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ITHACA, N. Y.--There is a sign over Schoellkopf Field which reads, "Alcoholic Beverages Prohibited;" Cornell's school motto is "Freedom and Responsibility." Obviously there is somewhat of a contradiction between the two phrases, and it is best explained by the Dean of Men, Frank C. Baldwin, when he says, "It's time for a change at Cornell."
Long have the men from Cayuga's waters unrestrainedly enjoyed the pleasures of wine, women and song. So long indeed, that the slogan "Freedom and Responsibility" has come to mean "Freedom from Responsibility" or "Laissez-faire" when applied to social life.
Any post-adolescents from the ages of 18 to 22, gathered together in a large social group, need to have some sort of administrative club held over their heads if a mild sort of chaos is to be avoided. At Cornell the power of administration has been so clouded over by the "Freedom and Responsibility" catchphrase that chaos has grown steadily on campus. The administration has finally decided that it must stop.
Cornell students have always felt that they should be allowed to solve their own social problems as they arise. This idea is very nice if students can recognize the problems, but the Cornell students have been manifestly unable or unwilling, probably the latter, to recognize them.
Located in a relatively isolated area, Cornell, through both its isolation and its large and powerful fraternity system, has come to enjoy a reputation for being an even bigger "blast weekend" college than its Ivy League brother, Dart-mouth.
Spring and Fall Weekends
Most notable are the Spring and Fall weekends which have long enjoyed an almost national fame for their intense concentration of sex and liquor into a compact and often uninterrupted 48-hour span.
It was not until the Spring weekend of 1957, however, that events reached what might, perhaps, be termed an excess.
One man died in a fall from a fraternity window, several others were seriously injured, and there were numerous casualties involving automobiles and their tipsy drivers. A total of 50 accidents was recorded, and President Deane W. Malott decided that something had to be done to change the existing social code.
Besides a staggeringly large amount of drinking, there were also many cases of men sleeping with their dates in various corners of fraternity house rooms and other convenient spots. Destruction of property was fairly wide-spread, and nearly $5,000 worth of goods were stolen from the campus houses during the weekend.
Malott told the student leaders to act fast to change the system or the faculty would change it for them. This appeal to the student body was a last, feeble call based on the old "Freedom and Responsibility" slogan: that is, the students should work out their own problems by themselves. This appeared a bit ridiculous since the validity of "Freedom and Responsibility" rests largely on the recognition by the group of its responsibility. The Cornell student body had to be told to recognize its responsibility.
Drinking in the Stands
The reason behind the decision to give the students a chance to solve their problem came from the furor aroused by a similar incident in the fall of 1956. At that time, drinking in the Cornell stands at Schoellkopf Field during the Cornell-Harvard game reached such proportions that the Cornell Athletic Association decided to prohibit the use of alcoholic beverages in the stands.
This ban unfortunately coincided with the Cornell Fall Weekend, and the student body raised its voice in righteous indignation.
The Cornell Daily Sun, feeling its way cautiously, had this to say about the matter: "We recognize that a drinking problem exists on campus."
The Sun also felt that the student body should have been allowed to solve the problem: "We feel the disturbance caused by the 'no drinking in Schoellkopf Field' rule could have been avoided if the students were given a chance to solve a difficult problem by themselves."
However, no student group, or any group for that matter, will change something it enjoys, and it seems likely that the students would never have taken mass action on their own, unless they had been instructed by the faculty to do so.
The Sun, in another editorial, expressed the feelings of the student body quite well by saying that, regardless of the new ruling, Cornell students could and probably would continue to drink before, after and, with "a little concealment," during the games. Thus the "fun" associated with weekends would in no ways be impaired by this ineffectual faculty ruling.
"Whatever the glories of academic pursuit," the Sun concluded, "nothing can compare with the wild chase of a Cornell house party."
There were undoubtedly some proud Colleges elsewhere in the country which might have disputed such a strong affirmation of the uniqueness of a Cornell house party, but all doubts were dispelled on the following Spring Weekend. Fifty casualties in the course of two days placed the Ithican "wild chase" in a class by itself.
Malott decided this time to remind the student body of its responsibility and called for "immediate and forthright consideration and action." He added that this was "not a condemnation of house parties, ... but an assault on those organizations and individuals who violate the good taste, the good judgement and the rules of good behavior which Cornell University expects of its students."
