This Week in the Archive: Obscene

by Cory Schutter

Cory Schutter is a junior from Midlothian, Virginia. He is double majoring in Rhetoric and Communication Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. He is a Bonner Scholar, a Center for Civic Engagement Ambassador, and a Student Coordinator at UR Downtown. He began his involvement with the Race & Racism Project in the summer of 2017, as an A&S Summer Fellow. This post was written as a part of Digital Memory & the Archive, a course offered in Fall 2017.

On February 23, 1984, Collegian staff writer Ginny Yoder broke a story on sexual harassment plaguing the University of Richmond: “Obscene: Women get phone calls.” Residents in the Westhampton College dorms and University Forest Apartments had begun to receive obscene phone calls from unidentified callers. An epidemic of sexual harassment began spread from phone to phone around Westhampton College.

“It’s traumatic for the girls,” Campus Police Chief Robert C. Dillard told the Collegian. This trauma would haunt Westhampton College as obscene phone calls continued into the early 1990s.

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This Week in the Archive: Racist Symbols

by Amanda Corbosiero

Amanda Corbosiero is a senior from Roseland, New Jersey, majoring in Journalism and minoring in Rhetoric and Communication Studies and Film Studies. In the process of curating and creating metadata for the project, Amanda feels that the project has opened up her eyes to parts of the school’s history that have gone unseen. This post was written as a part of Digital Memory & the Archive, a course offered in Fall 2017.

“Racist Symbols” is the title of the December 11, 1970 opinion piece in The Collegian. This article explores the racist symbols that members of the University of Richmond flaunted at sporting events by using the Confederate Flag and singing “Dixie.” The author said, “If UR is to erase its all-white ‘Southern’ image it is necessary to promote a cosmopolitan image without using the Confederate Flag or ‘Dixie’.” Though it is not labeled an opinion piece, statements were made by the author calling for the university to make a change, and it was found in the editorial section of the newspaper. It was made clear in this article that the author, as well as other students at UR, took offense in remnants from the old South.

I chose this piece because of the different layers that encompass this 172-word article. First off it is found in The Collegian, the University student newspaper, and it is critiquing the university’s culture. Also, it is from 1970, a couple of years after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 outlawing discrimination based on race, sex, or religion. The person who wrote this article–a university student–recognized the racist symbols that the Confederate Flag and Dixie held, yet the marching band paraded this flag around at games and the spectators sang “Dixie” without any recognition of the implications these symbols had on African Americans.

Richmond is the capital of the Confederacy therefore it is not rare to see monuments of Confederate leaders on Monument Ave, or back in 1970 having the Confederate Flag swaying at games. The question is, does UR reflect the social climate of the city of Richmond even though it is a private institution? The author of this article seemed to believe UR in the 1970s reflected an “all-white ‘Southern’ image.” In John Rueben Alley’s University of Richmond, a letter to President Boatwright who retired in 1946 said, “your record is written deep in the lives of thousands and in the very life of the South and the nation” (66). Therefore, we can extrapolate that UR did represent the social climate of the South at the period this article was written.

It is now 2017, 47 years after these “symbols of racism” were paraded around our campus. But even today symbols are all around this country and still found in the city of Richmond with monuments of Robert E. Lee and other confederate leaders. But this remembrance is different for everybody which is why Monument Avenue has caused mix controversy on whether the monuments are racist symbols or history. “Our understanding of collective or social memory will always hinge upon some recognition of the issue of whose memory.” (Barbie Zelizer, “Reading the Past Against the Grain: The Shape of Memory Studies,” 235). I believe that what it comes down to is that symbols are different for everybody and that is why controversy arises. Of course, racism can be associated with the Confederate Flag and the song “Dixie” for some, but for others historic facts can be associated with these symbols as well. Should the Confederate Monuments Stay of Go? states that we must think logically about what every symbol reflects both symbolically for one person and historically for another before we react off emotions. In 1970 when this Collegian article was released the Confederate Flag may have been seen as the history of Richmond to some and to others racism, however over time the symbol of the Confederate Flag has been accepted by administration as a racist representation of Richmond’s campus.  This was obviously not a widely accepted idea since after UR restrained playing “Dixie” at sporting events a letter by an alum showed his distaste for the decision since he viewed this song as deserving “a place in American music.” He also claimed that “Dixie” and the Confederate flag were not racist symbols “for right-minded people.” We can see how the social and political climate in the 1970s is a mirror of what we are facing now when it comes to the Confederacy and it all comes down to how people view symbols.

