During the 1920's Muskingum College of New Concord, Ohio, experienced student unrest similar to that which engulfed many campuses. Never before had the student body challenged so threateningly the school's traditional code of behavior, which embodied certain prescribed social, moral, and spiritual values known as the "Muskingum Spirit." Originally founded by Presbyterians as a small liberal arts college without formal church sponsorship in 1837, the institution had developed its code in line with the religious heritage left by Scotch-Irish settlers in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The founders were among those Presbyterians who achieved unusual prominence on the frontier before the Civil War in setting up colleges to prepare men for both the ministry and the missionary fields. Later, Muskingum became coeducational and was administered by the United Presbyterian Church of North America, which had been formed by the union of various splinter groups in 1858. While loyally serving the leadership needs of the church, the college concerned itself also with the moral aspects of small town life. In the 1920's the school officials affirmed their moral principles and admonished students more firmly than ever to follow a code of behavior which did not offend the townspeople. Unlike their predecessors, however, these Jazz Age students openly defied enforcement of what they considered an outmoded code. During the decade social mores were rapidly changing throughout the nation, and even students from small towns accepted these changes in spite of the school regulations. But when the Muskingum College administration defied change and reiterated its traditional policies, it aroused more student unrest. Ultimately, however, belated administrative concessions had to be made so that more positive faculty-student relationships could be maintained. Like other academic institutions in the 1920's, Muskingum experienced unprecedented growth. Under the leadership of John Knox Montgomery, a clergyman who became its president in 1904, the pace of growth had accelerated. Through vigorous promotional efforts, he had secured financial support and had actively recruited students in order to ensure the school's future. When President Warren G. Harding stopped in New Concord to receive an honorary degree in 1922, however, one Philadelphia paper said that the institution had been put "on the map -- temporarily." In effect,Montgomery rejected such disparagements by pointing out how the college continued to become more attractive and successful. After World War I, student enrollments exceeded the prewar peak of 298, which had been attained in 1914. By the academic year 1929-1930, the enrollment totaled 863 men and women. About one-half of the students were United Presbyterians, while the others were mainly Methodists and Presbyterians. On the campus, which had expanded from about two acres to over 100, new buildings were constructed. In the 1920's, the first dormitory and two buildings with classrooms and offices were completed. The new stadium was dedicated in 1925. Pointing with pride, in 1922 one bulletin described the beautification of the campus and the development of a beautiful lake, which offers recreation to the swimmer, fisher, boatman and skater. Early in the fall, during the first months of the school year, newcomers relieve the monotony of study, by fishing and boat riding, to say nothing of the picnics and hikes, through the woods and across the rolling grassy slopes of the campus. Later, when winter blankets the hills, and hardens the lake, that most invigorating of all sports, skating, becomes the fad, and through the dark and busy months, the main relief from the school routine is skating, tobogganing and sleigh riding. Then comes spring, with birds, and flowers in the woods, when everyone strolls with their books and cameras for a close to nature jaunt and then back for an evening swim in the lake. In addition to the physical improvements, academic progress was also reported. While the faculty reaffirmed the required program in the liberal arts for graduation, more new courses were organized, notably in the fields of science. The Department of Home Economics as well as the short-lived School of Agriculture were set up in the 1920's. In summarizing the academic program in 1927, the college warned that, as elsewhere, loafers were unwelcome since more emphasis was being placed on "intellectual application." Throughout the decade, Muskingum was generally advertised as an institution with many attractions and equal to any other place of higher education in its standards and modern facilities. If Muskingum's spokesmen were to be believed, in 1921 the institution was located in "an ideal college town," nestling among picturesque hills in southeastern Ohio. New Concord boasted of having paved streets, electric lights, and a water works. Above all, the town was regarded as ideal for students because of its rural setting, moral atmosphere, and freedom from temptation." It had four churches. But the claims that it had never had a saloon ignored the fact that a local churchman and college benefactor had willed to a son his "brick Tavern house" in the nineteenth century. Other claims were also made in regard to the moral character of the townspeople. Authorities had never arrested for crime anyone born in the town. Local citizens had participated patriotically in the Civil War. Also, there were many retired ministers and missionaries who lived in the area, and some even taught at the college. When trains stopped to discharge passengers, conductors acknowledged the moral image of New Concord in their own way by announcing it as, "Saints' Rest."
