Rollins Society

By Lorrie Kyle Ramey ’70

“I believe in the balanced life. I believe in matching hard work with fun. We will miss the point completely if we do not enjoy this place and each other. There is hard work to be done, but if we have any sense at all, we will have fun along the way.”

President Thaddeus Seymour, Inaugural Address, 1978

Fox Day

Happy Fox Day!

A Sandspur report of 1969 marveled, “Rollins has just had its first demonstration. Yes, even Rollins.” The reporter didn’t know about the peace strikes of the ’30s, yet the point was clear: even Rollins had found itself involved in the tumultuous events that were shaking the nation in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Traditional values and the regulations that enforced them were being questioned. With the approval of limited visitation in 1970, the issue of coeducational housing raised its head. For the first time, with the exception of occasional “Open Houses,” men and women were permitted to enter each other’s rooms at almost any time during the day or evening.

The first liberalization of the old rules triggered a campaign to discontinue women’s hours altogether. Women’s hours were effectively revoked in 1971, with the introduction of “self-regulated curfew.” Dormitories were locked at the usual closing times, but upperclasswomen who were not on academic or social probation were given keys. Later, first year women were given the same privilege.

The move was also afoot for 24-hour visitation. Under the existing regulations, each housing unit decided its own visitation policy and a Visitation Court considered infractions. President Critchfield expressed his disapproval of 24-hour visitation, voicing his special concern for the protection of the rights of roommates who might not want visitors.

At his departure from Rollins, President Critchfield vetoed one last visitation proposal, pointing out that it was not fair to leave his successor with a policy in which he had had no voice. Acting President Hicks agreed and stayed the action, which was then sent to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees returned the issue to President Seymour, who told students he would approve visitation if they would present a plan that allowed students to choose between 24-hour and limited visitation, and provided a student with recourse for any violation of rights. That plan was implemented in 1979.

The lowering of the drinking age in 1973 transformed the complexion of campus activities. IFC and Panhell sponsored Oktoberfest in conjunction with a local beer distributor, and the Tar-Pit, the student Pub, was opened. Alcohol became a staple at most College events. In 1980, the drinking age was raised to 19, but some of the campus groups had already taken steps to curb consumption by sponsoring successful non-alcoholic parties.

Florida’s legal drinking age returned to 21 in 1986, and the Tar-Pit soon saw its last call. In its place, a policy that permitted legally eligible students to consume alcohol on campus was instituted. But, how to tell the minors from the adults? And how much was too much? Wristbands and hand stamps, a 12-pack of beer or a bottle of wine.

Its complexity and the resulting confusion surrounding the new policy were certainly factors in generating the Student Life Summit convened in 1988. Admittedly, some academic issues were on the agenda, but most of the hot topics related to life outside the classroom. For all who participated in the daylong discussions—students, faculty, and staff, the event was a real exercise in community and a milestone for the campus. “I know I will never be more proud of this institution than I am today,” said President Seymour.

The 20 recommendations and 18 suggestions that emerged from the Summit provided a map for the Student Life Division. The Dean of the College’s title was converted to Dean of Student Affairs to reflect the change, and kegs were even permitted on campus for a short time. Despite students’ concerns that nothing would happen in the long run, most of the recommendations were implemented.

Another summit was convened in 1991, when students felt the all-College planning summit didn’t address their concerns about residence halls, alcohol policy, or parking. The SGA’s S.T.A.R.T. A.T. (Students To Actively Respond Today And Tomorrow) considered College social life (“About Last Night”), College leadership (“Is Anybody Listening?”), residence halls and student services (“Home Improvements”), campus culture (“Demand Diversity”), and enhancing the liberal education experience (“Everything I Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten”). The SGA constitution mandated two rallies a year and S.T.A.R.T. A.T. rallies were held in 1992 and 1993. However, as The Sandspur noted, “The first rally was a success because of a spontaneous desire by students to be heard, but the SGA cannot mandate spontaneity.”

The Greeks, or the question of Greeks, continued to dominate the social scene. In 1970, the latest fad among the Greeks appeared to be de-affiliation. Within one year, three groups became local organizations: Delta Chi, which became The Guild; Lambda Chi Alpha, which became, simply, Lambda; and Pi Beta Phi, which adopted the tag NCM, for Non Compis Mentis (not being of sound mind), an opinion their ex-national probably shared with them. The disillusioned Greeks felt they were not really benefiting from their national affiliations. Since they did not own their houses, they could not take advantage of nationally sponsored building improvements.

