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Egstad, H. M. (ed.) / The Wisconsin alumni magazine
Volume 32, Number VII (April 1931)

Can students govern themselves?,   p. 266


Page 266


The Wisconsin Alumni Magazine                                           
                      April, I93
Can Students Govern                                                     
       +
"Yes" Shout Some "No"1 Cry the                      
             Th           m          lv       s
Majority in Intramural Speech Contest                                   
  ei       se          es
DID someone say that forensics were a dead issue    crash movie palaces in
a body. I mean a desire to be a
      at Wisconsin? If so, he or she erred badly, for  citizen of the university,
a desire to make the university
      during the past few months over eighty students,  a social and political
entity, a desire to dissipate the
      both co-eds and "eds" waged verbal combat      dormitory
and fraternity hermitage in which the average
from the rostrums of Bascom Hall giving and asking no  student now lives.
There is little of that school spirit
quarter in the battle of "Can Students Govern Them-  present on the
campus now. We are content to move
selves?"                                                in our own little
group circles and let the rest of the insti-
  The speech department some time ago decided that   tution go hang. You
can't condemn it, for what can
the intercollegiate and intersociety debates afforded  one expect when a
college ceases to be a college in the
the opportunity of debating in public to too few stu-  intimate sense, and
becomes a great knowledge factory
dents. The intramural speech contest was a result.   operating for thousands.
There is nothing to complain
Teams were organized without regard to class or group.  about, it's just
our situation.
Some of the fraternities and sororities entered teams,  Back in 1915 the
Student Senate was founded and
while others were composed of non-fraternity and fra-  self-government was
given an honest trial. The senate
ternity members. The team members did not have to    had all of the disciplinary
power of the deans. It made
speak on the same side of the argument, but were     laws governing student
conduct, and the affiliated court
judged purely on the points made and the method of   tried students for misdemeanors.
The senate controlled
delivery.                                               all fraternity and
sorority activities, drafted student
  The three speeches which follow were chosen from   election rules, and
controlled the elections themselves.
those made by members of the two winning teams.      That was perfect self-government,
and yet it died in
Most of the contestants spoke on the negative side, but  1927, a broken and
ignored body. And what killed it?
we have chosen to present both viewpoints in order that  Not an outraged
and abused student body, not a hostile
you may judge for yourself the student's attitude on  faculty, simply campus
indifference.
this very disturbing question.                            This fall we have
heard a good deal of agitation in
            By Jenkin Lloyd Jones, '933                 favor of resuscitating
the Student Senate. Campus
                                   By~enkin Lloydjone,'33  Gabriels are heralding
a resurrection. They talk glibly
  The question which confronts us is: "Can college   about school democracy,
about the unfairness of faculty
students govern themselves?" If I cared to be pedantic  supervision.
They point out the fact that although the
and to approach this subject with germanic thorough-  average student lacks
experience, he is mentally mature
ness, I could, without quibbling, demand definitions for  and therefore competent
to take care of himself, and
four out of the five words in the stated question. What  they are- ready
to declare their independence from the
do we mean by a college? Columbia with her thirty-   tyranny of deans.  
Excellent!  Excellent!  School
eight thousand, or Haverford with 275? C. C. N. Y.   democracy is an achievment.
Strict faculty super-
in the center of a great metropolis, or South Dakota  vision leaves much
to be desired. The average student
stuck far out on the plains? And the students, what  is mentally capable
of handling himself and of even
about them? Harvard men or Wellesley girls, young    handling others. Fine,
but it won't work here.
Frenchmen at the Sorbonne, or rahrah                                    
 The University of Wisconsin is para-
boys at S. M. U.?   And if we could                                    doxically
too big and too little for such
finally discover our "typical college,"                       
        a system. Like the amoeba, the larger
then what do we mean by "govern                                    
   wegrow, the more we subdivide. There
themselves"?                                                       
    are over 9,000 of us, and we are awed
  By "self-government" we ought to                -           
        by our own numbers. So we withdraw
mean the complete student control of                                   into
a small group, be it a fraternity, a
all student affairs, disciplinary or social.                           sorority,
or a dorm section, for our
And I propose to dodge all the other                                   companionship.
Thirty or forty people
perplexities by revising the question to  6                            comprise
our college world. And we
read: "CanWisconsinstudentsgovern                                  
   think and live in terms of the group,
themselves?" This is the only univer-                              
    because the college itself is far too large.
sity I know anything about.                                             If
student indifference killed the Senate
  I don't think student self-govern-                                   in
1927, it would do the same in 1931,
ment is possible at Wisconsin. It has                                  only
quicker. We don't want to govern
been tried here, and it has failed. And                                ourselves.
its failure is due, I think, to our almost                              
 There are only two vestiges left of
universal lack of school spirit. That                ,                 the
student senate. They are the inter-
last is a moth-eaten phrase, I know, and _                              fraternity
council and the Women's
I hope you will understand that by                   i                 Self-Government
Association. The In-
school spirit I don't mean simply the                                  terfraternity
Council, although it has
willingness to attend pep rallies or       ON OBSERVATORY HILL          
        (Continued on page 300)
Page 266


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