This statement closely paralled the one made by the Cornell Athletic Association a few months earlier which said that "in the interests of good taste and public safety" the use of alcoholic beverages would be prohibited at Schoellkopf Field.
The emphasis on good taste is notable, for certainly the Cornell man was rapidly becoming a symbol of poor taste and animalism, both nationally and locally. It took the fact of sudden death to convince the administration that it was "time for a change," but once the necessity of change was recognized, it became apparent that the need had been present for a long time.
The opinion of the student body on this matter was quite opposed to the administrations'. Students felt that the death was just an unfortunate accident. One student said, "That was just a tough break. Weekends like that are happening all the time up here. There's not much need for all the fuss."
Another student wrote, in a letter to the Daily Sun, "Fun is, after all, what we seek on a big weekend ... We want the chance to behave irrationally, even to be plain silly, without intolerant glances and critical words from other people .... If you honestly enjoy drinking yourself into limbo, howling obscenities and behaving like an animal, then go ahead .... But please stay away from me and don't drive," she added.
Impelled to Follow
The writer further ventured that most of the girls present at the weekends did not really enjoy themselves in this "blast for blast's sake" atmosphere, where one felt impelled to follow the crowd.
Another person, who seemed fairly representative of the male Cornellian, claimed, however, that "the majority of those girls (who didn't enjoy the weekend) were Co-eds who didn't have dates or those who did but were unfortunate enough not to get pinned or engaged."
This week, as the time neared for social code revisions by the Inter-Fraternity Council to be submitted to the Faculty-Student Committee on Student Activiies, the prevalent attitude of the male student body was that things were pretty nice as they were last fall and that a chance accident should not cause Cornell to throw out its whole tradition of "blast house-parties."
The Sun had, by this time, reconsidered its editorial position of Fall, 1956, and declared that the incidents of the Spring Weekend were part of "the generally unfortunate social atmosphere that pervades Cornell the year around."
With the prospect of having drastic social changes forced upon them by the faculty unless a solution were found, student leaders met early this week to formulate changes which would meet with the approval of the Committee on Student Activities and at the same time not curtail too seriously the traditions associated with the Spring and Fall weekends.
The Committee on Student Activities also submitted a report in which it presented quotations and observations from alumni, students, parents and faculty members on the situation.
The following are some of the remarks reported by the Committee:
"We parents are deeply disturbed by the licenses permitted by Cornell University."
"I am ashamed to say I am a Cornellian."
"My daughter went to Cornell for a party and the boys acted like animals, everyone got drunk, and her clothes were ruined."
The main problems cited in the report were those of drinking, closing hours, chaperonage and separate sleeping facilities. Men were evacuating their fraternity rooms for their dates and sleeping, themselves, on cots in the basement. However, this was not the most comfortable arrangement for the men, so many of them decided to stay up all night, and often the girls decided to spend it with them.
The report observed that "couples were not separating as they were expected to do," and that "some students have not intended to use the facilities provided them but rather to spend the entire night together. This has been one of their planned objectives."
Another comment, on the subject of drink was, "The main problem seems to be the outrageous extent of drinking at Cornell. We feel the only solution, which will seem completely absurd to many Cornellians, is to ban liquor at fraternities."
Other suggestions concerned inadequate chaperoning facilities, the problems arising out of having parties running continuously through the night, and the question of whether or cars should be banned on weekends.
The attitude of the Cornell students at these "blast" weekends seemed basically to be that "anything goes." They felt obligated to maintain the good old Cornell spirit of getting as drunk as possible and letting nature taking its course after that. This social code was the rule, and the Inter-Fraternity down against Colgate, and Yovicsin saw the Red Raiders move 60 yards in the last two minutes to score their winning touchdown on six straight completions. This, too, has been duly noted.
Cornell's passing may take advantage of weaknesses in the Crimson defense, as so many throwers have in recent years. Deficiencies in this department have been carefully worked over in recent weeks, and if they have been eradicated the Crimson can concentrate on Bo Roberson, a great threat running out of Cornell's slot offense.
Despite inexperience and lack of depth, the Crimson could come through for an upset win in John Yovicsin's Ivy League debut
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