Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112
The dress code was perhaps the most visible regulation, especially for women. By 1966 students were only advised to dress in “a clean, neat and appropriate fashion” at their discretion, except that attire was still specified for meals. Tim Lott ’73 recalls that in his freshman year (1969) “the big thing for [Pi Kappa Alpha] men to do was to wear their fraternity pins (mine was this big gaudy thing of diamonds and rubies) on their Peters jacket, which was worn over a shirt and tie.” By springtime, he adds, all but a few members of his class “looked as though they had supporting roles in the movie Woodstock.”
Even dining hall regulations were dropped in 1971. Aside from complying with “Ohio State Board of Health regulations,” students were encouraged to “maintain an atmosphere conducive to enjoyable dining by dressing in a clean and neat manner, and by wearing more formal attire for Sunday dinner and other special meals.” Less formal by then, the students were as friendly and courteous as ever.
Women’s dorm hours were contested most persistently. They were a matter of college policy, of course, not student behavior. Most girls at least occasionally used a window, a friend’s help, or the “pencil-in-the-door” trick to bypass curfew. Fire alarms might bring a boy or two to the street, clad in a girl’s robe. Each escapade only aggravated the disparities between rules and real life.
The system was unwieldy because the rules varied from freshmen to seniors, and because of an elaborate set of penalties for infractions. Gradually, and under pressure from students, the college extended the night curfew hours. In 1967 senior women who were 21 or had parental permission could get a key to their dorm, which they had to return by 8 o’clock the next morning. Keys were provided to juniors the following year. By 1970-1971, hours were “left to individual discretion” for upperclass women.
Visitation rules for women in men’s residences underwent a similar shift. Through 1966-1967 women could not “visit men in off-campus housing except [with] parents or the landlord present as chaperones.” The following year the chaperone requirement was dropped for women who had parental permission or were 21 years old. In 1970 women were permitted to “visit off-campus daily or weekends at their own discretion.” Limitations were the responsibility of “the student and her parents.” As for visitation rules within dorms and sororities, each residence group drew up its own rules, subject to review by the Residence Hall Association and the college.
Alcohol regulations in 1965 simply forbade the possession or use of alcoholic beverages on campus or at a university-related function anywhere. Eight years later there was a Rathskeller in the basement of the Student Union that sold soft drinks and, subject to Ohio age limits, 3.2 beer!
By then Wittenberg guidelines focused “on the behavior of a student rather than simply on the consumption or possession of an alcoholic beverage.” Acceptable sites for drinking were specified, however, and functions were proscribed if imbibing was the main purpose. On that ground Tower Hall was denied a permit for a weekend “Beer Blast” in 1970. Of course, alcohol abuse by individuals and social groups, especially fraternities, continued to be a problem.
Drugs were not even mentioned in the 1965 Student Handbook, but an alumnus recalls the smell of pot when he “walked across campus in the evenings” four years later. Mostly it was “just a social thing that did not really impact day-to-day student life,” he added. Some of the faculty then encountered the heavy, sweet aroma at student parties to which they were invited.
Accordingly, the subject of drugs was treated fully in the 1973-1974 Handbook. Most of the material explained the relevant laws from the Ohio State code, to which students were accountable. Trafficking in illegal drugs was cause for suspension but, in keeping with the general shift toward individual accountability, discipline was based on specific circumstances. Moreover, as in the sections on alcohol, the Handbook urged the use of university counseling services, such as the Drug Information Group (DIG) formed in 1972 using trained student volunteers. Serious drug abuse remained an individual problem, while dope or pot was mainstreamed into the fraternity culture as a passing fad.
Who, having been at Wittenberg in the early Sixties, can forget the energy with which football and basketball were charged? Cheering fans packed stands on each side of the football field on crisp autumn Saturday afternoons. The marching band performed at halftime, and Wittenberg teams won game after game, title upon title — except in1970, when the team forfeited its 9-0 record because a player had hidden his ineligibility for the whole season.
