Pic­tured above: 1879 and 1888 issues of the Col­legian.
Col­legian Archives | The Collegian

Campus-wide humil­i­ation was a rational — and weekly — fear for Hillsdale stu­dents of the mid-20th century. 

“T’other day little Miss Rhea Horst took a tumble in front campus right in front of Dunne and Bradley. All present mod­estly turned the other way as Rhea got up and betook her blushing self off to a 1:30. It was a case of ‘when a slip becomes a social error.’”

This example from the Oct. 21, 1941 edition of The Col­legian makes the speci­ficity and no-holds-barred spirit of the newspaper’s many gossip columns evident. 

Just as Hillsdale College has a long and dis­tin­guished history, so has its campus news­paper. Now the oldest college news­paper in Michigan, The Col­legian has trans­formed to fit campus needs and — at times — provide con­tentious gossip and enter­tainment. 

The Col­legian sprung out of the original college news­paper, the Hillsdale Herald, which was first pub­lished in 1878. According to the Mossey Library archives, the Hillsdale Herald began as a student-run news­paper that focused much of its attention on college hap­penings — although it was unaf­fil­iated with the college. Stu­dents held editing posi­tions to coor­dinate reporting on the news of student orga­ni­za­tions such as campus lit­erary soci­eties. 

During the Hillsdale Herald’s brief run filled with poems, jokes, and updates on town and college hap­penings, it proved not much dif­ferent than modern news­papers in content. Design and ads were notably dif­ferent, however, with very few if any photos. Often adver­tise­ments took up entire pages, one of which from an edition from the late nine­teenth century adver­tised the college itself as: “THOROUGH! CHRISTIAN! CHEAP!”

When the Hillsdale College Pub­lishing Asso­ci­ation took control of the Hillsdale Herald in April of 1880, it became the official news­paper of the college. The college changed the name to Hillsdale College Herald in 1884 and then to The Col­legian in 1893.

The range of topics has changed over time. During World War I, The Col­legian had a war column and war editor, in addition to the retired alumni and lit­erary editors. Posi­tions such as editor-in-chief and asso­ciate editor, however, have per­sisted since the newspaper’s inception. 

The Col­legian took a notable turn toward its more scan­dalous beginning in the ’30s. Throughout most of the twen­tieth century, the campus news source went through a cycle of con­tro­versial periods in which student writers upset enough stu­dents for each gossip columns’ eventual retirement. These changes, however, only lasted a gen­er­ation until the next batch of stu­dents came in and a new era of gossip began. The only dif­ference was the title. 

For example, in the late ’30s and ’40s, the gossip column, The Kitty, was all the rave until it wasn’t. Too many stu­dents took offense to the mighty Kitty pawing into everyone’s business. A look into the Dec. 12, 1939 edition of The Col­legian reveals the column’s ten­dency toward per­sonal attacks. 

“Crashers Spike Martin and Doc Sandford were con­spic­u­ously present at the Delt Sig formal. —The latest news from Ann Arbor is that Jeanine Barrett has excepted [sic] a Beta pin.” 

Grammar and spelling in The Kitty era clearly left some­thing to be desired. Every dog has its day, though. Other columns that would come to see their hay day pass included Wan­dering Around Campus, Fashion Wise, Hall and Campus, The Agony Column, Thru the Keyhole, Green Hat Gossip, Campus Scene, and Campus Capers. 

Fast forward to the ’80s, during which time stu­dents read all the details con­cerning the campus party scene in The Col­legian. Writers appar­ently held back few, if any, of the sordid details. 

According to the Nov. 3, 1983 edition of The Col­legian, the neighbors around the Tau Kappa Epsilon house said, “‘We don’t expect them to be church mice, but we want them to be respon­sible.’ The neighbor cited noise of people leaving weekend parties as the most offensive trans­gression of the TKEs…Another neighbor com­mented that it isn’t the members of the house who park on his lawn, but ‘the whole campus’ which attends the TKE social functions.”

Sometime in the ’90s The Col­legian became rec­og­nizable as the campus news­paper stu­dents and faculty know today. After attending Hillsdale, Chairman and Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Physics Paul T. Hosmer ’99 said he thinks the paper hasn’t changed much from his days as a student until now. 

“It seems to me that The Col­legian back then was somewhat similar to The Col­legian now: widely read, often con­tro­versial, some­times inten­tionally. Big dif­fer­ences: back then it was not in color and was not on the internet. Why? Probably because the internet barely existed at the time. I think color pho­tog­raphy did exist back then, but my memory is a little vague on that point,” Hosmer said. 

That brings the paper to all it is today. According to several stu­dents, the paper is much more focused on college-sanc­tioned student activ­ities. Although its history comes as a shock to many, some stu­dents said it also seems fitting with the rep­u­tation for a more con­tro­versial campus. 

“It’s a source of news for all corners of campus, whether it be sports, opinions from other stu­dents, ren­o­va­tions on campus, and stuff about pro­fessors. I guess I assumed it was always that way,” sophomore and Col­legian reader Mia Young said. “I’m par­tially not sur­prised because I heard it was wild back then.”