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What are the conditions of student life which determine the growth and character of these usages ? Four are prominent:
1. The shifting nature of College Society; 2. The youthfulness of its members ; 3. The tendency toward intense reaction from studious confinement; 4. Morality, and regard for the comfort of the community.
1. To the constant change of relative position among the members of college society and the frequent renewal of the whole, is due in part that tenacity of custom proverbial among students. When the peculiar exigency of some academic era has begotten what seems to be an appropriate observance, this appeals to the next class arriving at the same era with the double force of an attractive occasion and of loyalty to established precedent. No set of men goes twice through the same experience, but each is hurried on to meet the pleasures and disappointments still in the future. So it happens that long after a custom has grown wearisome to the towns-people by frequent repetition, it is still fresh and novel to the participants, who are stimulated to keep it alive by loyalty, curiosity and expectation. Go into any College town and you shall hear ancient spinsters and dyspeptic householders wondering “why those silly students will repeat over and over again the same old jokes and ceremonies which we used to hear when young." And if jealousy or ill-will toward the students be prevalent in the town, this shallow prejudice against their customs will take the form of complaints of disturbance and vinegary protests against their continuance. It is therefore to be expected that whatever usages may arise in College, there will be some complaint and a great deal of disgust about them among the towns-people.
But the better class, even of such, will always take into consideration the second and third conditions of student-life--youthfulness; and the intensity of a student's reaction from study. A recent writer in this Magazine, inveighing against Yale customs, has totally ignored both these considerations. When a nervous Burgher forgets that he was once a boy, we remember his infirmity and are silent, but when a young man seems to court such senility of sympathy and opinion, we cannot refrain from expressing our astonishment. It is not only true that “Boys will be boys,” but that boys ought to be boys, and any process which seeks to transform them into “grave and reverend Senators” before their time, not only must fail, but ought to fail. Freedom to make a fool of one's self is just as normal and necessary part of a boy's training as compulsion to study, and if either must be left off, it had better be the latter. To attempt to reason against the
fun of any species of amusement, shows an entire misconception of the nature and use of logic. It is like trying to kill a musquito with a siege-gun, or disprove a conundrum by logarithms. One's own perceptions of pleasure are ultimate and there is no appeal from them. When any Yale custom ceases to be agreeable it will die without help from “M.” and until then no arguments will kill it. Since boisterous jollity is the spontaneous, natural, and necessary manifestation of youthful reaction from study, it ought to be tolerated as one of the incidents of the location of a college here, just as the smell of a gasfactory, or the noise of a rolling-mill are tolerated.*
We have reason to believe that the more thoughtful and worthy citizens of New Haven do make these reasonable allowances for students. Many of them would be glad to see the college removed, but while it remains would permit the students all proper indulgences. They regret to have them excluded from the Green, their former play-ground, and they regret the restraints which other citizens are constantly persuading the Faculty to make. They know well that public exercises and noisy fun are the negation of private carousals and secret vice, and they prefer “ Jubilees” to brothels, and “ PowWows” to dram-shops. They see that in spite of these grim and quaint customs, the moral tone of College is higher than it was years ago, and that morality is a controlling influence in all public perform
And they are willing to sacrifice some of their comfort occasionally to the reasonable freedom and moral well-being of these guests of the city.
On the other hand, they have a right to demand, and they do demand, that the Fourth condition alluded to in the beginning of this article be duly observed. Let the students refrain from immorality and malicious mischief, and they will keep the indulgent sympathy of the best citizens. But when any so-called custom wantonly outrages their rights of property, or the laws of decency, they are justly incensed. The paltry and laborious folly of stealing gates and signs is of this sort, totally inexcusable and unworthy of any man of honor. The crime of “ hazing" Freshmen is also of this kind. I call it a crime, for no milder epithet can be applied to a practise which is malignant in its spirit, brutal in its design, cowardly in its manner, and
* It would be well for the keepers of a certain Hotel, who have made complaints against the annual noise of Pow-Wow, to remember that their bar-room is tolerated by the citizens as incidental to a Tavern, though kept in defiance of the law and of public morals, and hereafter to exercise more liberality toward mere inconveniences arising from our beneficent and venerable University.
indecent in its operation. Those who are guilty not only of committing it themselves, but of contributing to make it perpetual, by giving it the sanction of class custom,” ought, if caught, to be handed over to the civil authorities, to be dealt with according to the full rigor of Municipal Law. Lenity in such cases is not mercy but weakness.
It is because the real customs of Yale are not radically objectionable that we hope to see them continued and improved, year by year, with such modifications as ingenuity may suggest and good sense approve. Whoever asserts that “Pow-Wow is a synonym for Barbarism, and Biennial Jubilee for Drunkenness,” reveals by the remark either the infantile freshness of his College experience, or an aptitude at seeing evil in everything, which is far from creditable to his moral intuitions. “To the pure all things are pure," and if "M.” is the exemplary youth we fondly hope, we are sure that he must have derived bis information from men who saw through eyes either bloated with impurity, or half-closed with official blindness.
As the presumption is always in favor of an established custom, it would be yielding quite too much to admit that "M's” unsupported assertions, contrary to observation and experience, are strong enough to call for a vindication of the usages attacked. Yet it may be well, for other reasons, to show briefly their nature and objects.