This was the era of Bill Edwards ’31 (coach 1955-1969, and athletics director to 1973) and the beginning of the Dave Maurer era (1969-1982). Edwards won national awards and was repeatedly honored as Ohio Coach of the Year. Maurer’s teams dominated the Ohio Athletic Conference throughout the Seventies. Meanwhile, basketball held court in the old field house. Fans screamed as their team stepped through the mouth of a great tiger face, and the din continued with play. Even after the addition of expanding bleachers, the field house was over-crowded throughout the era of Eldon Miller ’61 (coach 1962-1970).
Wittenberg men competed in other varsity sports as well, including track, wrestling, golf, swimming, tennis and softball. Women played intercollegiate basketball, tennis, swimming, softball and field hockey. And both men and women engaged in “club sports” where they competed with students of other colleges, together with a wide range of intramural sports (women even competed in “posture”). Recreational athletics flourished in the shadow of football and basketball.
The pressure for women’s sports was growing, but there was still a huge discrepancy in the support provided to men and women athletes. Of the $87,260 sports budget for 1973-1974, only $3,468 went to women’s sports (in 1968 it had been less than $1,000). The women’s tennis team lacked uniforms that year, while the women’s basketball and volleyball teams used the same outfits, and the field hockey and lacrosse teams shared the same kilts. Male athletes followed away games with good dinners; the women got McDonalds. Male sports had first priority for practice facilities. The university did strengthen its support of women’s athletics in the Seventies after the 1972 Title IX Educational Amendments to the 1964 Civil Rights Act mandated equity in the resources devoted to men’s and women’s sports.
Communities of Change
Weaver Chapel, still new when Stoughton retired, was a towering symbol of the Christian community he cherished. During his administration many of us took our turns at chapel, speaking from the elevated pulpit to large numbers of students below.
No sooner had Pastor Ralph Kreuger added Sunday morning services to daily chapel than his successor, Robert Karsten (1965-1972), began adapting the chapel program to a changing environment. When a new college calendar ended fall term before the Christmas season, which had highlighted the chapel year, Karsten and his music colleagues Elmer Blackmer and Fred Jackisch countered with a well attended Advent service. A shift of daily chapel from just before lunch to 9:30 a.m. was temporary, but the resulting decline in chapel attendance was irreversible. Students now found it legitimate to question religion, when they did not simply ignore it. Cultural expectations were changing, and secularization was a national trend not confined to young people. Moreover, the religion department, once a resource for Christianizing campus life, responded to the academic priorities driving other departments; it avoided apologetics and added non-western religions.
Karsten responded with a diversified chapel ministry. He added Catholic and Jewish students to his purview. He brought speakers on religious and ethical subjects to campus. He administered evening communion weekly and ministered to a group of devout Christian students who organized as the Wittenberg Christian Council. Also associated with the chapel, a Wittenberg Christian Student Fellowship raised $45,000 in scholarships for poverty students between 1968 and 1970 alone. Counseling on personal concerns and social issues such as the draft rounded out a chapel program that reflected the diversity and fragmentation of the student body. Campus ministry came down from the elevated pulpit to meet students where they were.
Greek letter organizations dominated the social life and student governance of the campus we knew in 1963. Sometimes they seemed to compete with us for our students. Rush began with the arrival of the freshmen. From then on, fraternity and sorority events were the main stuff of organized social activity, despite dorm activities.
It was Greeks that mainly colored Homecoming with their house displays, and they set the tone at game time. They flooded the campus with their games and programs during “Greek Week.” Their singing highlighted Parents Weekend. Fraternity men serenaded girls at dormitories. They competed feverishly in intramural sports. “It’s All Greek,” a 1965 Torch column was virtually a list of campus activities. That was the problem for independents: they had access to a far less rich social life than Greeks. Moreover, for sophomores Greek houses were the only alternative to dorms.
The in-house life of the sororities and (sometimes raucous) fraternities constituted a fellowship of status, and Greek groups were the guardians of culture and tradition. The sororities, for example, sponsored a style show on appropriate dress for all campus occasions. Their community service projects exemplified social values. Alma Mater candidates virtually comprised a sorority elite.