A Campus Divided

During the Fall 2017 semester, 15 students took RHCS 412 Digital Memory & the Archive, a course exploring the intersections of history, memory, and archival research into UR history. The final project for this course was a team effort to use archival materials and other resources to craft a narrative related to the Race & Racism at the University of Richmond Project. Focusing on the experiences of black student athletes and other minority athletic groups in the 1970s and 1980s, Tegan Helms, Erin Tyra, and Caleb Ward created a podcast which includes an interview with Richmond College ’77 alum Rayford L. Harris, Jr. Using archival research, interviews, and their own experiences to piece together university history, the team found that the current state of the archive replicates structural inequalities. In their own words:

In Jarrett Drake’s speech, “Documenting Dissent in the Contemporary College Archive: Finding our Function within the Liberal Arts,” Drake challenges the functions of liberal arts institutions by arguing that “…the implicit function of the liberal arts college is to reproduce structural inequality.” We support Drake’s claim that liberal arts colleges perpetuate inequality through what is archived, who creates the archival material, and most importantly, what is left out of the archive. The Race & Racism Project at the University of Richmond exists to fill in the gaps of what is missing from the university’s archived history to help combat the structural inequality Drake argues exists. Although the University is now taking a new approach to put the pieces of history together, our sources still remain somewhat unreliable in revealing the entire scope of what really occurred during such crucial times. The university’s history will thus remain incomplete and inaccurate if we do not go back in time, critically analyze the third-party accounts, and hear from people like Rayford Harris and Tegan Helms about their experiences. The athletic culture at the University of Richmond has always and will continue to exist as a crucial component to the institution’s pride, reputation, and values, but the current records suggest otherwise, revealing the disconnect between archival sources on this campus.

Tegan Helms is a senior from Wilton, Connecticut, majoring in Rhetoric and Communication Studies and minoring in Visual and Media Arts Practices. Erin Tyra is a senior from Santa Fe, New Mexico, double majoring in Psychology and Rhetoric and Communication Studies. Caleb Ward is a junior from Hampton, Virginia, and is majoring in Rhetoric and Communication Studies.

Click here to check out their podcast episode “A Campus Dividied” and accompanying post on

This Week in the Archive: A History of Title IX Controversy

by Katie Brennan

Kaitlin Brennan is a senior from Fairfield, Connecticut majoring in PPEL and Rhetoric & Communication Studies, contributing to the Race & Racism Project through the Fall 2017 RHCS 412 Digital Memory & the Archive course. The Race & Racism project has helped her think about race not only on the University’s campus but in the city of Richmond in general. She has become especially interested in how the University has talked about race and gender equality to the public, including to its students.

In this post, I will focus on the December 3, 1981 article titled “Title IX Controversy Sparks Mortar  Board Forum,” found in the University of Richmond newspaper, The Collegian. Written by staff writer Pat Everett, the article described a Mortar Board sponsored forum held to discuss gender equality in University athletics. Everett indicated that, as a result of a pending court decision on whether the University’s athletic programs violated the sex equality law, students received few concrete answers from administrators. William Leftwich, Vice President for student affairs and Title IX coordinator, as well as Elaine Yeates, chairman of the Board of Trustees’ Athletic Committee, hesitated to answer questions from female athletes. Additionally, the athletic director, Chuck Boone, and the women’s athletic director, Ruth Goehring, gave few explicit answers due to additional pending litigation between the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.

Despite this, administrators still maintained that progress had been made in the women’s athletic department since 1979, citing examples such as an increase in scholarships available to women and athletic success of female teams, particularly the women’s basketball team. Female athletes at the forum pressed administrators on issues of inequalities in athletic budgets, treatment of athletes with respect to travel, hotels, transportation, restaurants, and recruiting, as well as the number of available scholarships. Peg Hogan, coach of the women’s swim team, suggested that everyday issues, such as lack of heating in the Keller Hall locker room and availability of practice times, depicted obvious gender inequalities. However, Goering suggested that women were not always worse off than men and, in some ways, might even have been better off: “We have a law that says we must be treated fairly, the men don’t.”

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