Last week we covered a gossip column of Collegians past titled “The Kitty.” The column ran from March 1939 until October 1945 and reported campus rumors from the viewpoint of a literal cat, meows and all.
However, the column caused quite the controversy on Hillsdale’s campus, and it wasn’t just because people were confused by The Collegian hiring a feline to join the staff.
Discussions regarding “The Kitty’s” removal from Hillsdale’s paper began in 1944 when readers began to object to the vicious nature of the column’s gossip. However, others defended it, unwilling to sacrifice the campus’ boiling tea.
In a letter to the editor published on April 4, 1944, student Jewel Waltman wrote, “There have been a number of criticisms of the Kitty of late and I would like to defend it. It is, after all, the only bit of spice in the Collegian.” She continued, “Many remarks in the Kitty have been cruel and uncalled for but many students have learned a lesson or taken the advice of the Kitty and benefited by it. It is one way of communicating to certain people their faults and their weaknesses and should be taken with good humor and sportsmanship.” The same could be said about bullying, but let’s keep sipping the tea.
She did have one criticism about the Kitty: “My main objection to the Kitty is the use of it as a revenge weapon between fraternity groups on campus.”
To quote “The Kitty” published on Jan. 23, 1945: “And to you Kappas, your commando pledges are bad enough without looking like the mad messes they were last week.” Yes, it does seem as though revenge between fraternity groups would be a good place to draw the line.
M.E. wrote a letter to the editor on Jan. 20, 1945, saying, “‘The Kitty’ has become one of the strongest traditions on this campus. It has also become one of the most childish, ridiculous, and (we hope) untrue reflections of the attitudes and sentiments predominant on Hillsdale’s supposedly amicable campus.”
He continued, “What could be more amusing than telling someone that they are thoroughly disliked by all? What could possibly be more clever than a generalization incorporating a whole organization into a description full of adjectives we ordinarily use to describe the Nazis?” That escalated quickly.
N.C. wrote his opinion on the matter on March 20, 1945. He said, “The Kitty is no longer dirty but this was done at the expense of making the paper dull and uninteresting to some people.”
He then took an interesting approach and blamed the readers for this dullness, saying, “You students have decided that you want a newspaper rather than a scandal sheet. Now you must assume the responsibility of supporting such a paper.” N.C. explained himself, saying, “A newspaper cannot live without news. Hillsdale is a small place and very little of news value happens here. The Collegian staff needs your wholehearted cooperation. It is your fault if the paper is not good reading.”
The controversy ended on Oct. 16, 1945 when the Collegian announced the end of the column.
“After being denounced by students, faculty, alumni, and finally by the Associated collegiate Press in their annual critique of the Collegian, the Kitty realized that she had no place in society and committed suicide.” The article continued, “She delighted in hurting people’s feelings and breaking up friendships. Her only friends were those who were equally hateful in personality. They alone objected to her act of suicide.”
While some rejoiced at the news, others were devastated. On Oct. 23, 1945, Decker Francis wrote in to the Collegian: “The discontinuance of the Kitty is the discontinuance of the Collegian.”
Luckily for all of us, we were able to survive without a cat writer.