Human Dissection in the Early Years of Medical Education at UNC

The UNC School of Medicine opened in 1879 as a two-year preparatory program under the direction of Dr. Thomas West Harris. As dean of the fledgling school, he was not paid by the University but rather directly by students who took his classes. Dissection of human cadavers was considered an important part of the study of anatomy. The UNC course catalog of 1884 noted, “Dissection is made obligatory on students of anatomy. After the dissections are over, a short course on the operations of surgery is given. Students have the opportunity of making the operations for themselves.”

Dean of the UNC Medical School Dr. Richard Whitehead (center), medical students, and an assistant (front right) pose with a cadaver in the 1890s. From the University of North Carolina Image Collection, North Carolina Collection.

Dean of the UNC Medical School Dr. Richard Whitehead (center), medical students, and an assistant (front right) pose with a cadaver in the 1890s. From the University of North Carolina Image Collection, North Carolina Collection.

However, at this time it was difficult to procure cadavers for dissection, and medical schools were notorious for using bodies disinterred by graverobbers or “resurrectionists.” These men preyed on the graves of marginalized people – in the South, primarily African Americans. It is unclear how the University obtained cadavers in the earliest days of the Medical School, but students operated almost exclusively on on the bodies of African Americans, some of which may have been stolen.

At the time the Medical School was founded, there were no laws in North Carolina against graverobbing. In his history of the University, Kemp Plummer Battle, who was president during this period, recalled that one night, a woman who had worked as his father’s cook came to his house. She told him that a body had been stolen from a cemetery and a group was coming to search the University. Battle then confronted Dr. Harris, who only responded, “They will not find anything.” Battle reported that the body was not found and the culprits never identified, and professors assured the community that their students would not steal bodies. In 1885, the state made graverobbing a felony. According to Battle, this was in part due to local anxiety about dissection at the medical school.

After six years at UNC, Dr. Harris resigned to continue practicing medicine full-time in Durham and the Medical School closed. It reopened in 1890 under the leadership of Dean Richard Whitehead. In a letter Whitehead wrote to Professor Francis Venable shortly before beginning his tenure as dean, he emphasized the importance of dissection in his teaching.

Believing that only nature’s drawings are true, the instruction in [anatomy] will be eminently practical. The statements made will be proven by actual demonstration upon the cadaver, bones, and prepared specimens, and the student will be required to verify these statements for himself by dissecting and studying the dissected cadaver, as this is the only way in which a useful acquaintance with anatomy can be obtained.

According to Warner Lee Wells’ “Medical Education at Chapel Hill,” Whitehead was “vigorously opposed” to graverobbing and, once, when he learned a body had been disinterred, demanded that it be properly reburied. Whitehead instead purchased bodies, but they were often hard to obtain. Wells says that when cadavers were scarce, Whitehead would dissect one half of the body as a demonstration and then allow the students to dissect the other half.

In his 1891 annual report to the Board of Trustees, President Battle explained that new legislation might improve the situation:

If the bill now pending in the General Assembly which is like those of many other states, giving to this school the unclaimed bodies of convicts shall become law, there will be abundance of material for dissection. If not such material must be obtained as heretofore, at considerable expense, from a Western City.

It’s unclear which “Western City” Battle is referring to – the report Whitehead submitted to Battle the week before Battle presented to the Board says that cadavers were being bought from New York.

Soon after, a bill did pass granting medical schools in the state the unclaimed bodies of convicts. When the law was repealed in 1899, Whitehead lamented that the school’s “existence [was] in jeopardy . . . unless dissecting material can be obtained, it will be necessary to close the school.” He lobbied for a new bill, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. On January 19, 1899, the News and Observer reported:

[Whitehead] said that there are two methods by which bodies can be obtained: One by systematic robbery of graves; and one is by law. He didn’t think the law ought to apply to any one except outcasts.

The proposed bill, he said, was a copy of the law in operation in a neighboring State. ‘I have been buying bodies in Northern States, but I can no longer do that. All the States now have laws forbidding the exportation of bodies, and no one can be found bold enough to undertake it. When I was able to get them they cost $40 apiece. Now I can’t get them at any price, and personally I’m not going into the grave robbing business.

