Commentary

A.C. Snow: Will UNC become a hotbed of hot beds?

December 1, 2012 

In the musical “Oklahoma,” cowboy Will Parker returns from Kansas City, marveling over such “modrun” miracles as “You c’n walk to the privies in the rain and never wet your feet! They’ve gone about as fur as they can go!”

That’s what I keep thinking about my Chapel Hill alma mater: They’ve gone about as fur as they can go! But I’m constantly being proved wrong.

For the past year or more, the university has hogged the headlines detailing scandal after scandal. As my grandmother used to say when beset with problems, “First a wasp, then a bee!” So, the announcement that beginning next fall, students may choose opposite sex roommates comes as less troublesome news. Students of the opposite gender won’t be allowed to share a room, but they can share common living areas and baths in suites and apartments.

Ostensibly, the policy is aimed at alleviating bullying and other forms of abuse that some gay and transgender students say they have encountered in single-sex dorm rooms.

Skeptical critics say setting up “shack jobs” at taxpayers’ expense will lead to more promiscuity, sexual assaults or rape. One tweeted “Jesse Helms was right,” referring to the late senator’s constant war with the university’s liberal policies.

I find myself musing about how campus sexual attitudes have changed since, home from the war, I enrolled at Mars Hill Junior College near Asheville.

We vets were not prepared for the schools’ strict policies regarding interaction with coeds.

In Edgar Lee Master’s “Spoon River Anthology,” a character labels sex as “the curse of life.”

At Mars Hill, staff and faculty worked hard to protect us from it.

A “date” consisted of sitting with your girl in a dorm parlor, under the watchful eye of the “house mother,” usually a widowed, blue-haired lady addressed as “Mother March” or “Mother Greenlaw,” etc.

On the campus green, couples were allowed to sit together on the benches beneath the trees, provided they sat 6 inches apart, hence the famous “6-inch rule” remembered by alumni for the rest of their lives.

Miss Caroline, the highly respected but feared dean of girls, roamed the premises, alert to violations. One of my buddies, caught holding hands with his sweetie, was reprimanded, “Aren’t you going to save something for marriage?”

On another rare occasion, after he managed a kiss, he told me he was so excited, “I ran all the way to my dorm, whooping and hollering, and took a long cold shower.”

Assembly was held five days a week. Males sat on one side of the auditorium, females on the other.

Occasionally, a note reading, “If you made out last night, smile!” would be passed up and down the rows of men.

Of course everybody smiled, but only because the mere possibility was so remote.

At Mars Hill, nobody ever heard of a coed being shipped home because she became pregnant.

Despite the strictness, most of us left loving the place. For us veterans, it was a haven of peace, staffed with caring teachers and support staff. The college’s rigorous academic requirements prepared me to ease through Carolina with little difficulty.

At Carolina, social restrictions were less stringent and less an issue as, with 7,000 men and only 800 women, it almost took an act of God to even get a date.

Still, Dean of Women Katherine Carmichael ran a tight ship. If a man managed to get past the dorm parlor, the well-trained residents would sing out “Man on the hall! Man on the hall!” no doubt more hopeful than alarmed.

Also, occasional panty raids at which panties rained down on the howling males at the windows were enjoyed by all.

Mom and Dad or whoever is picking up the tab probably will have the last say on whether their college son or daughter has a roommate of the same or opposite sex.

I doubt the new housing option will turn dorms into hotbeds of hot beds. But allowing students of opposite sex, hormones peaking, to share a suite or apartment is not conducive to “saving something for marriage.”

Anyway, I guess that is an almost antiquated notion already out of style in today’s ever-changing culture.

Snow: 919-836-5636 or asnow@newsobserver.com

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