Every generation of college students, no matter how different from
its predecessor, has been an enigma to faculty and administration,
to parents, and to society in general. Watching today's students
"holding themselves in because they had to get A's not only on
tests but on deans' reports and recommendations," Helen Lefkowitz
Horowitz, author of the highly praised "Alma Mater," began to ask,
"What has gone wrong--how did we get where we are today?" "Campus
Life" is the result of her search--through college studies, alumni
autobiographies, and among students themselves--for an answer.
She begins in the post-revolutionary years when the peculiarly
American form of college was born, forced in the student-faculty
warfare: in 1800, pleasure-seeking Princeton students, angered by
disciplinary action, "show pistols . . . and rolled barrels filled
with stones along the hallways." She looks deeply into the campus
through the next two centuries, to show us student society as
revealed and reflected in the students' own codes of behavior, in
the clubs (social and intellectual), in athletics, in student
publications, and in student government.
And we begin to notice for the first time, from earliest days till
now, younger men, and later young women as well, have entered not a
monolithic "student body" but a complex world containing three
distinct sub-cultures. We see how from the beginning some
undergraduates have resisted the ritualized frivolity and rowdiness
of the group she calls "College Men." For the second group, the
"Outsiders," college was not so much a matter of secret societies,
passionate team spirit and college patriotism as a serious
preparation for a profession; and over the decades their ranks were
joined by ambitious youths from all over rural America, by the
first college women, by immigrants, Jews, "townies," blacks,
veterans, and older women beginning or continuing their education.
We watch a third subculture of "Rebels"--both men and women -
emerging in the early twentieth century, transforming individual
dissent into collective rebellion, contending for control of
collegiate politics and press, and eventually--in the
1960s--reordering the whole college/university world.
Yet, Horowitz demonstrates, in spite of the tumultuous 1960s, in
spite of the vast changes since the nineteenth century, the ways in
which undergraduates work and play have continued to be shaped by
whichever of the three competing subcultures--college men and
women, outsiders, and rebels--is in control. We see today's campus
as dominated by the new breed of outsiders (they began to surface
in the 1970s) driven to pursue their future careers with a "grim
professionalism." And as faint and sporadic signs emerge of
(perhaps) a new activism, and a new attraction to learning for its
own sake, we find that Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz has given us, in
this study, a basis for anticipated the possible nature of the next
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