So you will see some such law as this is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the medical schools of the State. Anatomy cannot be taught properly without the dissection of human bodies. For my school about nine bodies a year are required. I do not know how many are required for the other two schools – Davidson and Shaw.’

Dr. Whitehead thought under this law the bodies would cost about $10 each.

In his statement to the Judiciary Committee, Whitehead also revealed that UNC’s medical school, like many others, especially in the South, relied almost exclusively on the bodies of black men and women. According to the News and Observer, Whitehead testified that “only one white person had ever been dissected in his school. That was a young white man, about 18, that died in the criminal insane department.”

 

 

 

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New Addition Explores Changing the Undergraduate Curriculum at UNC in the 1980s

dth14april1980

Daily Tar Heel, 14 April 1980, via Newspapers.com

A new addition to the University Archives documents work and discussions around a major revision of undergraduate course requirements at UNC in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The “Committee to Review the Undergraduate Curriculum” was formed in 1978 and was chaired by English professor Weldon Thornton. The “Thornton Committee,” as it was often called, proposed expanding general education requirements for all undergraduates. The committee’s recommendations were the subject of debate (and sometimes protest) on campus as students and faculty discussed the role of the university in determining the path of each student’s education.

After many meetings and a full revision of the report, the committee’s recommendations were approved by the faculty council in 1981. These records provide an in-depth look at the complicated and contentious process to reform the curriculum at UNC.

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Exam Spoilers…for Fall 1885

Could you pass finals in 1885?

While looking through the University Papers this week, I found these exams administered at the end of the fall semester in 1885. There is one for Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics and English. Some of the questions would be familiar to a student today, but others, not so much. Can you tell us “what are the defects of our Alphabet?”

Exams administered December 1885 (from the University Papers, #40005, University Archives).

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Update: The Curious Case of the Cuban Club

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the Cuban Club, a short-lived club for Cuban students at UNC in the early 20th century. This week, I came across a letter written just months after the Spanish-American War in which Major General Joseph Wheeler, president of the Cuban Educational Association, tells UNC President Edwin Alderman that he “note[s] with pleasure that you state that the University of North Carolina would easily give scholarships, remitting all tuition to several [Cuban students].”

The Cuban Educational Association operated from 1898 to 1901 and partnered with colleges across the United States to send Cuban and Puerto Rican college-age students to school in the United States. Universities and colleges offered one to two students a full scholarship to cover books, tuition and fees. The students and their families had to cover the cost of living, usually $200 – $300 annually. Therefore, most of the students coming to the United States were from the middle and upper classes. The scholarship mandated that the students return home after graduation.

Over the four years it was in operation, the Cuban Educational Association and its over 50 partner institutions helped to send over 2,500 students to school in the United States. When these students returned home, most became teachers, doctors and lawyers in their communities.

This letter was written 10 years before the Cuban Club appeared in the Yackety Yack, but it suggests that the influx of students from Cuba in the early 20th century may have been related to work begun by the Cuban Educational Association.

Letter to Dr. Alderman from Joshua (from the University Papers, #40005, University Archives).

Original Post: The Curious Case of the Cuban Club

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New Research Guide on the UNC Confederate Monument (Silent Sam)

A Guide to Resources About UNC's Confederate Monument

A Guide to Resources About UNC’s Confederate Monumen

The Confederate Monument on the UNC campus, known commonly as Silent Sam, has stood on McCorkle Place for more than 100 years. For at least the past half-century, it has been a source of controversy. In response to continued interest about the origins, purpose, and reactions to Silent Sam, the University Archives has prepared a detailed guide to assist researchers seeking archival materials related to the monument.

The largest section of the guide is the Archival Resources section. In this section, we provide links to hundreds of digitized documents related to the planning, construction, and dedication of the monument. The guide also includes links to related archival and manuscript collections available for use in Wilson Library.

In addition to the list of resources, the website contains a timeline of major events related to Silent Sam, from the first mention of an on-campus monument in 1908 to student protests in 2015.

The necessity and meaning of the Confederate Monument at UNC has been debated at least since 1965. For as long as it remains in its prominent location on campus, it is likely to continue being a source of discussion among students and community members. Our intention in building this website is to help inform these discussions by making it easier than ever to find, read, and reference primary sources from the University Archives.

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New in the Archives: Research and Biography on Edwin Greenlaw

Edwin Greenlaw, ca. 1920s. From the Portrait Collection (P2), NCC Photo Archives.