As well as the stampede to localize, other changes occurred in the Greek community. Gamma Phi Beta suffered a natural death in 1971, and Sigma Nu was ousted by the College in 1972. The Guild was disbanded in 1974. In 1977, the ex-Lambda Chi Alphas reversed direction and initiated the process to become national fraternity Chi Psi. It was a move the Lambdas thought was particularly fitting, since the namesake of their dormitory, Rollins’ first president, Edward Hooker, had been a Chi Psi.

New membership in fraternities and sororities declined dramatically in the early ’70s. To stimulate interest, the fraternities and sororities staged joint rush periods, culminating in a round of parties known as “Greek Week-end.” The Greek Week-end of 1973 was so wild that a faculty offensive to ban all Greeks resulted.

The Greeks were nervous. A study of the fraternity and sorority system at Rollins confirmed that the groups did have viable purpose, but that they needed to “expand their activities, establish their own individual characters, and make a serious effort to foster a broadening of relationships with people of diverse interests ...” The Greeks mounted major efforts to contribute to the Rollins community through campus-wide activities. In one year, fraternity membership increased 17 percent, and by 1980, the Greeks seemed to be firmly back on their feet.

Following the Greek Week-end debacle of 1973, the Housing Review Board was formed to consider the wisdom of continuing to offer fraternities and sororities group accommodations in College residence halls. Two soon-to-be-infamous new words were added to the Rollins vocabulary: “prime housing.” Each group that wanted to live together as a group in a Rollins dormitory had to request prime housing by submitting a proposal outlining its educational activities, personal development, social maturation, community contributions, and house administration.

As a result of a Housing Review Board recommendation in 1976, the KAs and X-Club almost found themselves replaced by alternative housing units. The KAs ultimately did lose their prime housing status, and finally, in 1984, lost their right to live together completely. In protest, they pitched tents in front of Carnegie Hall, but the Southern gentlemen were forced to accept defeat, fold their tents, and steal into the dark night of unknown dorms.

As groups were moved about, the Student Government Association was reformed to reflect the changing composition of the campus. Representation by organization changed to representation by dormitory, then to representation by class. Management of the Student Center moved back under Student Government Association jurisdiction. As students became more active in College decision making, they served as members of the College Senate and standing committees.

In 1980, the off-campus students formally organized the Off-Campus Students, who occupied the first floor of Pinehurst. The purpose of this formal organization was to help the off-campus students become more a part of the campus and its activities. Many of the special interest groups sponsored campus-wide functions. The Environmental Conservation Organization took over sponsorship of Earth Day, the Rollins Outdoor Club (ROC) hosted all-College games, and the entire College community enjoyed events like Homecoming and Spring Fling. To celebrate the Centennial, the students’ Homecoming re-created Fiesta on Mills Lawn. With the opening of the Olin Library, Mills Memorial Library was renovated to provide offices for student activities and services, including relocation of campus mailboxes from the Student Center. The former reference room was converted into the campus’s prime meeting space—talking and food permitted!

In the mid-1980s, the first non-Greek organizations were awarded special-interest housing: ROC and Pinehurst, a new group whose members committed themselves to promoting tolerance, respect, and public service. In the years that followed, the annual housing review became ground zero for student-faculty-administration confrontations. More than one fraternity and even one sorority found itself relocated to less desirable quarters in the larger residence halls. By 1989, President Seymour had asked the trustees to form a special committee to review housing review. “This annual unrest affects morale, personal relationships, and our capacity to do the essential work of the College. It seems to bring out the worst in everyone,” he wrote.

For the two decades that followed, hiccups and hemorrhages continued in the Greek community, with the percentage of students electing to affiliate closely mirroring national averages. Some chapter doors closed, but others soon opened. Though Alpha Phi, Phi Mu, and Kappa Alpha Theta are gone, newcomers Kappa Delta, which blossomed from local XLR8 in 1993, and Alpha Omicron Pi, chartered in 2002, are enjoying good health. And, following considerable confusion among its own members (could they have been channeling their former Pi Phi sisters?), NCM will remain a local but Delta Zeta still colonized in spring 2010.

Some chapters rose like phoenixes from their own ashes. Tau Kappa Epsilon, closed in 1987, was recolonized in 1990, and a reconstituted X-Club returned to Gale Hall. KA and Sigma Phi Epsilon did not enjoy the same good luck, and only time will tell if Alpha Tau Omega, removed in 2010, will return. Alpha Epsilon Pi (Jewish fraternity), Chi Upsilon Sigma (Latin sorority), and Sigma Gamma Rho (historically African-American sorority) also made forays onto campus.

