Disorder in Old West: the Student Riot of August, 1850

Charles Phillips

Charles Phillips

On the night of August 13, 1850, Charles Phillips, then a tutor of mathematics, heard “loud vociferations, high words, as of persons quarrelling, and other noises” coming from Old West (then known as West Building). As he went to investigate the disturbance, he could not have anticipated that the evening would end with him and a colleague cornered in a dorm room, fending off rioting students.

In his first sweep of West Building, Phillips found most of the students quiet in their rooms, but heard and saw students yelling and throwing stones at each other outside. He ran into his colleague Dr. Elisha Mitchell in the hallway, and they continued the investigation. In one room, the professors found “great disorder—the beds rumbled, the chairs in confusion, the floor very wet, and the remains of a stone vessel scattered up on it.” They found a nearly empty jug of whisky under the bed.

Elisha Mitchell

Elisha Mitchell

Upon leaving West, the professors encountered Manuel Fetter, professor of Greek language and literature, and retreated to the Laboratory to discuss the situation. However, as they left the Laboratory, they were immediately attacked. Phillips recalled:

Because of the vollies of stones which swept the passage I kept close to its northern wall, and looking through the opening that leads to the front door of the building I noticed a group of persons standing before the door. Immediately a volley of stones (or bats) entered, and a person passed me quickly accompanied by another volley. On speaking to him, I recognized Prof. Fetter who told me that he had been violently struck on the hand and leg. So violent was one of the blows that his cane was knocked to a distance from his hand.

Manuel Fetter

Manuel Fetter

When they eventually made their way back to West Building, they were met by more rowdy students, some disguised with blankets or fencing masks. As some students escaped through the windows, others began lobbing stones and sticks at the professors. The professors barricaded themselves in a student’s room, but the rioters continued their attack, knocking out a panel of the door. Phillips explained:

Discovering our exact position [in the room], those outside endeavoured to hit us by throwing obliquely into the room through the door and windows, and by introducing their hands so as to throw sideways directly at us. One individual introduced through a window, a stick two or three feet long and of the size of one’s wrist, evidently intending to swing it around and so strike us. As missiles were still entering the room, and our present was the only safe position, I immediately seized a chair and as an act of self defence urgently necessary, threw it in the direction of the concealed assailant. This act rendered the students outside much more excited, and threats of great violence, even to the getting our heart’s blood, were uttered for our striking a student.

After about an hour, a student, J.J. Slade, was able to reason with the rioters and escort the professors out on the condition that they leave campus immediately. The professors left and reported the night’s events to the president. They returned later that night with several other faculty members and searched the residence halls, but the disorder had subsided and most students were asleep in their beds.

The student who had come through the window with a club (and subsequently been hit by a chair) was expelled, but most students involved in the riot were not identified.

 

Charles Phillips’ testimony on the events of August 13, 1850. From the University Papers (#40005), University Archives, Wilson Library.

 

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The Cost of College: An Issue Then and Now

In recent times, the volcano of American student loan debt has been casting a tall and ominous shadow over the neatly trimmed lawns of American universities. Like a room of frantic volcanologists in the opening scenes of a disaster film, voices from across the country have forecast a cataclysmic eruption of student loan debt due to the exponential increase in the cost of attending college.

But, like all volcanoes, the rising cost of higher education did not become a problem overnight. Below are some insights on the issue given roughly half a century ago by former UNC President, William C. Friday, during a Board of Trustees Meeting on February 25, 1963, regarding raising tuition to fund the construction of new dormitories:

Bill Friday, 1962. From the  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive, Wilson Library.

Bill Friday, 1962. From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archive, Wilson Library.

I feel I must point to the full significance of the continuing inflationary trend in the cost of going to college […] But it is a certainty that a public state university goes against one of the cardinal principles of its constitution if it shifts a disproportionate percentage of cost to the individual student. It should never be that the effective criterion of admissibility to the state university becomes a test of financial means. We are tending that way, and every increment of cost aggravates the tendency [….]

Building on this idea, President Friday makes the observation that:

State-supported institutions are erected and maintained by the public for the purpose of making higher education accessible to the rank and file of citizens. To perform this function, they must keep the doors open to students of all economic classes. Already, I fear, we have reached the point in the threefold University where many students, upon learning the cost of tuition and fees, room and board, and books and other essentials, immediately conclude that the state University is becoming too expensive too attend.

Tuition rates have continued to rise in the years since, and in 1982, Bill Friday again raised the alarm over America’s student loan crisis. According to the 1962-1963 UNC Chapel Hill catalog, the in-state tuition of a full-time undergraduate student during the 1962-1963 academic year was $87.50 per semester (adjusting for inflation, equivalent to $671.18 today). For the academic year of 2014-2015, a semester’s tuition for the same student would be $3211.50.

