« Campus activities 40 years ago - 9/27-9/30/1974 | Main | W.P.A. Project - Cleveland Regional Union Catalog »

October 20, 2014

Case and WRU in the Great Depression

The stock market crash of October 1929 was the dramatic beginning of a decade of economic devastation. Manufacturing, agriculture, banking, construction, shipping - all sectors of the economy suffered, including higher education.

The University Archives has substantial documentation of the effects of the Depression on Case School of Applied Science and Western Reserve University as well as the actions and decisions taken in response to the crisis. Only two of those sources, student yearbooks and presidents’ annual reports, were consulted for this brief overview of the effect of the Depression on students.

What is remarkable in the student yearbooks is how infrequent references to economic conditions appear. For 1930/31, the student newspaper, The Reserve Weekly, was praised for increasing its advertisers “in spite of the acknowledged depression in business conditions.” The Case Tech earned similar praise in the Differential, “In spite of the discouragements offered by the business depression and the ensuing reluctance to invest in advertising, the business staff... has succeeded in holding up the financial end of the Tech.”

For the next five years, hopeful determination characterized the yearbooks’ depiction of the times. “The difficulties in producing the Differential by the Class of ‘34 in a period of economic chaos and financial turbulence were surpassed by the capable and concentrated efforts... of the entire staff, and the whole-hearted support of the student body and faculty.” Mather College’s 1934 Polychronicon’s senior class history read in part, “When they were Juniors the banks closed, and for several weeks it looked as though they could not have a Prom, but it turned out to be one of the best in years.”

It should be said this attitude was not because Case and Reserve students were insulated from the effects of the Depression. Reports of the presidents and deans repeatedly describe the greater need for student financial aid. Adelbert’s Dean William Trautman in 1934 wrote that, “scholarship and tuition aid funds have been spread as far as possible. In some cases even a twenty-five dollar gift has proved to be the slender thread that has kept the hope of getting an education from fading completely.” At Mather College the Alumnae Association and Advisory Council made loans and gifts to increase student aid. In 1935 Mather converted Flora Mather House to a cooperative dormitory. In return for working one hour each day on household duties, room and board fees were reduced from $400 to $250.

More students worked part-time and full-time while carrying full academic loads. The National Youth Administration’s work program for students helped nearly 400 students each year. Mather’s Vocational Counselor placed both students and alumnae in full-time and part-time work.

Curricular retrenchment included reducing sections of some classes, offering some classes only in alternative years, opening more classes to students of other colleges, and eliminating Saturday classes, to “enable many students to use the additional half-day to help themselves more financially.”

In selecting the Great Depression as 2014’s Archives Month in Ohio theme, Ohio’s archivists pay tribute to the resilience of those who persevered through that crisis.

Posted by jmt3 at October 20, 2014 08:41 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://blog.case.edu/archives/mt-tb.cgi/27445

Comments

Post a comment




Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)