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A History of Social Life in Campus Life in America

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The social history of campus life in America is as dynamic as the nation’s history. The universities and colleges around the nation have been through a lot of change, and this is evident when one takes a look at the social history of these institutions. It is necessary to note that the changes were influenced by the times. Therefore, we will take a look at the social history in the universities through social eras in American history. This perspective gives one a good look at how life in the institutions of higher learning has evolved and developed into what it is today. The stages are the colonial era, the nineteenth century, the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Colonial Era

Universities and colleges in this era were small. They were created by the local Puritans as a way of giving young men formal training so that they could be ministers wherever they were posted. These institutions did not have women, or African Americans enrolled in them (Frederick Rudolph, 1990). Therefore, the institutions were mainly populated by white men who sought training in religious education. The institutions were established on Puritan values. Therefore, the students had to adhere to a strict moral code that encouraged spiritual purity and shunning away vices that were considered sinful at that time.


The first fraternity was created at this time. It was named Phi Kappa Beta (as pictured above) and was formed in the College of William and Mary in 1776. This fraternity was created so that the students could come together in secret and discuss issues which were not considered to be appropriate by the faculty in the schools (Wilder, 2014). It would take a long time before the fraternity phenomenon took root in the university social scene in America. The students were encouraged to involve themselves in activities such as Bible study during their free time. Fellowship was also a big part of social interactions among the students. In general, social activity in this era was confined to biblical and spiritual activities. The reason for this was because the universities were mainly formed to train preachers (Thelin, 2011). Therefore, any other form of social activity would be contrary to the mission of the institution. Parties were also a common activity where students met and socialized as they spent time away from the lecture halls.


Nineteenth Century

The universities maintained a white male population in this era. Many white young men were given a chance to study as more and more institutions popped up to satisfy the growing need for higher education in the country. The need for education was great all over the country. Very few women were able to enroll into the University. Even few black managed to do so. For those who managed to get into these institutions of higher learning, there was extreme discrimination. The second fraternity as formed in Yale in 1821. The formation of Chi Delta Theta in Yale created awareness of the benefits of fraternities and what they could do for students. More and more were formed in this century (Micheal N. Bastedo, 2016).

As more universities were formed, the curriculum broadened from religion into other fields. Therefore, the rules and social norms changed. Rules began to loosen, and students could engage in many other social activities. The female students were discriminated against (Martin Trow, 2010). Thus, the favored white male students had the freedom to do whatever they pleased while on campus. The population of students in this era was from elite families who were able to afford higher education. The activities students got into were those that were for the high social class. For instance, some universities had hunting clubs.


Twentieth Century

State universities developed from smaller colleges. With state funding, universities were able to enroll a larger number of students than was possible before. Thus, the students began studying more diverse courses that would contribute to the development of their country. At the beginning of the century, the institutions were segregated (Loss, 2011). Thus, the blacks, colored and whites had different activities. Nonetheless, the students developed an interest in numerous extra-curricular activities such as singing, sports and participating in competitions.


Students developed more interests in their college teams and would support these teams in large numbers. Other activities emerged from the enjoyment of sports by the students. A good example of such activity was cheerleading. The students rallied behind their sports players. University students in the campus in the twentieth century had the chance to engage in intercampus competitions in different disciplines like science and sports. These competitions gave them a chance to participate in something other than the course work that they were expected to cover while in school.


Twenty-One Century

The social life in the universities and colleges in this era is robust. The student population is free, and anyone can mingle with whoever he or she pleases. There is no segregation as in the past. Thus, this has created a social situation where diversity thrives. The diversity of students in the institutions is very wide. Students from all over the world enroll in universities in the country (Geiger, 2015). Therefore, there is a diverse range of social activities in the universities and colleges. For instance, students interact with each other in various culturally based social groups. For example, there are sororities that bring together girls from Asian backgrounds and other student associations that help students from similar cultural backgrounds e.g. Pakistani students, come together and talk about their homelands.

Students engage in activities that help them learn about their world in various ways. For instance, there is the Model United Nations (logo is shown below) that holds conferences annually. During these conferences, students come together and discuss world issues and the possible solutions to these problems. Another good example of a student organization that is popular in universities today is AIESEC which encourages students to participate in exchange programs and internships worldwide.  


The students also engage in parties. These parties are infamous for binge drinking and dangerous sexual behavior among the students. However, this is the norm in campus life in America today. Some students tend to attribute the excessive drinking in these parties to the fact that they are often under a lot of pressure and stress to perform well from their lecturers and family members.

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