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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 >>

Students take a more proactive role in campus policy

Reflecting the cultural changes that were occurring, the students wanted to take an active role in the renegotiation of school policies. Lane remembers how their demands were accommodated.

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

So in this committee—I remember, we were meeting one night, oh, several days before the Duke-Carolina game—we had been told, the committee had been told, that there would be a sit-in, or a sleep-in. That's what it was going to be. It was going to be a sleep-in, or a sit-in, whatever, after the game. And we were urged to hurry with our recommendations so that we could take care of everything. Well, we had just begun working, and there was no way that we could get our recommendations out in that time. We were meeting on the second floor of Lenoir Hall. That was the dining area at that time. And we suddenly were aware that there was chanting going on outside the dining room. You have to remember that this was the time of marches and protests, and students felt very free to make placards and march on anything. So we went to the windows, and there must have been 500 or 600 students, outside our window, chanting something. We had a hard time figuring out what they were chanting, and we finally discovered they were saying, "The arb is closed," meaning the arboretum. [laughter] So that was their message to us. That the arboretum is cold, and that's the only place that we have to go right now to visit. So Dean Cansler, as I recall, was chair of the committee, and he talked to the students. They said, "We want something by this weekend." That was a good example of our being able to say, "We're working on this. Give us time. We understand what you're saying. So, please, stay with the rules a little bit longer, and then we'll see what will come out of that."
PAMELA DEAN:
But you were able to indicate that the University was taking their cause seriously.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes. And again, you see, we had students on our committee who went to the window, as well, and said, "Now, just ease up. We know what you want. We understand it, and we're working on it. So give us a little bit more time."
PAMELA DEAN:
Who chose the students, do you know? What was the selection process?
MARY TURNER LANE:
I don't know whether Dean Cansler as part of the Student Affairs Office—I don't know where the recommendations for all of these committees came from.
PAMELA DEAN:
I'll see if I can find that. I would think that the credibility of the student representatives of these committees would be crucial.
MARY TURNER LANE:
Yes, that was very important. One of the great benefits to me was getting to know the students from across campus, both the young men and the young women that I met throughout these four or five years of committee work. We learned a great deal about each other. We learned to respect each other. Frankly, the one to one knowledge or experience made us all much more aware of the sincerity, and the intensity, and the reality of the students' feelings. I would also say that, at this time, a number of student-faculty retreats were established. I remember going, oh, for at least four years in the fall with different students that had been selected. By whom, I'm not sure. But again there would be people from the administration, people from faculty, and people from different student groups who would be there. And we talked about problems. This was the time that many students were also going to a communications center up in Maine—I can't remember what that was—and they were learning confrontational techniques. This was the time when they were rebelling against authority, and they decided everybody had to be on a first name basis. Remember that?
PAMELA DEAN:
Absolutely, absolutely.
MARY TURNER LANE:
So when we went to these retreats, we were all on a first name basis, and most of us operated pretty much under the student—the way they wanted them run.
PAMELA DEAN:
That's very interesting.
MARY TURNER LANE:
But anyway, there was a lot of very positive interaction. As a follow up to our being marched on—and that was really a unique experience—we turned around from the window to go back to our meeting, and we realized that ten students had slipped into our meeting room [laughter] and were sitting there waiting with their own questions. They asked if they could stay, and as it happened, we said, "Yes." So they stayed and heard what we were doing. But after two years of that deliberation—and believe me, we did deliberate—we listened to a variety of people and we examined the pros and cons. Needless to say the recommendations by the students ranged from complete openness of all dormitory rooms….
PAMELA DEAN:
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
MARY TURNER LANE:
That's right, to no openness. There were people who wanted the privacy of their rooms. In all of our deliberations that really was something that we had to take into consideration. That there were young women who wanted to be in a room with women and did not want someone else's boyfriend being entertained, and the same is true of young men. So we tried to make recommendations concerning that. I'm not sure we did it so well. I'm not sure how well we handled it. I think that still remains a problem from what I've heard from students over the last twenty years—that that still is a problem. But we did make the recommendations, that within given time frames, there should be some opportunity for students to visit. One of the great questions that we spent weeks on was the "open door" policy.