Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Cammarian Club

The Cammarian Club was organized in 1893 as a senior society. The members chose the name of the club from the Latin word for lobster, which they were fond of eating. Membership in the club was confined to a select group of men considered to be outstanding in scholarship and character and prominent in college life. The club was self-perpetuating and the first public notice of an election of members was in 1897 when fifteen juniors were “tapped” as they left chapel to signify their selection as members of the next year’s club. In that year the Brown Daily Herald noticed the club in its Commencement issue with a statement of its dedication to “service to one another, to the classes, and to the college at large.” In 1899 the Cammarian Club came to the rescue in mediating the altercation which resulted after the local firemen arrived at a bonfire after the Princeton baseball game and had their hose destroyed by the students. A committee of the club recommended the levying of a tax on students to reimburse the fire department for the damage and the creation of a committee to oversee future celebrations. A Cammarian Club alumni group met in Boston in 1901, and had further meetings in New York and Providence.

At about this time the club decided to establish some college customs and traditions. Early customs which the student body accepted covered such privileges as wearing of silk hats by students after Junior Week of their class, wearing of straw hats by freshmen after Memorial Day, and sitting on the seats by the Van Wickle Gates, which was reserved for seniors. Freshmen were prohibited from walking on the south side of College Street until a freshman baseball team defeated a sophomore team. In 1907 the club, in an effort to strengthen class spirit, decreed that freshmen would wear brown caps from the opening of college until May 30. In 1909 it passed rules to protect the site of the freshman banquet from damage by the sophomores. The Cammarian Club also took on fraternity rushing, and recommended a delayed rushing season to give the freshmen and the fraternities more time to become acquainted, and in 1915 established an Interfraternity Governing Board for enforcing regulations. The club came to be recognized as an agent for student reform and for communication with the administration. Among the activities of the club was the operation of the Brown University Student Publicity Bureau, the object of which was to keep Brown in the news through submissions to important newspapers, home town papers, and papers of preparatory schools. In 1910 the Cammarian Club announced that it would no longer be self-perpetuating, and that members would each year be elected by students in the three upper classes from nominations by the previous club. The 1915 Club, the first chosen by popular election, amended the Constitution to provide for the election of its members by the three upper classes, established a blanket tax to support athletics, publications, and debating, and limited the offices one person could hold.

World War I reduced the Cammarian Club of 1918 to five members. In 1920 the Club established “Druids,” a forerunner of the Vigilance Committee, to instill college spirit, but discontinued this group for failure to do so. Two years later the Vigilance Committee came into being for the purpose of enforcing freshman rules. In 1921 the Club adopted a special hat by which members could be identified. First worn on October 20, 1921, it was a regulation white ‘varsity hat with a one-inch brown silk corded band with a narrow white stripe through the center. In the 1930s a new style of hat sported a red lobster as decoration.

President Faunce lauded the Cammarian Club in his annual report for 1925, “We are fortunate in having every year in the Cammarian Club men of good character and high standing who may be safely trusted by Faculty and by students to deal wisely with the many phases of college life in which both are concerned. ... It is through this intimate acquaintance and mutual understanding that we have been able thus far to escape many of the unpleasant and oftentimes very harmful discordant experiences through which colleges frequently pass.” One of the unpleasant experiences which the Club had disposed of that year was “the traditional Freshman Banquet which has never given any real satisfaction to anybody and always resulted in serious interruption of college exercises and destruction of property.” The banquet was replaced by “a series of open and fair contests between Freshman and Sophomore classes in which the two classes are given ample opportunity to show their relative physical and mental strength.” In 1931 there was another change in the method of electing new members at the urging of the Brown Daily Herald. The membership of the club was usually made up of athletes and fraternity men, and was losing its power as a student government board. The new plan of election called for twelve members, six elected by the three upper classes from nine nominated by the outgoing club and six elected from twelve nominated by the outgoing club in conjunction with extra-curricular organizations from among athletic managers, student publications and social organizations. The 1931 Club abolished class officers and replaced them with class marshals. By 1937-38, the office of senior marshal was abolished and replaced with the usual class officers. In 1949-50 the Cammarian Club ceased to be a senior society and was composed of 26 representatives of all of the undergraduate classes. In its first years the reorganized club negotiated with the administration on dormitory parties, sponsored the Brown Community Fund Drive, and established the first student court at Brown. In 1968 members were elected from both Brown and Pembroke College. In 1971 the Cammarian Club, recognizing that its role as intermediary between the students and the administration was no longer necessary now that students were allowed to sit on various University committees, voted itself out of existence. The Club was superseded by the Student Caucus, which was in turn replaced by the Undergraduate Council of Students.