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This Week on the Hill: A History of Unrest and Uprisings at H-SC

by: Paris Wood '13 Staff Writer
PUBLISHED: 9 March 2012 No Comment

Often, Unrest will rear its head when the masses find that power is being used outside of its prescribed context—and little effort is shown to change the status quo. It is then that administrator (be they members of government or academia) finds himself in an iron skillet while the emotions of the many simmer and burn from below. The Hampden-Sydney campus is not a place completely unfamiliar to unrest among its student body. In light of recent campus events, it is worth a moment to look back at other times during the long life of the college when dissatisfaction transferred from word to action.
Ever wonder how Hampden-Sydney got its own fire department? Like most great things, it was born from necessity. It was March 28, 1957 when McIlwane Hall began to burn at 11pm, and according to John Luster Brinkley’s Hill History, there was a carnival atmosphere on campus. The building had been in disrepair for years and was an eyesore. The consensus was that the building needed to be demolished. Though there was agreement from the administration that the building should go, there was no marriage between deed and word. The cause of the fire was never adequately discovered, but when the building began to go smoke and burn there was no cry to save it from students on campus. In fact, the student population turned on the sinks and flushed. the toilets in Cushing. Some even stood on the hoses to make sure that the fire could not be put out to save the dilapidated structure. It was decided by the Farmville Fire Department that they would never to respond to fires on Hampden- Sydney campus ever again.
During the 1960s college campuses were rife with dissent and became staging grounds for demonstrations. Groups like the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) became well known during this time for their protests against the war in Vietnam. It might not be terribly surprising to learn that a protest did occur on this campus during the 60s. Students gathered and camped out on the lawn of Atkinson to protest against visitation rules that forbade female visitors from entering the dorms. During a time when fear of communism directed national policy without and paranoia divided countrymen within, it’s good to know that Hampden-Sydney students had their priorities straight.
Sometimes, word doesn’t need to move to deed. Voice might be strong enough. Some students might be interested to know that on November 14, 1795, the steward here was fired after many complaints from the student body about the quality of the food. Though the quality of the Commons’ food was a hotly debated issue, the event itself constitutes a time during which the student voice brought about change.
In light of the recent student uprising, it is easy to conclude that history has a tendency of repeating itself. When the administration appears to be dragging its feet to improve the livelihood of the College, the student body makes its voice heard.  And it is our driving desire to simultaneously preserve tradition and improve the college that continues to push us into the future.


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