Westeryears: Student Conduct in the Early Days of Westminster 

When the Westminster Board of Trustees met for their June 1860 meeting, they approved a college catalog that among other matters set out rules for expected student conduct. College students today who sometimes feel campus rules are too strict would do well to re-examine some of these rules set out for Westminster students of yesteryear: 

  •  Students are not allowed to be about the building, nor in the halls, nor in any of the rooms of the building, during recitation hours, unless engaged in recitation, or by the special permission of some member of the faculty.  
  • Classes are required to make their transition from one recitation room to another, promptly and quietly, at the proper signal.  
  • No marking of the walls or defacing of the building or furniture in any way is allowed; and a student that does any damage is required to repair it.  
  • Students are expected to deport themselves as gentlemen and to be respectful and courteous in their bearing toward each other and to the members of the faculty.  
  • It is always expected that young gentlemen are truthful, until the contrary appears. And when called on to do so, they are required to give frankly and truthfully all the information in their possession, respecting any occurrence or misconduct affecting the good order of the institution.  
  • No student is allowed to have or carry weapons, sword canes, pistols, and other than pen knives.  
  • False witnessing, uncleanness of person and conduct or language, and profanity are strictly forbidden.  
  • The drinking of intoxicating liquors, and not merely intoxication, is strictly prohibited.  
  • Card playing, betting and gambling in every form, are prohibited.  
  • Attendance on circuses is not allowed; and attendance on shows, or any public entertainments, when forbidden, is an offense.  
  • The property and peace of the citizens are in no way to be disturbed.  
  • Students are allowed to board in respectable private families, and having selected their boarding house and reported the same, are not allowed to change unless by permission of a member of the faculty. And it is required of them to conform to the household regulations as to meals, hours, worship, etc. of the families in which they board.  
  • Students are never allowed to be on the streets, nor in the stores, about town, except on business, which is to be properly attended to; nor to be away from their own rooms, except at appropriate times for recreation in some inoffensive and honorable manner.  
  • Immoral and disorderly conduct, habitual neglect, of regular duties, persistent disregard of even the smallest regulations, are sufficient reasons for the removal of any student from the institution.  

So what punishments were meted out to the unfortunate Westminster students who failed to meet these standards of conduct?  They could be “privately admonished,” “admonished openly in class,” “rebuked in open chapel in the presence of the students and faculty,” suspended “for various lengths of time,” dismissed, or given “expulsion.” Each of the small group of faculty had the individual responsibility to ensure students followed these rules, and each of them was empowered to determine the proper punishment for infractions, although they could consult with colleagues before making a determination. Faculty members were in turn held accountable to the Board of Trustees for effectively maintaining discipline.  

According to the catalog: “Young men and boys do not come to College to govern it, but to learn and obey; just as the authority the head of a family exercises over his household is not derived from it, but from God, and is responsible to him; and it is not the province of children and servants to rule therein, but to obey. This is the radical principle that should underlie the organization and the administration of the government of any College.”  

To say times have changed over the past century and a half would be an understatement of huge proportions.

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