Everything was related in student life, and racial discrimination made Greek groups vulnerable from 1959 to 1969. The system was challenged on other grounds too (and on other campuses). Fraternities especially were stigmatized for excessive partying and drinking; sororities for exclusiveness; both for blackballing, hazing and distracting freshmen from their studies. Much of the impulse for change came from within, notably in the case of hazing where older, denigrating practices gave way to labor and memory work. Fraternities found it increasingly difficult to replace housemothers, who had provided a tangible civility to house life that dissipated in the early Seventies.
It is difficult to know how much life within their houses altered during Wittenberg’s Sixties, in part because lifestyle varied greatly from group to group, though the authority of arbitrary tradition seemed to wane. What clearly did change was the role of Greeks on campus.
By 1966-1967 rushing was deferred to winter term. Greeks were defensive, their social life the subject of debate in the Torch and of study by faculty committees. One year the IFC sponsored a Sunday afternoon of open houses for faculty and administration. No one came. Being ignored must have hurt even more than being challenged. Criticism of the Greek system was sharpest when the campus was in greatest turmoil — 1969 through 1970. By the end of the era a Torch article by Pam Zilenziger ’76 described Greeks and independents as having two different but equally legitimate lifestyles. By then Wittenberg offered independents a much richer co-curricular life than they had a decade before.
Campus activities also expanded. A strong university series of outside speakers and presentations was supplemented by the chapel and academic departments, as well as by the faculty Quest and Question lectures. Students were funded for their own speakers and entertainment. Student theatre moved from Blair to Tower Hall and, directed by Bob Wills, it often presented issue-oriented plays. Along with dorm-sponsored socials and parties, there were clubs and organizations of all kinds.
Early in the decade students strummed guitars and sang folk songs around the campus, sometimes with their teachers. The Wittenberg Choir was doing Hootenannies. Various folk, protest and rock groups performed on campus, while social dancing became ever less formal. The country club model of tux, gown and corsage evenings faded along with formal dance steps. By 1965 the early Beetles and American rock and roll band music were popular along with the twist. With the end of the decade some dances featured the psychedelic — strobe lights and individuals gyrating to loud, often hard rock music.
In 1966 the Wittenberg Choir circumnavigated the world, even flying over Vietnam where war raged below. “The trip was an incredible experience for a 21-year-old boy from Ohio who had never been more than 200 or 300 miles from his home,” Tom Orvis ’67 recalls. International awareness began to pervade the campus. The provost defended Wittenberg study-abroad programs in England and Mexico, sent faculty abroad, helped lay the groundwork for East Asian Studies, and funded a study-abroad office. Students returning from abroad were freshly aware of campus isolation, and some of them joined with international students to organize an annual International Fair.
A different kind of festival was launched in 1966 — W-Day, a surprise release from classes for frolicking, games, or just cruising. As an annual tradition it became increasingly formalized, but its excesses also generated opposition: in 1974 it barely survived a student government vote. That year another festival was christened, “Agora.” Anticipated in a 1967 fair created by a handful of students and professors, it became a celebratory marketplace of arts, activities and ideas. Agora remains a Wittenberg tradition; W-Day’s excess led to its demise late in the Seventies.
Sub-Cultures of Awareness, pockets of shared intellectual and aesthetic excitement, formed as the Vietnam War and other social issues and ideas broke upon Wittenberg. The Torch both reflected and stimulated that development. When freshman Pat McCubbin ’70 considered working on the Torch, her resident adviser warned her that “the people who ran the paper were ‘different,’ not in the mainstream of campus life.” Nonetheless, McCubbin joined an editorial team with intellectual vitality. Sue Keese, for one, measured the campus against contemporary thought; David Buehler ’67 introduced underground film; Greeley Miklashek ’67 wrote on world affairs; and Carl Jensen ’68 assessed campus politics and causes — a few of the outstanding Torch columnists of the era. After the 1970 retirement of Emerson Reck, vice president for public relations, Torch editors no longer had to submit their material to an administrator’s meticulous scrutiny.
