Alcoholic Beverage Policy Debate: 1966-1971

In 1966, the City of Chapel Hill passed an ordinance (further amended in 1967) which stated, “it shall be unlawful for any person to consume or display beer, wine, whiskey or other alcoholic beverage in or on a street or sidewalk in Chapel Hill.”

This ordinance prompted the University to reconsider its own policies concerning alcohol. Administrators were especially concerned that alcohol would no longer be permitted during sporting events on campus. The Attorney General for North Carolina at the time, Thomas Wade Burton,  stated that the ordinance could only limit the public drinking of beverages containing more that 14% of alcohol by volume, meaning that beer and wine were legally allowed to be consumed during sporting events.

For most of its history, the University relied on state and local laws to determine how alcohol was regulated on campus. However, the University was concerned that the new legislation was too broad in reference to where alcohol could be consumed. Dorm rooms were considered to be private residences, meaning that students over the age of twenty-one could legally store and consume beverages with more than 14% alcohol by volume in their dorm rooms. Students eighteen or older could consume beer, wine and other beverages containing less that 14% alcohol by volume anywhere on campus. This 14% rule caused the most problems for campus officials.

 “Letter from a concerned parent to Chancellor Sitterson (from the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records, 1966-1972, #40022, University Archives).”

Letter from a concerned parent to Chancellor Sitterson, from the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records, 1966-1972, #40022, University Archives.

From 1966 to 1971 as laws changed and public debate continued. The University slowly tightened its own regulations over the consumption of alcohol. The Board of Trustees determined that it could no longer solely rely on state and local laws to regulate where students had access to and were allowed to consume alcoholic beverages. One of the main driving forces for the further restriction of alcohol on campus was pressure from the parents of students and alumni. They wanted no alcohol, regardless of strength, in residences. They also wished to further restrict what was allowed to be consumed during sporting events.

 “Part of the new alcoholic beverages policy (from the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records, 1966-1972, #40022, University Archives).”

Part of the new alcoholic beverages policy from the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records, 1966-1972, #40022, University Archives.

In 1971, a system-wide alcohol policy was instituted. It was not as restrictive as many parents were asking for, but it did close loopholes in the state laws concerning the 14% rule. The new policies, in being more restrictive than state law, also gave first right of discipline to the University. Thus a student who violated university rules would not also be in jeopardy of having to face punitive action from the state, unless the student also broke state laws. The new university policy followed state regulations for alcohol under 14% by volume. Over this limit, the Chancellor had complete discretion on where and when such alcohol could be consumed and it was not allowed in dorm rooms.



 “Part of the new alcoholic beverages policy (from the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records, 1966-1972, #40022, University Archives).”

Part of the new alcoholic beverages policy, from the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Joseph Carlyle Sitterson Records, 1966-1972, #40022, University Archives.


Similar discussions were taking place on other state university campuses during this period. In the lessening of restrictions on alcohol consumption other policies were being examined. In Georgia, female students over twenty-one, or sophomores and juniors with their parents’ permission, no longer had to obey a curfew. The policy that lifted this curfew also allowed women over twenty-one to drink off campus without facing a penalty from the University.

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The Cake Race at UNC

Cake Race, 1924. UNC Image Collection (P004)

Cake Race, October 1924. UNC Image Collection (P004)

I ran across this photo in the Wilson Library stacks the other day. It was labeled “Cake Race, October 1924.” No further information was given, suggesting that none was needed, that everybody should know what a cake race is.

Daily Tar Heel, 2 November 1923.

Daily Tar Heel, 2 November 1923.

A little research revealed that the students lined up in the 1924 photo were doing exactly what the caption said: racing for cakes. The annual race began in the 1920s as an intramural event held in the fall. Students ran a cross country race covering one and a half to two miles with the winners in each of several divisions receiving cakes. In some years, students competed in teams, with prizes for the dorms that had the most students participating.

The Cake Race was popular at UNC in the 1920s and 1930s, but was discontinued in 1938. The race was revived 20 years later, in 1958, and was run annually through the 1960s. After that there were only brief references to the race in the DTH in 1980 and 1981, and nothing after.

The practice of racing for cakes was not unique to UNC. I found references to cake races at Georgia Tech (as early as 1911), Auburn, and Davidson College, which still holds an annual freshmen cake race.

If you know more about the cake race at UNC, or why college students began racing for cakes in the first place, please let us know in the comments.

Cake Race winners, 1962. UNC Photo Lab collection (P0031).

