Title: Oral History Interview with Sharon Rose Powell, June 20, 1989. Interview L-0041.
Interviewer: Dean, Pamela
Interviewee: Powell, Sharon Rose
Abstract: Sharon Rose Powell attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the mid-1960s, when women students began to attend the university in greater numbers. Powell entered UNC in the fall of 1964, when ten percent of the entering freshmen class was women. Powell's mother had attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the "Women's College," and though it was still more common for women to go to school in Greensboro, Powell recalls her strong desire to follow in her father's footsteps by attending UNC. Powell remembers her years at UNC with great fondness. During her freshman year, she lived in Spencer Hall, a small dormitory for women students, and she discusses the friendships she formed there. Powell turns her attention to outlining the rules and expectations the university had of women students, focusing primarily on the in loco parentis rules; these literally gave the university permission to act "in place of the parents" of the female students. Powell describes how the Dean of Women, Katherine Kennedy ("Kitty") Carmichael spent considerable time familiarizing women students with the rules and overseeing their enforcement. Powell quickly became active in student politics at UNC, especially during her sophomore year, when she was rejected by campus sororities because she was Jewish. Arguing that had she joined a sorority she would have devoted most of her time to that organization, Powell grew more involved in student government, especially after she started to date the future student body president (and her future husband), Robert Powell. Although Powell firmly attests to her belief that rules should be kept and not broken, she explains that she increasingly began to question the justice of in loco parentis. Recalling an incident in 1965, when the girlfriend of then-student body president Paul Dickson was suspended for spending the night at Dickson's fraternity (Dickson was not punished), Powell began to campaign more actively for a reconsideration of gender-specific rules. During her senior year (1967-1968), Powell was elected chairman of the Women's Residence Council. When she gave her speech to the incoming women freshmen that year, she called on them to question in loco parentis rules, much to the dismay of Dean Carmichael. That year, Powell presided over a series of forums and committees that evaluated the rules for women and eventually offered their recommendations for new rules. Dean Carmichael, who had a close working relationship with Powell, vetoed the recommendations, which included the removal of closed study sessions, the establishment of open dorms, and changes to the dress code. Chancellor J. Carlyle Sitterson, however, adopted the recommendations for fear that the women students would protest. In addition to offering vivid anecdotes about the experiences of women students in the South during the mid-1960s, Powell also draws comparisons between her experiences at UNC and her experiences at the University of California-Berkeley as a graduate student in 1969 and her work as a psychologist in later years.