A student-run coffeehouse emerged in 1966 to stage Wittenberg’s gentle version of a literary counterculture. Student organizers, notably Buehler, Dean Deter ’67 and Linda G. Ready ’67, received support from Pastor Karsten. “Witt’s End” — great name! — then occupied the first floor of a duplex on North Fountain. In one corner was a raised platform for student musicians and poets, with the theatre core and student writers clustered around. “Most issues were discussed there,” Ready recalls, though the Grill Room of the Student Union also was a hangout for discussions on contemporary ideas.
A few nodes of political activism and awareness emerged. One was the persistent movement for civil rights and African American identity. Another was the anti-war movement (described in the Fall 2000 feature titled “Breaking In”). These movements converged in 1967-1970.
Loosely aligned with them was a small, lively and argumentative group of activists who self-consciously eschewed the student establishment, which they still viewed as Greek. They formed their own social bonds over politics, debating for hours the theoretical question of whether or not systems could be changed effectively from within, but also engaging in direct action. One faction saw war and sexism as issues of powerlessness, and advocated economic co-ops as a route to economic power and equality.
Ecology was added to the activist agenda about 1969. It gained adherents and organization rapidly, in part because it sought environmental change within the political system. With backing from faculty and links to Springfield groups, an Environmental Action Group organized weeklong Earth Week teach-ins from 1969 to 1971.
Feminism was also an activist cause. Jeanne Mackey ’72 linked dorm hours to repressive stereotypic roles for women and both to race: “Just as white people can never truly be free until the blacks are free, so men can not be free until women can liberate themselves.” In the spring of 1971 a Women’s Liberation group cooperated with Union Board to sponsor a “Focus on Women Week” of consciousness-raising for women. For men, too. Among activities that might help men appreciate women’s plight, advised the week’s sponsors, one was to “hold your legs together every time you sit down for a whole day.” With several other students, Mackey eschewed the image of “bra-burning, men-hating, frustrated females.” The issue was identity, men’s and women’s.
Women’s Liberation moved from awareness to action the following year. Among other things, it sponsored programs on sexuality and birth control, and affiliated with the Springfield branch of a regional pregnancy counseling service. Women’s emphasis week was conducted annually through 1974. Meanwhile, a $20,000 grant from the Lutheran Church of America funded a program formed primarily by faculty women to develop bibliography, courses and workshops for both students and Springfield women. All this activity left some women feeling denigrated for choosing the traditional role of mother and homemaker.
Even the annual Alma Mater award changed. Her nomination and election broadened from the sorority elite to women’s honor societies and then to the entire campus. The once rich pageantry of her crowning seemed minimal in 1971-1972 to Alma Mater Eden Alexander ’72. At the traditional Honors Convocation, she rued, the Alma Mater used to come forward wearing a robe in a formal ceremony, “and the other candidates were torch-bearers or something.” Her own recognition had been merely announced at an honors luncheon, her contacts mainly with the Alumni Association. Others, including former Alma Mater Margaret Ermarth, were glad the “queen-bit” had been dropped and, as Jane Powell ’70 (president of Mortar Board) said,brought down from “a pedestal” to be “part of us.”
All the changes in the campus climate — and the process by which they were made — raised questions of identity. What does it mean to be a student in an academic community, and what is a college to its students? What does it mean to be an African American, or a white accomplice to racism? A college woman or a male accomplice to the stereotyping of women? An ecologically responsible consumer? What is my responsibility as a citizen and potential soldier in a war widely viewed as wrong? What makes me a Greek or an independent, and what difference does it make? Many of the students who thought through any of those questions discovered the moral relativism of plural identities.
Wittenberg Magazine P.O. Box 720 Springfield, Ohio 45501-0720
Phone: (937) 327-6141 Fax: (937) 327-6112