Today in NC State History: Cloyd takes a stand against caps

May 15, 2012
By Chris Saunders

PrintThe 1920s were a rocky decade for students’ extracurricular activities at NC State. A study by a graduate sociology student unearthed rampant cheating at the university as well as a lax attitude toward the offense. Administrators feared wild behavior in the dorms. And something seemingly innocuous as a cap set the campus into chaos.

On this day in 1930, Dean of Students Edward Cloyd took a stand against an existing dress code that many saw as an early form of hazing.

Former NC State Chancellor John T. Caldwell shows off a Freshman Cap. (Photo from the NC State Alumni Association Archives)

Former NC State Chancellor John T. Caldwell shows off a Freshman Cap. (Photo from the NC State Alumni Association Archives)

The controversy dates back to 1916, when freshmen first began wearing a red hat with an “F” on it to denote their underclassmen status. And, as Alice Reagan points out in North Carolina State University: A Narrative History, the rites of passage did not stop with the caps.

“Freshmen also were to learn all college songs, attend class meetings, and show a deference to upperclassmen,” Reagan writes. “For violations of the code, especially failure to wear the freshman cap, students were forced to run a gauntlet.”

Over the next nine years, freshmen got fed up with the initiation. Reagan writes that in 1929, NC State’s students voted to abolish the gauntlet as a means of punishment. A student body group known as the Court of Customs ordered a freshman football player to wear a dress as punishment for not wearing his cap that fall.

“A large portion of the freshman class attempted to burn the offending caps,” Reagan writes. The student body voted to keep the dress code, and the freshmen pleaded to the administration.

But Cloyd said he supported eliminating the tradition in his end-of-the-year address to students in 1930. The State College Board of Trustees voted to abolish the dress code that June.

But, as Reagan writes, “freshmen were still obligated to provide matches to upper classmen on request, and also run errands for them.”

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