Cake Race winners, 1962. UNC Photo Lab collection (P0031).

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Coming Soon: A New Look for The Carolina Story

The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of UNC History was first published nearly 10 years ago, on University Day, 2006. The website was created to provide an accurate and comprehensive guide to UNC history. While ten years is a short period in the long history of the university, it is a pretty long time for a website. As it approaches its tenth anniversary, The Carolina Story is getting an upgrade.

The UNC University Library, which hosts the website, is actively working to migrate the website contents to new technology to ensure that it can be easily updated and maintained long into the future (for those curious about the tools involved, it’s moving from a custom-built Django platform to Omeka). Not only will this make the back end of the website easier to maintain, it will enable us to update and expand the site’s entries and features.

The technology upgrade will bring a new look to the Carolina Story. While the front page will be different, all of the content will remain the same, at least for now. The Chancellor’s Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History is currently evaluating all of the ways that the university represents its history, including The Carolina Story. We will work closely with the task force and others to ensure that The Carolina Story remains an honest, authoritative, and helpful resource for anyone interested in UNC history.

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“The Planet Mars – Is It Inhabited?”: A. H. Patterson’s 1902 Speech

In researching Professor Andrew Henry Patterson for my last blog post, I came across an interesting document among his personal papers. In 1902, while still a professor at the University of Georgia, Patterson delivered a speech at the centennial assembly of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, N.C. titled “The Planet Mars – Is It Inhabited?” Following this address, the speech was supposed to be stored in a sealed envelope in the Salem Academy archive and reopened in 2002 “to  compare theories in 1902 with those 100 years later.” However, attempts to find the speech at the Salem Academy archives in 1964 were unsuccessful. The speech now held by UNC is a copy of a draft of the original, acquired from Andrew Patterson’s son Dr. Howard Patterson.

It is now fourteen years after Patterson had intended the speech to be reopened, and our knowledge of the planet Mars far surpasses what was theorized in 1902. The most compelling evidence for life on Mars discussed in the speech was the existence of canals on the Martian surface, first observed by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877. Patterson devotes a great deal of his speech to corroborating the existence of these canals by citing other astronomers, concluding that “On the whole, I believe we may consider the existence of the so-called ‘canals’  as proved by most careful and reliable observers in many parts of the world.” Patterson proposes the theory that these canals are artificially created for irrigation. Astronomers of the period also observed that the polar caps of Mars appeared and disappeared according to the Martian season, theorizing that these could be sources of water for the vast irrigation networks. Patterson even imagines just how differently life might have evolved on Mars, stating “what manner of beings thet [sic] may be we lack the data even to conceive.” In his conclusion, Patterson stated his belief “that Mars seems to be inhabited is not the last but the first word on the subject.”

Despite the wide gap in astronomical knowledge between 1902 and today, the accuracy of some theories is impressive. With regards to the difficulty many astronomers had in observing Schiaparelli’s canals, Patterson cites a Dr. Fison, who argues “that these canals have not been seen at the Naval Observatory, Harvard Observatory, Yerkes Observatory and others having far better telescopes than those used by Schiaparelli, who had an 8 1/3-inch glass, and by Lowell, who had a 24-inch, and therefore the canals must be optical illusions.” Fison was ultimately correct about the canals being optical illusions. Patterson also quotes Fison accurately describing the surface of Mars as “a succession of bleak arid deserts over which the rays of the vertical sun would seem to struggle in vain to mitigate the blasting chill of attenuated air.” However, Fison then went on to suppose the existence of “elementary forms of vegetation capable of withstanding the rigors of a climate more than artic [sic] in character.” Patterson addresses the question of polar ice caps by citing scientists who believed “the snow caps to be composed of solid Carbon Dioxide, instead of water. . . . the spectroscope shows no trace, or at least very little, of water vapor on Mars.” We now know that the polar caps are composed of both frozen carbon dioxide as well as water-ice.

114 years after Andrew Patterson delivered his speech on Mars, it is now possible to view the surface of Mars in 360 degrees through a web browser. Using virtual reality technology, it is even possible to see what it would be like to stand on the “bleak arid deserts” of Mars from a first-person perspective.

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From the Archives: James Walker to Robert House: “I have made footprints around the world defending a free society.”

UNC admitted its first African American students in 1951. While the students were able to enroll in classes and live in a dorm, many of the campus activities remained either closed to African Americans or strictly segregated. We came across an example of the students’ ongoing struggle to participate in normal campus life in a letter from James Walker to Chancellor Robert House in January 1952.