Pow-Wow is a torch-light masquerade and procession to express the joy of a class at the termination of its Freshman year. That it
a does not occur at the exact time of such termination, even if it were undeniably true, would prove nothing against its propriety. Do we not often celebrate our National Birth-day on the Fifth of July ? But Presentation day is the most appropriate time for such a celebration. The College course is not quite four years long, and the deficiency should be reckoned in the first year which is the least pleasant, rather than in the last year which is the most so. The Seniors, on Presentation day, listen to farewell addresses and attend the Alumni Dinner, and the other classes are then all advanced to superior seats in Chapel, showing that in the judgment of the Faculty the new rank is already attained. At this time the Secret Societies initiate their new members, and the Literary Societies begin their campaigns. All the responsibilities of Sophomore life come then upon the Freshman, while during Commencement week there is no sign of any transition and no proper time for such a performance as Pow-Wow.
Presentation day is therefore the proper occasion for holding this fête, which essentially consists in fancy dresses, good music, witty speeches, torches, and serenades. The din of horns is not an integral by it.
part, but has been adopted to drown out the interruptions of the Juniors. If the police or the Faculty, instead of stopping Pow-Wow, would discourage these, interruptions, there would be nothing to prevent this celebration from being the most amusing, unique and attractive annual occasion in any college on this side of the Atlantic.
Biennial Jubilee is an excursion and dinner in the country, by the new Junior Class, to celebrate the completion of its first Biennial Examination. Music, speeches, songs, pipes, and lemonade, contribute to make the occasion one of unrestrained jollity and unmingled satis. faction. The savage virtue wbich is “obliged to confess that this is bad,” because of a rare instance of over-drinking in connection with it, is of the same style as that which prohibits music and dancing as works of the devil, because they are sometimes abused. Drinking is not only no part of the Jubilee, but is to a very great extent prevented
Many a fellow who is ashamed to lose his self-control on a public excursion with his classmates, would, if there were no such occasion, celebrate the close of Biennial by a day of unrestrained license in the worst places. The writer has resided in New Haven for nearly a quarter of a century, bas witnessed many Pow-Wows and Jubilees, and he fully believes that on these occasions not half as many of the participators have indulged in drinking or other dissipation, as would have done so had no celebration occurred.
And this is to his mind a conclusive reason why these castoms should be retained until better ones shall not only be suggested, but be fairly in the way of success and continuance. The real Devil of College life is not be that comes in the garb of an imp with hideous horns, but the figure of a smiling strumpet holding in her hand the wine bowl. Every restraint put upon the open, demonstrative, and boisterous jollifications of students, every outlet of harmless fun closed, is another door opened into the dens of pollution and the vestibules of Hell. Gratified parents have told us with joy in every feature, how nicely the Harvard Students behave; that the “gentlemen ” there go to recitation in kid-gloves, and address each other as “Mr.," and never collect in groups, and all that; but if they could once see the other side of the picture, they would be glad to welcome back the good old days of boisterous merry-making and athletic sports and broken shins and « barbaric" virtue.
And now a word to the Faculty. We do not expect to enlighten these gentlemen on the subject of College government, for they are older, wiser, and better men than we. But we would have them know how many of the students feel respecting the gradual changes going
on in College discipline, that they may be better able to meet those thoughts and feelings as Christian gentlemen as well as College offi
We have at heart, as truly as they, the interests at Yale of sound scholarship and manly virtue, and we cannot feel that those interests will be advanced by the multiplication of such restraints as are being thrown around every avenue of college life. One of the most important principles of parental government is "judicious neglect.” When a boy comes toward manhood it first irritates and then destroys his self-respect to be continually coming in contact with requirements which, if unasserted, courtesy would have taught him to observe, but being thrust against him pride prompts him to violate.
The time has gone by at Yale when the personal supervision of a boarding-school can or ought to be maintained. Even if a system of espionage complete enough to detect the purposes and character of every student could be devised, it would be folly to adopt it. Such a course would at once array the sympathies of all the students against the Faculty, and give rise to a spirit of defiance which must lead to endless mischief. The sentiment of reverence for superiors and of honorable obedience would become almost extinct, and the miserable instruments of the system, whenever detected, become its wretched victims. We hope and presume therefore that no such system is intended, and if so, does it seem wise to multiply regulations which cannot be enforced without its aid? All experience shows it to be better to have mild laws rigidly enforced, than a severe code which cannot be fully executed. We do not deprecate any degree of severity or firmness which may be thought necessary to uphold the authority of College officers, or the scholarship and morals of the students. But is it not at once beyond the power and beneath the dignity of the Faculty to attempt to control the manners of five hundred students, in matters having no relation to their collegiate character ? May these not wisely be left to the discipline of social life and the workings of municipal regulations ?
As Yale steadily moves upward, year by year, toward the position she is to occupy as a great University, advancing her requirements for admission, and thus the age and nativity of her students, as well as their number, it does seem as if a corresponding advance might be made in her discipline. The University code, instead of being founded on the assumption that all under its jurisdiction are rebellious boys, required to prove their innocence by a probation before being matriculated, might gradually mount up to the honorable and honoring faith