President Montgomery piously boasted that Muskingum College itself was morally safe. From the time of his arrival, the president had shown extreme devotion to matters of morality .He was active in the United Presbyterian Church which had ordained him a minister, as well as in the Anti-Saloon League of America and the Anti-Cigarette Alliance of America. Most of his moral crusading, however, was devoted to the guardianship of youth in loco parentis. After his arrival, a special bulletin announced that learning subject matter in the classroom was only "a part, and often the less important part, of a college 'education.'" Forming moral standards was, instead, more important. "The chief treasure of Muskingum, more valuable than rich endowments or costly buildings," college publications repeatedly said after 1905, "is the character of her student body and the traditions of honor, morality, and religion which pervade the life of her campus." New emphasis was given periodically to the statement as regulations were formulated for student conduct. Compulsory chapel attendance and courses in religion were prescribed. Students were also expected to attend one of the local churches on Sunday. Social dancing, card playing, and drinking alcoholic beverages were forbidden. The use of tobacco in any form was not permitted on campus or in rooming houses. But while the smoking of pipes and cigars was only discouraged, the use of cigarettes was banned at all times and in all places. Most importantly, the coed was enmeshed in a maze of rules that were designed to protect her honor. Dating was forbidden on Sunday, but permitted under certain conditions on other days. Couples could stroll in the daytime if they did not frequent "secluded places." Mixed swimming was not allowed in the lake, and swimmers who were out of the water had to wear raincoats or topcoats. Chaperones, of course, attended all organized social functions. Landladies were required to help enforce these regulations since most students lived in private homes. Because it had the cooperation of townspeople, the college believed that it was well qualified to train youth in the development of good habits and high ideals as well as to protect them from temptation when away from parental supervision. In line with these objectives, President Montgomery more than once referred to his college as "a character factory." After World War I, faculty members were not all in full agreement with the president in regard to institutional goals. New instructors, in particular, expressed doubts. Although faculty disagreements were rarely made public, the alumni bulletin suggested their existence in 1925. The increase in faculty numbers, explained the publication, had resulted in the introduction of crosscurrents of opinion about educational objectives. President Montgomery indicated that it was increasingly more difficult to find the ideal teacher who shared values embodied by the Muskingum Spirit. In a period of teacher shortages after the war the president complained that there was a lack of instructors with high standards of scholarship and strong commitments to the moral values of the college. He reported that, because some teachers were judged not fully qualified on all counts, they were not invited to return in 1922. After three years of service, reported one of those teachers, he was not rehired because of his rejection of the dominant educational aim which tried to cram students "into a certain tight mold." By and large in the 1920's most permanent faculty members accepted Muskingum's values,or, at least, they muffled their criticism of them. The students, however, were more openly alienated by the strict regulations than were the faculty members. Throughout the 1920's, the gulf widened between students and their elders who ran the college. The president felt the reason for this difference of opinion was that the influx of new students had introduced "a spirit that was not altogether in harmony" with his institutional aims. Such an impact was not surprising, he added, because students came, in general, from a world that had little regard for law and order and, in particular, from high schools that did not foster Muskingum's values. Thus, he said, students failed to share "those deep spiritual currents running through the college that have been characteristic in other years." But, he noted, the problem was not just peculiar to his institution. This was little consolation in the face of the increasing student unrest. The president of the alumni association also reported sensing a new spirit. He concluded "that students are more cosmopolitan and less provincial than formerly." By 1927, even the college trustees recognized this point. After studying student life in New Concord, they observed that "we are living in a day when perhaps a majority of young people have been accustomed to such practices in their own community as are not countenanced by the college." Although aware of the dissension, the trustees and others in authority were not yet ready to make any substantial concessions to those who rejected their policies. Among the students, "intellectuals" tried to formulate the case againstthe academic and social life of the campus. Sharing the widely-held cynicism of their classmates, they even questioned claims made in the college catalog regarding "wonderful opportunities" that were supposedly available at Muskingum. Much concern was expressed over the failure of the campus community to foster what was called "independent thinking" and "individual self-expression." This concern