The Times, They are A-Changing
Willamette boasts it is the oldest school in the west, but what was it like back in the day? Leslie Hopper(1970) took the time out of her day for an interview with The Collegian.
Today, Willamette is largely considered a safe space where people are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone within a tight-knit community. In the 60s, however, Willamette’s Methodist ideology was at the forefront of the school’s mission, and chapel was mandatory for every student. It showed itself in the rules female students had to follow. For instance, Leslie said only female students had a curfew of 10 pm on weeknights and 12 on weekends. They could only live off campus and escape these rules if they were 21 or married. Additionally, no female student had keys and so would be locked out of the houses for the night if they missed curfew.
There were also a series of sexist dress code rules. Women had to wear “school clothes” which consisted of dresses, sweaters, and skirts. These had to be worn during class and Sunday afternoons. They could wear pants from 6 pm to curfew on weekdays and Sundays, and from noon to curfew on Saturdays.
Women on campus began taking serious steps to tear down these archaic rules in the 1960s. By 1967, the rules had changed for the better. The dress code had been abolished for all students and the curfew had been lifted for women who were at least 21 and all juniors. This set into motion Willamette's continued liberalization. Women like Leslie were instrumental in the progression of equality that Willamette continues to strive for.
These rules did not stop Bearcats from having fun, however. The pinnacle of the old Willamette experience was “Freshman Glee.” Despite the name, every class competed in this activity. Glee was an event where each class would get together and write the music and lyrics to a song along with a dance and then perform it in front of the rest of the school. Each Monday before the Glee competitions, students would bet on whether their class would win. The bets were not exactly about money though. One of Leslie’s friends bet that if she lost, she would become a human ice cream sundae for the night.
Leslie's class also saw a unique scandal: the No-Tel-Motel, a motel located in Seaside, OR. This gained popularity within the campus after they took out a full-page advertisement in The Collegian during parents' weekend. While it received praise and laughs from the student body, the administration was not on the same page. They took swift action on The Collegian staff, placing them on the disciplinary board. Such action brought the campus up in arms and students began to protest the decision with signs and buttons.
Greek life was an instrumental piece of campus life during this decade as well. Students participated in Serenades, which looked a bit different than they will this spring, now renamed Mock Rock. This is because, at that time, it was a much more romantic experience for students. At some serenades, students would participate in “candle passings” which were essentially an older, more public version of a promise ring. These experiences encapsulated the “bubble” that Bearcats were surrounded by.
The past can be embellished through nostalgia and propped up from time to time but it remains important to recognize the progress we have made as a society and as a campus while recognizing the remaining work to be done. Change rarely comes from above, as Leslie discussed, students are often more in tune with their own needs than the administration and it is therefore important to remain active while attending Willamette to make progress for the next generation.