Concordia students today are familiar with rules about alcohol on campus, intervisitation, and where they can park. What many may not realize is that Cobbers of the past had many more strict rules: according to the archives, they could only wear jeans to one meal a week, could only practice instruments between 4 and 6 p.m., and even had to attend classes on Saturday mornings for a while.

Many rules that were in place decades ago seem ridiculously strict in the context of today’s society. According to Lisa Sjoberg, Concordia’s archivist, these rules were in place because the college was upholding traditions that reflected its religious and ethnic heritage.

“We were more conservative with who we were,” she said, “and the rules were much more conservative.”

In a world where almost everyone wears jeans almost every day, it is hard to believe that Concordia students were not allowed to wear jeans or slacks on campus until 1946—and then, only at supper on Saturdays. Even with this rule in place, the administration at the time was hesitant in their approval of jeans. A list of second-semester reminders for 1946 states: “The Administration requests…that, if there is an occasion for either, slacks be worn instead of jeans.”

That’s not the only part of the dress code that changed through the years. Until the ‘60s, the handbooks listed proper attire for class as blouses and skirts for women, pants and shirts for men, and sweaters for both. Another list of second-semester reminders from the ‘40s tells students that “hats should at all times be worn to church.”

Apart from the dress code, certain frivolities were not allowed in other areas of student life either. A pamphlet from the ‘20s titled “Rules and Regulations Governing Those Rooming in Ladies’ Hall” states that Sundays were to be a quiet day: “No ragtime is to be played.” It also stated that “Girls with good home training will not sit in windows or talk out of windows.”

While some of these rules are laughable in comparison to today’s policies, others are simply stricter. A student handbook from the 1925-26 school year states that students are not permitted to go to dances, bowling alleys, or poolrooms. They also couldn’t use any electronic devices not owned by the college. At the time, the only electronics the college did own were lamps and irons. A pamphlet for men’s dormitories from the ‘20s states that men had to assemble in formation for a roll-call before breakfast each morning at 6:55. Sickness was the only excuse to skip breakfast.

Sjoberg said that these rules were in place because of the societal norms of the time.

“That’s how they grew up,” she said. “You didn’t go to dances, you didn’t play cards. Those were all things that were sinful.”

Changes have been made to these strict rules more recently as well. Fridges and microwaves were not allowed in dormitories until the fall of 1993. The major reason for this was that the administration feared fridges would make it easier for students to break the alcohol policy on campus, and microwaves were considered a fire hazard. Students began petitioning for a change in 1981, but it took nearly 12 years for fridges and microwaves to be allowed in dorm rooms.

Still other changes in rules reflect how ideas about rights have changed over time. Until 1953, chapel was mandatory for all students every day—and after that, the handbook emphasized that all students were “expected” to attend chapel until 1960. Anneline Olson, an alumnus who graduated in 1959, said that faculty still kept tabs on who went to chapel and who did not when she was in school.
However, she said that most students still went to chapel anyway, and she didn’t mind the expectation.

“Chapel was important to me, so I always tried to go,” Olson said. “If I missed, it was because they wanted me to come in and work.”

According to Olson, change was beginning to happen regarding the chapel policy while she was still in school.

“By the time we were seniors, the ballyhoo had started in the ranks,” she said. “They wanted to be able to participate [in chapel] more than they were.”

Other old rules had to do with women’s rights. According to student handbooks, all women living on campus had a curfew at night. They were checked back into their rooms and the dormitories were locked—men, on the other hand, had no hours and were free to come and go as they pleased. Sandy Johnson, a 1967 graduate who now works in the English Office, said that the policy was supposed to affect both men and women.

“I think they figured if the women were in, the men would be in,” Johnson said. “But they all just went to MSU and NDSU.”

In 1973, women’s hours were eliminated on a trial basis, and the college never re-adopted the policy.

Women were also not allowed to smoke on campus until 1970, despite the fact that men could smoke nearly anywhere. Johnson said that women worked very hard to change the rules that affected them unfairly. Many students marched for a variety of causes, including fair treatment of women.

“We were a very demonstrative society then,” she said.

However, by 2003, nobody was allowed to smoke in any building on campus, or near any entrance, again largely because of pressure from the student body.

According to Sjoberg, students are behind many of the policy changes on campus even if they take a long time to be approved by administration.

“While it may not be immediate,” she said, “I think their voice is reflected in the changes that have happened on campus.”

Recently, the major policy changes that Concordia has enacted have been to make most of the dorms on campus co-ed, and vastly expanding the intervisitation hours from a few days a week to at least 12 hours every day.

Johnson said that while the school’s atmosphere may be very different from when they were here, the changes Concordia has made to its policies have been for the best.

“I think the school has grown more responsive to the realities of the world,” she said. “Mostly I like the changes.”

Olson agrees, and feels that students today have much more freedom than ever before.

“I’m glad that they’re emphasizing the individual and letting them have a say,” she said.

Mary Beenken

I am a senior English writing major and political science minor at Concordia College, but I originally hail from Fort Collins, Colorado. I have a deep passion for humanitarian aid and the power of the written word. I am currently the Editor-in-Chief of the 2011-2012 Concordian, though on occasion I also write and take pictures. Dream job: hybrid freelance journalist/human rights lawyer.

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