Dorm regulations for women limited their college daze
More than 50 years later, they can laugh about it.
But women who attended California State College (now California University of Pennsylvania) in the early 1960s found nothing funny about the guidelines that governed their lives.
Those directives were emphasized in no uncertain terms in a handbook, Dormitory Regulations for Women, of that era.
A copy of the 11-page publication was sent our way by a CSC alumna who prefers to remain anonymous.
“I'm not sure that the statute of limitations is up for any of us who may have violated those regulations,” she said with a knowing smile and her tongue firmly planted in her cheek. “I'm sure there were times when we slipped out of the dorm without signing the proper forms or took a shower during the non-designated hours.”
The regulations handbook began with a message from Mrs. Lela T. Hamilton, Dean of Women at Cal State at the time.
“You will find that college is work and fun, joy and disappointment, accomplishment and disillusionment,” she wrote. “Making new friends, budgeting your time and money, disciplining yourself to accept dormitory regulations, mastering academic material – these are some of the challenges that face you.
“However, with sincerity and work on your part, I hope you will meet these challenges successfully.”
One of the primary rules in the handbook focused on signing in and signing out.
It stipulated that “Each student must always sign herself out and in. Never, never have anyone else do your signing. You are responsible. Any infractions can bring about disciplinary action.”
That section detailed the forms to be used for signing out this way:
• Sign out on a sign out slip if you will be on campus (library, gym, Vulcan Lounge, Traveling Room, etc.).
• Sign out on a white card if you will be off campus or away during the day.
• Sign out on a yellow card if you are going home for the weekend.
The students also were reminded that “No woman is to leave the dormitory before 7 a.m.” and “No woman is to leave for home after 9 p.m. unless there is an emergency. Special permission is necessary even if there is an emergency.”
“When a college woman leaves campus, she is expected to use good judgment in the choice of place to which she goes,” the handbook said.
“You are training to be teachers, so go to only those places that you would not be ashamed to see a teacher of your own children. Don't go to those establishments where you would be embarrassed to be seen by your parents, friends, faculty members or employers.
“Certain local establishments which sell alcoholic beverages are off limits to women on campus. Violation of this ruling may result in suspension.”
The use of intoxicating beverages called attention to the Pennsylvania Liquor Code, which prohibited liquor or malt or brewed beverages being sold or furnished to “any minor” or permitting those underage to use such beverages.
“A student apprehended under the influence of intoxicants will be subject to summary dismissal,” the handbook said.
Other regulations mandated that radios in women's rooms “shall be turned off at 11:30 p.m.” and electric appliances other than radios and hair dryers are prohibited.
“College officials and employees will confiscate any unauthorized electric appliances and lighting devices found in dormitory rooms,” the guidelines said. “Electric irons may be used in ironing rooms only.”
To further ensure a pleasant atmosphere in the dorms, the handbook emphasized that “Bathing is prohibited between 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. because of the noise of the showers.”
“Shouting from windows” also gave cause to “disturbing the peace,” but penalties were at the discretion of members of the Women's Advisory Council.
Running in the halls also was taboo and possibly punishable to confinement to campus for a week.
The book also offered a reminder that smoking by women on campus “is limited to dormitory rooms” and advised them to “... not smoke any place where ash trays are not available.”
A “Dress Code” also was in place and stipulated that “every woman wears a suitable dress for dinner in the dining room. Such appropriate dress includes hose and dress shoes (no tennis shoes, boots or thongs) – dress flats are acceptable.”
It also cautioned that:
“No college woman may wear slacks, Bermuda shorts, etc. to any class, to the library and the main social rooms. Sports clothes may be worn after 4:10 p.m. on back campus or on the tennis courts. The administration requests that California State College students not wear such sports clothes downtown. Such dress often creates an unfavorable impression of young ladies who are to be our future teachers.”
“Immorality” was another reason for possible dismissal from the college and the regulations emphasized that “Men students are off limits if they are on campus after 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday or after midnight Friday and Saturday.”
If a “matric” (e.g., social, sports) event was held during the week, the women students were to “return to their dormitory immediately following the event.”
They also were told to “Wear a robe anytime you are out of your room. Never come to the phones or desks without a robe.”
“Going to a man's living center” was prohibited and, like other violations, could lead to “campus and social probation” or could cause the administration “to ask for your complete withdrawal from the college.”
The women's handbook also contained various other miscellaneous regulations.
It was emphasized that all guidelines were created “in the best interest of all concerned parties ... the college, the administration and the students.”
The aforementioned anonymous alumna said she and her classmates “fully understood the purpose” of the regulations and eventually learned to “bend the rules ... just a little.”
“As freshmen, and even into our sophomore year, we were intimidated by that book, it was like the Bible,” she said.
“No one wanted to get caught wearing the wrong clothes to dinner or downtown or sooner than 4:10 p.m. on the tennis courts.
“We didn't want to be the ones sneaking down the back stairs or smoking outside the dormitory or running through the halls without wearing a bathrobe.
“And heaven forbid that we looked at a ‘man student' the wrong way – whatever that was.”
By the time the then twenty-something girls became seniors, they were more adventuresome, she recalled.
“We would leave the dorm without signing out to go to Alfano's for pizza,” she said.
“And there were times when we were really bold and found our way to establishments that served beverages stronger than Coca-Cola.
“It's funny to look back on those days now, especially in light of many colleges and universities that have coed dormitories and obviously less stringent rules.
“I suppose we were better off for what California State College demanded of us then.
“We learned so much – in and out of the classroom.
“We made lifelong friends. We had fun. We survived.”
Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.