November 9, 1983 · Cavalier Daily

The Path

This article discusses students' increasing recreational use of the Lawn, citing the fact that as late as the 1920s, women were not permitted on the Lawn during the academic year.


1983-11-09 Cavalier Daily The Path.pdf
1983-11-09 Cavalier Daily The Path (part 2).pdf
Jason Lunday
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
The Path
Despite the tremendous expansion of the University across Charlottesville and the state of Virginia, every year students make a trip to the center of Mr. Jefferson's “academical village” – the Lawn – to usher in their college careers or exit from them.
The University Jefferson built "around an open square of grass and trees" is still as important to the University community today as it was 158 years ago when the University first opened.
But the "academical village” which at once was the center of classes, social life and residence for the whole college community, has now assumed a different function.
Once sacred ground which no student dare lay foot on, the Lawn has become a major recreational field for the University.
Students and professors can be seen daily on the Lawn relaxing, throwing a frisbee or reading in their chairs while enjoying the serenity and beauty of the tree-lined expanse.
Tradition, though, has always remained prevalent on the Lawn.
As late as the 1920s, women were not permitted on the Lawn during regular academic session: this unwritten rule was enforced by the students.
And up until World War II, fourth-year students were the only undergraduates permitted by tradition to use the crosswalks. Any other undergraduates would find themselves walking all the way around the Lawn to reach destinations on the other side.
This tradition remained in effect until the end of the war when returning GIs dispensed with the custom and the sight of a non fourth-year undergraduate on the crosswalk became quite common.
But if students began to form the habit of cutting across this “sanctum sanctorum,” the Seven Society would post a sign on a nearby column reminding the students of tradition.
And in most cases, a few days later the sign would disappear as mysteriously as it had appeared.
In the early 70s the controversy moved from the original Lawn to the southern addition boardered [sic] by Cabell, Rouss and Cocke Halls where some students began cutting across the square of grass instead of using the sidewalks.
In 1970, The Cavalier Daily fought back against what It termed “Lawn molester” by displaying pictures of students using the shortcut on the front pages of three editions.
Captions below these pictures read, “strange beasts may often be observed braving the …way through the uncharted wilderness …leaving a path of destruction behind" and “there are still those few who would rather kill than change their ways."
Former University Landscape Architect and alumnus James Graham commented in a 1974 Cavalier Daily article that "nobody used to cut across the Lawn. There was a sort of aura about it."
While investigating the Lawn's condition, Graham suggested paving a sidewalk across it or setting up metal posts with chains around the borders, but he hoped it did not come down to that.
In 1977 the issue reopened.
University student Robert Melton, in a letter to The Cavalier Daily, commented that 3000 blades of grass "bite the dust" every time a student walks across the Lawn.
But Melton argued that he was allowed the right to use this shortcut because he had paid to come to the University.
That same year a group of students calling themselves Student Traipsers Across the Lawn (STAL) supported enjoyment of the Lawn by using it rather than the "cold, hard sidewalks. "
Tongue in cheek, they reported "29.6 squirrels use the shortcut per day. In fact, 99 (percent) of all squirrels avoid the sidewalk.
In 1981 a group called the Committee to Pave the Lawn was organized, in part to reveal the silliness of misusing the Lawn. The group even appealed to Student Council for funds to purchase a cement mixer in order to pave the grass and it got as far as bringing a cement mixer onto the Lawn.
But the cement did not gain the upperhand; the Lawn remained a decided green.
"The path seems to be wider" this year, noted Larry Steward. assistant director of landscape for the University.
He attributed the widening path to students taking the shortcut over ground which has received a good deal of rain and thus is softer.
"It's going down to the bare soil,” Steward commented, but he said he does not hear much concern about the problem.
“It's definitely the minority that complains about it," he said.
He said the University went as far as purchasing posts and chains and started to install them around the Lawn but this move drew negative reaction.
Steward attributed the flare-up during the early 70s about the Lawn to students' interest in the environment. But he said he does not see this concern now.
"I don't get many comments or calls," he said.
Date Added July 5, 2016
Date Modifed December 12, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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