The 1960s at Hobart & William Smith Colleges
By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits
This topic interested me and, with limited time and word count, I took the easiest route and looked at 1960s yearbooks to see what I could learn. (They are available to the public on the first floor of Hobart & William Smith Colleges’ library but do not leave the library.)
The first change I noticed was a combination of the two college yearbooks in 1962. The Echo (Hobart) and The Pine (William Smith) were published in one volume but retained their names on the cover. The two groups continued to make their own style decisions as well. In 1968 Hobart seniors posed for formal photos that were displayed in rows. The William Smith graduates each posed wherever they wished and the photos were arranged more artistically on the page. By 1969 both colleges were doing this, and had abandoned captions of hometown, major, activities, and future career.
These changes in personal representation reflected a larger campus movement toward personal freedom. Colleges had parietal rules that controlled visits between opposite genders to each other’s dormitories and especially personal spaces. It varied among colleges, but usually there were curfews, house mothers for women’s dorms, and visits were only allowed in public spaces. Activities might be restricted as well. A friend of mine who attended Oneonta Normal School (now SUNY Oneonta) in the early 1920s was expelled for singing and playing the piano in mixed company after 7 p.m. The students rallied to have her reinstated and their action led to that college’s first student government.
Hobart had a student Board of Control (BOC) since 1900. The limits of their governance were tested in 1965 when unspecified “new social regulations” were put in place. Based on documents beside the yearbooks, I believe they involved alcohol in dorms and “entertaining” in dorm rooms. While alcohol and sex weren’t invented in the 1960s, college officials everywhere became more concerned with regulating and preventing it.
The elected BOC resigned en masse in the winter of 1966. The situation was mentioned briefly in the 1966 yearbook, but earned three pages in the 1967 edition. “History of the Hobart Student Government 1966-67” offered a detailed, albeit biased, account of increased control by the President’s office and student reactions. The 1968 yearbook gave a shorter summary of resolution: the creation of an all-campus (faculty and students) Senate.
By nature college students aged 18 to 22 years old are pretty inward-focused and self-absorbed. The expansion of personal freedoms seemed to be an issue that unified the campus. While national issues received less space in the yearbooks, larger social change was still evident on campus. Speakers in 1968 and 1969 included Dick Gregory, Julian Bond, Daniel Berrigan, and many more. There were student actions and sit-ins against the Vietnam War, although those photos are mostly uncaptioned. Perhaps the editors felt the larger issues would speak for themselves in the future while the campus government needed more documentation.