How Far We’ve Come

Last year while processing a collection, I came upon this remarkable entry in a notebook devoted to minutes of the “Faculty Meetings” — the predecessor to our modern-day University Senate.

I’m thankful that Bertha’s handwriting is so clear. Sometimes transcription is a guessing-game and can lead to baffling — if hysterical! — misinterpretations.

For those of you not well-versed in 120-year-old cursive, let me transcribe it for you.

Principal’s Office

September 16, 1893

A special meeting of the faculty was held in the Principal’s Office this day, at 7:30 P.M.

The record of each student was examined and the matter of promotion discussed.

The meeting adjourned at 3:15 A.M.

Bertha Balls


That’s right.  The entire faculty of the fall of 1893, all 11 of them, went over the records of  362 students enrolled for that year.  No wonder it’s such a short entry.  Bertha was exhausted.

An excerpt from the 1893 catalog detailing what students were expected to know.

Basically, in an age before computers for record-keeping, the most efficient way to assess and promote students on to the next level of learning was to test their knowledge right before the school year began.  So Registration was begun on Tuesday, September 12, followed by four straight days of examinations for all students — which meant exams were held on Saturday the 16th — covering all subjects including the Constitution of Maryland.  After exams ended, the teachers met and talked until the wee hours of Sunday morning, deciding which classes the students would take for the rest of the year.

So while I understand the frustrations of parking, or the problems caused by computer glitches, or the horror of missing the add/drop deadline, or the confusion of new buildings/syllabi/standards, I think we should all of us — students and faculty alike — be mindful that it could be a little bit worse.

Good luck to everyone and have a great semester!

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