This is Part 3 of a four-part series of articles pertaining to the George Mason University Class of 1968. The text is borrowed from SCRC’s exhibition “First Class: Mason ’68 and Beyond” currently on display through August 2018 in the SCRC Gallery.
As is sometimes part of the two-year commuter-college experience in America, the George Mason College student body at times showed signs of detachment and disinterest during the early years at Fairfax. The atmosphere at Bailey’s Crossroads differed in that the number of students was smaller, the building, though quirky and in need of repair, was thought of as a special place. The relationship between the students and faculty was seen as much closer. General morale and spirit seemed high at George Mason, but students appeared hesitant to organize new activities and groups or take part in the creation of new college traditions. This condition was chronicled most clearly in the pages of the student newspaper, The Gunston Ledger.
The Ledger, which began operation in the fall of 1963, served to inform students of news and events on the George Mason campus, initially at Bailey’s Crossroads. The idea that apathy was endemic to the George Mason College student body was a common thread in the Ledger’s reporting on campus life at Mason. Almost weekly, the Ledger and its readers chided their fellow classmates for their apparent lack of cohesiveness and interest in improving student life at Fairfax. Whether it was that some students preferred to drink beer in the parking lot during off-class times; or that the student body did not react strongly enough to a mandatory dress code enacted by the administration; or to protest early American intervention in Vietnam; or that students ignored three opportunities sponsored by the Ledger to choose an official mascot for Mason, apparent apathy at Mason was a continuing storyline.
A subtle change seemed to occur once Mason was granted four-year status in 1966. All of a sudden Mason had a junior class, which looked forward to becoming the first graduates of the institution. Beginning that year the student body published both a student handbook and directory. Campus organizations, both established and new, began to flourish. Among them were SAGE, a women’s service club, the Pep and Glee clubs, the Women’s Athletic Association, the Sports Car Club, and People to People, to name a few. Mason’s Student Assembly drafted a new student constitution. While the fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon was in existence at Mason since 1964, two additional Greek organizations (fraternity Delta Tau Sigma and sorority Lambda Tau Omega) appeared in 1967, with Delta Tau Sigma sponsoring the first Spring Formal that year.
In addition, a drama club named the Agora Society, which was formed in the fall of 1965, staged its first production, Alpha Omega – The Beginning and the End, in 1966. Agora also created a film adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1967, screening it in the new Lecture Hall auditorium in February of 1968.
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