The high spirits of the youthful student body were a constant challenge to Dr. Cooper, as they were to his predecessor, Jonathan Maxcy. Drinking, vandalism, insulting professors, stealing turkeys, boycotting college services, and challenging classmates to duel were some of the most frequent offenses. While Cooper and Maxcy both had more Northern and puritanical views about student behavior, Southern boys were accustomed to drinking, card playing, and gun carrying. Frequent conflicts were unavoidable.
During Cooper's tenure, the breakage of glass on campus grew to such an epidemic that a glass tax was established. Apparently the students were fond of breaking the windows of the more demanding or harsh professors. Another favorite prank of the time was to burn the wooden steps of the classroom buildings. Granite quarrying techniques had not yet been perfected, and thus many campus buildings had wooden steps. Often classes had to be cancelled when the steps were burnt because aging staff members could not manage to climb into the buildings.
Complaints about the steward's hall, the compulsory campus dining facility were frequent, and occurred almost yearly in late winter. This persistent and significant disciplinary problem reoccurred in February of 1827, when students staged a boycott of the steward's hall. Ultimately, 41 students were suspended, including 24 seniors. The suspensions reduced the graduating class to 13 members.
Another dynamic adding to the discord on campus was the idea of Southern Honor, which was inexplicable to Dr. Cooper. Though the students were known to drink spirits, whip college servants, destroy college property, and insult professors, they became incensed if questioned about their behavior. Although the students were not so honorable that they would behave, they were honorable enough to be angry were their honor questioned.
It was this sense of honor that led to several student suspensions. Sending and accepting a duel challenge was an offense worthy of expulsion at South Carolina College. Several students were expelled when their planned duels were reported. Unfortunately, two students died from wounds received in a duel that was not averted in 1834.
These difficulties with discipline plagued the College administrators up until the Civil War. Since then, the University has had more trouble with funding than with student behavior.
Daniel Walker Hollis. South Carolina College, Vol. I. Columbia, S.C.: University
of South Carolina P., 1951.
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Last updated October 22, 1999
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