Guest Blogger: from the Class of ’64, “A Bit of the History of ROTC at Davidson”

 A small group of ’64 graduates gathered over the few years to rethink the future for the sake of our progeny, to consider how we might transition into a future that is yet to happen.   One of the subjects proposed was Reinstituting the Draft.  Since most of us graduated after four years of ROTC with a military commission, many serving in Vietnam, there was the lingering question: why did the school require two years of Military Science instruction of all its students whether or not they opted for a second voluntary two years. In order to receive a diploma, unless there was a physical or other exemption we must have spent two years marching and cleaning our M1’s. Even students transferring in as juniors had to participate.

black and white photograph of 1922 James Sprunt scrapbook page for ROTC
Scrapbook interpretation of ROTC from James Sprunt, Jr. Class of 1922

The reason given for the requirement, as we were told, was that Davidson was a “Land-Grant” college. Indeed, the Morrill Act of 1862 provided funds from the sale of Federal land to encourage and assist states to establish schools to teach agricultural and industrial classes and also military tactics. The problem then arises: Davidson was and is a decidedly Liberal Arts college founded in 1837. So, how could she be a school that benefited from the Act, or even its expansion in 1890? Additionally, a search of the listings of Land-Grant colleges and universities finds Davidson nowhere mentioned.  The resulting evidence is that Davidson was never a Land-Grant college.

Here is a link where the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s ROTC program traces its history to the Davidson program.

https://arotc.uncc.edu/49er-battalion-info/history

Davidson’s ROTC, then the SATC (Students Army Training Corps) was begun 1917. In the beginning participation appeared to be optional, then later was mandatory.

1918 cartoon drawings of military exercises
1918 Quips and Cranks interpretation of military training
black and white announcement for military training with photo of the cadets
Announcement at the end of the 1918 Quips and Cranks

A half century later in 1968 ROTC became a voluntary elective with enrollment plummeting to where it is today. It was World War One which birthed Military Training at Davidson and it was Vietnam which nearly ended it.

All that being said, our take, until we are presented evidence otherwise, is that the Board of Trustees saw how Military Science benefited the students and the college, and made it obligatory. Somehow along the way, to give justification for mandatory ROTC, the idea that Davidson was a Land-Grant college was mentioned. Not being challenged, it stuck. That is, until 1968 – Tet, My Lai, and all, when no amount of justification would suffice.

We are open to any enhancement or rebuttal on the above comments.

“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.

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

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

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

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

Students:

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

Faculty:

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

Administrators:

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

Alumni:

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

Trustees:

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

Recorder:

  • Dr. Malcolm O. Partin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!