Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Student conduct

Student conduct has, since the beginning of the College, been regulated by certain rules and regulations, subject to change as the times have changed. Early students were introduced to the laws of the College by being obliged to write them out and have their copies signed by the President. In 1774 four delinquent students, John Hart 1776, Daniel Gano 1776, William Edwards 1776, and Walter Vigneron 1776, were publicly admonished for various “crimes,” as being absent during study hours, spending time in idle entertainment, making noise, and moving a carpenter’s bench into the entry of the College Edifice. The culprits included the sons of Morgan Edwards and John Gano, two of the founders of the College. Hart was the son of Reverend Oliver Hart, who had been awarded an honorary degree at the first Commencement in 1769. In the laws enacted by the Corporation in 1783, Chapter 3d, ("Concerning a religious, moral & decent conduct") were the following rules:

“Every student shall attend public worship every first day of the week, where he, his parents or Guardians shall think proper ... N.B. Such as regularly and statedly observe the seventh day as a Sabbath, are exempted from this Law; and are only required to abstain from secular employments ...

“It is ordered that if any Student of this College shall deny the being of a God, the existence of Virtue & Vice; or that the books of the old and New Testament are of divine authority ... he shall be expelled from the College – Young Gentlemen of the Hebrew Nation are to be exempted from this law, so far as it relates to the New Testament and its authenticity.

“Every scholar is strictly forbidden to play at cards, or any unlawful Games; – to swear, lye, steal, get drunk, or use obscene or idle words, strike his fellow Students or others; or keep company with persons of a known bad Character; or attend at places of idle or vain Sports –

“No student, excepting those who statedly attend the Friends Meeting, is permitted to wear his hat within the College walls ...

“Every student is required to treat the Inhabitants of the Town and all others with whom they converse with civility and good manners ...

“No student shall refuse to open the door when he shall hear the stamp of foot or staff at his door in the entry, which shall be a token that an officer of instruction desires admission, which token every student is forbid to counterfeit, or imitate under any pretence whatever –

“No student is permitted to make a practice of receiving company in his room in study hours; or keep spirituous Liquors in his room without liberty obtained of the President

“No student may at any time make any unnecessary noise of tumult either in his room or in the Entries; but each one shall endeavour to preserve tranquility and decency in words & actions – “
This last rule was revised in the 1803 laws to specify as unnecessary noises, “running violently, hallooing, or rolling things in the entries or down the stairs.” Also banned was the keeping of firearms or gunpowder in student rooms. Students who transgressed were sometimes fined and sometimes submitted to rustication, a form of punishment in which a student was sent to the care of a person, usually a minister or alumnus of the College, often in the country (hence the name, “rustication") to continue his studies with that person for a stated period, after which he could rejoin the class without having fallen behind in his studies.

In the nineteenth century students were inclined to liven their limited social life with various disturbances. In 1817 President Asa Messer was forced to to discipline eight students for burning the privy, noting that it was “not a small thing to alarm in the night, and by the cry of fire 10 to 12 thousand People.” In 1824 Messer felt that it was the result of his own theological quarrel with members of the Corporation that “During our last spring and summer terms unusual disorder prevailed among out students. They broke open the Library: they beat down the Pulpit: they prevented or disturbed for several weeks a regular recitation: they even assailed our house, in the night, and broke the windows. Severe punishments were, therefore, inflicted; and order was restored.” Francis Wayland, succeeding Messer as president in 1827, revived the law that officers of the college must visit students daily in their rooms, and report all infractions of rules.

As organized sports and student activities increased, the behavior of the student improved greatly. The student handbook in 1916 included notes on “College Courtesy” for the guidance of freshmen, who were reminded that “the same things are expected of a gentleman at Brown that are expected anywhere else; the fact that you have come to live in a society made up almost entirely of men does not alter the circumstances.” Rule 2 prescribed respect for the faculty; “In the class-room, by observing decorum and respect; in doorways, by giving them precedence; in meeting those members whom you know, by saluting them courteously with the right hand.” In addition, upperclassmen’s advice should be heeded, University property should be respected, chapel speakers listened to attentively, and students were reminded that the class rivalries, the traditional physical combats between freshmen and sophomores, “are CLASS fights; do not make them personal.” In the matter of student discipline the Cammarian Club became a link between the administration and the students, and was in 1922 credited by Dean Otis Randall for its assistance in “dealing with perplexing problems which are bound to arise frequently whenever two branches of a great organization look at conditions from widely differing standpoints.”

In 1947 a Special Undergraduate Committee on Student Regulations which represented the Cammarian Club and the Interfraternity Governing Board, working with the Dean of Students, formulated a “Gentlemen’s Agreement” for the purpose of governing the conduct of undergraduate students. Its initial statement was that “All students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner becoming scholars and gentlemen.” Strictly forbidden were intoxication and disorders resulting from drinking, damaging dormitory rooms, and throwing any articles from the windows of University buildings. Informal social functions were to end at 1:00 a.m., while formal parties could last until 2:00 a.m. All such functions which extended beyond 10:00 p.m. were to be chaperoned, and no social events were to be held during reading or examination periods. Ladies could be entertained in dormitory and fraternity house lounges at prescribed times. Dogs could not reside in any room, and loud radio playing was forbidden, as were bonfires without permission of the dean and riots at any time.

In 1966 an Advisory Committee on Student Conduct, appointed by President Heffner and chaired by Professor C. Peter Magrath, recommended that matters of discipline be referred to a University Council on Student Affairs, which would include deans, faculty, the Graduate School, and students. The USCA could hear cases involving college discipline, but its recommendations were subject to the approval of the president. A student charged with an offense had the option of having his case heard by a dean or by the USCA. Most chose the dean. Another committee, appointed by President Swearer and chaired by Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Alfred H. Joslin ’35, reviewed the system in 1979-80, and decided that minor offenses should be handled by the deans and major offenses by the USCA. For a while the deans consulted to determine which were which, until this “grand jury” duty was turned over to a Disciplinary Review Board.