Edwin Greenlaw, ca. 1920s. From the Portrait Collection (P2), NCC Photo Archives.

A new collection containing correspondence, research, and writings about legendary UNC English professor Edwin Greenlaw is now available in the University Archives.

Greenlaw came to UNC in 1913 during a period of significant expansion and intellectual growth.  Although only here for a dozen years (Greenlaw accepted a job at Johns Hopkins in 1925), he led the English department through a period of rapid change, tripling the number of faculty members, starting a department of Comparative Literature, and helping to found the UNC Press. His legacy on campus is reflected in Greenlaw Hall, still home to the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

Thomas Wolfe, UNC alumnus and author of Look Homeward, Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again, took classes with Greenlaw and credited him as being a major influence on his development as a writer. A fictionalized version of Greenlaw appears in Wolfe’s novel The Web and the Rock.

The collection was compiled by Edwin Greenlaw’s brother Lowell Greenlaw. Lowell Greenlaw woked for years on a biography of his brother, drafts of which are included in the collection. The collection also includes extensive correspondence between Lowell Greenlaw and many of the people who knew and worked with his brother. These materials were carefully preserved by Carter Greenlaw Baker, Ailsie Baker McEnteggart, and Georgia Lowell Baker, the grandchildren of Lowell M. Greenlaw.  Shirley Greenlaw Baker, daughter of Lowell M. Greenlaw, had been the keeper and organizer of the collection until it was donated by her children to UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Lowell Greenlaw Papers on Edwin Greenlaw are a terrific resource for anyone who wants to learn more about this important and influential scholar and teacher and his role in building and shaping the English Department at UNC.

 

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“All Dances Will Be Suspended”: The Effect of Prohibition at UNC in 1925

While national prohibition was voted into law in 1919 with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, North Carolina had been dry since it passed a state-wide prohibition law in 1908. As the sale and consumption of alcohol in North Carolina had already been banned for twelve years when enforcement of the 18th Amendment began in 1920, prohibition had little direct effect on the University.

German Club Executive Committee, from the 1926 Yackety Yack, http://digitalnc.org

German Club Executive Committee in the 1926 Yackety Yack, from DigitalNC

However, a 1925 German Club dance held around Thanksgiving prompted a harsh response from President H.W. Chase. Despite its name, the German Club was not related to the nation of Germany or the German language. Rather, the club, organized in the late nineteenth century, planned formal dances and other social events for its members. A ‘German’ was a kind of social dancing that became popular following the Civil War.

The incident caused by this dance was investigated by Andrew Henry Patterson, a professor of physics and Dean of the School of Applied Sciences. In his report to President Chase, Patterson noted that the conditions for illegal drinking were perfect as there were, “hundreds of visitors brought here by the game, and many of them with liquor. The wonder is that more drinking was not done[….]” The game to which Patterson referred was the annual Thanksgiving Day game against the University of Virginia. According to Patterson, “no estimate on the part of anybody as to the number of men who had taken a drink would run over 20 or 25% of those present,” and that “no shadow of a rumor that any girls were drinking has been found, which is encouraging.”

Patterson to Chase

Report on German Club dance incident by A.H. Patterson, from  University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives

On the day this letter was sent to President Chase, December 4, 1925, he delivered an address to students in chapel discouraging the use of alcohol. Chase emphasized “the problem of the influence of drinking on the future business and social relations of the young men who make up the student bodies in our colleges today.” He went on to state “his opinion that drinking is now a thing for the vulgar and lower classes to indulge in” and that alcohol use was something “invariably leading to unmannerly and indecent conduct.”

This incident and its investigation prompted President Chase to suspend all dances at the University until the end of Easter holidays. This suspension also extended to “the giving of any dance by any University organization or student at any place outside the University campus.” When the suspension ended in April of 1926, the German Club adopted new bylaws that made its executive committee responsible to the University for the conduct at all dances, regardless of the clubs or groups hosting them. According to the Daily Tar Heel on April 15, 1926, these bylaws also imposed regulations on dances. These included no smoking on the dance floor, no girls leaving the dance hall without a chaperone, and strict end times for dances. Most dances were required to end by 1:00 AM, while Saturday night dances had to end by midnight. Some German Club dances were permitted to last until 2:00 AM. The German Club continued to organize dances and concerts until the late 1960s.