When faced with these numbers, one may wonder: will higher education as a whole suffer the same fate as Pompeii? Only time will tell. All that can be said for certain is that if the eruption does happen, the resulting explosion won’t be as abrupt as the one that shook Rome long ago. As William C. Friday confirmed 50 years ago, the student loan problem is a volcano that has been quietly erupting one undramatic day at a time.

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LGBTQ Center: New Collection and New Finding Aid

University Archives recently acquired a new collection from the LGBTQ Center. This is an exciting hybrid collection that includes material documenting the center’s history for its ten-year anniversary in 2014. Online content is in the CDR and the finding aid is here. We are very happy to make this material available and look forward to continuing to work with the LGBTQ Center.

Image credit: LGBTQ Center web site, https://lgbtq.unc.edu/programs-services/safe-zone.

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Lawrence Giffin Appointed Electronic Records Archivist

giffin_lawrence_11_001We are excited to announce that Lawrence Giffin has returned to University Archives and Records Management Services as our new Electronic Records Archivist! His first day was April 1, 2015.

In this position, Lawrence will work to ensure that the University’s electronic records are properly managed and preserved, and will assist other units in Wilson Library with the management and preservation of the born-digital materials in their collections.

Lawrence earned a Masters in Library Science from Queens College, where he specialized in archives, records management, and preservation. He has worked as a processing archivist both at NYU’s Fales Library and at Duke’s Rubenstein Library. From 2011 to 2014 he served as Records Services Archivist here in UARMS, and he most recently served as Electronic Records Archivist at the State Archives of North Carolina.

Lawrence can be reached by email at lgiffin@email.unc.edu and by phone at (919) 962-6402.

Welcome back, Lawrence!

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The Battle Challenge: 100 Years in the Making

flyer1This Wednesday, Wilson Library and the UNC Department of History are putting on the first of two events that are 100 years in the making.

It all started in 1915, when former UNC president Kemp Plummer Battle presented the North Carolina Historical Society with a sealed tin box. The box contained a Montgomery Ward catalog and was accompanied by a letter that outlined an unusual request. He asked that in 1965 and 2015, a member of the University community be appointed to write an essay on the changes in American life the catalogs showed.

In 1965, Chancellor Robert B. House was appointed to take on Battle’s challenge, writing an essay called “Great and Important Changes.” After comparing the 1915 and 1965 catalogs, House returned the 1915 catalog to Wilson Library and added the 1965 catalog for use in 2015.

Kemp Plummer Battle [From the 1919 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library]

Kemp Plummer Battle [From the 1919 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library]

This year, the University is taking on the challenge with two lecture events. On April 8th, John Kasson, UNC professor of history and American studies, and Dana McMahan, UNC professor of journalism and mass communication, will address the topic “Mail Order Catalogs and Consumers.” In September,  Peter Coclanis, UNC professor of history, and Dr. Lee Craig, professor in the Poole College of Management at NC State University, will speak on “Mail Order Catalogs and the American Economy.” Both events will be moderated by Fitz Brundage, chair and professor of history.

At both events, there will be a display of items related to the challenge, including Battle’s original instructions, the 1915 and 1965 catalogs, and Robert B. House’s 1965 essay. Light refreshments will be served.

Please join us at 5:30 this Wednesday in the Pleasants Room of Wilson Library for this exciting event!

 

 

 

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School of Journalism Oral Histories Now in CDR

Tom Bowers began his career in the School of Journalism in 1971 and retired in 2006. From 2007 to 2008, he interviewed prominent UNC School of Journalism alumni for his book, “Making News: One Hundred Years of Journalism at Carolina.”  The recordings of these interviews are part of University Archives’s School of Journalism collection (#40280), and are now also available in the Carolina Digital Repository.  To listen to the interviews, visit the finding aid and click the links to the interviews.

These interviews were digitized and ingested into the CDR through the Legacy Media Project.  This project aims to make material on digital storage media in processed collections available through the CDR. Watch this blog for announcements of more material being made available in the CDR through the Legacy Media Project, and read more about the project in this post.

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New resource for archiving email

From the News Services Multimedia Library

From the News Services Multimedia Library

University Archives has added a new resource to our Records Management Guidelines page, specifically to help you archive your email. Whether you are preparing to transfer your office’s email correspondence to University Archives or just want to back up your personal messages for posterity, our new guide to exporting email will help you along the way.

For more information on managing and archiving email, see the “Email Retention” section of our Guidelines page or contact us at recman@unc.edu.

 

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Remembering Dean Smith

40308_programcover

Dean Smith pictured on the cover of the program for the 1966-1967 season. From the Records of the Office of Athletic Communications (#40308), University Archives.

