The Davidsonian Celebrates 100 Years
For the past 100 years The Davidsonian has served as the student voice of campus. The college plans to celebrate this milestone with two events: one held by the current Davidsonian staff on April 1 during common hour in the Alvarez College Union and another sponsored by Alumni Relations on Saturday, April 12, that invites Davidsonian alumni back to campus.
The latter resulted from inquiries made by former Davidsonian writer and current staff editor for The New York Times Caroline Que '04.
"Marking the occasion is well worth it. The paper has always been a fantastic opportunity for students to get published and learn about ethical issues, budgeting, staffing, and technology – it's like a small business," Que said.
Que joined The Davidsonian after taking two courses taught by Batten Professors of Public Policy as a first-year student. Now, Que is coordinating the Batten professor lectures for the April 12 event, which also will include an alumni panel discussion and reception.
Some Things Never Change
The current Davidsonian staff has been celebrating throughout the year by re-publishing an archival article in each issue that highlights important historical events still relevant to the college. For instance, as fraternities prepared to start the pledge process in the spring, they published an article from 2003 titled "Don't blame fraternity for actions of a few."
College Archivist Jan Blodgett explained that although The Davidsonian's content varies because of editorial decisions made by the staff, there are certain issues that always seem to "bubble up."
She said, "Sometimes I come across articles from years ago that could have been written today and vice versa." The most common recurring issues include gender issues, fraternities, exams and alcohol policies.
An article from the Jan. 21, 1972, issue titled "Some Say the Real Issues of Davidson Never Change" addressed the lingering topic of the college's religious commitment and the way trustees are chosen. It concluded, "Some say times move slow. Some say the real issues never change. Some say the mills of the Gods grind slow, but they grind exceeding fine."
Director of Media Relations Bill Giduz '74, who wrote for The Davidsonian as a first- year, said that coeducation dominated campus discussion during his college experience. He recalled, "Although most students were for it, the process involved a lot of trustee gnashing of teeth."
Giduz continues to read The Davidsonian from cover to cover every week. "It's interesting to see what students think is important," he said. "The paper focused on more external affairs in the past, but now seems more internally focused."
However, throughout its existence the paper has covered major national events and their impact on Davidson students. In the Dec. 11, 1941, issue an editorial revealed Davidson President John R. Cunningham's policy toward WWII. He encouraged students to remain in college and look further than winning a war, saying "winning the peace is going to be even more important."
For the Sept. 12, 2001, issue Que, sports editor at the time, wrote the cover story on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "We had already finalized the issue, but quickly pivoted to cover the event," she recalled. "It was my first exposure to real-time journalism and had a lasting effect on me because I realized the importance of getting information to readers."
Some Things Must Change
While parallels in content can be found from decade to decade, the media through which that content is disseminated are constantly changing.
Prior to the newspaper's first publication on April 1, 1914, Davidson College published a monthly magazine called the Davidson Monthly from the 1870s to 1920s. According to Blodgett, the magazine began to involve too many outside writers, and students saw the need for a weekly publication.
An April 1914 editorial from the Davidson Monthly reads:
"Those friendly to the paper number the following among the advantages of the weekly publication: A means of keeping alumni in touch with the college; an organ to express student views, thus aiding better understanding between faculty and students; the arousing of college spirit; and occupation for talent now on neither of the editorial staffs."
The Davidsonian began to print along with monthly magazines that changed in name over time but typically functioned as humor and literary magazines.
"Now the paper is one platform among many with the invention of social media," said Editor-in-Chief Emerita Caroline Queen '14. "I'm curious to get the perspectives of alumni on what role the paper played in their time."
Queen began reading past issues of The Davidsonian during the summer after her sophomore year to keep up with campus happenings while she was training for and competing in the summer Olympics. She ended up becoming the Web editor, a position that allowed her to explore the paper's Web and social presence.
The Davidsonian first ventured into cyberspace in 2007 with the paper's inaugural online version. A 2007 correspondence between Davidsonian staff reads:
"The Davidsonian website was destroyed in an unfortunate culinary accident involving a wok, fresh basil, and some ground cumin. There were few complaints. The Davidsonian paper, however, is alive and well. We're convinced the internet is just a fad anyway-soon to go the way of Flock of Seagulls and slap bracelets."
Today The Davidsonian thrives both in print and on the Web. Although Queen has spent more time on the digital side, she sees value in both the tangibility of the paper and widespread reach of the Web, either of which can be used to spread ideas from the student body.
"The issues [covered by The Davidsonian] are critical for us," said Blodgett. "They're a small but significant piece in finding historical information about the college and documenting the student experience. We're very grateful for the work that students put into the publication."
- April 1, 2014