Adventures and Letters HTML version

College Days
In the fall of 1882 Richard entered Lehigh, but the first year of his college life varied very
little from the one he had spent in the preparatory school. During that year he had met
most of the upper classmen, and the only difference was that he could now take an active
instead of a friendly interest in the life and the sports of the college. Also he had formed
certain theories which he promptly proceeded to put into practical effect. Perhaps the
most conspicuous of these was his belief that cane-rushes and hazing were wholly
unnecessary and barbarous customs, and should have no place in the college of his day.
Against the former he spoke at college meetings, and wrote long letters to the local
papers decrying the custom. His stand against hazing was equally vehement, and he
worked hand in hand with the faculty to eradicate it entirely from the college life. That
his stand was purely for a principle and not from any fear of personal injury, I think the
following letter to his father will show:
BETHLEHEM, February 1882.
You may remember a conversation we had at Squan about hazing in which you said it
was a very black-guardly thing and a cowardly thing. I didn't agree with you, but when I
saw how it really was and how silly and undignified it was, besides being brutal, I
thought it over and changed my mind completely, agreeing with you in every respect. A
large number of our class have been hazed, taking it as a good joke, and have been
laughed at by the whole college. I talked to the boys about it, and said what I would do
and so on, without much effect. Wednesday a junior came to me, and told me I was to be
hazed as I left the Opera House Friday night. After that a great many came to me and
advised and warned me as to what I should do. I decided to get about fifty of our class
outside and then fight it out; that was before I changed my mind. As soon as I did I
regretted it very much, but, as it turned out, the class didn't come, so I was alone, as I
wished to be. You see, I'd not a very good place here; the fellows looked on me as a sort
of special object of ridicule, on account of the hat and cane, walk, and so on, though I
thought I'd got over that by this time. The Opera House was partly filled with college
men, a large number of sophomores and a few upper class men. It was pretty generally
known I was going to have a row, and that brought them as much as the show. Poor Ruff
was in agony all day. He supposed I'd get into the fight, and he knew he'd get in, too,
sooner or later. If he did he'd be held and not be able to do anything, and then the next
day be blamed by the whole college for interfering in a class matter. He hadn't any money
to get into the show, and so wandered around outside in the rain in a great deal more
excited state than I was. Howe went all over town after putting on his old clothes, in case
of personal damage, in search of freshmen who were at home out of the wet. As I left the
building a man grabbed me by my arm, and the rest, with the seniors gathered around; the
only freshman present, who was half scared to death, clung as near to me as possible. I
withdrew my arm and faced them. "If this means hazing," I said, "I'm not with you.
There's not enough men here to haze me, but there's enough to thrash me, and I'd rather
be thrashed than hazed." You see, I wanted them to understand exactly how I looked at it,