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A harsh legacy for freshmen in decades past: Keep off the grass or face being paddled

Roger Mitchell, former dean of agriculture, describes the now-banned practice: Underclassmen were punished for walking on the grass.

Multimedia and text by Erin Dismeier


MU freshmen may think they have a difficult time on campus now, but the underclassmen of yesteryear had it much worse.

Before the end of World War II, freshmen were required to don beanies to alert seniors of their class status. If any were caught stepping on the “sacred grass” of the Quad, they received a swift attack from the paddle lines.

In a scrapbook of MU memorabilia compiled by Warren Glenn Fowler of Vandalia, housed in the University Archives, there is a photo captioned “Civil Engineers Administer Justice.” It shows what would happen to the underclassman careless enough to tread on the Quad.

The tradition dated to the early 1900s. “All persons found trespassing on Messrs, Lipcomb’s and Jesse’s beautiful campus were immediately hailed before (the engineers’) court, tried, convicted, and sentenced to an immediate application of the paddle,” according to the 1905 Savitar.

Later, the tradition of the “paddle lines” extended to agriculture students on campus. While the engineers took on the task of protecting the Quad, the “Aggies” were the guardians of the White Campus. The Ruf Nex, a junior-senior honorary fraternity of the College of Agriculture, was active at MU until the 1970s, when paddling was designated as hazing and discontinued.

“The paddle has proved to be a very efficient weapon, and the violators of these rules are not as numerous as they might be,” according to the 1931 Savitar.

"All persons found trespassing on Messrs, Lipcomb’s and Jesse’s beautiful campus were immediately hailed before (the engineers’) court, tried, convicted, and sentenced to an immediate application of the paddle."

— 1905 Savitar