Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

In Loco Parentis: changing perceptions of acceptable student behavior

In the 1950s, Whitman women had a curfew and a dress code.   Men were not allowed past the Great Hall in Prentiss.   Men either lived off-campus or in a fraternity after their first year. Women did not live off campus at all, and their rooms were inspected weekly.

“This was the point when colleges made all the decisions,” said Associate Dean of Students/Student Services Barbara Maxwell. “In the 1960s things started to break down.”

In his book on the history of Whitman, “Tradition in a Turbulent Age,” alumnus G. Thomas Edwards‘ outlines a philosophy called “In Loco Parentis,” where the college takes the place of a parent in keeping watch over students.

“From 1964 to 1971 at smaller colleges and universities across the nation, the practice of in loco parentis: especially with regard to women students: drew more attention and involvement than any other single campus issue,” Edwards wrote.

Many of the protests challenged rules and policies about who had to live on campus and what rules they had to follow. One of the first sources of discontent was the double standard that allowed men but not women to live off-campus. Other issues included visiting hours, curfews, confidential reports on students living in residence halls and alcohol policy.

Today, there are no curfews or restrictions on visitors to dorms and some dorm rooms are coed.

“Recently, we have allowed coed roommates with the acknowledgement of a guardian, although not for first-year students,” said Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Nancy Tavell.

But current residence life policies show the influence of the 1960s and ’70s: Whitman still requires students to live two years on-campus.

“Most of our peers, small liberal arts colleges, have at least a two-year residency requirement,” said Tavelli. “It’s a way to get the residence experience.”

Of course, not all students spend those two years in residence halls.   Interest houses are also popular among sophomore students.

“Interest houses have become more important over the past ten years,” said Tavelli. “It’s a great opportunity and the greek system has gotten less popular.”

According to Tavelli, the first interest house was the French house, which was founded in 1968. Other language houses were also early starters, while more houses were founded in the 1980s and 90s.  They provide a smaller community than the residence halls, as well as the opportunity to dedicate time to an interest. Any student of sophomore status or higher can apply to live in an interest house.

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