Student Handbooks Provide More than Just Rules

One of the rich published resources in the Appalachian State University Archives is the student handbook. These books give today’s reader evidence of what expectations were for students on this campus in past decades, as well as a glimpse into student life. The information conveyed through these books varies over time, but handbooks usually contain welcome messages from administrators and student leaders, the academic calendar, the student government constitution, a variety of rules, and information about student clubs.

The University Archives in Special Collections has handbooks starting in 1930, initially called the “Students Information Book,” and continuing through the 1998-1999 school year, then more formally entitled “The Appalachian State University Student Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities.” There are a few gaps in year coverage.

Student Handbook Covers (L) 1930; (M) 1956–1957; (R) 1998–1999

The purpose of the handbook, which no longer appears to be created or distributed, was to supplement academic information for students, with a focus on co-curricular activities and student life. How that was carried out evolved over time. The preface of the 1948–1949 school year handbook stated that the purpose of the handbook was “to supply necessary information regarding the extra-curricular activities, to arouse interest in them and to guide the student in the choice of a well-balanced, satisfying program.” (p. 11)

In 1972–1973, The Mountaineer’s purpose continued the general handbook theme, but became a more detailed guide for students, with more information about the university and its services, and academics and student activities, than one would find in the Bulletin. For example, this book included an extensive Question and Answer section. Questions cover issues relevant to the 1972–1973 school year, such as “Is the ASU Marching Band only for music majors?” and information about new programs, “What is Watauga College?” and “What is the Bachelor of Technology degree?” A couple of pages are below.

1972–1973 The Mountaineer handbook, pages 68 and 69.

In the vein of student life topics covered, these publications are where today’s researcher can find descriptive information about student groups (yearbooks are hit-and-miss on this), the words to the Alma Mater and other less formal songs and “yells,” photos of campus that you may not find elsewhere, and the general flavor of the school during a variety of decades.

Below are a selection of some interesting aspects of the student handbooks.

“Advice to Freshman and New Students” in the 1948–1949 handbook is wide-ranging, covering the basics of how to succeed in college to the finer points of how to have a successful college experience.

Dating rules and movie privileges in this 1948–1949 handbook always tickle today’s students. These rules, as stated here, were in printed in the handbook through the 1955-1956 school year.

(L) 1948–1948 handbook spread and (R )1971–1972 handbook cover

Depictions of the school’s mascot, Yosef, seem to change only stylistically between these two handbooks. Unfortunately, Yosef is not depicted in later handbooks in the late 1990s, although he had changed quite a bit by then. Note the “Appalachian Songs” to be sung at sporting events on page 101.

(L) Back inside cover of 1948–1949 Student Handbook ; (R) Page 115 of 1955–1956 Student Handbook

Some former Appalachian students are still involved with the University. I discovered that Belk Library and Information Commons donors H.G. Jones and Bill Rhinehart were active members on campus in the 1940s and 1950s. Jones was the editor of The Appalachian newspaper during the 1948–1949 school year, and Bill Rhinehart was the president of the Varsouvianna Club during the 1955–1956 school year.

Below is a listing of all of the titles for the handbook and links to Library catalog records. You can request them at the service desk in Special Collections, Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Just ask for the “student handbook” and the year(s) you want. If you know the call number, that’s even better!

1930, 1936, Students Information Book

1940–1950, Student Handbook of Appalachian State Teachers College

1950–1956, Student Handbook Bulletin

1956–1966, The Student Handbook

1967–1969, Appalachian State University Student Handbook

1969–1970, Mountaineer Reflections

1970–1976, The Mountaineer

1982–1983, The Mountaineer

1983–1989, 1990–1991, The Mountaineer Student Handbook

1991–1992, 1996–1998, The Appalachian State University Handbook of Rights and Responsibilities