Few people in UNC’s history are as iconic and universally-beloved as basketball coach Dean Smith, who passed away this Saturday at age 83.

Smith arrived at UNC in 1958 as an assistant basketball coach under Frank McGuire. Three years later, he took on the role of head coach during a difficult time for the team. After a massive 1961 gambling conspiracy in which players from 22 schools threw the outcome of games, the team faced sanctions by the NCAA and the resignation of Coach McGuire.

Despite assuming leadership in such a challenging time, Smith soon brought the Tar Heels to the top, winning three consecutive ACC titles in 1967, 1968, and 1969. In his 36-season career, the team made eleven appearances in the Final Four and won two NCAA championships (1982 and 1993). Smith was credited with the invention of several basketball innovations, including the four corners offense, and retired with 879 career wins, a record which went unbroken for a decade. During his tenure at UNC, he coached an array of basketball legends including Phil Ford, Billy Cunningham, Charlie Scott, Bob McAdoo, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, and Vince Carter, just to name a few.

However, it was not Smith’s skill as a coach alone that made him an icon. Committed to racial integration, he used his influence to promote the integration of local businesses and was the first coach in the ACC to recruit black players. He emphasized the importance of

Smith speaking to players. From the 1973 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection.

Smith speaking to players. From the 1973 Yackety Yack, North Carolina Collection.

personal integrity and promoted academic excellence for his players, opposing freshman eligibility for high-profile sports. Perhaps most of all, Smith is remembered for his life-long devotion to his players, remaining a mentor and friend to many of them long after they left Carolina.

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A “Revel” in South Building

Minutes of the faculty, 27 January 1855. From the General Faculty and Faculty Council Records (#401406), University Archives.

Minutes of the faculty, 27 January 1855. From the General Faculty and Faculty Council Records (#401406), University Archives.

One hundred and sixty years ago today, eight UNC students were having a rough Saturday morning. The night before, the young men participated in a “revel” in South Building, which was then a residence hall. The party was thrown by friends of candidates for the coveted positions of commencement Chief Marshal and ball manager. According to Kemp Plummer Battle’s History of the University of North Carolina, candidates for these positions sometimes sought to curry the votes of their classmates with alcohol. The party was broken up by members of the faculty charged with maintaining order on campus overnight, and the students were ordered to appear before the faculty at 10 AM to answer to charges of intoxication.

At that time, it was illegal to operate a bar within two miles of the University or to sell alcohol to students within two miles of the University without the permission of the faculty. Drinking on campus was strictly prohibited. As President David Lowry Swain explained in an 1853 letter to parents:

Any student who may be seen publicly intoxicated, or in whose room ardent spirits may be found, shall be forthwith suspended or dismissed, as the circumstances of the case may seem to require. This ordinance has been and will be faithfully carried into execution in every instance of its violation.

Letter from UNC President David Lowry Swain to parents, Feburary 1855. From the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives.

Letter from UNC President David Lowry Swain to parents, Feburary 1855. From the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives.

The morning after the party, the guilty students gathered before the faculty to testify. The Faculty minutes explain that three students were “found to have participated in the drinking of spirits but were not convicted of intoxication,” and letters were sent to their parents. Four others, including President Swain’s son Richard Caswell Swain, were “according to their own statements and the testimony of the profs who saw them [found] guilty of intoxication and suspended three weeks.” Another student from the party had been called before the faculty but was “found by Prof. C. Phillips to be too much intoxicated this morning to come and answer the charge of being intoxicated last night.”

A few weeks later, perhaps in response to incidents like this one, President Swain issued a notice to parents asking for their support of a new regulation. Its aims were twofold–to further limit students’ ability to purchase alcohol and to curb student debt. Under the new rule, students would not be able to accrue debts in their parents or guardians’ names without their written permission, or, in the case of purchases made within two miles of the University, the permission of a faculty member. The revised statue was approved by the following spring.

 

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The Legacy Digital Media Project

For about a year and half now, we have been developing a project at Wilson to acquire material from digital storage media in processed collections and make it available in the Carolina Digital Repository. Having finished the research, workflow development, and testing phases, we have started to implement the project and are making some of these materials available in the CDR as we work through the processed collections.  This project aims both to preserve the material safely (instead of on storage media that can be fragile) and to provide easier access to the material for researchers in the collections at Wilson Library.

IMG_0321

The material we’re working with is stored on media including 3 1/2 inch, 5 1/4 inch, and 8 inch floppy disks, zip disks, and optical disks like CDs and DVDs.  Some of the material, such as the material on the CDs and DVDs, has been accessible via listening or viewing copies, but the material on the other formats will made available for the first time.  We are very excited about getting this material to users, so please keep an eye out for further posts as we make new collections available in the CDR.

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