Editorials on College Songs, Examinations, and Lazy Seniors
In March 1884, Hanover students were anticipating final exams for the second term, which would end on March 25. According to the 1883-1884 Catalog, the students' final grades would be based on two things: an evaluation of their scholarship for the term (determined by on-the-spot grading of classroom recitations) and "correct answers to a definite portion" of the written final exam, which would be "thorough and rigid." Many American college students in the late nineteenth century seemed to have little interest in real learning, and they saw themselves opposing faculty members who tried to make them work. When the student editor of the Hanover Monthly exhorted readers to refrain from cheating on their upcoming exams (see below), he was admitting that some Hanover students shared that oppositional outlook, including "peculiar" ideas about academic honesty.
When students were not studying for exams (or contemplating crib sheets), they could entertain themselves with singing. Stephen Foster was popular on college campuses at this time, and the third editorial below reports of hearing Foster's "Gentle Annie" sung "on every side." In the case of "Gentle Annie," Hanover seniors used the sad lyrics to tease their younger friends, reminding them that the seniors were having their last spring at Hanover and would soon be leaving the underclassmen behind ("Shall we nevermore behold thee; Never hear thy winning voice again -- When the Springtime comes, gentle Annie?"). The first of the editorials below calls for a Hanover song book, complaining that Hanover students did not make singing "an important and pleasant part of our life here," concentrating, perhaps, too much on a narrow repertoire of traditional and popular tunes, like "Gentle Annie." If Hanover would follow the lead of other colleges in publishing a small handbook of songs associated with the college (see examples from Bryn Mawr here), students could sing together more often and more satisfactorily. College song books could also celebrate local talent by including songs written by students, alumni, or faculty. (The student editor recommended including songs by classics professor Baird.) The song books and group singing of the late nineteenth century were precursors of the more intense college boosterism of the early twentieth century, the heyday of alma mater songs and college fight songs. -smv
Thanks to Doug Denne and Kathy McCardwell for their reference assistance.
It is the editor's painful duty to bring up a new subject of reform, in connection with College life. One who has never sustained the onerous duties of the editorial chair, cannot understand our hesitation in reminding our fellow students of any remissness in the performance of duty. It is a notable fact, that, no matter how sweet-tempered a man may be in the earlier years of his college course, yet when he attains Senior dignities, like the responsibility of editing a journal, he immediately degenerates into a scold, and one of the kind too, for which an old-time ducking-stool would not be inappropriate. We humbly hope that the above preamble will prepare the minds of our readers for the new grievance. It is this: Did you ever think, alumni of Hanover, and fellow students, that our College boasts of nothing, absolutely nothing, in the way of College songs?
It is true that we sometimes hear a hilarious crowd singing "John Brown's Body," along the street, and at our mild dissipations of parties and banquets, we close the evening with a chorus of the style of "Bingo," or "Good night, Ladies," but we don't make these songs an important and pleasant part of our life here.
One reason for this, we think, is in the dreadfully high price of any volume of College music. The editions that are most popular are very large, and, while they contain a good many catching songs, they are filled with notes that contain no music, and words that convey no idea.
Now, why couldn't we get out a cheap and useful little volume containing the songs we like best, and also some new ones by our undoubted home talent? We hope that the ambition of the friends of the students will be aroused, and that contributions for our song book will pour in, in waves of melody. We call on Prof. Baird to head the list.
Examinations will soon be occupying the attention of the students, and various plans for successfully passing them are now presented to the students. The desire to hand in a good examination paper is a strong one, and is a commendable one if it leads to more diligent and thorough study, but it is a discreditable one if it leads to dishonorable practices. A student's ideas in regard to dishonorable practices are sometimes very peculiar. Some students believe the faculty are their bitter enemies and that any advantage over them, however gained, is to be sought after. This greatly mistaken idea has led to a habit which is now quite prevalent. This is the use of "ponies" during the term, and of "cribs" at examinations. While a translation may to some persons be a benefit, to ninety-nine out of a hundred it will be an injury. If you are working for good marks and are determined to obtain them by fair means or foul, a "pony" will aid you; but if you desire to do your work thoroughly and honestly, the best plan is to receive lower marks and leave "ponies" alone.
But "ponies" can not be used in examinations, so the student contents himself with "cribs," and, armed with these in varying quantities, he marches to examination, determined to hand in a good paper. Is this an honorable practice? Does the student think it honorable to gain class standing by such questionable means? Can he expect the respect of the faculty, of the students and of himself, if his examinations are passed in this way? This is not a question of trifling importance, for often this is the first dishonorable step taken by the student, and his sense of honor is thus blunted.
A student who uses "cribs" in examination, violates his principles of honor or, else, he has so weakened this sense of honor that it no longer possesses the strength belonging to true manhood.
An average standing, honestly and honorably obtained is far better than first or second position obtained by the sacrifice of strict honesty.
College life is a discipline and he who blunts his sense of honor, while in college, is doing himself an irreparable injury.
This is an unfortunate time of the year for college journalism. The spirit and energy which characterized our work in the first part of the year has gone, gone we know not where. We were unconscious of its departure, but the void it has left is most evident. It is now that our interest begins to flag, and the tone of our paper sadly deteriorates. The staff has a dazed, bewildered expression, as if they had been deprived of something they held most dear. This may be the case with some, who knows? On every side of us we hear the gentle murmur, "In the spring time, gentle Annie," and immediately we know that the utterer of this vile phrase has retired from the arena, and will soon sink into oblivion. The Senior has never before referred so often to his importance as he now does, but in truth he never was of so little importance as at the present time. It is now that the lower classmen indulge in that unkind comparison, "as lazy as a Senior."
The Junior seems absorbed in science. His conversation abounds in those scientific expressions which only an over-enthusiastic Junior could have the heart to use. The spirit of stagnation extends also to the "vile preps," for they have ceased to make those "little breaks" and to crack those funny jokes, which were ever the delight of the local part of our enterprise.
We had hoped that this was an evil peculiar to us alone on receiving our monthly visitors we see the same wearied, disgusted smile, marring the beauty of every face.
Today in Hanover History Almanac
Hanover College History Department Home Page