Collins Publications: Dancing Star

Last year I graduated from IU after four years of involvement in the Collins Living Learning Center. This unique living-learning center is the campus’s oldest, and has a strong, passionate, student-led community emphasizing diversity and individual creative expression.

This summer at the University Archives, I am working to help digitize portions of the Collins LLC collection. So far, this has involved preparing documents (publications, letters, newspaper clippings, etc.) for scanning which includes organizing files, removing paperclips, and redacting sensitive information. As a Collins member myself, I remember touring the archives as part of a class and being fascinated by old publications I know well, such as the Collins Columns, and finding editions made by students from well before I was born. Needless to say, working now firsthand in the archives is very interesting from a former Collinsite’s point of view, and has enlightened me to much of its rich history I was oblivious to. For instance, it’s fascinating to see meeting notes and email chains creating councils that some 40 years later I would hold a position on.

Collins is a home to students of all backgrounds and majors. It’s very nearly entirely student-run, from its publications to its many councils and organizations. Hence, every year the environment of the LLC takes on a different trajectory, and yet the thing that stands out to me the most as I delve through the archives is how distinct Collins has remained since its inception, and how familiar it seems 50 years ago compared to my experience in the past four years, despite its many changes.

One item in the collections that exemplifies this aspect of Collins is the Dancing Star publication. This literary, artistic, and musical journal is the center’s longest running annual publication. In 1976 the first volume was written on a typewriter and compiled by hand. In 2000, the Indiana Daily Student featured a full-page article celebrating the publication’s 25th anniversary and its ambitious evolution which included adding things like CDs containing music made by students. 18 years later, the 42nd volume won the prestigious Gutenberg award in the Great Lakes Graphic Association Print Competition. This, as it happens, was also the first Collins publication I saw as an incoming freshman to the LLC.

Black and white cartoon of a dog wearing an I-men's sweater and beanie with a spilled bottle in the foreground
“Portrait of a Dog as a College Student,” by Tom Schevtchhuk, Dancing Star, Spring 1979

Over its 46 issues, the Dancing Star has taken many forms: from a pocket-sized handbook to a multi-pocketed pamphlet scrawled with residents’ doodles, to a handmade accordion flipbook adorned with buttons and yarn. The journal itself is as much of an art form as the content it contains. And yet every year it holds the same charm that is evident since the very first volume.

The 26th edition of the Dancing Star was perhaps the most extravagant and ambition design. Unlike the usual bound-book form, it comes in a cardboard box set. Upon opening, you’re immediately confronted with a collectable packaged figurine of a fetus wearing a tiny red cape. This “Superhero” collectible is one of three further options including a “Ballerina,” “Soldier,” and “Karate Master” which are described as “clutchable, hordeable lovelies inside every copy of Dancing Star No. 26.” Underneath this insert, the reader finds a poster and 7 booklets hidden underneath, each of which could easily be considered their own publication. As with all Dancing Stars, the booklets are filled with poems, art, short stories, and other creative expressions made by members of the LLC.

The volume takes pride in having an “all-inclusive policy” – a staple of Collins’ publications. On a handout acting as a sort of user manual for the edition, editor Brian McMullen explains the importance of this. Too often, he says, do people “make a literary magazine that looks like a literary magazine,” as poets too often write “poems that sound like poems”. He says that the risk of accepting all submissions is necessary in making a unique journal that fully embodies the true expression of the center’s members, and creates an unaltered, memorable piece of art in the process. In this volume, you will not only find poems that don’t try to sound like poems, but a literary journal that doesn’t try to look like a literary journal.

The Crimson Bull and the Purdue Special

Humor has always been a popular approach when discussing collegiate life.  It has a way of fearlessly tackling the array of social and academic topics that confront college students like dating, partying, professors, Greek life, and sports.  Indiana University has a long history of student-published satire/humor magazines such as the Vagabond of the 1920s, The Bored Walk of the 1930s, and The Date from 1946-1947. Another was the Crimson Bull. 

