Dressing the Round
Table in New Clothes
of the oldest college newspapers, the Round Table looks
and functions the way it does today in large part because editors—more
than 75 years ago—fought for it to be more progressive.
Early editors of the Round Table.
story of how the Round Table evolved from a news magazine
to the newspaper format it has now is a tale of persistence and
fervor, intrigue and subterfuge, involving determined editors and
a secret society pitted against an outmoded governing body and more
than 60 years of tradition. Looking back over 150 years of uninterrupted
publishing (the first Round Table was published in November
of 1853 as the Beloit College Monthly), it is a pivotal
period in the student newspaper’s history. Every Round Table
reader since then has witnessed the tangible results of what student
activism accomplished more than 75 years ago.
Modern College Needs a Modern Paper
voiced dissatisfaction with the form and publication schedule of
the weekly Round Table in 1915, more than 60 years after
the paper’s founding. The content had clearly evolved over the years,
assuming more of a newspaper style, but it continued to look like
a journal, and the weekly schedule was considered archaic.
newspaper is a thing of the past,” wrote Raymond Barron’15, the
editor at the time. “As it is now conducted, the Round Table
is not a newspaper ... It is a hybrid journal which attempts to
fill two or three functions ... We maintain that a modern paper
of a modern college must have a modern form—unquestionably that
of a news sheet.”
|The Beloit College Monthly was
an early precursor to the present Round Table.
for change were backed up by action. Within two weeks, the student
council considered the proposed changes and, with no dissension,
formally recommended that the Archaean Union, the governing body
overseeing publications and debating, consider the proposition.
editors of the Round Table continued their campaign for
change. Articles ranged from minor grousing— “Among life’s little
irritations for the editor of a weekly Round Table are
news stories that break on Wednesday or Thursday and must remain
in type for a week,” to full-blown editorials.
these arguments did not sway the Archaean Union. By a vote of seven
to one, the board passed a resolution against the Round Table
changing its publication schedule and format. The editors were furious:
“By this action, Beloit is compelled to remain for another semester
one of the four conservative colleges in the Middle West which still
publish weekly magazines.”
late April of that year, a journalism class started publishing the
Beloit Record newspaper three times a week as part of its
Round Table welcomed the competition. “By means of the
Record, the student body will have an opportunity to try
out the idea of a ‘newspaper’ form for the Round Table,
and perhaps be able to settle a much-discussed question.” Fourteen
issues of the Beloit Record gave students ample occasion.
the rest of the semester, the Round Table continued to
harp on the issue of magazine versus news sheet.
week we printed no less than three articles, each worthy of first-page
prominence,” Barron wrote. “In our form of publication, we could
grant this position to but one story. Let it be understood that
there is no competition between the Beloit Record and the
Round Table. Far be it from us to squabble with a mere
news sheet—we, the dignified sheet of 62 years of hoary tradition.
So, turn news items over to the Record—and we will reprint
them, in authentic style, five days later.”
Table writers rarely indulged in such outright sarcasm, but
it appears the editors were fed up with Beloit’s adherence to hidebound
tradition and its slow pace of change.
May, members of the Turtle Mound Society, a sub-rosa organization
composed of senior men, suggested bypassing the Archaean Union and
appealing to the student body directly through the student council.
during the period of 1915- 1916, Turtle Mound members included all
those who served as Round Table editors-in-chief.
concerned about College issues, the Turtle Mound Society determined
to work for change behind the scenes. Once hatched, their plans
fostered greater student unrest than ever before.
C. Candy’16 became editor-in-chief of the Round Table the
following fall. It did not take him long to take up the call for
a news sheet. He pointed out that none of Beloit’s peer colleges
printed a student newspaper in the form of a magazine. “The Scarlet
and Black, Grinnell’s paper, was out at seven o’clock Saturday
evening with a full account of the game [against Beloit]. A news
sheet delivers the goods.”
underground newspaper made the case for dramatic changes to
the Round Table among other things. Its authors were
unknown until recently.
December, the Turtle Mound Society met at a chop suey restaurant
to complete work for what they called the “T.M. paper,” an underground
publication. They chose Claude Habberstardt’16 to serve as editor
and chief of the first issue. Assigned authors included former Round
Table editor Raymond Barron and future editor Wallace Dougherty’16
to story assignments with headlines like “Spirit of Unrest” and
“Suppression of Student Opinion.”
February, the minutes report that the new paper had a name: The
Turtle Mounder Alfred Burtt’16 oversaw printing The Beloit Student,
Wallace Dougherty took over editorship of the Round Table
in February 1916. He wasted no time in printing another pro-news
sheet article. “Twenty Advocate a News Sheet,” the headline read.
