The more things change…

1 August 2013

The more they stay the same.

A few days ago, I found a digital copy of The Carolina Parlance, a student magazine that was first published at UNC in the winter of 1961. Only one issue was published, best I can tell, but the magazine was digitized by UNC Libraries last year and is available on the Internet Archives. It’s definitely worth a look. Given current events, a couple of pieces about the Honor System and the impact of big-time college athletics stood out.

In the two pieces about the Honor System, the magazine raised concerns about whether the court was approaching cases with “thoroughness and scrutiny” in light of how an assault case. The student charged with assault received only an “official reprimand,” even though other students found guilty of similar crimes had been expelled. The student who was assaulted was also tried by the Honor Court; his offense was “using suggestive language to a young lady over the phone” and the trial was ultimately suspended because the court didn’t follow proper procedures.

The complaints raised by the magazine are essentially the same being raised today by many at UNC and at other schools across the country: Accused students were not being informed of their rights and were not guaranteed due process.

Court members defended how the cases were handled (here, the magazine reprinted a statement given to The Daily Tar Heel), noting that “the real issues and pertinent facts of the cases are more readily brought forward in our simple direct system than would ever be possible if our courts had to be clouded in an aura of petty legalism.” This too is essentially the same argument many make today, that student courts are a better venue for cases that might otherwise go before real courts.

There was also this bonus surprise toward the end of the magazine — an essay by then-DTH Editor Jonathan Yardley about the impact of big-time athletics:

“What has happened is that we, and almost every other college and university in the nation, have become caught in such a vicious circle of athletic competition that we cannot escape without endangering our comparative standing. …We must learn to keep our sense of perspective and proportion; we must never forget that the University of North Carolina is an academic institution, not a professional athletic camp with a built-in cheering section.”

What struck me was the timelessness of these pieces (and others in the magazine, like an essay by a professor looking at whether students at the time were more apathetic than they used to be — millenials, anyone?). It’s no surprise these concerns were being raised. These were issues of the day — then and now. It’s sometimes easy to worry today that these are issues that will sink the school, but probably, things will remain more or less the same, for better or worse.

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