In Response to: Autos Get the Boot

“Autos Get the Boot” only reveals the tip of the iceberg, namely banning the presence of cars on campus. The broader issue that emerged was whether students were permitted to use cars anywhere in the borough. This student “right” has had many ups and downs in the past century, leading the Princetoniana Committee to discuss its history in some detail during 2006–07.

Restrictions occurred in steady increments beginning in 1926-27, starting with a required permit from the superintendent of grounds, to a permit from the dean of students, to an outright ban on driving cars, to a ban on merely riding in cars (1934–35 catalog).

The impetus to restrict a student’s right to drive in Princeton off-campus was safety. Committee members Frank Sloat ’55 and Bruce Leslie ’66 recalled explanations given by their fathers (classes of ’29 and ’33, respectively) that the loss of several scions among the student body to fatal car accidents prompted President Hibben to get even stricter. 

The temper of the times extended to campus issues beyond automobiles. In 1926–27, the University Catalog’s section titled General Orders was renamed General Regulations, with a new subsection titled Campus Regulations. That addressed not only cars but also moral issues such as women entering a dorm room. It is interesting to consider how this new form of transportation technology and its concomitant tragedies led to stricter rules in other aspects of campus life.

Martin Schell ’74
Klaten, Central Java