Tag Archives: Cornell

Hazing, rushing and dinging: an Englishman’s impressions of American student life in the early 1950s. Part 2

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…Co-eds, the girls from Cornell itself, are not allowed to enter the house unless there are chaperones—a married couple over 25—ant the house is registered for a week-end party so that the bar may be opened…At some universities the fraternities have “ house mothers “ to preserve civilisation and to prevent Army table-manners from creeping in…The sororities  are few in number, and they have a more efficient methods of choosing new members …I have been told that in some sororities, a girl who lacks a date for an important week-end can lose much of her prestige wit the rest of the house; and it would seem that the systemic discussion of dates, which the sororities tend to encourage, contributes something to the perfect self-assurance of the American collage girl, which is even more effective that the traditional reserve of the English woman as a barrier to  close acquaintance.



The college dating system is an equally interesting phenomenon. In modern America it has developed into as formal a code of behaviour as the rules of medieval chivalry and the French Courts of Love …To get a Saturday date in America it was preferable to telephone the girl  on the Monday before. It appeared that it would be impolitic move to telephone on the Friday, even if hte girl has no previous engagement for Saturday she will probably refuse, to avoid the loss of prestige which would result from  being without a date before Friday. Dating activities are limited by convention—the cinema and drinks afterwards, visits to a roadhouse, fraternity parties, or dances—and are usually fairly expensive…The formalisation of dating behaviour tends to restrict the norm of conservation to small talk, and since one may sometimes date a girl only once, there is no chance of  any more than the most standardised small talk. There is the occasional dissatisfaction with this system, particularly the “ blind “ ,. or prearranged dates, where the parties are unknown to each other; the men complain of having to produce the same stereotyped conversation  with yet another first date, and the girls of having to endure the standardised  advances of another man she knows very little about…




I should perhaps add that  the impressions recorded here are based mainly on a university which is privately endowed, among he top ten colleges of the Eastern states, and whose fees of $600 – 700 are more than $100 higher than many other comparable non-state universities in America; so that the type of student and methods of teaching may differ considerably from some of the state colleges and from the enormous universities of the Midwest…And let me add finally…that the generosity of the Americans outdoes that of any other nation I know…that American workers seem to have more ideas and certainly more initiative than most of their European counterparts; and there is an unquenchable interest here in foreigners, which gives rise to most elaborate arrangements for their welfare, and which contrasts strongly with the zenophobia generally found in Britain, even in a supposedly cosmopolitan place as London….

R. M. Healey

Hazing, rushing and dinging: an Englishman’s impressions of American student life in the early 1950s. Part 1

Jot 101 Cornell 1950s pic


Writing in the Spring 1952 issue of New Phineas, the magazine of University College, London, Gordon Snow, who spent a year at Cornell (above), was pleasantly surprised at what he found there.


The academic syllabus.


My first impression…was one of surprise at the liberty and freedom which the students were given in choosing their courses; it seemed as if there was none of the overspecialisation that some of the honours courses in England tend to fall into…Second impressions, however, revealed that defects did exist in the system; many of the arts courses are run to cater in part for agriculture or science or hotel-school students, who have to fulfil a certain number of requirements in the liberal arts, and , who consequently, may have an interest in the theory of a liberal education but very little enthusiasm in practice for their particular requirements. As a result, there is not a great deal of homogeneity in purpose, or interest in the very large arts lecture classes , and many of the students who have come to college for vocational training pure and simple find the arts courses irksome. Since there students may be as much of two-thirds of the class, the lectures have to be scaled down to their needs: hence the universal and horrifying use of enormous anthologies for particular periods of literature, expensive as all American books are, and with up to 1,400 pages in double columns of fine print. My own anthology consists of representative selections from American poetry and prose, from Captain John Smith to Ernest Hemingway, and the lecture has to eat his way at high pressure, through major and minor writers, three times a week, making his own selections for his students from among the selections in the book, and to a large extent predigesting critical reactions to them. Independent  thought is not inhibited my this method of teaching, since I have come across many examples of it already, but it can scarcely said to be encouraged. To this extent, and to the extent that they continue a no-specialised study of several subjects, American colleges are a smooth continuation of  the high schools and their methods; the students are given a very thorough grounding in he subjects taken at English grammar schools , wit the benefit of the maturer mind which the college student brings to them, and since there are as many Americans who go to college —or at lead begin college—as reach the Sixth Form of English schools, the universities here serve their purpose, a very different one from the English universities, well enough… Continue reading