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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sharon Rose Powell, June 20, 1989. Interview L-0041. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

<cite>In loco parentis</cite> rules for women students at UNC

Powell discusses the rules for women students at the University of North Carolina during the mid-1960s when she was an undergraduate. Powell describes how the dean of women, Katherine Kennedy "Kitty" Carmichael was highly involved in the activities of women students and she recalls learning about the extensive rules when she first arrived as a freshman in 1964. In particular, Powell focuses on how <cite>in loco parentis</cite> rules were aimed at regulating women's behavior, especially in terms of their interactions with male students. While Powell did not overtly disagree with the rules, she notes that she increasingly felt frustrated that male students were not bound by similar expectations.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sharon Rose Powell, June 20, 1989. Interview L-0041. 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

We were often the only girl in our classes. I mean, I could be in a class with fifty, and I'd be the only girl, as a freshman, which I, quite frankly, did not mind so much. It was kind of fun, but you had the feeling of being in a small women's college in the middle of this large university campus. We were, of course, given a book of rules during our Orientation by our wonderful Dean of Women, Kitty Carmichael. Dean Carmichael sat down with us, not only as a large group of women, but she would come into each individual dorm and meet sometimes with just ten or fifteen of us, talking about the importance of the rules and what they were there for. Quite frankly, as a freshman, I didn't know anyone who challenged or questioned those rules. We simply accepted that that's the way it is, and it wasn't until later that I began to take a second look at that.
PAMELA DEAN:
Tell me about some of the rules and how she presented the rationale for them, if you could.
SHARON ROSE POWELL:
Again, keep in mind that we're living in the South at a time when being a lady and acting like a lady at all times was very important. Your demeanor, the way you dressed, the way you speak, those were the ways that people judged you, and not just your female peers, but the guys. We were still living in a time when guys expected women, also, to act like ladies, or rather, they might date you if you were wild and lived daringly, but you weren't going to be asked out more than once or twice. It was just the norm that being lady-like was accepted. The rules, many of them, revolved around academics, and they were there to ensure that we studied, that we took our studies seriously, and that there was a quiet time and place to study. It was not encouraged, because we were on a rather large campus, to do a lot of moving around at night, and I think partly for safety reasons and partly because of the University's in loco parentis philosophy about women, that you're better off in your own room, and so we had closed study hours. Monday through Thursday nights, we had to be in our rooms, and we were checked, from seven to nine, and we were expected to be studying. There was no music, no talking, and I don't ever remember breaking that rule.
PAMELA DEAN:
This was for freshmen. Was it for upper classmen as well?
SHARON ROSE POWELL:
Yes. I want to say yes because as a sophomore, it's interesting because I remember as a sophomore leaving my room more. But I have a feeling that was because you could sign out once a week and go someplace else to study. There was a church basement next door and there was the library, and I think, probably, I did that more as a sophomore, but my memory is that closed study in Spencer Dorm pertained to all women of all ages. We were primarily freshmen and then sophomores. We were the only freshmen in the dorm, but there were juniors and seniors in the dorm as well, and it was quiet wherever you went. We also had closing hours. WE had to be in the dorm with the doors locked at eleven o'clock on weekdays and twelve or one o'clock on weekends, and maybe for special events, we could stay out until two. If it was one of the big dances, they'd let us stay out until two, but that was a big deal. If you were late, if you were five minutes late, you were penalized, and you would have to then stay in the next weekend. It never happened to me. I was just one of these women who lived by the rules, so I never questioned them or challenged them at that time, but I know girls who ended up having to stay in on Saturday night because they abused that rule. There was never ever any question of girls smoking or drinking in the dorm. It never even occurred to us, I don't think, that that might happen, or that you would even do that without people seeing you. It just didn't happen. There were other rules about dress. There was quite a bit of time taken to talk about how we dressed and that we dress appropriately and not dress provocatively. After all, we were a small number of women on a campus with a lot of men.
PAMELA DEAN:
Did Dean Carmichael say that?
SHARON ROSE POWELL:
Yes, oh absolutely. I remember Dean Carmichael having teas in her apartment, and I don't know how many women were invited to these teas, though, because starting as a freshman, I was very involved in Student Government, and I don't know whether it was just the women who were active on campus or whether she did this for all women. I do remember on several occasions sitting in her living room, which was filled with antiques and all kinds of interesting momentos and talking about the proper attitude and behavior for women on campus. I don't remember much discussion about disagreement on that. I think what she was saying was something that we all valued. Again, as a freshman and a sophomore, there were other rules that didn't make much sense to me, partly because I didn't see how they could be enforced. Those were things like you couldn't be in a room with a guy, an apartment. The guys were allowed to live in apartments, and you weren't allowed to be in an apartment, even in the living room of a guy's apartment, unless two other couples were present. That always struck me as kind of funny because how in the world would anybody know, but again, I think most of the women just sort of accepted that that was for your own protection, that that was not a moral issue as much as it was just a safety issue.
PAMELA DEAN:
Of course, as far as enforcement goes, there was the Honor Code. You were supposed to report yourself or other people that you knew had broken those rules.
SHARON ROSE POWELL:
That's absolutely correct, and I think the way that girls were actually turned in was more, the factor was that they would end up being late. They wouldn't get back to the dorm on time, and they'd be locked out, and some girls would end up spending the night out of the dorm, and then, of course, you had to go before the Honor Council, and there was a good chance that you would be suspended from school. I was on the Honor Council my sophomore and junior years, and I started to become disturbed at the numbers of girls that we were bound by certain rules, and if girls stayed out all night, it was not a question of judgement. Once you made the judgement that that in fact happened and she was found guilty, you didn't have a lot of leeway in terms of the penalty. The penalty was, the only leeway was whether it was a semester or a year suspension from school. That started to disturb me because her date faced no penalty whatsoever, and that just didn't seem to make sense. Of course, we were not allowed to wear slacks my freshmen year on campus at all. We could not wear jeans without wearing a raincoat over those jeans. In terms of going to classes, the proper attire included skirts and dresses and then the wonderful football weekends when everybody would get dressed up. That was quite common. It's very different from what you might see today on campus.