was shared in 1925 by the student who was the most honored orator of the year. In his address on conformity, he denounced American colleges for shaping the average student into a common thoughtless mold, for holding him down by authority and tradition, and teaching him only "the amazing rightness of things as they now are." Because of this practice, the instructors failed to reveal to him the sterner realities of life, such as the wrongs found in religious, political, and economic institutions. In examining conditions at Muskingum, the campus weekly echoed the orator's case. One of its writers satirized the student who cultivated "the satisfied attitude with life" and was never guilty of the sin of Individual Thinking." But such an outlook, suggested other writers, resulted partly from the institutional failure to develop "academic quality." As long as academic standards were so low, said one writer, the average student developed a lighthearted regard for scholarship since he could participate excessively in extracurricular activities without danger of "flunking out" of school. As a result of the many restrictions and requirements of the American college system, argued another, conformity was developed among students. Even campus rebels conformed to whatever was the current form of protest. Dismayed by what were regarded as anti-intellectual forces at work on the campus, these observers necessarily made the intellectual synonymous with the critic. In making their case, the critics welcomed F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, This Side of Paradise, which had appeared in 1920 and portrayed the collegiate mood of unbelief in the social, moral, and intellectual values of the older generations. Students read his books and shared with him not only an interest in flappers, parties, and Bohemian behavior but also the dream of intellectual independence. Reviewing favorably Fitzgerald's novel on the student, one writer in the campus yearbook contended that "the conservative, reactionary classes" of "the orthodox world" had blindly damned the novelist. In defending the book, the critic wrote that everything in it pictured honestly and realistically a very "distinctive type of honest-seeking, hard-thinking young men of today. . . ." Indeed, campus rebels everywhere could identify themselves with such men for one reason or another. Even in New Concord their representatives complained that the academic institution frustrated their social, intellectual, and vocational ambitions. By offering added opportunities for vocational preparation in the 1920's, Muskingum recruited more students whose ambitions made them impatient with the required study in the traditional liberal arts. Many came from low income families without previous collegiate connections and were anxious to secure the "practical" training needed in industry, business, or professional work. In 1927, two-thirds of the students reported earning part or all of their own expenses. Their vocational goals were undoubtedly more personal and secular than were those of the ones who had enrolled before them. In 1921, over one-half of all male graduates entered the ministry, but by 1930 the percentage was less than one-third. Sensing this trend, the student weekly suggested that chapel speakers should include representatives of different vocations, since clergymen and missionaries could at best help only those with ministerial inclinations. More students were by 1930 less interested in a liberal arts program designed primarily to prepare them for the ministerial and academic professions than in the vocations that were higher paid as well as less demanding in self-sacrifice and moral dedication. Consequently, faculty members and administrators complained about the erosion of the interest in classical studies and about the low regard for scholarship. In 1926, for instance, the academic dean bewailed the fact that students did not "value scholarship for its own sake" and concluded that perhaps everyone was not worth educating. But the faculty did not modify its academic requirements. Very probably, this failure, ironically, increased student involvement with non-academic matters. Even in their extracurricular activities, students gave evidence of dissatisfaction with the college. They showed displeasure notably with the officially-sponsored literary and religious societies that had been developed before World War I and were designed to provide opportunities to socialize as well as to develop talents useful in the classroom and pulpit. Since the nineteenth century, all men were expected to join one of the two literary societies set up for them. The same expectation also applied to women, who had their own two societies. Each society was given the use of a room where parties. Even though associated somewhat with classroom activities, the societies could not escape the general discontent with the academic program that was evident after the war. The result was by 1925 all of these "official" societies had disappeared, after spending their final years in relative inactivity.28 Although the Young Men's and Women's Christian Associations still its members could debate, recite, declaim, sing, present plays, and arrange arranged parties and held midweek meetings, they aroused less enthusiasm than before. To increase support for these organizations, in February 1926 the executive faculty reaffirmed the rule that no college activity could be conducted during the meetings of the religious associations. But this action did not prevent students from developing new organizational loyalties. As the old organizations became less vital