Post #2: Course Catalogs

My goal this week is to learn some basic information about student life, with a focus on the ways it pertains to and affects the experiences students had in the classroom.

One of the most interesting sections of the catalog was the section on absences and “class cuts”. As any student will tell you, it’s possible to spend a lot of time calculating whether you can afford to miss a class for reasons legitimate or otherwise. Mary Washington in the 1960s simplified this process (or tired to simplify it) by employing a school-wide attendance policy. Excused absences were “calculated on the basis of four absences for each class meeting per week.” To be honest, I have no idea what this means for students. Surely they can’t be missing four class meetings per week and expect to retain any kind of academic standing. The Bulletin does not clarify further, but does advise students to talk to the registrar to determine their number of allowable absences. In addition, all absences must be verified by the College Physician (for residential students) or the student’s parents.

Class cuts, what we would call unexcused absences, are a little more clearly explained. In fact, they pretty much amount to exactly the system Professor Mackintosh uses in his classes. Each student in the 1960s was allowed a number of cuts per semester equal to the number of times that class meets per week. So, because Dr. McClurken’s Women’s History class meets twice a week, each student would be allowed two cuts for the semester. Furthermore, the Bulletin states that it does not matter why a student chooses to use her “cuts”, merely reminding her that she must check out of her dorm if she is leaving campus. From the same experience in Dr. Mackintosh’s class, where each student is given two absences, no questions asked, I can imagine the ways students might have calculated the advantages and disadvantages of missing any given class session.

The handbook also mentions rules for students wishing to marry. They had to apply to the Dean for permission, which I assume means permission to remain enrolled as a student, since I don’t see how the school could actually prevent them from marrying. They also had to apply for permission to remain in the residence halls if they were married, or arrange for housing elsewhere, presumably with the husband. This makes me wonder whether there were many students applying to marry while in school. I know there are married students today, but not many and primarily returning students. Was this a bigger issue for Mary Washington in the 1960s?

Another item which piqued my interest was a mention of “senior costumes”. I can’t begin to imagine what these might be, or when they might be worn, and I hope Sam will be able to ask about them when she conducts her interviews. Now, I’m really curious.

Also, it was apparently possible to take aviation lessons at MWC in the 60s, although the college is clear about their lack of liability. I’d be fascinated to hear how that worked out, as well.

I looked through all ten volumes trying to determine the ethnic makeup of the Mary Washington student body and, unsurprisingly, I found that it was almost entirely white. In the 1965 Bulletin, however, the pictures included a couple of students who are Asian or Latina and one picture of a woman wearing a sari and pointing to a map of India, apparently as a presentation for a class. It is not entirely clear to me whether she is a student, professor or visiting community member. The master list of students’ names and hometowns includes students from Germany, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Thailand, Egypt, Cuba, Italy Laos and the Canal Zone. Other Bulletins corroborate that there were a handful of international students each year, although it is unclear on whether they are American citizens living abroad, for whatever reason, or foreign students. I would guess that they are foreign students, although there is no information in the Bulletin about study-abroad programs. The first picture to include a Black student is in the 1968-1969 Bulletin. (Fredericksburg City schools desegregated in 1963- source here.) Although the picture is not captioned, she appears to be a member of a team or club; all the girls in the picture are dressed in identical white shirts and dresses with shoulder straps, and they are wearing sneakers. Not what we would consider sport clothing, but I also have yet to see a picture of any woman in pants.

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