Volume 18 • Issue 1
This years theme for Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, The Story of Southwestern, has prompted me to recall some of the ways student life has changed since Jane and I were Southwestern students.
In the mid-1960s, the snack bar in the old Bishops Memorial Union was the popular campus gathering place. Typically, it was difficult to find a tableand impossible to get a booth. We would relax, enjoy a cup of coffee with one of Alice and Carl Langeneggers sweet rolls and listen to favorite tunes on the jukebox. When I arrived at Southwestern in 1964, Well Sing in the Sunshine was big on the Billboard charts and enjoying frequent rotation on the jukebox in the Union.
Today, our students can enjoy Starbucks coffee with a sweet roll and sit by the fire, if they like, in The Covewhich, to be honest, is a more aesthetically pleasing hangout than the old Union snack bar. There is no jukebox, but our students have Friday Night Live at The Cove featuring musical and variety performancesand most of them seem to have their own iPod.
During my student days, sororities and fraternities dominated the Southwestern social scene. Weekend parties at the Greek houses included elaborate themes and set decorations to welcome partygoers. When a young woman received a fraternity pin from her beau, studentsdressed in formal attireserenaded each other on the veranda of Laura Kuykendall Hall.
Greek parties remain an important element of Southwestern student life, and SING! has become a more popular form of public serenading.
The 60s were an exciting time for American college students, replete with both challenge and opportunity as we protested the lock-step curriculum that had characterized many colleges and universities for several decades. Along with our concerns about more freedom in the classroom we were also askingand sometimes demandingmore freedom in student life. In loco parentis was out of style and students wanted later hours for socializing in the residence halls, relaxed rules about alcohol and co-ed dorms. On top of all this came the war in Vietnam, the civil-rights movement, the birth of flower children and the popularity of socially conscious folk songs. It was the time in our lives when we all believed that we could use our Southwestern education to change the world or, at the very least, make it a better place.
Despite the efforts of my generation, challenges to social justice and global equity persist. Differences and inequality of freedom, responsibility and governance, along with varied perspectives and beliefs concerning religion, sexual preference and gender roles present persistent flash points for social debate and protest today.
Thankfully, our faculty remains deeply involved in the intellectual lives of our studentsin and out of the classroom. Their commitment to engaged learning and the creation of opportunities for applying knowledge outside the classroom inspires current Southwestern students to realize not only that they can change the world, but that it is also their responsibility to do so.
Let me leave you with just two examples. In September, I participated in the groundbreaking for the Southwestern Habitat for Humanity House. That project was just an idea a mere 18 months agoan idea in the mind of Southwestern graduate Meghan Hines 05. With encouragement from faculty and the support of University officers, she led an effort that raised $50,000 to fund construction of the house.
On Oct. 11, Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, spoke to a capacity audience in the Lois Perkins Chapel. Gandhis lecture at Southwestern began as an idea in the mind of Paideia® Scholar Ansa Copeland, a senior. With encouragement from faculty and mentoring from University Chaplain Beverly Jones, Ansa created Southwesterns first Peace Conference, which was attended by hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.
Southwestern students act on their responsibility.