Thursday evening those interested in journalism... met in round
table discussion...Twenty men from all classes and every club
in school were there. Professors Clancy and Hedges, the journalists
of most notable reputation among the faculty, guided the discussion.”
about form and content were discussed, as was the financial feasibility
of the news sheet. Unfavorable comparisons were made between the
present Round Table and other student newspapers.
mid February, the Round Table published two articles under
the heading “Dress Round Table In New Clothes.” The first,
written by Candy, presented the “financial angle” of the proposed
change from magazine to news sheet. At that time, the Round
Table printed 600 copies per week at $21 per issue. He estimated
that two news sheet issues per week, with double the word count,
would cost $24.70. Although he foresaw a drop in annual profits,
he believed the benefits well worth it
of Beloit, read
over this article and talk over the proposition to your friends
...,” he wrote. “Leave out the matter of sentiment and consider
the change from the business standpoint for a minute. Think of it
as a boost for journalism at Beloit, a boost for Beloit itself.”
Marion H. Hedges, a very popular professor of English, contributed
the companion article. He believed the proposed change in newspaper
form might serve Beloit as it did for DePauw when he was a student
there. “Change of form meant a change in thinking,” he wrote. “It
meant a chance to rebuild the college paper into a true representative
of judicious student opinion. It gave a chance to include young
women in an important activity. It advertised our worth.” The Round
Table could overcome indifference and opposition and prosper,
Wednesday morning, Feb. 16, students filed into chapel and discovered
copies of The Beloit Student in their song books.
paper both fascinated and infuriated and was hotly discussed. It
spoke directly to them. “YOU HAVE THE POWER,” blared one headline.
Articles asked scores of inflammatory inflammatory questions: “Don’t
you feel that Beloit’s administration is antiquated and worn out?
Why is it that Beloit fails to keep some of its best instructors?
Don’t you feel that Beloit needs more educators on her board of
trustees instead of so many business men?”
considering its authors, the paper plugged the news sheet idea.
“Don’t you feel that Beloit should put out a news sheet instead
of an old-fashioned magazine form of a college weekly?”
midnight, the Turtle Mound Society met in a nearby graveyard to
discuss the day’s events. “Decided to keep as still as possible
and await development,” said the minutes of the meeting. “We did
not dare meet in very conspicuous places.”
a February meeting, the faculty voted to form a committee to investigate
the matter of the “Yellow Sheet.” According to the Round Table,
within a couple of weeks the committee had investigated nearly every
person or group who possibly could have been linked to its publication.
committee acquitted Professor Hedges, among others. Habberstad,
when called before the committee, refused to make any statement
other than denying that he published the paper. Within a month,
the faculty dropped the investigation and the perpetrators of the
scandalous Beloit Student went undiscovered until the Turtle
Mound ledger came to light several years ago.
Dougherty manipulated the uproar over The Beloit Student
to further promote the news sheet idea. “The best argument we have
had for a news sheet to replace the Round Table thus far
is the appearance of The Beloit Student. Whether or not
we can agree with its contents is beside the question. The fact
remains, and cannot be put aside, that the students enjoyed reading
it ...We are confident that a real news sheet published twice a
week will be an efficient medium for expressing the sentiments of
students and faculty on such problems as this secret paper has opened
hopes resulted in further discussion by a large group at the Phi
Psi house late in February. This group drew up a statement supporting
proposed changes to the Round Table, which made the rounds
of the student body before passing on to the Archaean Union.
Round Table editor was clearly excited by this meeting.
“Surely a new day is dawning for Beloit,” he wrote. “The old-time
indifference is losing ground, being replaced with a student body
which knows its power and which will demand its rights in no uncertain
they were presented with a petition signed by more than half the
student body, the Archaean Union formed a committee composed of
two students (including former editor Wallace Dougherty) and Professor
Lloyd Ballard to investigate the financial feasibility of a semiweekly
news sheet. Their findings that the paper would be entirely possible
from a financial standpoint helped convince the Archaean Board to
at last recommend the change.
to a New Round Table
voted on the news sheet issue at a mass meeting after chapel in
March. “Three hundred students rose for the aye vote,” the Round
Table reported. “A dozen or so did not vote at all, evidently
undecided or uninterested, and only three voted negatively.”
Dougherty, in his final issue for the paper, May 31, still felt
ebullient about the victory. “The possibilities in a semi-weekly
newspaper are without end,” he wrote. “It will demand the active
interest of every student in school; it will be the center of every
student thought; it will be the biggest and best thing in Beloit
he also held a melancholy awareness of his place in Round Table
history. “With this issue the present staff disbands,” he noted.
“Some distinction accompanies its departure for it is the last to
edit the Round Table in its present form ... We congratulate
ourselves that this change has been consummated during our term
in office, but we more than congratulate the new staff upon its
opportunities—we envy every member of it.”
19, 1916, brought to Beloit College its first “news sheet” issue
of the Round Table, a form it has retained ever since.
Burwell'86 edited the Round Table and Avatar as
a student. He later founded Acorn Whistle Press, which has published
the literary magazine Acorn Whistle and two books of poetry.
He is the College archivist.
College Archives home page
Burwell'86 - College Archivist
Kasten - Editor, Beloit College Magazine