as a foci of extracurricular life, campus homogeneity was weakened. Even students spoke of the decline of the "family atmosphere" which had pervaded the school community before the war. College spokesmen explained that increased enrollments made all-campus parties and social functions less feasible than before, (They were undoubtedly thinking of those sponsored by the literary and religious societies.) To restore identity with the campus community, the administration encouraged student pride in competitive sports. In 1921, Muskingum consequently joined the Ohio Athletic Conference. The organization of the student council in 1922 was officially initiated as an attempt both to control student behavior and to arouse a sense of loyalty to the college through pep rallies and other activities. By institutionalizing the "rah rah spirit" and by sanctioning student participation in campus government, officialdom expected much more vigorous support for activities which had been relatively unimportant before the war. In turn, however, the older forms of organizational activity were further weakened. The tempo of extracurricular life increased as other new organizations proliferated, revealing the varied special interests of students. The prewar groups that survived included the glee clubs and debate teams which ha existed alongside the literary and religious societies. The weekly, called the Black and Magenta, and the yearbook, entitled the Muscoljuan, were still published. But the new organizations, including vocational, cultural, and honorary clubs, became more and more numerous. The most important new ones were the social clubs. These, however, could not join national sororities and fraternities because of the college's traditional opposition to Greek-letter and secret societies. Two local clubs were formed in 1918 and four others were set up in the mid-1920's to compete with the three organized before the war. The social clubs increasingly found student favor and provided the highspots of campus party life. In 1925, the college became concerned that the clubs had grown unduly large under the pressure of increased student enrollment and otherwise had disturbed campus life and the appearance of many new organizations each year. It therefore devised special regulations which the clubs had to accept in order to continue their activities. In surveying the direction of extracuricular life a student editor concluded that college life had become "one continuous series of meetings interrupted occasionally by classes." No doubt, the drive to organize various extracurricular activities was intensified by the increased self-conscious desire to promote social mingling between the sexes with more freedom from supervision by the older generation. The new social clubs merely highlighted this desire. In the past, campus organizations had given men and women some opportunity to meet socially by merging social with academic and religious purposes. In the 1920's, however, students insisted more strongly that they should be freer to date and to be relieved of a tradition which protected women from unsupervised contact with men. Avant-garde women asserted their freedom by copying the flapper, whose bobbed hair, shorter dresses, and silk hose were featured by advertisements in the campus paper. These advertisements showed female models boldly exposing their legs and knees more than was generally thought proper. Avant-garde men found in the automobile their symbol of freedom, and both men and girls of the new order gave vogue to the practice of "dating" that replaced the older one called "strolling." Underlying this new insistence on freedom was the franker recognition of the role played by sex in human relationships. Student wits were particularly suggestive about "it," that is, sex, in their publications. Automobile accidents, said one writer, occurred at night because of sex. Another observed: "Some women operate on the basis that it is better to be naughty than to be neglected."35 Sex was also suggested by amorous scenes in movies like "The Flapper" and "Sinners in Heaven," which were shown in the chapel building. Sexual discussion was stimulated even during the chapel hour by speakers who showed charts in connection with talks on human body functions and social hygiene. Listeners were thus left merely to find practical applications of the knowledge presented. In pursuing their extracurricular interests, students more and more violated the college's social regulations during the 1920's. Never before had President Montgomery spent so much time in dealing with violators. Every year both men and women were suspended from school or reprimanded, especially for smoking. Others were punished for going on dates without permission and riding at night in unchaperoned cars. On one occasion in 1924, about thirty couples were caught dancing at an off-campus establishment. Dancing was even reported on the campus. Of course, not all violators were apprehended by officials or reported by landladies and informers. No complete record of the violations exists, but there still remain recollections of the "bar mop" who liked liquor and the girls' club house whose rooms were "blue with cigarette smoke on weekends." These violators probably shared the view of the campus wit who wrote that "the sin of being found out" was abominable. Beginning in 1926, violations became even more numerous than earlier in the decade. During the semester that started in September 1926, President Montgomery reported suspending more violators than he had suspended in all the years since his inauguration as president in 1904. In spite of