This weekend, Davidson will host its 177th commencement – congratulations, class of 2014! Commencement at Davidson has certainly changed over the years, but some things have remained constant – namely, the necessity of invitations and programs detailing the event. This week, let’s a take a look at some examples of these early college publications…
So graduates, guests, and members of the Davidson community: as you attend commencement events this weekend, take a look at the invitations, programs, and schedules you’re being handed, and hearken back to these earlier examples of college culture!
Today is the final day of classes for the Fall 2013 semester, and the sturm und drang of final exams and papers is evident all over campus – E.H. Little Library is more packed with students than ever! Student stress is so apparent this time of year (and in general at Davidson) that Academic Affairs, the SGA and The Davidsonian sponsored yesterday’s “Balancing Academics and Co-Curriculars: A forum hosted by Dean Wendy Raymond.” Last week, in a presumably student-led charge to relieve finals-related stress, several anonymous, encouraging messages appeared on the brick walkways closest to the library:
Previous generations of Davidson students felt similarly tried by the academic rigors of the college, and expressed some of their concerns through their letters home. Henry Elias Fries (class of 1878) wrote his mother in December on 1874, saying that:
… the semiannual judgement day as Col. Martin calls it, is now at hand, & we look upon it with dread. I am reconciled to my fate; many of us are about on a par, & we feel rather feeble in the knees…
Fries’ apprehension over his exams didn’t end with the semester – he again wrote to his mother on January 3, 1875, requesting that she send his exam results as soon as possible (reports were sent to students’ parents or guardians rather than to the student himself):
The reports were sent off last night, & judging from those which were sent around here I feel rather scared, lest the remaining returns which Dr. P spoke of will be below 60… If I get through without failing I will be very glad indeed but the reports are gone & my fate is sealed. If I get through without failing please send my report as soon as possible…
Hopefully most of our modern students are not as dread-filled as young Fries, but if they are, numerous departments and organizations have put together several events to help students de-stress as they prepare for their exams. Tomorrow is Reading Day, which will include a Puppy Extravaganza in the Smith 900 Room during the common hour, a Theatre and Dance party in the Scene Shop in the Cunningham Theatre Center (RM 120) with free food from 12 PM to 1 PM, the Curry Club’s Finals Feast in the Multicultural House’s Upstairs Lounge from 5 PM to 6 PM, a Reading Day Study Break at the Black Student Coalition House from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM, the Student Government Association’s Finals Fest in the Baxter Davidson Room (Chambers) from 9 PM to 10:30 PM, and the traditional DCPC Cookie Break from 10 PM to 11 PM. The following day (Friday the 13th) there will be an Ice Cream Study Break in the Smith 900 Room beginning at 10 PM (yours truly is a backup scooper this year, so say hello if you see me there!). Additionally, Davis Cafe (in the Union) is discounting coffee to 0.99¢ until December 20th, in order to keep the Davidson community well-caffeinated throughout this trying time.
Here in the library, the staff supplies some quick, mindless study breaks starting on Reading Day, in the form of puzzles, Legos, Mr. & Mrs. Potato Heads, and games of Twister, Battleship, and Connect Four.
If you’re feeling stressed, stop by the library or one of the events mentioned above to give your brain a bit of a rest. As the chalked encouragements remind us all, you studied – don’t worry!
This week is North Carolina Archives Week, and since this year’s theme is “Home Grown: A Celebration of N.C. Food Culture and History,” what better time to delve into the history of farming at Davidson?
Davidson College was founded as a manual labor school, which meant that the earliest students “perfom[ed] manual Labor either agricultural or mechanical in the manner and to the extent determined by the Board of Trustees,” as mandated by March 1839 Constitution of Davidson College. Manual labor was seen as a way of reducing the cost of education and thereby making college affordable to more than the sons of the upper classes, and as a benefit to both the physical and mental heath of students. President Robert Hall Morrison spelled out the societal benefits that manual labor education could bring about in his August 2, 1838 close of term address, stating that:
The efforts of all enlightened men should be combined to improve the moral condition of society by rendering manual labor more reputable and inviting. This is not to be done solely by pronouncing eulogies, but, as time and circumstances will permit, by holding the spade, the axe, the plow, and the plane. Educated men should prove that they are not above doing as well as praising the labor by which society lives.
But while President Morrison waxed poetic on the possibilities of labor, the students had very different feelings. Alexander Bogle (class of 1843), wrote to a friend that “now comes the work which is not so pleasant… We have to work very hard three hours which is the time allotted and you know that it is pretty hard to work that long.”
Similarly, Pinckney B. Chambers (class of 1840) recalled for the Charlotte Daily Observer in 1903 that “The farm work was greatly hampered by the tendency of the mischievous and shiftless to misplace the tools and outwit the overseer.” He was more colorful in his distaste for manual labor in a letter to John M. Sample in 1837, after he had transferred to Caldwell Institute:
There is no labor attached to it. (which is one of God’s blessings) All you have to do is to pay your money and go to school… It is I think a much better school than Davidson College. For several reasons but I will give you but two at present as I am in a great hurry, they are very particular reasons with me, the first is we do not have to work, and the second is we get plenty to eat and that, that is good.
By 1841, it was clear that the manual labor system wasn’t achieving its aims – rather than lowering costs and making education more accessible, Davidson was losing money on the endeavor. The Board of Trustees voted to abolish the system, and the college farm experiment came to a close.
More than 170 years later, Davidson students are back on the farm – this time on a voluntary basis, rather than a mandatory one. The Farm at Davidson, purchased in 2008, became a working farm again last fall. The College farm provides sustainable produce for Vail Commons, Davis Cafe, and Much Ado Catering, as well as a space for students and members of the Davidson community to learn about where their food comes from.
As Farm Manager Theresa Allen explains, there’s a great deal of student interest in the farm: some students help work the farm, some conduct soil experiments, and some even take naps – a far cry from the manual labor farm days! The farm’s office hours/ work days for this semester are Fridays from 1 to 4 PM, so head over to 1603 Grey Road to check out the veggies you’ll be eating later!