Friday, July 19, 2013

College hooligans of 1955

For your weekend delectation, this bit of WVU campus history that I came across while doing some research in the West Virginia and Regional History Collection.  Couch-burning is, clearly, only the most recent manifestation of student misconduct.

From a letter written by then-WVU President Irvin Stewart to the Board of Governors, dated November 11, 1955:


You have undoubtedly seen reports of the panty raid at the University last night.  The incident was undoubtedly a result of the rising temperature in connection with the Pitt football game.

Apparently the incident was spontaneous in origin.  According to reports, there was no evidence of organized activity as late as 11:00 p.m....Sometime around 11:30, a small group seems to have started toward Women's Hall, yelling "Panty Raid."  Someone (perhaps a member of the original group) called WAJR to report that a panty raid was in progress.  The report came during a disc jockey program and was immediately put on the air.  This served to draw students in from all parts of town.

I was asleep shortly before midnight, when I was told of the raid.  I immediately dressed and went to Women's Hall, where I met Mr. Gluck, Dean Betty Boyd, and Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, Edwin Orr, who told me that the last of the raiders had been cleared out of the dormitory and had started toward the sorority houses. I went after the group as rapidly as I could and was a party to dispersing the groups in front of the Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Xi Delta and Delta Gamma sororities....

There was one unfortunate episode which served to give the panty raid more notoriety than it might otherwise have received.  The Delta Gamma House was rather late on the list of those visited and the occupants had had an opportunity to prepare themselves. Part of the preparation consisted of hooking a hose to the water tap on the second floor. I got through the crowd of men in front of the sorority and reached the front line of the group just as the hose was turned on. Some of the water came down on my hat and some hit Mr. Gluck, who arrived about the same time. As we were recognized, the water was turned off, but apparently somebody at the sorority told the newspapers of the incident and it will doubtless receive considerable play in the newspaper stories."

Not sure which is the "unfortunate episode" in that last paragraph: President Stewart's hat getting wet, or the story's being leaked to the paper.  I like to imagine it's the former.

At any rate, it's clear that then. as now, most college students' prefrontal cortexes were not fully developed.

Wonder if there's been any feminist scholarship on the phenomenon of the panty raid, though?  There certainly should be.


  1. I like that he uses "undoubtedly" twice in the first two sentences. I know the situation was urgent, but a little proofreading never hurt anybody.

  2. :-)

    To me, that repetition is evidence that Pres. Stewart was secretly thrilled at having been at the center of what was "undoubtedly" the biggest scandal of the school year.

  3. Plus, they had fewer words back then so some repetition was unavoidable.