North Central College - Naperville, IL

150 Moments: Students hold protests in 1946 to lift ban on dancing

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From the establishment of the College through the 19th century, social dancing at North Central College was viewed as a gateway to sin.

By the mid-20th century, students increasingly sought social change on campus to allow social dancing at North Central, signaling a deviation from traditional culture to a forward-minded collegiate culture. A student poll showed 70 percent of the students favored dancing.

In 1946, the student body president called for the Board of Trustees to lift the dancing ban, which the board decided to uphold while also promising to study the question.

In response, the student body held its largest formal protest against the ban in April 1946 when even the Chicago Tribune (photo) covered the event. Some 400 students danced in the streets and on the lawn of Old Main to protest the dancing ban, which had stood for 85 years at the time.

The Tribune article reported, “Starting at 1 p.m., the students left classes and held mass meetings on the lawn in front of Old Main, accompanied by the jive tunes of an instrumental trio to enforce their demand.” A student was quoted saying, “With the dancing taboo, we might as well be going to school in 1861.”

Students and administration agreed to form a committee composed of five students, three faculty members and three trustees to come to a decision on the state of social dancing at the College.

The pressure for social dancing on campus did not stop until the ban’s removal in 1957 as part of new social programming and the creation of the College Activities Board, now called the College Union Activities Board (CUAB).