As the law school students planned their traditional spring dance, the question arose about whether the recently-admitted African American students would be able to attend. The student-run Law Association put it to a vote, asking whether the dance should be open to all students. The vote was fairly close, passing 82-63. The Daily Tar Heel reported on the “possible bi-racial dance,” calling it “the first in the history of the University and perhaps in the South” (DTH 1/15/52).

But the possibility of an integrated dance was quickly vetoed by the campus administration. Citing a Board of Trustees ruling prohibiting unsegregated social gatherings, Chancellor House wrote that “no mixed social functions shall be held on the University campus.” (DTH 1/16/52)

The letter shown below is James Walker’s response to House’s ruling. It is from the Chancellor’s records in University Archives, included among clippings and correspondence documenting desegregation efforts at the university, including Walker’s push to end segregated seating in Kenan Stadium.

Walker writes of his frustration at House’s decision, noting that it was especially cruel for having been announced right before exams. But Walker remains undeterred, writing, “I will never accept the denial of a privilege. I have made footprints around the world defending a free society.”

Letter from James Walker Jr. (page one), in the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Robert Burton House Records #40019, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Letter from James Walker Jr. (page two), in the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Robert Burton House Records #40019, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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New Collection Documents the Infamous 1939 Carolina Buccaneer “Sex Issue”

buc1The combination of scandalous content and official censorship makes the story of the 1939 Carolina Buccaneer “Sex Issue” one of the most intriguing in UNC history.

A new collection in the University Archives helps to shed more light on the story of the “Sex Issue” and its hasty suppression by campus leaders. We are pleased to make available for research a small collection from Bill Stauber, who was the editor of the Buccaneer at the time the contentious issue was published. The papers include photos, clippings, letters, and, perhaps most interesting, an original copy of the uncensored cover of the November 1939 issue. The collection was donated by Stauber’s son.

The Carolina Buccaneer was a student humor magazine published on campus from 1924 through 1940. The magazine had colorful covers and a professional layout. It had the appearance of a national glossy magazine, but the content was strictly local. Most of the articles referred to campus personalities and incidents long forgotten, making it often difficult for modern readers to find the humor in some of the pieces. (Anyone interested in exploring for themselves can find a full run of the Buccaneer in the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library.)

The Buccaneer liked to push the limits with its cartoons depicting scantily-clad women and off-color poems and stories. In the fall of 1939, the magazine’s editors finally crossed the line, leading student government to condemn the issue and campus administrators to aid in its destruction.

The content of the November 1939 issue is fairly tame by contemporary standards, though readers today are much more likely to find offense at the treatment of women in the text (which largely survived in the revised edition that was published) rather than the revealing illustrations (which were removed).


Daily Tar Heel, 15 November 1939

The original “Sex Issue” was set for release in mid-November 1939, but campus leaders got hold of it first. Interestingly, it was not university administrators who ordered the suppression of the issue.  Jim Davis, student body president, said “such an issue would seriously and permanently damage the reputation and lessen the prestige of the University in general.” The Student Council ordered the destruction of the issues and asked the editor to revise the magazine before re-submitting for publication. (This raises an interesting question about the approval process for student publications. I haven’t looked to try to determine whether all student publications had to be submitted for review before distribution or if this issue of the Buccaneer was a special case.)

A few days later, the Daily Tar Heel reported that the 4,000 issues of the offending issue were “unceremoniously dumped into the fiery depths of Chapel Hill’s incinerator.”

A revised edition of the November 1939 Buccaneer was published later in the month, with a nearly all-white cover calling attention to the censorship of the student council. Here, for the first time that we are aware, are all three covers of the Buccaneer “Sex Issue”: the original illustration, the cover that appeared on the destroyed issues, and the revised cover.

Original, uncensored cover of the November 1939 Buccaneer "Sex Issue." William Stauber Papers, University Archives

Original, uncensored cover of the November 1939 Buccaneer “Sex Issue.” William Stauber Papers, University Archives

Revised cover of the Buccaneer "Sex Issue." North Carolina Collection.

Revised cover of the Buccaneer “Sex Issue.” North Carolina Collection.

Revised, "Censored Edition" of the 1939 Buccaneer "Sex Issue." North Carolina Collection.

Revised Edition of the 1939 Buccaneer “Sex Issue.” North Carolina Collection.

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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


Daily Tar Heel, 14 April 1980, via

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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