“We don’t need no education…”
“School’s out forever…”
While housing and fashion are the somewhat more glamorous parts of college, today we’re here to talk about the respected and resented, controversial topic of rules and regulations. Girls at Georgia Normal & Industrial College had more than just the Student Judicial Board and Honor Code to worry about while out and about in Milledgeville. These girls were held to a high standard, as former President John Harris Chappell, and later President Marvin M. Parks, expected them to abide by a code of conduct that would probably impede even the most rule-abiding student among us today.
To examine these particular codes of conduct, I initially turned to what has become my favorite resource – A Centennial History of Georgia College. (The name has gotten familiar enough that I feel like I don’t even have to write out the full name anymore, but here you are.) And if you’ve ever wondered why historians rely so heavily on prospectuses from 1891 to 1924, here’s your answer: the main building of the G.N. & I.C. campus burned in 1924, sending all administrative records up in smoke. What have we got to go on, then? Prospectuses, photographs, and personal histories recorded in memorabilia.
At this point, it is important to note that the ages of G.N. & I.C. students was much different than Georgia College students today. Students during this era ranged in age from 16 to 20, with preference given to younger girls rather than older. This differs wildly from the 17-22 year old age range on campus today. Younger students in the 1890s meant that Chappell took his role of “in loco parentis” very seriously, leading to his autocratic reign as president. Chappell was absolute in his enforcement of rules on his students, going so far as to admonish parents of students for breaking them, and asking them to avoid sending their young daughters to the school if they were not willing to play by his rules. However, there were also pockets of delightful resistance, of which I hope to highlight.
The G.N. & I.C. campus itself was completely locked down from its surroundings in Milledgeville. (The image below is the blueprint of the 1949 campus.) As early as 1895, Chappell railed against the men and youths who attempted to gain entrance to the “Physical Culture Drills,” once he realized how popular these exercises had become among bystanders, leading him to make the exercises invitation only, as well as rail against the local youth in the Union-Recorder: “The intruding public is becoming an intolerable nuisance…the young ladies cannot don their physical culture suits to play basketball in the back yard without being subjected to the rude gaze of the vulgar youths who ride back and forth on their bicycles,” (April 23, 1895 as quoted in Hair 48). This was the start of an antagonistic relationship with the public (mostly local boys and GMC cadets) that perpetuated at least until the end of Chappell’s “reign,” and parts of which persist today.
Chappell continued this antagonism throughout his presidency, threatening in 1897 to punish any “youths and young men” who would make their way onto campus. The threats ranged from fines to the chain gang, all for making their way onto the grounds or, heaven forbid, into the dormitories. In the May 25, 1897 edition, Chappell presented this statement under the title of “A Warning,” on the front page of the Union-Recorder:
I hereby notify the public that I shall hereafter prosecute to the full extent of the law all persons intruding on the grounds of the Georgia Normal and Industrial College or its Dormitories. Penalty $5 to $50.00, ten days to three months on the chain gang, etc. Youths and young men who shall hereafter intrude on the dormitory remise as offensively as some of them have done in the past will receive the severest punishment that the law can inflict. The purpose indicated in this communication I shall carry out vigorously without fear of anyone or favor to anyone. J. Harris Chappell, President, Georgia Normal and Industrial College. (Hair 48)
One can only note that Chappell was quite adamant about keeping the female students sequestered on the grounds. He reiterates these rules in 1902 before his retirement in 1903 and his replacement by Parks. While perhaps sensible by 19th century standards, it seems impossible to imagine a campus and grounds devoid of outside passers-by, visitors, locals, and high school and Early College students today.
