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Old Berea Rules and Regulations: Home

Written by Heather Dent

Old Berea Rules and Regulations

Changes in Student Living Rules and Regulations

Berea has always held its students up to high moral standards of living. However, these standards have become more and more relaxed throughout the years as the demands of the main stream American culture have evolved. Berea students today enjoy many luxuries that were denied to Berea students 60 years ago. While the school has remained unchanged concerning particular rules such as labor requirements and alcohol consumption, there are many rules that have been modified significantly.

No Dancing

The Berea College booklet of rules and regulations from 1895 explicitly stated, “Students may not engage in dancing.” This was a rule that lasted for many years until approximately 1946 when the Navy V-12 unit was assigned to stay at Berea for a certain period of time during World War II. According to Louis Smith, Dean of Berea College from 1944 to 1969, “The navy men and their officers took kindly to Berea but they did bring about the abolition of the college’s long-standing prohibition of dancing.” Today, dance plays a major role on the Berea campus community. It provides instruction on a variety of different dances including modern dance, Middle Eastern dance, and contra dance. Students from Residential Life and various different clubs and organizations also coordinate several student dances each year.

No Tobacco

Berea College students were also not allowed use tobacco in any form while on the college campus. Dean Smith once said, “Three of Berea’s major prohibitions were, as has been said by some, ‘fireweed (tobacco), fire-arms, and fire-water.’” Although “fire arms” and “fire-water” are still restricted, Berea currently allows its students to use “fireweed.” This change, according to Smith, was also due to the influence of the Navy V-12 unit. In December 1946 the General Faculty agreed to permit students to use tobacco. However, they were careful not to encourage it. In the words of Francis Hutchin’s “The uses of tobacco was not to become a part of the social life of Berea College, but freedom to indulge in its use was granted.” Today there are designated smoking areas such as gazebos for those who wish to smoke.

No Fire Arms

This rule may not seem like a big deal today, but over fifty years ago this rule was an issue of primary concern. In one of the very first pamphlets of Berea laws and regulations, produced in 1868, it states, “Students shall not use fire-arms or burn gunpowder, on the College premises, without permission.” Dean Smith explained that student possession of fire-arms is particularly dangerous within the Kentucky mountain region because of family feuds. He reported that the college had to take certain precautions such as trying to place students from opposing feuding families in different dormitories to diminish chances of provocation.

No Rouge and Lipstick

Although lipstick and rouge were never officially banned they were strongly discouraged. Katherine Bowersox, the Dean of Women in 1930, particularly disapproved of young female Berea students using make up. In a written report on Februrary 11, 1930 that she said she had done her best to encourage young women to abstain from such accessories, but the many did not pay any heed. Bowersox stated, “My own personal opinion is if at the end of the year a girl shows deliberate defiance and insists on painting up and looking like a show girl after all we have done and said, that we should invite her to go to another school, just as we invite boys, who insist on using tobacco.” She strongly discouraged female Berean students from wearing make-up not because she perceived it as an immoral sin, but because she felt it misrepresented Berea’s ideals and was simply a waste of money.

Katherine Bowersox was not the only Berean faculty member who felt opposed to rouge and lipstick. There was one occasion in 1930 which a dean refused to have a particular girl work for him in his office because she “repeatedly came with her lips so red that he was ashamed to have any of the students meet her and speak to her.” There were several other faculty members who felt similarly in the fact that they viewed the act of wearing makeup was shameful. In Katherine Bowersox’s notes she said in reference to Berea students wearing makeup, “It is not fair for half a dozen girls to bring criticism on Berea by visitors who happen to see them.” However, despite the disapproval of face painting or makeup, it was never officially prohibited.

No Inappropriate Socializing Among Males and Females

Although Berea’s visitation policies today for male and female dormitories are considered strict in comparison to other college campuses, they are much more lenient than the rules that used to be enforced half a century ago. Back then faculty monitored male and female interactions with extreme care. Today students are allowed a limited number of visitation hours within dorms of the opposite sex, but back then there were no visitation hours at all. In the booklet of rules and regulations from 1868 it states, “Students are prohibited, on pain of expulsion from visiting those of the other sex at their room, or receiving visits from them at their own, except by permission in case of serious illness.”

Rules concerning male and female interactions back then went beyond mere visitation policy. There were strict guidelines stating exactly when and where it was appropriate for young men and women to socialize. For example, the rules and regulations handbook from 1895 states, “Young men and young women may not meet to visit in any place except the parlor of the house in which the young woman boards.” Interactions between Berea students of the opposite sex were strictly regulated. Katherine Bowersox, the Dean of Women, stated in 1925, “Boys and girls are not allowed to “coast” together. Any girls who wish to go out for any type of fun with boys, must first get permission and go with a conductor.” This prohibition of “coasting” with the opposite sex included walks, rides, and attendance to social gatherings. Participation in such behavior required permission from the appropriate authorities, and even then could only be done during certain designated hours.

Specific times were designed to allow young men and women to socialize in an orderly, safe environment. For example, the 1895 handbook specifies, “Young ladies and gentlemen may engage together in outdoor games like croquet and lawn tennis between 3:30 pm and tea on Saturday; at other times only by special permission.” Even though such activities appear seemingly harmless some faculty expressed concerns about them. In the 1927, Bowersox said in reference to educational movies shown every Wednesday night, “They leave a loop hole for our girls to wander around town and meet boys in cars and do all sorts of things.”

Works Cited

Additional Resources

  • Berea College Vertical File, Special Collections and Archives
  • RG 5.15 – Administrative Divisions – Student Life
  • RG 5.14 – Dean of Women, Berea College Archives
  • RG 4 – Louis Smith – Biographical Material RG

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