The Dagger: The 19th Century Version of Rate My Professor

The Dagger
The Dagger

Throughout history, college students have been prone to griping and airing their grievances with their school’s faculty and administration. Today these grievances are shared through Facebook statuses, Tweets, and ratings on Rate My Professor. However in 1875, the Indiana University students found another way to express their opinions: a little publication they ominously called The Dagger. The Dagger was started in 1875 by members of IU’s Beta Theta Pi fraternity and continued into 1880. Published at Commencement by the seniors of the fraternity, the timing allowed their fellow students, visitors, and the administrators know what problems existed within the walls of the University. The slogan of the annual publication was “Let Truth Shine!” and the seniors had no qualms with letting the motto ring true.

The newsletter was split into the following sections: Salutatory, the State of the University, the Faculty Reviewed, and Miscellany. The Salutatory allowed for formal introduction of the contents and mission of the newsletter. The State of the University laid out the important opinions and particulars about the administration of the University and how they were ruining or improving the university.

Notable in the publications and valuable to researchers today is the Faculty Review, which includes Indiana University names of distinction such as Daniel Kirkwood, Theophilus A. Wylie, and Elisha Ballantine; all of whom received glowing reviews from the Dagger’s staff members. The students note the good and bad in each instructor and save some cutting remarks for IU’s first female student turned instructor, Sarah Parke Morrison, by declaring: “If she had any reputation we ask in the name of God, upon what is it based, if accompanied by any reliable recommendation, in the name of heaven how was it obtained?” Even the librarian is not sacred to the writers. In the June 1880 issue they depict the book buying trips of librarian William Spangler as a great blight on the expenses of the students’ tuitions. The writers proclaim: “It’s high-handed robbery from the students to pay this ornery faculty pimp’s way through college and to Europe and back.”

Sarah Parke Morrison was none too popular with IU students.
Sarah Parke Morrison was none too popular with IU students.

The Miscellany section of the newsletter is a hot bed of jeers, insights, and amusing limericks. This section was produced by the alumnae and looked to allow for some social reporting aside from the grievances of the university. Many times individuals were mentioned by name but some references were anonymous. A perfect example of this lies in this musing from the June 1875 edition: “One of the senior girls has a better mustache over her eyes than any one of the boys has under his nose.” This section was a perfect outlet for social reporting and anonymous name calling that denoted the reputation of the newsletter. It also allowed for the fraternity to establish a pecking order of rivals.

If you would like to get a glimpse in real life of the scandalous newsletters, the three issues in our collection have been fully digitized and are available via the finding aid at!

Theophilus A. Wylie: Renaissance Man

t.aTheophilus A. Wylie is a prominent and fascinating character in the early history of Indiana University. Theophilus was the cousin of Andrew Wylie, the first president IU, and he first came to Indiana in 1836 as a professor. Over his many years here, Theophilus served the University in a great many capacities including professor, librarian, superintendent of buildings and grounds, interim president (twice), and finally, professor emeritus. He was a teacher, an orator, a pastor, a chemist, a physicist, a Greek scholar, a photographer, a tinkerer and inventor, an astronomer, an artist, and in many ways, a Renaissance man.

His many activities are recorded by his prolific note-keeping. The Theophilus A. Wylie papers in the Archives holds 18 of his diaries, 11 research notebooks, correspondence spanning 1830-1895, and several other writings and drawings. The collection is chock full of all kinds of information and his style of writing makes it all the more interesting! The margins of his notebooks are filled with doodles, phrases in Latin or Greek, scientific sketches, and complex equations. Sometimes these were simply quotations in their original language but other times, he used the languages to encode more private parts of his writing (often, his opinions of others).

Excerpt from T.A. Wylie’s diary with a portion written in Greek.

He often annotated his writings and drawings in later years, penciling in notes about his memories of the writing, when it took place, what had followed, etc. Here he notes that the stain on a diary is the result of an “ink upset Monday August 14, ’85.” Near the center of the page, he added legs to an inkblot that resembled a body.

t.a. ink

Like many in the Wylie family, Theophilus not only doodled in margins but also enjoyed sketching in his free moments:

Front Yard001

Scene in the front yard of the Wylie home, which is now Indiana University’s Wylie House Museum

t.a. courthouse

TAW sketch of the Monroe County Courthouse

There is SO MUCH to discover in the Theophilus A. Wylie papers! For more information about the man himself, the online finding aid has a wonderful biography. For more direct experience with his papers, contact the Archives! Or, at the time of this writing, the collection is being digitized in its entirety and some may already be accessed via the finding aid!

Charles Rush Forker Papers

Forker Blog008Charles Rush Forker, late Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, was born on March 11, 1927 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The eldest son of Edson W. and Mary Rush Forker, Charles received his early education at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio.  After his graduation in 1945, Forker was quickly drafted into the U.S. Army, near the close of the Second World War.  He served two years in the army as a medical corpsman.  Upon leaving the military in 1947, Forker enrolled in Bowdoin College where he studied Shakespeare and acted in plays as a member of the college-affiliated dramatic society.  Upon his graduation in 1951 (and induction into Phi Beta Kappa), Forker was selected as a recipient of a Fulbright grant to study at Oxford University in Great Britain.  He received a second B.A. there in 1953, remaining at Oxford under a graduate fellowship from Harvard University.  He received an M.A. from Oxford in 1955.  He soon returned to the United States to continue his doctoral studies at Harvard University and received his doctorate there in 1957.