In 1947, the IU chapter of the professional journalism society Sigma Delta Chi launched the Crimson Bull, adopting the name of a former IU student humor publication that was issued in the early 1920s. In post-WWII America, the editors of The Crimson Bull found it necessary to stir backlash against the mainstream propaganda distributed by University officials; they courted censorship, played with taboos, and encouraged criticism along with, of course, laughter, providing a unique yet undeniably relatable glance at IU student life.

c-bull-feb-1949003The IU Archives holds over 30 issues from the racy humor magazine dating from 1947-1956.  During its publication The Crimson Bull released 6 or 8 issues a year, many of which were special issues ranging from the eminent doom of graduation to “the birds and the bees.”  While many of these special issues targeted the typical collegiate themes, the November issues however were often reserved for a distinctly IU problem – Purdue.

Out of all of IU’s Big Ten competitors, our greatest rivalry is with our in-state neighbor, Purdue.  IU and Purdue have been in-state rivals for over a century, and although bitter opponents, the universities have tried to keep it in good spirits. The two universities have constantly fought over who holds the title of the state school, and the editors of The Crimson Bull were quick to inform readers on IU’s clear superiority. The publication dedicated at least three known issues to berating their northern neighbor university, be it through mock exposés, comic illustrations, or simply flaunting snapshots ofc-bull-1952002 IU’s impressively beautiful freshman women.

The magazine often refers to Purdue as COW College, stereotyped as the agriculture school that uses its engineering program as a front to disguised its crude, crumbling infrastructure.  Purdue is often framed as a true architectural horror with a dismal 6:1 male to female student ratio and embarrassingly subpar literacy standards. These magazine issues include articles set from the perspective of an “undercover” student journalist who bravely ventured to probe the Purdue campus along with interviews from phony “former” Purdue students who had supposedly escaped and transferred to IU, recounting many horrors.  The flagrantly false allegations made towards Purdue would have surely gotten a laugh out of any IU student – a scoff and maybe even a chuckle from a Purdue student.

c-bull-1949001“The Purdue Special” of November 1949 contains a particularly interesting article titled “Our Bucket” that investigates the origin and other historical moments from past Oaken Bucket Games (You can read more about the origins and history of the Old Oaken Bucket in this post from last week.)  The competition began in 1925 after the first Oaken Bucket Game ended in a deadlock tie, forcing the trophy to be shared between the two campuses – Purdue having the trophy for the first six months, IU for the latter.

As an IU alumnus myself, I especially enjoyed reading about the particularly rattling upset of 1930, where the IU underdogs defeated the Boilermakers at home.  It is rumored that the upset was so unexpected that the officials had only bothered to print a “P” link that year. After returning to Bloomington, accompanied by a band of celebration, the IU football team and fans were stunned to realize that the Old Oaken Bucket trophy had been stolen en route by a band of disgruntled Purdue students disguised in the IU cream and crimson.  An investigation pursued for the missing trophy and ten days later the Old Oaken Bucket was discovered unharmed on a loading platform in the middle of Lafayette.  The theft caused quite a scandal and further solidified a rivalry that to this day continues to divide Indiana homes.

What I enjoy most about The Crimson Bull is that although these magazines were written over sixty-five years ago, as an IU alum, one cannot help but appreciate the long standing tradition of the two universities’ love-hate relationship.

Contact the IU Archives to see the full collection.

 

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 http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/findingaids/archives/InU-Ar-VAD4412!

The Date, 1946-1947, A Student Publication

The Date001
The cover of the April 1947 Moonlight Issue

A male student clutching a jug of alcohol, the bare backsides of young men spreading a page, and the long, lovely legs attached to five beautiful “coeds” competing for the “Miss Legs” title all make up the 1946-1947 publications of what was a new magazine on campus, The Date. First starting out, and without a designated space to write and publish, Don Goins and the rest of The Date staff completed their work on the basement floor hallway of the Science Hall. Knowing what they published, it seems like an appropriate space to gather and gossip about the goings-on around campus. A typical monthly publication would be filled with all things related to student life: pictures of those recently “pinned,” stories of popular (or not-so-popular) professors, tongue-in-cheek cartoons, funny short stories, and advertisements for shops and restaurants around Bloomington.

