Student Government at Davidson
“You are obligated as a Davidson student to govern yourself in accordance with the Davidson tradition. You are obligated to the future also; for the sake of the men who come after you, keep the tradition of student government strong, improve on it, leave it in even finer shape for the next college generation.”
– Samuel R. Spencer, Jr. 1946
“Surely this government is best,
for it governs least.
Promises are made, and things go on
No one critizes, no one praises.
Gentlemen do not demand power
from their betters
Gentlemen get very little done. A capable, dedicated president
cannot do it all ”
– The 1968 yearbook on the Student Council.
The Student Body President
Prior to the election of the first president of the student body in 1896, students were governed by the class system. Class spirit was the dominant feeling in the early days of the college and discipline seemed to rest equally with the faculty and administration as with the Literary Societies and social fraternities. In 1896, however, Archibald Currie was elected President of the student body, an all-encompassing term which seems to have eliminated the strong distinction between classes.
The Student Council
In 1909, C. R. Wilcox was elected President of the student body. He can be credited with forming what is presently known as the student government. He led the formation of a Student Council focusing on honor violations and hazing issues, which first met on September 6, 1909.From this point on, the responsibility of enforcing the Honor Code rested with the student body, and student government became an important part of student life.
The 1910 Quips & Cranks reflects the council’s changes to the hazing and honor systems, as well as the differing reactions of freshmen and sophomores:
“On the first of September, 1909, there arrived on the campus of Davidson College one hundred and thirty Fresh… On every convenient wash stand and bureau, the benefits of hazing were fluently expounded, and in such a manner, too, that many feared that Demosthenes would no longer be the synonym of eloquence, but that his place would be rightly usurped by a ’13 man…But there was to be a timely end to our trials and tribulations. On Monday, the sixth of September by the unanimous vote of the Student Body, hazing in all its forms was removed. Oh, what a relief was that! What a great relief to the blighted souls which has hitherto been so downtrodden and basely humiliated. At last we were free from goading yoke of oppression and now cross the campus even in the dead of night without the least fear of being Freshed.”
– Freshman Class History
“On our return to college we… at once took up the task of training the new men in the way in which they should go. This was soon stopped, however, for actions were taken by the student-body to cut out hazing and to put it on the ‘Honor System.’ The Honor System has made good at Davidson, and we are glad that our class has been foremost in upholding it, for which she deserves a good deal of credit. It is hard for a Soph. who has already had his share of the ‘Freshing’ to keep from giving it back on some other poor fellow.”
– Sophomore Class History
Evolution of the Student Council
There were four major re-writes of the constitution in the early days of Davidson’s student government. First, in 1914, Alfred Scarboruggh attempted to clarify the original document, particularly concerning the Honor Code and the Moral Code.
In 1920, President of the Student Body L.L. McAlister led the Student Council through another re-write. The constitution was rewritten and divided into nine articles rather then the original two. This re-write also drastically increased the conditions of the honor code, including such offenses as “playing of musical instruments between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. except on Saturday and Sunday.” [Spencer]
In May 1924, the current President of the student body, Jim Hendrix, and the previous President, A.M.. Hillhouse, re-wrote the constitution again. He limited and defined the honor system as applying only to cheating, stealing, and lying under oath. In addition, other provisions formerly lumped together under the “honor system” were renamed “Student Body Regulations.” It was at this point that the Publications Board (later known as the Media Board) and the Student Store Board of Control were formed.
Finally, in 1937-8, President Wilbur Edwards re-wrote the constitution to clarify the mechanics of the student government (i.e., the election, inauguration, and duties of officers.) Freshmen were granted the right to representation after their first semester, and an elections board was added.
The Student Government Association
In 1969, the Student Council changed its name to the Student Government Association (SGA). In addition, mechanics of the SGA continued to change to suit the changing needs of student life at Davidson. For example, the SGA Court (interprets the bylaws and enforces SGA behavior) was closed in 1992, yet reinstated in 2000 after its need was felt.
Even the makeup of representatives continued to change. For example, in 1972, the SGA consisted of officers, class senators, an international representative, and dorm senators. Meanwhile, in 1995, the SGA still consisted of officers, class senators, and an international representative, but replaced dorm senators with independent and Patterson Court senators.
To this day, the SGA continues to represent and support the needs of student life at Davidson College.
Davidson College. Quips and Cranks Davidson: Davidson College, 1910.
Davidson College. Quips and Cranks Davidson: Davidson College, 1968.
Davidson College. Quips and Cranks Davidson: Davidson College, 1969.
Parke, Amber. “Court Provides Oversight for Senate.” The Davidsonian. October 25, 2000: 1,2.
Record Number History. 6/14.04. Student Government Association SGA. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
“Student Government Association” member list 1994-5. Student Government Association History Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Spencer, Samuel R., Jr. “Student Government at Davidson Chapel Talk.” March 22, 1946. Student Government Association History Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Author: Tammy Ivins
Date: July 2007
Cite as: Ivins, Tammy. “Dining at Davidson” Davidson Encyclopedia July 2007 <https://digitalprojects.davidson.edu/omeka/s/college-archives-davidson-encyclopedia/page/student-government-at-davidson>