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Finding Aid: Student Assembly Records

Biographical Note

The Student Assembly is a form of government for the school composed of students with the direction of faculty. Student government can be traced back to the very early years of Austin College. There is no official document or set of records directly related to student assembly, however information was able to be located through research in chromascopes, student handbooks, and other various records.

The earliest form of student self-government found here at Austin College was an organization known as the Kangaroo Kourt. The earliest chromascope where the Kangaroo Kourt was mentioned was in the year 1899. This organization dealt more with discipline rather than student representation. It consisted of officers that included a judge, a prosecuting attorney and criminal lawyer, and a jury. Their motto was “It is better to punish one hundred innocent persons than to let one guilty go free.” The next chromascope where the Kangaroo Kourt was mentioned was in the year 1902. Their motto was “Spare the rod and spoil the kid.” In the 1903 Chromascope it was mentioned that the senior class of the College handled the court and its purpose was to “[preserve] order, gentlemanly conduct, and personal rights in the student body.” The Kangaroo Kourt gave off as being more of an initiation club than student government. In 1914, the chromascope described an initiation scene with “the man at stake.” In the year 1915-16, the court was brought to an end. A representative student court was put in place, but resulted as a failure. The Kourt was re-established within the next two years, but was again abolished in 1918. As a replacement, the government of the student body was now headed by the two upper classes. When reading the article about Kangaroo Kourt in the 1919 Chromascope, one could sense a feeling of resentment by the students due to the removal of the court. Even in the 1920 Chromascope, Kangaroo Kourt’s abolishment was described as the “fall of 1918” and was even blamed it on “unfounded rumors.”

With Austin College as a co-ed school, the Girl’s Council was formed in 1919. The article in the chromascope, however, seemed fit to describe an initiation organization more than a representation of student government. In the 1921 Chromascope, Kangaroo Kourt reappeared. There was no explanation as to why the court was re-established except that according to the author of the article the court seemed to have been the only organization best suited to meet the needs of the student body. The Girls Kouncil developed a purpose: “to bind women of Austin College together in order to effect self-government.” It began to become more of a representation organization than an initiation club. The Kangaroo Kourt played the role as student self-government only for a short period of time. By 1924, Kangaroo Kourt was no longer mentioned in the chromascopes or in any other literary documents. In 1924, the next appearance of student self-government was introduced, named the Student Association of Austin College. Only males were allowed on this association. Under this association, there existed an Executive Committee where faculty appointed members to serve for the purpose of self-government with certain powers. By 1926, student government was headed by two committees: the Men’s Executive Committee and the Girls’ Executive Committee. The Men’s Executive Committee was composed of ten men, four from the Senior class, three from the Junior class, two from the Sophomore class, and one from the Freshman class. Their purpose was to make rules and regulations that govern the men of the college and to “[adjudicate]” the cases of men who conduct themselves wrongfully. The purpose of the Girls’ Executive Committee was to “bind together the women of the college for self-government and to solve problems relating to student life.” By 1930, the center of student government was still the Men’s and Women’s Executive Committees, which cooperated in handling issues presented by the student body. Both committees’ purposes dealt mainly discipline cases. The Girls’ Council also existed and it served as the governing body of the women of Austin College. Unlike the Executive Committee, the council dealt with affairs that related to the wellbeing of the women and the College as a whole.

In the 1940’s, student government pretty much remained the same. The Executive Committee was no longer divided into the Men’s and Women’s Executive Committees, but instead was mentioned as one. The Men’s and Women’s Councils continued to exist and were known more as a type of judiciary council, handling the discipline cases. These judiciary councils continued to exist and play an important role in student self-government. Not much was mentioned about the Executive Council in the chromascopes throughout the 1940’s and early 50’s. In the 1955 Chromascope, student government was now referred to as the Austin College Student Assembly. This assembly was modeled after the Federal government. It included the three branches. The Executive Council represents the executive branch, the Student Court the judiciary branch, and the Senate the legislative branch. Each branch had different responsibilities. The Executive Branch was responsible for coordinating the work of all the branches of student government and they administrated all student activities and organizations. The Student court handled all student discipline cases and constitutional cases. The Senate had two functions: 1) provide actions on problems under jurisdiction of student government and 2) as a forum for the expression of student opinion on issues related to the needs and well-being of students. This form of student government continued to exist until the 1970’s.

In the 1970’s a change in the structure of Student Assembly occurred. In the chromascopes, there no longer appeared the Executive, the Senate, and the Student Court. Instead, there was simply a student assembly with elected representatives. Within the Student Assembly, there existed committees that specialized on certain aspects within the college. The Student Assembly has stayed the same since then, with minor changes and amendments added to the Constitution here and then. It still serves as a form of self-government; something Austin College has experienced well over 100 years.

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