University life, since the ’60s

By Ashley Hamett/El Inde

As a freshman at the University of Arizona in the fall semester of 1961-1962, my grandfather, Richard Rice, quickly realized that his life would never be the same again.

At the freshman orientation, he noted how his freshman class had a larger population than his entire hometown of Morenci, Arizona. He did not grow up sheltered but he had never been among so many people — roughly 14,000 at the time — with such diverse backgrounds.

Today, the U of A has approximately 45,000 students from all over the world (52% White, 25% Hispanic, 4% African American, and 6% Asian). One big difference in the campus is that except for the Manzanita-Mohave and Kaibab-Huachuca dorms, nearly the entire university then was within the black rock wall. Today, it seems that with new buildings and the Medical School, there is almost as much of the university outside the wall as there is within it.  

The cost of tuition has grown dramatically, too. My grandfather’s was approximately $112.50 per semester in contrast to my current $6,000 per semester tuition charge. Additionally, his meal cost approximated one dollar per day. Today, I pay four times that for a cup of coffee at the bookstore Starbucks, and significantly more for meals each day at the Student Union and at my sorority house.

My grandfather recalls class registration being a true nightmare, because students had to walk a schedule through the various professors in their classrooms to ensure that the classes had not been filled.

“Registration was a total hassle, because it sometimes took more than one day of standing in lines and begging instructors for a slot in their class,” he said. “At times, professors had available slots but were saving them for latecomers.” This procedure pales in comparison to me sitting at my computer and selecting classes to my liking, which would take less than an hour without having to ever leave my seat.

Back in the 60s, living conditions were vastly different for the school’s students. Female freshmen were required to live in dormitories with strict rules, regulations, and nightly curfews with a “No males allowed” policy. Following their freshman year, women were still subject to the same regulations if they lived in a dormitory or sorority house.

While having no dormitory or living restrictions, the men were required to follow other rules. They were required to complete two years of ROTC military training to graduate, which consisted of classroom and drill responsibilities earning them only one credit hour per semester. “We had two classroom sessions along with one drill session which would take up at least 3 hours a week. All that for only one credit a semester,” my grandfather said. 

My aunt, Rosalie Rice, attended the university in the early 1960s as well and studied education. Other than the housing curfew and the lack of ROTC requirements, she does not think that she was treated any differently than my uncle, Marshall Rice, who also attended the university at the time. And my other aunt, Dianne Rice, attended the university in the 1970’s and became a schoolteacher. “I never saw any prejudice because of my gender because they always treated all of us like crap,” she said. 

The most significant social change in the university over the years since my grandfather attended may be in the field of athletics. Prior to the Title IX Act, women athletics were primarily limited to intramural sports and “traditional” ladies’ sports like tennis and golf.

Although there were women’s tennis, golf, and other teams, they were on a completely different platform than the men’s sports, which generated significant revenue. Title IX mandated that women be given an equitable opportunity in all university activities, which resulted in a significant increase in funding for women’s sports teams. Since this shift, Arizona women’s athletic teams have excelled in softball, basketball, golf, tennis, and other PAC-12 events. Women teams have won 22 national championships with 15 of them by women teams. 

Starting college, I was excited to join Greek Life while still focusing on school, of course. But my grandfather was not interested in that at all back in the day and had no money to pay for it. Instead of being in a “social fraternity,” he decided to join the engineering fraternity named Theta Tau. Throughout his working career, though, he says he never derived any benefit from his membership in the fraternity. He did not like the “Frat Rat” lifestyle and wanted to focus on his education.

My university experience is lightyears ahead of my grandfather’s due to the technological and social advances over the past 50 years. He would graduate as an engineer with only a slide rule for complex calculations and only his textbooks and the library for assistance. I have the benefit of a MacBook Pro with the world at my fingertips to help me in almost all academic endeavors.

My Grandfather, Richard Rice, while attending the University of Arizona in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of Richard Rice.