Sunday, May 24

The Quad: 100 years ago, UCLA professors organized senior send-off for students

UCLA professors used to organize send-off events for graduating seniors. (Daily Bruin archives)

Remember that time your chemistry professor partied with you? Yeah, neither do I.

One hundred years ago, however, graduating seniors didn’t just have the privilege of attending parties with their professors; they had the privilege of attending parties organized by the professors themselves.

Rewind back a century: UCLA was a mere teacher’s education school called the Los Angeles State Normal School. The campus was located on Vermont Avenue in downtown Los Angeles – it would move to Westwood 12 years later. And since there were no Bruins to grace the campus, the student newspaper was called “The Normal Outlook.”

But the masthead was the only normal thing about the The Outlook. On June 15, 1917, The Outlook published a story about how graduating seniors were invited to attend an informal party in front of the then-Science Building to be entertained by faculty.

“That inviting stretch of cool green lawn in front of the Science Building has been chosen for the affair,” the article said. “And contrary to all ‘the good old rules’ for formal faculty receptions, this is to be a real party, with a good time for everyone.”

The article stressed how hard faculty worked to organize the senior send-off. Then-Home Economics Department faculty members, as well as an untitled, yet apparently important “Miss Matthewson,” were said to be “working out even the smallest details of the affair.”

But if a faculty-organized party didn’t sound enticing enough, the article went on to elaborate on the so-called lawn fete.

“The daintiest of summer gowns will be in evidence,” the author wrote. “The daintiest of refreshments will be served by the daintiest of maids.”

Daintiness was clearly the norm.

One hundred years later, however, it looks like that daintiness has been replaced with a bit more formalism. Graduating Bruins are no longer entertained by faculty in an intimate setting like their century-old brothers and sisters were. Instead, they’re treated to grand commencement speeches by students, alumni and the chancellor himself, and later charmed by music from student singers.

Students and family members then attend department-specific commencement events to hear another set of speakers and receive more reminders about the responsibilities they hold as UCLA alumni.

Of course, this isn’t an entirely fair comparison, since the normal school didn’t even have its first commencement event until 1920, three years after the aforementioned article was published. And it’s not hard to rationalize the loss of faculty-organized parties when UCLA’s student population has grown considerably over the past 100 years.

But as graduating seniors will say, the intimacy is what makes the college experience all the more memorable. After all, who wouldn’t want to get in on that dainty lawn party?

Senior staff columnist

Tadimeti was the Daily Bruin's Opinion editor from 2017-2019 and an assistant Opinion editor in the 2016-2017 school year. He tends to write about issues pertaining to the higher education, state politics and the administration, and blogs occasionally about computer science. Tadimeti was also the executive producer of the "No Offense, But" and "In the Know" Daily Bruin Opinion podcasts.

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