference in their lives.

Photo taken shortly after their arrival in 1957

Photo taken shortly after their arrival in 1957