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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with J. Carlyle Sitterson, November 4 and 6, 1987. Interview L-0030. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Beginnings of equalized gender relations at UNC

Sitterson explains the reaction of UNC officials and students to changing gender norms in the 1960s. While officials adhered to an inequitable system of punishments, students advocated for looser regulations and fair treatment of male and female students. Although Sitterson supported equal justice between the sexes, the students sought autonomy over student materials. This incident reveals the tensions between the administration and student body, which reoccur throughout this interview.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with J. Carlyle Sitterson, November 4 and 6, 1987. Interview L-0030. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PAMELA DEAN:
This is Pamela Dean. It's the fourth of November, 1987. I'm going to be talking to former Chancellor Carlyle Sitterson in his office in Hamilton Hall. So let's start with the fall before you became Chancellor in February of '66. There was this controversy where the president of the student body and his girl friend had been charged with…
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
They were charged with spending the night in a fraternity house, which was presumably closed at that time.
PAMELA DEAN:
It happened during the summer?
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
During the summer, that's right. I don't remember what month, but I think August sometime. Now wasn't she a student at Greensboro during the regular year?
PAMELA DEAN:
I believe so. She was here during summer school.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
That's right. That's correct.
PAMELA DEAN:
This came up before the various judicial…
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
It came up before the various student agencies. At that time, the University, as you know, had separate councils, procedures, and so on for female and male students. It was separate, and that was just a part of the tradition. I expect that all southern colleges, and maybe colleges everywhere at that time [had this]. I think it was probably general. Now, when that happened, it meant, of course, that these two offenses went before different bodies. The Women's Council disciplined this young woman, and it resulted in, as I recall, a rather serious penalty for her at her own institution, Greensboro.
PAMELA DEAN:
Well, she was expelled from here.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Well, suspended, I guess, what it's now called. Whereas the male involved, who happened to be the president of the student body here, received little or no--I don't remember what is was…
PAMELA DEAN:
He got an official reprimand.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
A reprimand.
PAMELA DEAN:
Which meant that it was just a notice written on his record.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Exactly.
PAMELA DEAN:
A slap on the hand.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Now in the discussion at the Chancellor's level, and there were a number of people involved. Students were present, and I was present, of course. The Dean of Students was present.
PAMELA DEAN:
You were Dean of the College at that time, is that right?
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
I was Dean of the College, that's right, and my view of it from the beginning was these were two people, to be sure, one happened to be male, one happened to be female. They were both charged with precisely the same offense at exactly the same time under exactly the same circumstances, as I saw it. Thus, it seemed to me to be elemental justice that they should both be dealt with in precisely the same manner. Now, that did not prevail. That view did not prevail, and…
PAMELA DEAN:
This was in part in response to students who said that this was a student justice affair, and the administration should not be dictating…
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Exactly.
PAMELA DEAN:
However, a lot of the students agreed that this was not a fair disposition of it.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Oh yes, I'm sure a lot of people did.
PAMELA DEAN:
And there was a recall?
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Yes, that's right.
PAMELA DEAN:
There was a recall petition to recall him from the office.
J. CARLYLE SITTERSON:
Yes, that's right. It didn't prevail. That's correct. Well, I think this is an illustration of one of things that could come out of one kind of structure that reflects a different age with different mores and different practices, and a new age in which new groups would not perceive things in precisely the same way that they did earlier. For example, under the double standard of a long time ago, people would say, well, it's quite all right for a man to do what he wants to but a woman's got to pay the price, you know. So I think that this was a period, in a way, in which you had new mores emerging. People were beginning to see the injustice of that kind of double standard. I think that's really about all I had to say on that subject. I felt very strongly. I remember that I was so incensed by the obvious, it seemed to me to be. Trying to find a solution to it wasn't easy but the injustice of it was just to me, just almost unbearable.