Clearly, however, Chappell had utmost faith in his own abilities to keep his students safe. Visits were tightly guarded by Chappell, as he expected students to remain on campus for the majority of the school term, and to then promptly return home the day after commencement exercises. Chappell states in the Prospectus that “pupils should be present at the opening of the session and remain until the close,” citing the fact that the term was too short to justify visits home (28). Students were expected to even stay during modern students second favorite time of year – winter break. Students were expected to remain on campus for Christmas (excepting the academic year from 1893-4 which allowed students to go home for Christmas… as long as they returned promptly on the morning of December 27th. Say good-bye to Winter Break, Fall Break, and Spring Break!
Being on campus meant being completely under Chappell’s control, especially on controversial topics like the presence of young men. Chappell required “communications from parents or guardians with reference to visiting or receiving visits by the pupils” to be addressed to the president rather than the student, and any messenger coming to take a student home or communicate with the student to send a letter of introduction to the president first (Prospectus 28-29). Ostensibly, this was for the protection of the younger female students. However, it also displayed the familial control with which Chappell reigned – and also leading him to pronounce that “the government is parental” (29). Parents were asked to comply with these rules, or to avoid sending their children there.
Chappell was also firm in his enforcement of rules that banned boys from visiting campus. More could obviously be said about Chappell’s vehement dislike of any male visitors, but any sentiment or rule banning boys could probably be inferred from his strict enforcement of even just the boundaries of the college grounds. Men were not permitted to visit, or even write; Chappell was quite serious when he banned all communication with men (Hair 45). One hilarity to note, however, came from Chappell’s insistence that his rules cover all possible scenarios. Dawson writes of in Centennial History a student who, pushing the limits of Chappell’s rules, asked “Does the rule positively prohibiting visits from young men apply to second cousins?” (Hair 43). When Chappell answered yes, she pushed further, asking about first cousins. Eventually, tired of the questions, Chappell amended the rule to include any cousin, of all degrees (43).
Furthermore, while Chappell was kept busy monitoring student visitors, telling local youths to stay off the proverbial G.N. & I.C. lawn, and handling requests from parents, alongside other administrative duties, the girls were still under the eye the faculty (Prospectus 29).
And one fixture of G.N. & I.C. faculty was the matrons. Of course, when we hear the word matron, I think everyone would jump to the image of Nanny McPhee (prior to her transformation, of course). Matrons served as a more rules-based, stricter Community Director of sorts. However, matrons were not the students’ peers, and true to their name, they served as strict mother figures in the dorm, keeping a close watch on fifty girls apiece in the dormitory (22). We know who some of these matrons were, like Ms. Kate Green, from the earlier prospectuses, but stories about how strict the matrons were are passed down from students at G.N. & I.C. until today.
Of course, there are some less important but still humorous pieces to our history. Chappell required students to attend a church of their choice, stating that Milledgeville was home to Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Episcopal churches. Now, if you’re a fan of Flannery O’Connor — or simply if you’re aware of the churches here in town — you may notice that something is missing from this list. That’s right — in his haste to put the Prospectus together, Chappell comlpetely forgot to mention Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a mistake he rushed to fix in the next year’s Prospectus.
There you have it — the good, the strict, and the just plain funny parts of G.N. & I.C. Now that our tour of the 1890s is over, let me know, how would you fare under Chappell’s strict rules for our campus?
Hair, William Ivy, James C. Bonner, Edward B. Dawson, and Robert J. Wilson III. A Centennial History of Georgia College, University of Georgia Printing Department, 1979, Print.
Main Building. Postcard Collection, Special Collections, Ina Dillard Russell Library, Georgia College.
Mansion and Annex. Postcard Collection, Special Collections, Ina Dillard Russell Library, Georgia College.
Map of Georgia State College for Women. Map Collection, Special Collections, Ina Dillard Russell Library, Georgia College.
Panorama. Postcard Collection, Special Collections, Ina Dillard Russell Library, Georgia College.
Prospectus of the Georgia Normal and Industrial College A State Institution for the Education of Girls to be Opened at Milledgeville, GA on Wednesday, September 30th, 1891. Augusta: Chronicle Publishing Company, 1891.