The year was 1955. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office, the Korean War dominated the headlines, the Mickey Mouse Club debuted, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” topped the box office charts and the first McDonald’s restaurant opened. It was said to be a simpler time, yet at UR things were about to become anything but simple.

It was decided in 1954 that the expense of maintaining two campuses – the River Campus for the male students and the Prince Street Campus for the women – was too much. The board of directors was also trying to start its long-term plan of having a large undergraduate population, graduate school and extensive faculty. The integration of the two campuses was the most logical step. Only a few universities at the time were beginning to go co-ed, and UR, which had already been a pioneer in women’s education by opening a women’s college in 1900, would not be left behind – Yale, Princeton and Harvard did not admit women until almost 20 years later.

Both the women and men were full of trepidation about the collaboration. The women were sad to leave behind the Prince Street Campus where they happily attended class in pajamas and long trench coats and could concentrate solely on their academics. The men had enjoyed not shaving on a regular basis, eating like slobs in the mess hall and hazing freshmen in the traditional “Flag Rush” in which the sophomores challenged the freshmen to climb up a greasy pole to retrieve a flag in order for them not to have to wear their freshmen beanies – aka loser identification tags – which were the equivalent to the lanyard of today. Oh, the cleverness of the male college minds.

The influx of women caused some problems, for one – where would they live? Construction of a dorm was started right away and was appropriately named after pioneering suffragette, Susan B. Anthony. The women, who had a YWCA on their campus, demanded that they get an athletic facility of some kind, since working out with men was quite taboo at the time – now, thank goodness, we have won the rights to sweat and look disgusting in front of the opposite sex – and so, Spurrier Gymnasium became the women’s athletic center. The twists and turns of the tunnel system also proved a bit challenging for the women at first, which accounted for the low attendance at classes in the fall semester of 1955. However, after they finally made their way above ground, the women began to excel in their classes, which caused the men to step up their academic performance. The men were also quite perplexed by the women who knitted during class. This hobby either meant they were bored with the material, or knew it so well that they didn’t need to pay attention.

To help the collaboration of the two campuses, the two separate student governments were merged together to form one, and a new Students’ Association constitution was drawn up. These women made sure they gave themselves an active voice on campus by writing columns for the Campus Times, serving on the student council, forming the D’Lions pep group, establishing the Christmas College Supper and of course, humiliating freshmen women in their own way.

The year was 1955. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office, the Korean War dominated the headlines, the Mickey Mouse Club debuted, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” topped the box office charts and the first McDonald’s restaurant opened. It was said to be a simpler time, yet at UR things were about to become anything but simple. It was decided in 1954 that the expense of maintaining two campuses – the River campus for the male students and the Prince Street campus for the women – was too much. The board of directors was also trying to start its long term goal of having a large undergraduate population, graduate school and extensive faculty. The integration of the two campuses was the most logical step. Only a few universities at the time were beginning to go co-ed, and the UR, which had already been a pioneer in women’s education by opening a women’s college in 1900, would not be left behind – Yale, Princeton and Harvard did not admit women until almost 20 years later.

Both the women and men were trepidacious of the collaboration. The women were sad to leave behind the Prince Street campus where they happily attended class in pajamas and long trench coats and could concentrate solely on their academics. The men had also enjoyed not having to shave on a regular basis, eating like slobs in the mess hall and hazing freshmen in the traditional “Flag Rush” in which the sophomores challenged the freshmen to climb up a greasy pole to retrieve a flag in order for them to not have to wear their freshmen – a.k.a. loser identification tags – beanies which were the equivalent to the lanyard of today. Oh, the cleverness of the male college mind.

The influx of women caused some problems, for one – where would they live? Construction of a dorm was started right away and the dorm was approiately named after pioneering suffragette, Susan B. Anthony. The women, who had a YWCA on their campus, demanded that they get an athletic facility of some kind since working out with men was quite taboo at the time – now, thank goodness, we have won the rights to sweat and look disgusting in front of the opposite sex – and so Spurrier became the women’s gym. The tunnel system also proved a bit challenging for the women at first which accounted for the low attendence at classes in the fall semester of 1955. However, after they finally made their way above ground the women began to excel in their classes which caused the men to step up their academic performance. The men were also quite perplexed by the women who knitted during class. This hobby either meant they were bored with the material or knew it so well that they didn’t need to pay attention.

To help the collaboration of the two campuses the two separate student governments were merged together to form one and a new Students Association constitution was drawn up. These women made sure they gave themselves an active voice on campus by writing columns for the Campus Times, serving on the student council, forming the D’Lions pep group, establishing the Christmas College Supper and of course humiliating freshmen women in their own way.

The two comedy sketch clubs, the Quilting Club of the Prince Street Campus and Kaleidoscope of the River Campus, both wrote skits in which they impersonated the opposite sex. They collaborated in 1955 in a musical comedy titled “Girl Crazy.” The two clubs eventually merged in the early ’60s so they could make fun of each other at the same time. By the end of the year, it seemed like the “River Rats” and the “Princesses” were living in harmony.

Though the lives of students may seem drastically different today – like having to ask a gentleman caller to wait in the lobby because he was not allowed in your room – there are a few similarities we still share. They participated in the great tradition of hating campus food – apparently they were forced to eat something called a vealburger – which makes me happy that generations before me also had to suffer. They probably also were not too fond of the cold weather. It was proposed in the fall of 1955 that Todd Union serve beer as a way to bring the two sexes together in a relaxed social environment. Even in the ’50s, students had the need to be gregarious beings on weekends, or occasionally at 4 p.m. on a Tuesday.

This fall, the school will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of UR becoming a co-educational institution. Imagine if the school had never gone co-ed – remained as two separate campuses – and the effects that would have had on our fine school. Also, imagine if they still made freshmen wear beanies. Now that is really scary.

Lepore can be reached at mlepore@campustimes.org.



Making first impressions: Don’t get stuck in your head

Perhaps the only way to prevent yourself from sinking into that ocean of once-seen faces, to light a rescue beacon before it’s too late, is to do something remarkable.

UR Softball continues dominance with sweeps of Alfred University and Ithaca College

The Yellowjackets swept Alfred University on the road Thursday, winning both games by a score of 5–4.

Recording shows University statement inaccurate about Gaza encampment meeting

The Campus Times obtained a recording of the April 24 meeting between Gaza solidarity encampment protesters and administrators. A look inside the discussions.