Student Life

Davidson students and women at "Dance Weekend" events

The alcohol references in creative student publications reflect many aspects of student life specific to Davidson, from social life to Honor Council to academic pressures. Greek life dominated the social scene during the 1960s, as close to three-quarters of students were in a fraternity. Most parties were held several miles from campus, meaning students had to drive to and from these events, likely while intoxicated. The “big dance weekends” were the main social events on campus, held by the Student Union. Although most parties took place off-campus, it was well known that students still drank in their rooms. [1]


Davidson students drinking at social fraternity event

The incremental policy changes throughout the ‘60s perhaps reflect the administration’s discomfort with the changing environment at Davidson. In 1965, the Student Government adopted a new “trunk policy” that would allow students to store alcohol in their car trunks. This rule, a departure from a campus that previously condoned all alcohol possession, aimed to discourage storing alcohol in dorms and frat houses. That same year, the faculty decided to allow students to drink off-campus but quickly modified the rule to specifically not allow drinking at off-campus Davidson-sponsored events (fraternity functions excluded).

Student Life and Drinking at Davidson

The 1966-67 Wildcat Handbook, the first-year handbook, reflected these policies by forbidding drinking or intoxication on campus or at “any event which is sponsored by Davidson College or in which student representatives designated by the college are participating.” Students also could not possess alcohol within the town or on campus “other than in the home of his immediate family or in the locked trunks of student automobiles” [2]. The punishment policies also changed in December of 1966; suspension was traditional for any alcohol violations but the administration allowed deliberation of the punishment in ‘66. Interestingly, the "social life" section asserts that drinking was important for the education of “the complete man, and perhaps not in the sense that our Presbyterian founders would have most desired” [3].

Alcohol Policies, 1966-67

According to one alum of ‘68, there was no active administrative effort to “bust” people drinking in their rooms or frat houses. Instead, he thinks that the school was more concerned with avoiding scandal and maintaining the image of Davidson as a “safe place to send your son” [4]. Interestingly, students still made references in the literary publications to hiding alcohol from the student honor council or being caught for alcohol, which suggests at least some attempt on the part of the college to prevent policy breaches.

For example, the humorous literary magazine Scripts ‘N Pranks contains several cartoons and stories throughout its publications depicting students’ attempts to evade getting caught for drinking. In the October 1959 issue, Bill Armstrong ‘61 parodies works by famous poets like Wordsworth, Keats, and Shakespeare in “A Davidson Dance Weekend As Seen by…”. Dance weekends, as mentioned above, were the big events hosted by the Student Union; women from neighboring colleges would come to the campus for a weekend of music, dancing, and partying. In his parody of Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” he writes: “Liquor, Liquor, everywhere, / But all the students did shrink; / Student Council everywhere, /  So there’s not a drop to drink” [5].

Umbrella Flask Cartoon

       Similarly, a short satirical story from the April 1960 issue entitled “Public Relations Release Two” describes a freshman finding alcohol in an upperclassman’s room, from which the janitor would occasionally take sips. The story ends with the “High Tribunal” shipping the two boys and sentencing the janitor to a “slow death” [6]. Clearly satirical, the “High Tribunal” likely represents the student Honor Council. These two pieces underscore the students’ fear of getting caught drinking and that some were indeed sent before the Honor Council and punished. A cartoon from the October 1959 Scripts ‘N Pranks further reveals attempts to avoid getting caught; it depicts a student looking around, unscrewing the handle of an umbrella, and taking a swig from the hidden flask. The cartoon is humorous and reflects that students probably went to great lengths to drink discreetly.

"A Christmas Carrel"


       Student publications also highlight the tension between the administration’s expectation for the Davidson Gentleman’s image versus the reality of the student culture. Knox Abernethy ‘62 parodies Dickens’ A Chrismas Carol in his humorous short story “A Christmas Carrel” in the December 1962 Scripts ‘N Pranks. The “ghost of Davidson present” shows the narrator “fine young men, who had seen no drinking or ungentlemanliness at the afterdance parties” [7]. The line is tongue-in-cheek, suggesting that the Davidson “present” is certainly not dry and also mocks the administration’s expectation of the fine Davidson men as sober. Another S ‘N P issue from December 1964 includes “Study Poll” by Pete Myers ‘65, an article with a fictitious poll which supposedly asked students their favorite study spot. One line reads, “The dorms are all right if you are not interested in either studying or drinking or sex --- they will suffice if one is that, shall we say, unusual” [8]. The word “unusual” suggests that students studying, drinking, and having sex is the norm; this image inverts that of a Davidson student as a sober gentleman.

       Contrastingly, some students' writing reveal a darker side of the Davidson student experience in relation to alcohol. The creative nonfiction piece entitled “Davidson” by Jim McMillan ‘68 from the 1964-5 Inklings shifts between the narrator drinking beers at Hattie’s, the local bar just outside of Davidson where students often went to drink, and a reflection on Davidson. The scenes in Hattie’s are jarring, with the narrator hoping “the alcohol will give the illusion of escape” and drinking until “Davidson fades...Time sips by. Everything’s tolerable...Are you happy? What difference does it make?” [9]. This piece stands out from the other depictions of alcohol; rather than lighthearted and fun, the narrator reveals the darker side of alcohol as he seemingly uses it as an escape from his own emotions and the pressures of Davidson.



1. Davidson Alum ‘68. Personal Interview. 17 November 2021.

2. Davidson College. Wildcat Handbook, 1966-67. Davidson: Davidson College, 1966: 66.

3. Davidson College. Wildcat Handbook, 1966-67. Davidson: Davidson College, 1966: 87.

4. Davidson Alum ‘68. Personal Interview. 17 November 2021.

5. Armstrong, Bill. “A Davidson Dance Weekend As Seen by…” Scripts ‘N Pranks. October 1959: 7.

6. “Public Relations Release Two.” Scripts ‘N Pranks. April 1960: 4.

7. Abernethy, Knox. “A Christmas Carrel.” Scripts ‘N Pranks. December 1962: 6.

8. Myers, Pete. “Good Deals Dept. Study Poll.” Scripts ‘N Pranks. December 1964: 8.

9. McMillan, Jim. “Davidson.” Inklings. 1964-5: 15-16.