[President Chase’s letter to the German Club suspending all dances, from the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives]

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The Curious Case of the Cuban Club

Yackety Yak, 1908

Yackety Yack 1908

In the 1908 Yackety Yack, among the pages for “county clubs” (clubs for students from the same county or high school in North Carolina) a new club appeared – the Cuban Club.

A club for Cuban students at the university, the Cuban Club was short lived (1908 to 1910) and represented a brief surge in the enrollment of Cuban students at the university. While the club never had more than 11 members, that was a significant number – the total enrollment of the University was then 778, with only 55 out-of-state students.

Most of the students from Cuba were studying engineering, medicine, and pharmacy and the last of the group graduated in 1911. Issues of the Daily Tar Heel from around the time suggest that in the years that followed the university had no more than one Cuban student enrolled each year. We aren’t sure what drew this group of Cuban students to UNC between 1908 and 1911, or why the enrollment of Cuban students dropped in the following years.

Yackety Yack 1909 and 1910

 Update (4/19/2016): See this post for additional information.

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Web-Walkers: Redesigning UNC’s Home Page in 1996

In 2013, UARMS published a blog post highlighting the web archiving project of the UNC Libraries. To demonstrate how much the web had changed over time, this post featured UNC’s web page circa 1997. To update the information provided in that post, the Internet Archive now boasts 469 billion web pages saved since 1996 compared to the 366 billion pages saved in 2013. UARMS still actively captures and archives websites, which can be accessed through the University Archives’ Archive-It page.We have recently uncovered more documents related to the creation of this early UNC web page.

[Black and white print outs of the 1996 UNC homepage prior to being redesigned, from the Academic Technology and Networks of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records (#40224), University Archives]

In 1996, a group of faculty, staff, and students known as the Web-Walkers set out to redesign UNC’s home page. As highlighted in our 2013 blog post, the most prominent visual featured on the new web page was an acrostic spelling CAROLINA that was used to organize the links to other relevant web pages.

UNC homepage in 1996 as redesigned by the Web Walker group. from the Academic Technology and Networks of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Records, 1951-2000s, #40224, University Archives

UNC homepage in 1996 as redesigned by the Web-Walkers group, from Archive.org Wayback Machine

This acrostic was divisive among the Web-Walkers, with numerous correspondences both supporting and critiquing its use. One group member wrote in feedback that he would, “strongly suggest dropping the whole spelling-out of CAROLINA with section headings. As an acronym for website subsections, it looks, well, ‘cute,’ but it just doesn’t lend itself to a sensible organization of information.”  This complaint was echoed by  a self-described “Librarian and frequent UNC home page user,” who wrote that “forcing the logical categories of text to fit the word ‘Carolina’ is awfully cute and artificial.”

The redesign also garnered praise, with another group member writing, “the new UNC screen looks really good–very clever use of Carolina, too…I’ll bet that took some brainstorming.” This compliment was not unique, as another message stated, “It was very creative for someone to match CAROLINA with appropriate categories.” The problem with the acrostic became more apparent as users searched for content that had previously been accessible with a single click, such as “Departments and Organizations,” which was now buried several pages deep under the “Research and Academics” link.

The inspiration for the new categories originated with the University of Chicago’s homepage, which the Web-Walkers group used as a model. These categories were agreed upon before the CAROLINA acrostic was created:

When the design team chose to make the first letter big, it didn’t look quite right and they wanted to make it spell something. To get CAROLINA all they had to do was change Academic and Research to Research and Academic, Student Information to Information for Students, and add an O — Office of the Chancellor.

In the same email explaining the origin of the acrostic, the UNC Campus-Wide Information Systems Manager, who oversaw the website redesign, predicted that “this new page won’t last much more than a year.” The webpage would not be redesigned again until 1999, three years later.

Another major issue that arose in designing the new website was the color scheme. While the final version features Carolina Blue text over a white background, there is copious feedback featuring complaints about blue text and black links. As one Web-Walker wrote,

I find the main page color scheme (text in blue, links in black) to be _very_ confusing… a lot of browsers default to black text with blue links, and particularly with the C-A-R-O-L-I-N-A structure here it is not immediately clear whether the user should click on the initial letter or on the rest of the word.

