UL in History: The Senior Sneak

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Illustration by Nicole Freewalt 

 

Dr Clifton W. Potter Jr. ~ UL History Professor

Winter passed its half-way point on Monday, Feb. 4, and the milder temperatures this week have me thinking of spring. While enjoying a bit of warm sunshine, I suddenly remembered a campus tradition that passed into history decades ago—The Senior Sneak.  Many of the women who last participated in this activity are grandmothers now!

        Before the midpoint of the administration of Dr. Cary Brewer, co-eds at Lynchburg College were protected from the moment they walked on campus until the day they graduated.  Every time a female student left her dormitory to go off campus she was required to “sign-out.” After half past seven in the evening, they were required to sign the ever-present cards, even if they were going to the library to study. Failure to do so might lead to disciplinary action. After almost four years of endless regulations, senior women were ready “to break out stir” by means of The Senior Sneak.

        The invitation to participate in this carefully planned rebellion was delivered to every female member in the senior class shortly before the beginning of final exams. Men were not invited—they were not welcomed under any circumstances. The secret location of this long-anticipated night on the town—or to be more correct, night in the country—was carefully selected months in advance of the event.  The administration knew this escape from campus would occur each year and they approved it on the condition that there would a chaperone present. A popular female faculty member would be invited to join in the fun—Mrs. Belle M. Hill, who taught English and was an alumna of the college, was a regular choice.

        Once the dormitories were closed on the night appointed, the senior women who chose to participate in The Senior Sneak assembled at pre-arranged sites and slipped into the darkness and the convoy that waited to spirit them to the site of the party.  From midnight until dawn, there was plenty of food, music, bridge, and conversation. As the women headed back to campus, there was one final ritual to observe—the decorating of the trees in the Circle. Using the campus brand of toilet tissue, which was so inexpensive that it resembled waxed paper, the senior women covered the trees with enough paper to keep the long-suffering maintenance crew busy for most the day.

        After this brief attempt at rebellion, life on campus and particularly in the women’s’ dormitories, returned to normal.  It was time for final exams and graduation. No sooner had the juniors assumed the mantle of the seniors, then the women began to plan the next edition of The Senior Sneak. Co-educational twenty-four hour dormitories, the abandonment of the sign-out system, and the endorsement of real equality by the administration and the faculty made The Senior Sneak pointless. Thus, a tradition which had evolved over the years simply vanished, a casualty of the sexual revolution.  It lives only in the memories of the women who experienced it—and many of them have already celebrated their fiftieth-class reunion.