In Response to: Away From the Horde

Your article on the Graduate College (feature, Sept. 18) brought back some memories. Dean West 1874 definitely succeeded in separating graduate students from undergraduates. We grads had virtually no contact with undergrads unless we were teaching a precept or were a lab assistant. Undergrads called the G.C. “Goon Castle,” and the best we could do in reply was to refer to them as “Tigers.”

We were, in truth, a rather nerdy bunch. Dean West’s expectation of spirited intellectual discussions in the lounge would have been largely disappointed. There was very little in the way of social interaction except a few departmental parties, although some close friendships were formed.

We mostly stuck to our books and labs. The G.C. catacombs contained one TV, one Ping-Pong table, and one pool table. The photo of the statue of Dean West reminded me of the occasional game of “dean ball.” A ball was thrown at the statue, and players bet on which area it would rebound into. If a golf ball was used, the statue would give off a very satisfying “bong.”

There were, of course, no women students at all. Another anachronism was that about 1953, the then-dean decreed that academic gowns would be worn at dinner. The issue was put to a vote by enterprising students, and was overwhelmingly voted down. The dean said, “There are some things on which you do not vote,” and we, the Silent Generation, went back to our labs and books and gowns at dinner. Gowns did turn out to be a convenience. One could wear anything — or nothing — under them, and no one cared if they were stained.

Norman Cliff *57