Colleges and universities have been implementing programs, whether it be orientations or simple brochures, to help incoming freshman prepare for and adjust to the new life they will be living at college. My group members, Dylan and Matt and I, have been researching what Cortland used from about the 1930s to around the 1970s. This book was called the “Frosh Bible,” and it gave guidelines to freshman on a number of topics. Some of these topics included what to wear, what to bring, what to do on the weekends, social rules for how to behave to stay out of trouble, different sororities and fraternities, job opportunities, extra curricular activities to do, clubs to join, etc. The library here at SUNY Cortland provides us time to look at the Archives upstairs and analyze the Frosh Bibles and their different editions. I believe this history is important to not just SUNY Cortland itself, but to the students and community as well. It is a peek back into the 20th century here at Cortland and what was expected of students, more specifically, freshman.
One topic I found really intriguing to look into was the social rules for women at Cortland. They were far stricter than the rules for men. For example, women had earlier curfews and had stricter dress codes. In multiple versions of the Frosh Bibles, it flat out said “no jeans” in the women’s dress code guidelines. Furthermore, in one particular edition of the Frosh Bible, from 1949, the section about job opportunities has separate sections; one addressing men, and one addressing women. The one that addressed men gave insight about “handyman” jobs. The one about women greatly discouraged women from trying to get a job, implying it would be far too difficult to try to balance a job with school. This was essentially the entire point of the paragraph, with zero information on actual careers.
I know from previous history classes that women were clearly still struggling for equality during this time, and it was a very misogynist society in America. I am excited to see the progression of rules for girls from the beginning of the making of the Frosh Bibles to the last one. I haven’t had enough time to look in depth at the changes between the individual Frosh Bibles, but I would like to focus on that for the final web page. This is because these stereotypical gender roles have played a part in civilization for thousands of years, and only recently have women begun to have more opportunities. So, to not acknowledge these rules for students that show the cultural sentiments about women would be a waste of history. Additionally, I found the dress codes for both women and men to be interesting in comparison to how students dress today because I generally dress very casual and comfortable for class, without thinking twice about it. For classes, women had to wear skirts, sweaters, blouses, loafers, socks, or dresses and sports outfits. Men had to wear sweaters, sports shirts, loafers, bright socks, and slacks. Furthermore, freshman were to wear a green cap whenever outside of their dorm to signify that they are freshman. This was weird to me because the Frosh Bible seemed at first to be a welcoming, survival guide for freshman. However, the more I looked into it, the more I noticed that freshman were much more marginalized back then. Today, most students wear casual outfits or simply sweatpants and sweatshirts.
I also am curious as to why men had to wear bright socks, I am hoping further research will be able to provide an answer to that question. I assume the dress codes were implemented to create a professional environment, and as a way for students to show respect towards their education and professors. However, I will have to look further in to the subject to know for sure. This was one of the difficulties we face in this process; trying to understand the culture with limited resources. Although, that is what makes this project interesting and different from what we are used to as college students in this era. It will teach us to use skills we typically don’t need to for projects that have resources at the touch of our fingers, giving us all the answers we need.
One thing that really intrigues me is when the Frosh Bibles stopped for sure, and why some editions are not in the archives. A lot of the years are skipped, and the 1940’s seem to have the most editions. I am curious as to why that is, and the exact year they stopped, and what took their place – if anything at all. I think it would be interesting to create a version of the Frosh Bible today, and compare how different it is and how much more freedoms we are granted. The history inside these Frosh Bibles gives insight into what was deemed important in the college world at Cortland during these given years. This can help current students to understand the history of their college and to appreciate the freedoms students have been granted over the years.
By: Lexi Proietti, fall 2018