This advice was never taken and the first letter of each category was never made part of the link. A follow-up email by the same person states that after showing the page to friends, “NONE managed to click on the actual links without several false starts.” The use of Carolina Blue as the font color, while rich in school pride, also posed a user interface problem. As one member reported, “the contrast is not very good, and it is difficult to read…I hate to say it, but a royal blue (Duke?) is much easier on the eyes.”

Since the design discussed in this blog post debuted in August of 1996, the UNC homepage has undergone three major redesigns. The most recent redesign was implemented in July of 2010, bringing us the homepage that is now familiar to all Tar Heels. Click on the screenshots below to peruse each iteration of the site in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

UNC homepage, 9/12/1999

UNC homepage 9/12/1999, from Archive.org Wayback Machine

UNC homepage, 2/13/2008

UNC homepage 2/13/2008, from Archive.org Wayback Machine

UNC homepage, 7/14/2010

UNC homepage 7/14/2010, from Archive.org Wayback Machine

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Why We Don’t Collect Syllabi (And Tips on How to Find them Anyway)

The UNC University Archives does not collect syllabi or reading lists from each course taught at UNC-Chapel Hill. Because this question comes up pretty often, I wanted to share more information about our process for determining what to collect and talk about cases where we make exceptions.

Records Schedule
In deciding which official UNC records to collect, we are guided by the General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule, which describes in detail the types of records created by the university and outlines rules stating which should be kept, and for how long. The records schedule was developed with the State Archives of North Carolina, which oversees official records statewide. Here’s what the schedule says about syllabi, in the section on curriculum and instruction records:

2.11 Syllabi and Outlines Records
Records (including reference copies) documenting each course taught by the unit. This series may include but is not limited to: draft and final copies of course syllabi and outlines, and related documentation and correspondence.

Disposition Instructions: Destroy in office when reference value ends.

This means, simply, that syllabi should be kept only for as long as they’re useful in the office. That’s clear enough, but it does pose a dilemma: part of our job is documenting the history of the university, and detailed information about what is taught in specific classes is important to understanding the evolving curriculum at UNC.

Finding Historic Syllabi from UNC
Syllabi, and materials related to the development of the academic curriculum at UNC, do show up in University Archives in administrative and departmental records, and also in faculty papers in the Archives and the Southern Historical Collection. A finding aid search reveals many collections with syllabi from UNC faculty and even more containing files on course offerings and curricula. Syllabi may also appear on websites that are collected as part of the UNC University Archives Web Archives.

Many UNC academic departments offer sample syllabi online, including some from previous years (we found examples from History, Biology, and Social Work).

Changes at UNC-Chapel Hill
In 2012, the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council approved a resolution requiring standard elements in each syllabus and requiring that these be maintained for at least four years. This decision was driven by a desire for increased accountability and transparency regarding courses offered at the university. There are not currently any plans to retain these syllabi beyond the four year period mentioned in the resolution, unless a department decides that the syllabi would still be useful to keep on file.

Nationwide Efforts to Collect Syllabi
There have been several projects aimed at collecting and analyzing information from college course reading lists nationwide. The largest current effort that I’m aware of is the Open Syllabus Project from Columbia University. Rather than presenting the content of individual syllabi, the website’s “Syllabus Explorer” aggregates assigned readings from submitted syllabi and enables users to view trends in texts used for college classes. The book appearing most frequently in the submitted syllabi is The Elements of Style, followed by Plato’s Republic and The Communist Manifesto.

The Open Syllabus project appears to have received many syllabi from UNC-Chapel Hill instructors. Elements of Style tops the list of most frequently assigned readings for UNC classes represented in the database, followed by SILS Dean Gary Marchionini’s book Information Seeking in Electronic Environments. This suggests that the library science courses are over-represented in the syllabi submitted from UNC. Either that or Marchionini’s work has crossed over into classic literature and is now being studied in English classes. We’d need more data to say for sure.

Syllabi and Intellectual Property
For this blog post, I’ve just focused on collection and preservation. There is a larger and more complicated debate around the issue of syllabi as intellectual property. This has played out most recently in Missouri where a legislative demand for transparency is countered with a desire among some faculty to protect their intellectual property. Any effort to collect and widely distribute the content of individual syllabi would have to address this issue.

 

 

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