For those interested in studying campus culture after World War II, this publication would be the perfect starting point. Picking up the magazine today feels like picking up a modern publication (apart from the fashion, of course).  The publication provides an intimate glimpse into the personal lives of students: their love interests, after-hour excursions, and attentiveness to campus events all add to the richness of I.U. history. From a current student’s point of view, the time period becomes more familiar with each magazine I read. I can see myself kissing my date in the Well House at midnight, having a drink at a local bar, and studying in the library with my peers.  There’s a sense of eagerness and excitement that is often associated with the young reflected in the eyes of the young men and women pictured. I wonder what became of these students, if they ever came back to Indiana University after graduation, and what they would think of this generation of college students if they could see them today.  Who knows? But what we do know is that their memories are forever preserved in the pages of The Date and students of today and the future can share their experiences and reflect upon the differences – or similarities – of their own IU experience.

Other images:

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The Bored Walk

BoredWalk006BoredWalk008Feb1940

Self-described as “the humerous publication of Indiana U.” the Bored Walk was a humorous college magazine published by students at Indiana University from around 1931 until 1942.  The publication featured jokes, cartoons, and campus gossip and news. Cover art was unique and often featured student artwork.

October 1935The 1931 Arbutus described the Bored Walk‘s scandal page, “Borings,” as one of its most interesting features, though the content was usually related to campus happenings and may be difficult for today’s reader to fully understand. For example, a “scandal” tidbit from the 1934 remarked that, “Maybe the coeducational system has its good points after all. Fygam Flowers had intended to deny our almy mammy the pleasure of his Feb1934presence this semester. But he met Trydelt Prentice and changed his mind.”  A 1942 Borings report similarly states that, “S.A.E. ex-rod man Neal Gilliatt recently placed his badge for safe keeping in the care of Theta Mary Rees.  If she keeps it as safely as she does her scholastic average, Neal will never more wear his frat pin.”

As is the case with many magazines of this time period, BoredWalk004it is also particularly striking that nearly every back cover features a large, colored cigarette ad.  Yet interestingly, in a letter to President William Lowe Bryan, the magazine’s 1935 general manager comments that “A high standard of advertising has been maintained although it has meant the rejection of lucrative contracts for beer and liquor advertising.”  Apparently alcohol was not appropriate for students, but cigarettes were!

The Bored Walk student staff members believed their privately owned and operated publication to be highly circulated, widely read, and much enjoyed.  In 1932, the staff attempted to hand it over to the University in order to ensure its continued publication citing a circulation of 2,000 copies and that subscriptions were not merely for IU students. Subscribers included folks outside the state of Indiana, and that a number of readers were potential IU students and extension students. The Board of Trustees considered the matter, but declined.

In 1942 student owner Meredith Bratton once again tried to sell the publication before he joined the military but IU News Bureau Director E. Ross Bartley opposed the proposition saying, “The parents of our students would not understand how the University would permit some of the things that have been published in the last two years.” Bratton replied that he did not want to hand over management of the Bored Walk, but simply wanted University backing in order to more easily obtain advertising and gain recognition from the merchants bureau of Indianapolis.

Eventually, two students by the names of Bob Anderson and Nat Hill leased the Bored Walk from Bratton. The magazine, however, went into a steady decline following a series of complaints from the Dean of Women, local church officials, administrators, and Bloomington residents over the magazine’s content. The IU Bookstore and Union both cancelled their subscriptions. The October 1942 issue sealed the Bored Walk‘s fate. According to a letter written by Bartley, the offending issue contained several jokes of a sexual nature, some of which included rude remarks against the Catholic Church. Furthermore, a local priest had felt it necessary to report the magazine to higher church officials as material not suitable for Catholics to read. Anderson and Hill shouldered the blame and requested that the University order the cessation of the publication.

IU Comptroller W. G. Biddle wrote to Meredith Bratton at naval training to tell him the news of the publication’s end stating, “It was no longer decent enough to distributed as a product of Indiana University students.” Unfortunately, no copies of the issue in question exist in our collection, so we can’t see the offending articles for ourselves.

Interested in learning more about the Bored Walk? Contact the staff at the Archives!