How PC Was Different 100 Years Ago
Starting in the spring of 2009, we had something new here in the archives – interns! In the spring, we had Lance Poston with us, and this summer it was Caroline Todd. Their big project was to trace the history of PC’s campus and buildings; you’ll be seeing the results of that research on our webpage. Caroline also helped us by preparing a number of entries for our blog, including our August blog, which will appear in two parts. We thought it might be fun for incoming students to see what PC was like 100 years ago.
Starting to wonder what the students did for fun? Well, it wasn’t going out to the fraternity houses. They didn’t have fraternity houses. They didn’t even have fraternities. They had literary societies. It was a place for students to practice debate and expression. They were required to join one of the two literary societies within three weeks of entering college. The two societies were called Eukosmian and Philomathean. The societies had weekly meetings and the students were required to maintain a good standing within the society of their choice while they were attending PC.
A lot was required of PC students a hundred years ago. For instance, all students were required to attend daily devotional exercises in the chapel. Yes, daily. They weren’t just required to go to church during the week, as you can imagine. They were also required to go to Sunday school and attend church every Sunday. Also, there were special services Sunday afternoons put on by the Young Men’s Christian Association.
While students weren’t required to join an athletic team, they were strongly encouraged. Students who were members of a sports team could miss class if there was a game that they needed to attend. However, the dates for games had to be approved by the faculty. Students who were younger than twenty-one couldn’t skip class for a game unless their parents sent the president a note. Somehow I don’t think that the same rules would fly today…
If all of the academic and religious requirements weren’t enough, the school had some interesting general regulations. And by students they really mostly applied to the male students, since they were the ones who lived on campus and the girls only had to follow the rules when they were in class. (I told you we’d get to the boys.) To start with, they didn’t have the luxury of orientation. Students were expected to start classes as soon as they got to campus. We’ve already mentioned the church requirements, and the literary society requirements. Students also had to either be in the Administration Building or in their dorm room between the hours of 8:45 am and 2 pm. Back then they always knew where a student was at any given point in the day. The students got one free hour for dinner and recreation. After that hour was up they had to be in their rooms studying. There was none of this hanging out in GDH for two hours talking to people. The school made two exceptions to this rule. One was for the literary society meetings that took place once a week. And the second exception was Monday night when the students had time for “social pleasure.” The students also couldn’t hang out in the halls or play on the campus during recitation hours. If you wanted to skip a recitation you were allowed to given that you had faculty permission. If you missed ¼ of your recitations in a class with no permission, your class standing was knocked down to passing. If you were sick, excuses had to be turned in the day that you got back to class. However, you were allowed three unexcused absences from a class. Any more than that and the student was suspended from the class. Any more than six unexcused absences from any class and you were suspended from school.
For all of you who joke about the “PC Bubble,” the origins have finally been discovered. A hundred years ago students were not allowed to go more than two miles outside the city limits unless they were given faculty permission. (Anyone starting to feel like students then knew exactly what it was like to be watched by big brother?) Also, each student was required to pursue studies in at least three departments with a minimum of fifteen recitations a week. They were also not allowed to drop a class without permission from the faculty. Students weren’t allowed to have guns or any other weapon (which still holds true today). You could only have a meal in your room if you were sick and you couldn’t have any meals after regular hours. Also, for all of you who “accidentally” take a GDH cup, back in the day you had to have special permission from the dining hall matron to take any dishes out of the dining hall. Students from far away had to live on campus unless they had a really good reason and got approval from the faculty. Everyone had to sign the Matriculation Pledge which stated: “I hereby pledge myself to observe all the rules of this institution so long as I shall remain in it, to be subject to the faculty in the exercise of their lawful authority, and to be diligent in study and correct deportment.”
Last, but not least, there was no card playing allowed, and there was no drinking anything that could get you drunk. So, if you were caught playing Circle of Death, you were in a lot of trouble.
Speaking of trouble, what was discipline like? Well, even with all these rules and regulations, PC tried to instill values by teaching and example. The goal was to develop true Christian men and cultivate “Christian manliness” through the principles of honor, truthfulness, purity and reverence for sacred things. The school made it a point to say that a student would be kicked out for being “incorrigibly idle” (lazy), neglectful of duty or disorderly conduct.
See? Presbyterian College is ever changing and ever growing. Sometimes the changes haven’t been too awesome (such as the price of tuition going up), and other times things have changed for the better (such as not having the faculty looking over your shoulder 24/7). But the important things haven’t changed over the years. The values we maintain in our honor pledge today are the same that were in the Matriculation Pledge a hundred years ago. Maybe in another hundred years the archives intern will be writing about what life was like for us. Who knows? Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how things change.
Posted by Nancy Griffith, Archivist
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