Campus Life


Ramblins: Hall handed down stiff penalty for senior prank

By Pat Edwards
Ramblin' Reck Club

Coming back to Tech after the holidays, with their gifts, food and celebrations, is never easy for college students.
One year, an early return date for Tech students resulted in a conflict between an entire graduating class and the highest ranking administrator on campus.
Dr. Lyman Hall, Tech's second president, had been a member of the Tech faculty from its founding day. He had been the head of the Mathematics Department.
Hall was elected on January 3, 1896, to the position of Chairman of the Faculty. This position included the authority of the office of president, until July 1896, when the board of trustees officially elected him to the office of president. He received an annual salary of $3,000.
The old Lyman Hall Chemistry Laboratories, now housing the Bursar's Office, was named for President Hall.
Dr. Hall was, at thirty-six, the youngest president in Tech history. He had graduated from West Point and rose in the military to the rank of Captain. He was a well-spoken man with an iron will, well-known as a fierce disciplinarian.
During President Hall's administration, the students followed rules that would seem draconian today.
Students were only allowed to leave campus without permission to go to athletic fields or to walk along North Avenue. Even then, they could only walk between Plum and West Peachtree Streets during daylight hours.
Students could be expelled from the dormitories, or Tech itself, for infractions such as being caught with playing cards, liquor, or firearms. Oddly, the possession of a firearm, which provisions required should be deposited with the professor-in-charge, was punishable with expulsion from the dorms, while lying about one's whereabouts off campus resulted in expulsion from Tech.
Hall's administration was also renowned for massive efforts in construction and hiring of faculty and officials. During his administration, the institute gained expanded dormitories, additions to existing shop buildings, foundries, and experimental electrical and chemical laboratories. Hall also established the departments of Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Textiles.
President Hall's legacy to Tech rests in the prodigious building of facilities and instructional talent that brought Tech from a small southern trade school to the beginnings of her proud reputation as a respected research institute. But, in 1900-1901, he was famous, or infamous, for a more controversial reason.
President Hall set the return date for students to be back at Tech in 1901 for January 1.
The entire Senior Class met together and decided that this date was unfairly early. Further, the class decided that they would act in unison to protest and thwart this schedule. The senior class would not return to campus until January 2, 1901.
The students, confident that President Hall would not act against the class acting as a whole, returned to campus triumphantly, only to be met by the president directing them to return home.
Hall, who was so dedicated that he worked on Christmas Day, indicated to the students and their parents in a letter that the students were suspended from Tech and would only be readmitted on three conditions. These conditions were that they remain suspended until February 2, 1901, petition the president in person on that date, and promise to obey all of Tech's rules of conduct. Also, the students would have their diplomas held until November 2, 1901, giving them the time to complete their regular attendance requirements.
This resulted in a rancorous fight that involved the administration, the students, their parents, and even the State Legislature.
The feud culminated in a faculty meeting on January 23, 1901, where four parents addressed the faculty, hoping to have the punishment commuted to a more lenient one. The faculty, seeking to preserve the integrity of the institute, sided with the president. The punishment stood.
Seventeen of the eighteen members of the Class of '01 returned to Tech and received their diplomas at a ceremony held at the President's office on November 2.
In years to come, these men would retain pride in their character as the "Rebellious Class of '01." Indeed, there exists a photograph of the remaining class members posing at their 25th reunion with their nickname chalked on the steps where they sat.
President Lyman Hall, who will always be remembered as a powerful and constructive force in the maturing of Tech into the finest research institute in the South, may also be remembered as a prototype Shaft for all future faculty and administrators. Meanwhile, the Insubordinate Class of '01 will also be remembered for their unity and class spirit that shook the foundations of an austere administration. Together, they remind us of the character of the repartee that defines the relationship between students, faculty, and administration at Georgia Tech.

Copyright © 1998 by Gregory S. Scherrer, Editor and by the Student Publications Board

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