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The Great Leap Forward

Map of Vanderbilt University's Campus in 1885
Ink on Paper
Photographic Archives, Vanderbilt University Special Collection

Imagine yourself placed into this map, travelling back to Vanderbilt’s campus in 1885. What do  you see around you? Students chattering over bread and tea at Wesley Hall? Books splayed on overgrown lawns? The squish squish of athletic shoes at the Old Gymnasium? 

Despite the pleasant scenery around you, trouble was brewing hot like a cup of tea. From 1875 to 1885, discontent among the students stemmed from the roots of four grievances: the absence of legal fraternities, student publications, intercollegiate sports, and enriching social life, all examples of staunch resistance to Chancellor Garland’s theocratic iron fist.  

One such example of student resistance was Liberty Hall, a boarding house where students quickly managed to establish a system of self-governance, all the while chanting their motto “Give me liberty – better food and lower prices.” The establishment of the dormitory, dubbed a “moral curse” by Garland, was the dent that lessened Garland and McTyeire’s abhorrence of campus housing. McTyeire eventually built four more dormitories on West Side, creating West Side Row. On-campus housing continues to pave the way for the evolution of student life on campus.