his action, the flagrant violation of rules continued to scandalize the campus. The infractions also drew special attention in cases involving students who were prominent in various capacities, such as editor, athlete, or class official. During the summer session of 1927, the major scandal was created by two students who were expelled after the local constable entered their boarding club and seized a dishpan of home brew containing sixteen percent alcohol in January 1928, dancing occurred at the carnival sponsored by the student religious associations in the chapel basement. Two years later a group of prominent students were punished for going in unchaperoned cars to a dinner dance. Such dates were frequently reported after the mid-1920's, and fellow students tolerated those who were caught. When two girls were penalized for dating without permission in 1926, "a large number of girls" were reported signing a petition in their behalf. In the early 1930's this widespread defiance of the rules was suggested by a survey of over 500 students. The survey indicated that 44 percent danced while under college supervision and 66 percent did so while not under surveillance. Since other rules were also usually broken by students going to dances, the survey displayed proof of the failure of the school to enforce obedience to its restrictive code. While violations in general increased after 1926, more protests were organized in opposition to the institution's social policies than to any other phase of campus life. In 1926, the Campus Rules and Regulations Committee was formed as an ad hoc group with a reported membership of 189. It issued a leaflet saying, "The present situation of stringent regulations and heavy penalties encourages an individual to compromise his own honor." Consequently, the leaflet asked for revision of the rules on dating, motoring, and other matters. In the student forum conducted by the student council, the committee secured "a standing vote which showed almost unanimous opinion against 'the existing rules and their enforcement. As a result, the council was compelled to work with the ad hoc committee in asking for faculty modification of the rules. Two years later, at the suggestion of the college president, the forum supported its demands by conducting a poll. It reported that 411 favored and 282 opposed social dancing and that 400 supported and 252 rejected card playing. The council then petitioned the trustees of the college to change the policies on campus behavior. In 1927, the council's president testified to the faculty that, like other students, he was unsympathetic towards the rules and did not feel very responsible for enforcing them. As if to underscore this point in 1928, the student council rejected a motion to condemn the dancing that had occurred at the campus carnival. Other student groups also continued to petition the faculty for changes. Their opposition was kept alive by the college's insistence on enforcing the policy which had been announced in 1926. During the summer of 1926, the social regulations for women were codified, strengthened, and published without advance notice by the administrative committee of the faculty. The published code brought together for the first time various rules which had evolved out of efforts to deal with specific matters, such as marriages and automobile rides. Although the basic policies were not new, the code provided more specific regulations to ensure compliance with them. Each student who expected to return in the fall received not only a copy of the rules but also a letter emphasizing that admission would be granted only to those who agreed with Muskingum's ideals and regulations. In the same spirit, the handbook for 1927 told those desiring entrance that attendance was voluntary, and, hence, applicants should have "the clear understanding that the ideals and traditions of the college are to be maintained, and that their enrollment is to be reckoned as expressing their purpose to heartily support the institution while they are a part of it." Finally, the handbook reminded the applicant that he should feel privileged to enter the college and to identify himself with its interests, for only in this way could one be "comfortable in his surroundings and happy in his work." In response to the continued student challenge in the late nineteen twenties, officials renewed the institution's commitment to the code that was published in 1926. Reporting that students did not believe the trustees were in accord with the rules, President Montgomery asked the board for a definite statement. Following their special committee's visit to the campus in the spring of 1927, the trustees were announced as undisposed "to change the standards governing the social conduct of students...." One year later they applied this policy by rejecting a petition on dancing and card playing. To cope with the campus unrest, President Montgomery insisted "that a strong hand must be shown" toward the dissidents. Such students, he said, believed that originality consisted in having "a critical attitude toward what now is" and avoiding "any reasonable constructive ideas or program that has a forward and upward look." To deal with the most serious offenders, the president fell back upon the policy of expulsion and suspension that was formulated in 1926. To handle the less offensive ones, he denied social privileges and restricted them to their rooms each evening. On more than one occasion during the chapel hour, offenders were compelled to confess their guilt publicly in order to avoid expulsion. When confessions were heard from those who participated