Demonstrating the best of brotherly and sisterly spirit, Greek Week presented a friendly competition that also benefited the community with fundraisers for charity. Among the Olympic events: a boat race of vessels designed and built by the participants, women’s flag football and men’s cheerleading, and the three categories of the Greek God and Goddess pageant: talent, trivia, and toga.

Rollins students’ entrepreneurial spirit remained strong, with new organizations popping up like toadstools after a Central Florida rain. Among the catalogue: FORKS (Fellowship of Rollins Karaoke Singers); Quills (Poetry Club); Role-playing and Gaming Society; Rollins Anime Club for Enthusiasts (RACE); Rollins Swing Dance Formation; SCAM (Society for Creative and Analytical Minds); SEA (Society of Enlightened Academics); Star Trek: Rollins College. Some were sports oriented: Equestrian Club, Surf Club, Wakeboard Club, and The Royal Fencing Club of Rollins College.

And many focused on diversity in all forms: Asian American Student Association; Caribbean Student Association; Diverse Eaters, Vegetarians and Others (DEVO); Filipino Student Association; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered Alliance (GLBTA, later expanded to Spectrum); Hillel; Latin American Student Association; Middle Eastern Culture and Cuisine Association (MECCA); Multi-Ethnic Student Society (MESS); Muslim Student Association; Native American Culture Alliance; Om (Indian Student Association, a precursor of DESI); Religious Pluralist Party; Voices for Women (sometimes Womyn).

Revival of interest in an early Rollins passion—debate—produced a new spectator sport. Hundreds turned out to cheer the Rollins varsity debate team in its 2010 encounter with the Cambridge University Union Debating Society. Though the Brits won the day, the young Rollins squad scored impressive results in other outings, including #1 national Team of Excellence ranking in its second year of competition.

The Sandspur continued to chronicle the campus news, though its publication became erratic and an alternate newspaper, the Rollins Pulse, appeared in early 1988. The Pulse filled the information gap, and issued a wake-up call for the ailing ’spur. The Pulse was soon integrated into The Sandspur, which briefly renamed itself The New Sandspur. Today, the 120-year old publication also enjoys an online presence. Its companion, The Tomokan, has not weathered the Facebook age as smoothly. In 2007, students decided to discontinue publication of the yearbook.

Following the demise of the College’s original literary magazine, The Flamingo, specially designated pages in The Sandspur served as a temporary showcase for Rollins writers and artists. In 1972, students created a new publication, Brushing, which featured work by students, faculty, and staff, campus wide. Like its precursor, Brushing has ceased publication. Students’ newest publishing venture, the Rollins Undergraduate Research Journal (RURJ), functions as a peer-reviewed repository for student scholarship and is only available online.

The Publications Union added “Broadcast” to its portfolio, embracing WPRK and R-TV. Both stations suffered from low student participation, but an offer from a local public radio station to assume control of WPRK significantly boosted the volume of student involvement. Since then, WPRK has defended its claim to be the best in basement radio—even if deejay Dave Plotkin’s Herculean 110-hour on-air marathon in 2005 fell a few hours shy of a world record.

By 2010, there were more than 150 student organizations. To promote community, groups were encouraged to co-sponsor events, which occasionally led to some unexpected, but nevertheless successful, pairings. The campus also rallied around activities that engaged the entire College. Halloween Howl materialized in 1993, transforming residence halls into haunted houses and offering a brew of trick-or-treat activities for community children. Now a perennial chart-topper, LipSync debuted in 1999. A highlight of the 2006 competition was the appearance of KISS, covered by the dean of the faculty, director of personal counseling, and two faculty members. That same year, Rollins joined Campus MovieFest, which provides teams with all the equipment needed to film, score, and edit original short films in a variety of categories. The annual premiere features red carpet, sky-grazing searchlights, and the best of the entries produced by the 1000+ College filmmakers.

As the College realigned its vision and mission with the realities of the new millennium, student affairs functions were redefined to reflect the changes. The Office of Student Activities became the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership (OSIL) while diversity programs were overseen by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA). Peer educators such as the LEAD Team worked with student organizations, and the SGA’s Cultural Action Committee was charged with fostering appreciation for diversity and promoting “a respectful community atmosphere.”

As Rollins approaches its second 125 years, student activities are no longer those of “a quiet simplicity” advertised by The Sandspur nearly a century ago. Campus life is more complex—more information, more responsibilities, and more choices. The integrative learning agenda recently initiated by the dean of the faculty and the dean of student affairs promises to link initiatives of their offices to produce a collaborative approach to learning and life on campus . . . and, perhaps, a dynamic simplicity.

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