Imitating a typical letter home to the families of ill soldiers, young Forker comically writes to his parents of the unfortunate news of his cancelled trip home for Christmas and his seemingly unstable state of mind brought on by such news.
Imitating a typical letter home to the families of ill soldiers, young Forker comically writes to his parents of the unfortunate news of his cancelled trip home for Christmas and his seemingly unstable state of mind brought on by such news.

As a scholar, Forker would undoubtedly be most proud of the contributions he made to his field.  However, some of his most significant and touching writings are unpublished.  Like many soldiers, while he was stationed in Germany Forker wrote regular letters to his family.  These letters reveal the trials of a young man turned soldier.  He was eighteen when he was drafted into the United States military and was disheartened by the monotony of soldier life.  Reading his letters it is clear that he liked to keep busy.  He enjoyed a challenge, and it did not seem the military could stimulate his mind to the extent that he needed.  His letters home offered him a space to escape with the people who knew him best.  Young Forker provided his family with detailed accounts of the atmosphere in Germany and the futility of war.  He could see the beauty beneath the rubble and wrote about it.  And, just as any young person would do, he asked his family to send candies and cookies, wrote about his time at the hospital, and sent postcards from his trips around Europe.  It is easy to say that he fell in love with all things England while he was abroad and carried that love with him back to the States.  He was a perpetual student and shared his passion for culture with those around him during his lifetime.  In a profile about him in the English Department’s newsletter Footnotes in 1980, the author seemed to perfectly capture Forker’s character: “Writing essays, reading plays, whipping up a bearnaise sauce, listening to Mozart, teaching classes, swimming…Charles Forker is a Renaissance man, indeed.”

Charles Forker’s papers consisting of correspondence, research, teaching files, and publications spanning 1937-2013 are housed at the IU Archives. A finding aid is now available at Contact the Archives for further information!

Other Images:

Forker Blog006 Forker Blog007 Forker Blog003 Forker Blog004 Forker Blog001 Charles R. Forker Army Headshot


Office of Women’s Affairs

Office of Women's Affairs-"Majority Report" Newsletter, Apr. 1989
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Majority Report” Newsletter, Apr. 1989

The Office for Women’s Affairs (OWA) was established on August 15, 1972 in response to the growing awareness of discrimination against women in the academic community. Bloomington Chancellor Byrum E. Carter stated that the OWA’s purpose was to “establish a climate in which women faculty, students, and staff are provided with full opportunities for the development of their abilities.” One of the greatest responsibilities of the OWA was to advocate on behalf of women and other IU community members who felt discriminated against.

OWA’s first dean was Eva Kagan-Kans, a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature. During her post from 1972-1975, her function, she stated, was to be an “ombudswoman,” investigating specific grievances, reviewing salaries and budgets for gender discrimination, examining access to research opportunities in graduate program, and redressing the underrepresentation of women at the faculty and administrative levels. Kagan-Kans also counseled undergraduates on future career choices at both the college and high school levels.  Jessie Lavan-Kerr, a professor of Art Education, served as OWA’s second dean. In 1976, while noting the “foundational inroads” the OWA made under the leadership of Kagan-Kans, Lavan-Kerr specified a need for “redefinition” of the office, gearing it to more “action-oriented directives” regarding equal opportunities for women faculty, students, and staff. Lavan-Kerr was dean from 1975 until 1979.

Office of Women's Affairs-"Among Women" Newsletter, Oct. 1981
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Among Women” Newsletter, Oct. 1981

OWA’s third dean, D’ann Campbell, was an assistant (later associate) professor of History and an adjunct associate of Women’s Studies. Campbell saw her job as an “advocate.” OWA’s function, she stated, lay in “coordinating, funneling, and being a catalyst for a lot of projects to enhance the status of women on campus. We’re the affirmative side of Affirmative Action. We don’t wait until something falls apart. We can be sensitive to areas in which there are potential problems.” Under Campbell’s leadership, OWA oversaw the development of such projects as creating a videotape dealing with sexual harassment on campus (the first of its kind in the country), addressing the lack of female social networks in graduate school, and conferences to integrate women’s history into standard course work (80% of Western Civilization and American History courses never mentioned women in either books or lectures). Campbell was dean of OWA from 1979 until 1985. In 1985, Nancy Brooks succeeded Campbell, serving as interim director.

Office of Women's Affairs-"Focus, Vol. 3, No. 1" Newsletter, Draft, Dec. 1978
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Focus, Vol. 3, No. 1” Newsletter, Draft, Dec. 1978
Office of Women's Affairs-"Focus" Newsletter, Publication, Dec. 1978
Office of Women’s Affairs-“Focus” Newsletter, Publication, Dec. 1978











The Collection of OWA records housed at the University Archives contains flyers, correspondence, advertisements, grant information, mentor-mentee program information, data on reports, and surveys of students, faculty, and staff members at Indiana University. All matters pertaining to the OWA are now handled by the Office of the Dean of Students (for student concerns) or the Provost’s office (for staff and faculty concerns). The Collection has been updated with newly acquired materials and is open for research. Contact the IU Archives for more information.