By Ali Neese, Staff Writer
In today’s society public displays of affection are not uncommon, and with the fast approach of Valentine’s Day, they are sure to become even more prevalent. We are used to seeing members of the opposite sex interact through holding hands, kissing and talking. While many might agree that some couples can take it too far, for the most part nothing is done about it. We simply roll our eyes and move on with our day. There was once a time at Young Harris College where this interaction was not taken so lightly.
According to Debra March, associate library director and librarian for special collections as well as the chair for Ad Hoc Committee for the 125th Anniversary Celebration, there was a time in YHC’s history where male and female students could not even speak to each other.
They attended the same classes, but as a rule that was the extent of their interaction. According to March, this desire to keep boys and girls separate is the reason that the Susan B. Harris Chapel has two entrances and that Sharp Hall has two staircases leading up to it.
Although occasionally this no communication rule was dropped for a couple of hours on Sundays. This did not deter the male and female students from attempting to get to know one another or developing a “case” for someone, or better known today as a crush.
One way that couples tried to “keep the romance alive” was through the passing of notes. Now this might bring a smirk to our faces today, but these students had to take some desperate measures in order to make contact with the one they loved.
Oftentimes folded notes would be placed in books or hymnals and passed on until they reached their destination. Some members of the faculty were sympathetic to their students’ plight and would aid them in passing notes to their beloved. But others made it their personal mission to catch these rule-breakers and bring them to justice. March gave the example of one faculty member going so far as to prod through a woodpile with his cane in an attempt to find these forbidden love notes.
As mentioned earlier, sometimes male and female students were allowed to spend time together on Sundays. They were only permitted a couple of hours; but regardless of the short amount of time, it was a greatly looked forward to activity. An article in the Enotah Echoes dated October 15, 1927, talks about the joy felt by the student body when these rigid rules were lifted one Sunday. The writer says that “even the ‘dignified seniors’ were shaken out of their usual self control, and exhibited as much childish glee as the freshmen.”
Of course, students could not go just anywhere when they were given this freedom. While they could sit and talk to each other, wherever they were sitting had to allow a chaperone to walk completely around them, explaining why there are benches in the middle of patches of grass on YHC’s campus.
Despite the strict rules, many couples have met and continue to meet at YHC, prompting former college president Dr. Charles Clegg to say that “Young Harris is like a shoe factory—they start out as singles but leave in pairs.”
By Annie Hunter, Campus Life Editor
Loving v. Virginia is not a Supreme Court case that many Americans would recognize. It doesn’t necessarily have the same nation-changing significance of Marbury v. Madison or the controversy of Roe v. Wade, but the 1967 ban of state laws restricting interracial marriage forever changed the way Americans pursued their own of happiness.
During the time of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists, interracial dating was taboo to say the least. Some Young Harris College students are included in the generational trend that, when it comes to matters of the heart, Dr. King’s words were not wasted.
Christelle Vereb, a sophomore from Hayesville, NC, is among the minority at YHC who are in an interracial relationship. While the couple sometimes attracts attention, she does not see it as negative or discouraging.
“[My boyfriend] is Cuban, yet he does not look Cuban. He looks Caucasian,” said Vereb. “And my goodness! My skin is as dark as night, so oh yes we do [stand out]! But really we just laugh it off and go on when people look at us.”
Most people, Vereb says, are indifferent to their relationship. Her parents, specifically, only want her to be happy and his feel the same way.
“At the end of the day, you’re with someone whom you care about, and they care about you in return. In the end you have each other, no matter the race or culture,” said Vereb.
With the ban on interracial marriages lifted, the United States began to see an increase in these types of relationships. Stanford University conducted a study in 1970 that showed only two percent of marriages could be classified as interracial. Thirty-five years later, seven percent of America’s 59 million marriages were interracial.
Amanda Massey, a freshman early childhood education major from Snellville, has been in three different interracial relationships. She said that for her it just makes more sense, and each of these relationships have been a better fit than when she has dated someone Caucasian.
“I think [interracially dating] is not necessarily better; but it’s better for me, because I went to a school of primarily black people so I just connect with them better,” said Massey.
Her parents, however, do not feel the same connection and would prefer for her to date within her own race.
“They don’t like it. I have to hide it from them because they don’t approve of it,” said Massey. “Interracial dating is more of a now thing, not really their thing.”
Massey attributes her parents’ disapproval to the generational views of her grandparents. She has noticed that when anyone gives her a ‘look’ while with her African American boyfriend they are usually 50 years or older. Massey predicts that as more diversity is added to the campus, interracial dating will be more prominent. Statistics tend to agree.
A Gallup Poll conducted in June of 2005 showed that 95% of 18-29 year olds approved of African Americans and Caucasians interracially dating. Sixty percent of that same age group stated that they had dated someone outside their race.
While resistance is impossible to eliminate, today’s generation has shown that it can and will love leaps and bounds further than its predecessors. It is a change that Dr. King would be proud of.