If WE Build It, HE Will Come
“There go my boys!” One can imagine Dr. Carrier’s thoughts as he glances up from his desk, peering out his window just in time to see a group of male students traipsing across campus on a snowy day.
By the early seventies Affirmative Action and the Education Amendment of 1972, including the controversial Title IX, declared a need for fairness and diversity at public institutions (Suggs, 2). Of course, for most institutions the demands for meeting quotas applied to female students and minorities, not males. However, Madison College retained a much larger female population giving President Carrier the unique freedom to recruit male students. Historian Welch Suggs suggests that many advocates of minority groups argued a “Field of Dreams” approach was key to attracting larger numbers of diverse students, especially women. Carrier incorporated a similar strategy and decided to “build it” so HE “would come” (Suggs, 6).
Setting Goals and Increasing Interest
Carrier immediately implemented a vision for Madison College. He presented two major demographic goals for his first decade: gain funding by expanding enrollment and diversify the student body by increasing the number of male students to balance the former all girl’s college (Hilton, 34,38). He achieved both by the mid 1970s and effectively transitioned the reputation of Madison from a small still-dominated girl’s college to a full-fledged coed university. Interestingly, by tracking the rise of male enrollment a simultaneous pattern of accepted alcohol use on campus also appears.
Madison’s male population comprised just under 25% of the student body in the fall of 1970 (Robertson, 145) and the college was reputedly a “suitcase college” (154). Researcher Emily Gillespie Robertson, in her dissertation on Madison’s transformation in the seventies, reported that the admission staff actively recruited students and generated strategies to increase enrollment and interest in the social campus environment. In addition to the elimination of in loco parentis rules, they expanded athletic programs, including football complete with a marching band. The opening of Warren Campus Center followed by Grafton-Stovall Theatre offered students extra-curricular options. The staff encouraged the formation of “organizations, clubs and service groups,” (155) and the 1978 completion of Greek Row for “thirteen Greek organizations on campus” (156) sealed the end of the “suitcase college” attitude. As a result, alcohol use and parties accompanied this boost of weekend activity on campus.
Making Exceptions to Fulfill Goals
The marketing of male students required the admission’s office to make some exceptions in the selection processes. The Institutional Self-Study reports, from 1971 and 1981, reveal specific policies for screening male applicants. The 1971 report stated that all applicants should “graduate in the upper one-third of the high school class, have combined scores of 850 on the College Board Examination with neither score under 350, and receive a recommendation from his high school.” It also stipulated that no one in the lowest twenty-five percent of a graduating class with an “unfavorable recommendation” and college boards less than 700 would be admitted (1971 Self-Study Report, Chapter III, 33). However, it also indicated that “the College has the goal of increasing male enrollment to a level of 40 per cent of the student body.” In order to meet this goal the study further stated that “a larger number of high-risk males than high-risk females were admitted. Consideration is given to the tendency of male high school records to be lower than those of females and to the slower academic maturing of males” (1971 Self-Study Report, Chapter III, 32-3). Again, the 1981 Self-Study Committee confirmed this agenda reporting that “A conscious effort” targets the “aim of heterogeneity” (1981 Self-Study Report, Standard I, 8). A further examination of the statistics on applicants accepted to JMU from 1973 to 1979 (See Percent of Applicants Accepted to Madison/JMU graph) demonstrated that Madison did actively increase the male enrollment by accepting a higher percentage of male students compared to females. Furthermore, these male students joined the SGA and fraternities becoming actively involved in campus activities. And all appearances show that male students ultimately led the way for relaxed alcohol policies.
By 1978 James Madison University’s enrollment stood just shy of 8000 students (See Madison/JMU Enrollment graph, Hilton, 119). At this point, James Madison University no longer considered itself a small conservative college. As researcher Fred Hilton argues, “the face of public higher education in Virginia was altogether different” by the mid seventies as some colleges went coed and grew while others retained more conservative and intimate atmospheres (Hilton, 70-2). James Madison chose to grow and compete under the direction of President Carrier. From his initial days in office, Carrier promoted “the role of students in decision-making” and promoted the student as the “primary reason for being” (“Highlights of Carrier’s Talk”, 3). As students gained more freedoms, James Madison grew more appealing. With more students applying, the admission’s office became “more selective” by raising standards (Robertson, 146). Moreover, larger numbers of students meant greater funding (Hilton, 45) to better promote programs and market the school. The changing attitudes towards students and relaxed policies, including alcohol, naturally served as a draw for prospective students – especially males.
JMU was not setting trends with its liberalization of policies, but merely keeping pace in hopes to gain equal footing with renowned Virginia universities. Various articles in The Breeze compare alcoholic policies of JMU to others, like the University of Virginia, William and Mary, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and Old Dominion University (The Breeze). Students’ arguments for freer alcohol policies reflected the values of other public institutions in Virginia. And just like all college towns, the university had to make choices and define policies pertaining to the student body and its use of alcohol.
Cover Image: “Male Students Carrying Beer Through Snow,” Control #Stso207, JMU Historic Photos Online, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, c. 1970s. Frame created by Charity Derrow, in PowerPoint, April 13, 2012.
Hilton, Fred, Changing from a College to a University: Madison College to James Madison University, 1971-1977. Thesis for Master of Arts, Department of History (Harrisonburg, VA: James Madison University, December 1996), 119. Created in Excel by Charity Derrow, April 4, 2012.
“Male Students Carrying Beer Through Snow,” Control #Stso207, JMU Historic Photos Online, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA, c. 1970s. Frame created by by Charity Derrow, in PowerPoint, April 13, 2012.
“Report of the Self-Study Committees for the Institutional Self-Study,” Prepared for the Commission on Colleges and Universities Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (Harrisonburg, VA: James Madison University, 1981), Standard III, 9. Created in Excel by Charity Derrow, April 4, 2012.
“Highlights of Carrier’s Talk,” The Breeze, September 17, 1971.
Hilton, Fred D. Changing form a College to a University: Madison College to James Madison University 1971-1977. Harrisonburg, VA: James Madison University, 1996.
Robertson, Emily Gillespie, The Transformation of Madison College Into James Madison University: A Case Study, Harrisonburg, VA: James Madison University, 1991.
“Madison College Institutional Self-Study and Periodic Visitation Program: Prepared for the Commission on Colleges and Universities, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools,” Madison College, Harrisonburg, VA: Madison College, 1971, Carrier Library, Special Collections, James Madison University.
“Report of the Self-Study Committees for the Institutional Self-Study: Prepared for the Commission on Colleges and Universities, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools,” James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA: James Madison University, 1981, Carrier Library, Special Collections, James Madison University.
Suggs, Welch, A Place On the Team: The Triumph and Tragedy of Title IX, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.
The Breeze, Rathbun, Frank H., and Joann Sullivan, “Beer cost, student choice determine selection,” January 30, 1976, 1,5; Byrne, Gregory “Perspectives: Establishing traditions,” April 9, 1976, 2; Tulli, Patti, “Half kegs instead,” November 10, 1978, 24; Tulli, Patti, “Student alcohol violations ‘exception rather than rule,’” November 14, 1978, 2.