This morning I was looking at this sweet image of Rice girls enjoying a book when I realized two things. First, the picture was dated 1960 but it had to have been taken in the fall of 1959. And second, the reason for this is that what they’re smiling at is the 1959 edition of the Campanile, which was distributed as was then customary when school started in September.
What we’re seeing is the instantly recognizable back cover:
And here’s the also instantly recognizable front:
As you might expect this cover caused a bit of a stir. Just to be clear, no one was endorsing Hitler or Nazi ideology. What they were doing was bluntly criticizing the Rice administration for their perceived indifference to the well being of students. In the days before tuition this perception was not completely without merit. Still, this choice may have been, shall we say, ill-advised. The reaction of the administration, the board, and quite a few vocal alumni was quick and vehement. The word most frequently used to describe not just the cover but the entire issue was “crude.” Too many pictures of beer bashes and so forth. Was it crude? I’m not sure. By today’s standards it all seems pretty tame but it was a very different time.
Were there consequences? You bet. By the first week of October, over the objections of the Campanile staff it was decreed that from now on the book would be distributed in the spring, when Rice still had control over the students who produced it. And over the objections of nearly the entire student body it was announced that Engineering Professor and Dean of Students Jim Sims would have final authority over what was published in it. Interestingly, the student reaction actually had an impact here. Over the course of the semester the idea of a single administrator controlling the content of the Campanile was abandoned and instead a compromise, the creation of a Publications Board, was reached.
Amid all the words spent agonizing over all this in that semester’s Thresher I confess I was most impressed by this little piece from the November 20 issue, written before the compromise was found. It’s brutal and in my opinion justifiably so.