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'“…to forbid the practice altogether…” Student Vehicles and Parking on the Smith Campus

With the advent of the first vehicle on campus, a Waverly Electric owned by Myrtle Eve Smith, ’08, control over where and how students were allowed to travel was a battle fought between the college, the town, and students who owned vehicles. Between 1900-1914, Sunday motoring was permitted under special conditions. Permission was granted by the Dean of the College, with written permission of the parents. Women were to be chaperoned, and they could only drive in the company of their parents or guardian.

In his 1919-1920 President’s Report, William Allan Neilson lamented about

“the increase in the number of girls who bring automobiles to Northampton. I am inclined to think it is a mistake to afford this luxury to College students. It…tempts the student owning a motor car to use her leisure in driving about the country instead of taking exercise…It is possible for us to forbid the practice altogether, but it would be better if the restraint were imposed by parents.”

By the mid 1920s the increasing number of student vehicles required the College and the town to take action. Students were not allowed to park or drive on campus, nor could they park on city streets in Northampton or the neighboring towns. Cars had to be garaged. Only seniors, with permission of the Warden and the Student Council, could have vehicles after the Spring break. As the 1930s and 1940s progressed, the rules were modified to allow seniors in good standing to have vehicles for the spring term and then Junior Ushers could bring a vehicle to campus after Spring Break. A course titled, “How Much Do You Know About Driving?” was offered to Smith students in the spring of 1938. Taught by two professors in the psychology department and a Smith College mechanic, lectures on safe driving practices and a driving clinic were offered to assist students. Parking on campus for extended periods was not permitted. In the 1940s tickets were issued to offenders that read,

“The management of the Smith College campus is regretfully obliged to call attention to your violation of the posted rule against parking on campus for more than thirty minutes.”

It was not until the 1960s that seniors were permitted to have cars all year, with permission of the Dean, and as long as they were not on financial aid and had at least a 2.0 average. The car doors of freedom opened for juniors in the mid 1960s and for sophomores in 1969/1970. By the late1980s the current parking lottery was established, even though “…students are strongly discouraged from bringing cars to Northampton…”

Nanci Young, College Archivist

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