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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Perspective on the social changes that came to UNC during the 1960s

One of the first committee responsibilities Lane had at UNC focused on changing the curfew rules for women. She explains the challenges that committee faced as they tried to juggle the social changes occurring around them with the concerns parents and even some students had for women's safety on campus. She continues talking about this process for several minutes following the end of this passage.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Turner Lane, September 9 and 16, 1986; May 21, 1987; October 1 and 28, 1987. Interview L-0039. 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

Starting in the late '60s, we were beginning to get, as we were saying, into that leading edge of the sexual revolution and women's liberation, a lot of changes. Or mid-sixties. Mid-sixties, yes. Let's go for that. A lot of changes going on in the University, the University's attitude toward enrollment in relationship to women, and you were right in the middle of it all.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, there were changes. I'm not really sure in my mind exactly how the specific committees and the specific changes came about. I guess there was something that was abroad in the country, beginning in the early sixties, that we would call the sexual revolution—the freeing up of women, I suppose, to experience the same sexual pleasures that men were free to experience. My notion is that on this campus, maybe several things were happening at one time. One would be that there was a move in society that men and women begin to operate under the same social constraints or the same social laws and have the same opportunities for sexual freedom. Secondly, the University was opening up admission to women, beginning in 1961. We still weren't accepting women on an equal basis with men but in 1961 the Faculty Council did say that women could come to the University as freshman in all programs. Prior to that it had been just in nursing and just in art. I believe the art program was passed in '61 but in '62 the University said that women could come in all programs. There were beginning to be many more women on campus, although the majority of our students would still be your junior transfers—women that would come in from other colleges and from junior colleges. So who began requesting [laughter] that men and women have the same social limitations on this campus, I'm not sure. But I was very familiar with the Dean of Women, Dean Katherine Carmichael. She and I had talked a number of times about women's education, about the kinds of opportunities that were here for women. So that, I suppose, she recommended that I be on a committee that was appointed by the Chancellor in 1967 to study self-limiting hours for women. Now, I've always had to explain what that term is [laughter] because so few people understood or know today what we mean by self-limiting hours. The easiest way to explain it is to say that until this committee came into being, all women at the University operated under a very rigid code of social requirements. Number one, they all lived in dormitories on campus. Number two, they all had to sign in and sign out if they were going out for a date or if they were going for an overnight or for a weekend. So that the University was acting very much in loco parentis. The University was much more interested in knowing where girls were at all times than where boys were. So in the dormitories they signed out. And in the dormitories they had to be in at certain hours. You had closing hours, that's a better term. You had closing hours during the week at a certain time, maybe 11 o'clock or 12, and then Saturday and Sunday, your closing hours would be very different, maybe an hour later [laughter] .
PAMELA DEAN:
Right. As I recall older women could be a little bit later. They was some staggering of hours.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, you're right. If you were a senior, then perhaps you had an extra hour.
PAMELA DEAN:
11 o'clock for seniors; 10 o'clock for….
MARY TURNER LANE:
That's right. And for certain special weekends when there were big dances or big parties, then perhaps the hours would be later. But there were hours. And if you came in after that time, then you had done something wrong and you had to be reported to Honor Court. I'm not sure exactly how the penalties were arranged but it was an infraction of the laws. So a committee was sit up. That committee worked from 1967 to 1969. Professor Lillian Layman chaired that committee. I was a member of it, and it really was a fascinating study. As I recall, there were both male and female students on the committee. There were faculty members, and there were members of the administration. There was a tendency under Chancellor Sitterson's reign, if you can call it that [laughter] ….
PAMELA DEAN:
Administration.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Administration, that there always be some faculty, some administrators, and some students. He did a very good job in seeing that all the groups were represented. As I recall, the first thing we did was to establish a questionnaire that would go out to parents of female students who were here at this school to find out what their feelings were about self-limiting hours, about closing hours, about a number of issues that had to do with the rules that pertained to the women. Needless to say, everything that we did was written up extensively in the News and Observer and other state papers because while we may have thought that it was time to examine rules of this campus, there were many communities in the state that felt that this was not an appropriate thing to consider. The general response, as I recall, from parents was a supportive one. I cannot think that we would have gone ahead with the action that we took if there had not been some sense of support by the university public. So after pursuing this for a two-year period of time, hearing a number of people who wanted to speak on the topic, making a real effort to examine all of the restrictions that did exist, we recommended to Chancellor Sitterson that a system of self-limiting hours for women be established. Now I do not have the details of that. We were always constrained by the single premise that the dormitories must be secure. So whatever we worked with, we had to figure out a system whereby dormitories would be locked at certain hours. There was still, on the part of women students, a feeling that they did not want the dormitory doors unlocked all of the time. The dormitories for men may be unlocked all the time but the women students did not want that to happen. So that even though they were free to have self-limiting hours, they could decide when they would come in, they still wanted a system whereby dormitories would be locked at certain times and there would be a way that they would have access to their rooms.
PAMELA DEAN:
I recall reading something about some disturbances or men breaking into the dormitories being part of this controversy and private guards being hired.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, yes. There were guards that were hired. I'm not sure they were private. I think the University simply stepped up its security system. I think that would be the case. But my recollection is that all of the students still were concerned that the dormitories be essentially safe from intruders. A system was worked out either with keys or with a night watchman that would allow the women to come in. So that this was, I suppose, this was truly a big change on the campus. I think there was another factor that worked toward our trying to come to grips with the fact that laws or rules for men students and women students were totally different, and there should be some level of equity brought to them. Plus the fact that people began to realize that women were being punished by honor courts for infractions of rules that did not even apply to men. There were even situations in which a woman student might be expelled for an infraction of a rule, and the male student would never be punished in any way. So the injustice of the system was such that many people recognized that it was time that we rethink it, and that we try to establish something that would be more equitable and that would reflect the fact that the University was moving away from the in loco parentis. [Interruption] Now, I'm saying that while there was a general feeling that social rules should be more fair, the changes that we recommended didn't rest well with many people.