You’re Grounded!

Dormitory Hostesses Bluestone 1969

Dormitory Hostesses Bluestone 1969

In Loco Parentis is a legal term referring to the responsibilities and the roles a guardian assumes over a child in absence of a parent.   Until 1971 Madison College’s, previously the State Normal School, dormitories on campus housed a maternal guardian figure for the student residents of the building.  Each residence hall featured a hostess, or “dorm mother” as many resident students called them, that assumed many roles of the female students’ parents.  These hostesses enforced policies of residents’ dress, night time curfew, and many aspects of their social life.  Today some of these policies can be seen as the roots of many modern residence hall policies; such as quiet hours and visitation hours

These hostesses were mostly retired or widowed ladies over the age of 50 who lived in the building with the residents, and kept tabs on their well being.  A 1971 resident in Frederickson Hall described the dorm mother and resident advisers on each floor as nice but, “They were all so strict; they could really let you have it,” (Lacks, 2013).  The hostess lived in a larger apartment style room attached to the lobby or greeting area for guests of the opposite sex.  All residence halls had a lobby or greeting area.  This lobby also featured an office with a desk where cards were kept to track the resident’s leave from the dormitory and who had been calling to see the resident.

During the 1960’s and early 70’s, Madison College required all student residents to check out of the dorm with the hostess when leaving, and set very specific times for the residents to come back.   The residents also checked-in on the card for this purpose.  Residents faced a curfew with a strict tardiness policy.  The resident was allowed 30 minutes of “grace time” per semester to come back to the building after closing.  Once the dormitory closed, the resident would have to contact security to gain access into the building.  However that does not mean all residents returning past closing contacted security, a resident may have told her roommate to let her in to the building.  Many residents also falsified their sign-out cards by listing the title of their activity away from the dorm as “a walk around campus,” but could really be going to see her date or girlfriends (Lacks, 2013).

And much like at home, each resident faced different consequences for breaking some of the policies.  The resident could receive a “call down” for failing to sign in or out when entering or leaving the dorm.  The 1969-1970 student handbook describes the sanctions given to tardy residents.  A resident 10 to 15 minutes late could receive one call down, and could also receive two call downs for improper sign out involving multiple infractions.  These call downs were administered by the house council in each dormitory.  And similarly to how a parent grounds a child, a resident could also be sanctioned to a “dorm restriction” for incurring three or more calldowns.  The suggested time on dorm restriction is one week.


Works Cited:

Sandra Lacks, Interview by Nicholas Spinner, 18 April 2013, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.*Sandra interview

Jones, Nancy. Rooted on Bluestone Hill: A History of James Madison University. Santa Fe, NM: Center for American Places, Inc, 2004. Print.

1969-1970 Madison College Student Handbook, dormitory policies