in the dance scandal of 1928, the president berated his listeners because of their disrespect for the rules and advised them "to avoid the negative attitude that is dominant, and get into a happier and more constructive one." In addition to his chapel talks on discipline and the avoidance of liquor and tobacco, he counselled individual students and particularly tried to meet with each newcomer admitted at the start of the academic year. During this period of unrest, President Montgomery and his faculty tried to cultivate student confidence by granting some concessions to petitioners who sought changes in the rules by instituting the pre-school indoctrination program for freshmen. In 1926, for instance, couples were permitted to attend church together on Sunday. One year later senior class women were given broader discretion as to conduct. To make social regulations less offensive, women were encouraged to support a special organization that was set up in 1927 to share responsibility for the enforcement of the regulations. In the fall of 1928, the faculty welcomed and counselled the freshman students before anyone else arrived. This reception, reported the president, enabled the newcomers "to form their own estimate without being prejudiced by the attitude of some disgruntled upperclassman toward this or that Professor." The new arrivals, he added, thus developed "such a spirit of enthusiastic devotion" to the college ideals that upper-class students were impressed and created fewer disturbances than in previous years. There-after, each fall freshmen arrived in advance of the others. By working in these and other ways to improve campus relations, President Montgomery with his faculty slowly helped pave the way for the overall reassessment of the institution's social policies that was made in the 1930's by one of his sons who succeeded him as president. Eventually such activities as dancing and smoking were permitted. But the trustees, president, and faculty would not officially concede a place for the student rebel in the campus community, and, having the power to discipline an offender, they probably were confident of their ability even to eliminate him. Student generations were shortlived, moreover, while officials and instructors lingered much longer on the campus. The administrators expected hopefully that the incoming generations would be easier to handle. But their hope was frustrated because the newcomers came from a world that was increasingly less and less in harmony with Muskingum's traditional values. To undermine the rebel's case, therefore, those in authority slowly learned to make modest changes in the social policies, although at no time was he given any credit for contributing to campus life, as was a football hero or debate team. Also, the authorities did not acknowledge publicly his role in teaching them to recognize the nationwide development of youth as a self-conscious group. The rebels of the 1920's, by not maintaining their identity in a clearcut manner, were partly responsible themselves for their failure to secure acceptance by the college authorities. Although their aims were generally defined in terms of intellectual independence and social freedom, their criticism was diffuse and disorganized. Without going so far as to question the assumptions on which the campus environment was built (since many of them had been brought up in a milieu which had long cherished Muskingum's values), their protest activities often represented only a tortured and incomplete break with the past. In other words, the untutored dissenters drifted and wavered without developing a new frame of reference with which to guide their criticism systematically. Advancing no further than F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920's, they, too, did not commit themselves to any major new intellectual enthusiasms. Instead, they were largely without direction, such as their fellow student who wrote in 1921, "We don't have a very clear idea of what Bohemian is, but we know that we are going to be it or bust." No rebel who lacked clear guidelines, therefore, could easily withstand the pressures of elders, who at least had taken the time to define their own goals. In general, both campus rebels and authorities behaved at Muskingum in a similar manner as their counterparts elsewhere during the 1920's. Everywhere students flouted what were known a "middle-class proprieties," especially in regard to the relations between men and women. The more venturesome even challenged other values cherished by their elders. Although failing to secure official approval on campuses, the rebels were effective in an unintentional way. After the earliest outbursts of protest, the authorities became fearful of organized student power. Much of the administrator's time and energy thereafter was devoted to the prevention of potential unrest. If outbursts did occur, they were ready to employ disciplinary measures. But they also learned to appreciate the value of conciliatory measures as well as subtle forms of control. More deans of students and dormitory supervisors were employed to maintain orderly behavior. To help accomplish their pur- pose, more emphasis was placed on extracurricular activities, such as team sports and student government. Through these and similar measures, above all else, colleges hoped to preserve their traditional commitments within a framework of change. More slowly than some institutions, Muskingum College was able to adjust its values to the changing mores of the times.
THE AUTHOR: A. William Hoglund isAssociate Professor of History at The University of Connecticut.