UVic Torch -- Spring 2009
Spring 2009,
Volume 30, Number 1

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By LARA WILSON, UNIVERSITY ARCHIVIST, MA ’99
With files from JANE MORRISON, ASSOCIATE ARCHIVIST

Rallies, elections, art—and controversy. Long before Facebook and Flickr, student life was documented in the university annual, the Tower. Published by the student societies of Victoria College and the University of Victoria from 1946 to 1968, its title came from the clock tower at the Lansdowne campus. Volumes from the mid to late 1960s reveal a publication that was often political, always witty and strikingly creative.
The tumult of student politics was regularly featured, and the Tower itself was not immune to controversy. In 1964, the Martlet ran the headline: “Tower Severely Criticized; Censure Passed for ‘Bad Taste’” following outrage over the satirical nature of that year’s annual. The editors were accused of using the Tower as a venue for personal attacks. The student council vice-president acknowledged that the debate “brought a spirit to the campus that did not exist before.”

The Tower usually covered the main events of the year, from pranks to protests, clubs to concerts. The hijinks of Frosh Week were immortalized and the “Log Saw” fundraiser at Clover Point was well documented. President Malcolm Taylor presided over a tug-o-war for charity, pitting students against faculty and local politicians.

In 1967, the Campus Committee for Peace in Vietnam organized “teach-ins” and a seminar that included folk singer and anti-war activist Joan Baez. Clubs were varied and included theatre (the Player’s Club), photography, foreign films (Kinema), the Outdoors Club, sailing, and chess.

There was even something for students who rejected organized activity: “Undoubtedly the largest and most active group on campus was the Non-Club, whose chief aim was the fostering of non-activity and non-participation. Members never got around to holding a meeting.”

Art 140’s “Happening” of 1968 was all “frenetic frenzy, pulsating strobes, painted people… a swerve of psychedelic music and a cacophony of colour.”
There was a special annual game of “ruggah” between the sexes—and photos from the 1966 Tower show it was a muddy match.

Eye-catching design was important an part of the annual—Eric Metcalfe, BFA ’70, experimental artist and founder of Vancouver’s Western Front artists centre—created the 1967 cover art (far left). With its black and white inside pages, the Tower was ideal for photography; the campus architecture and natural environment were frequent subjects, including the iconic panels on the exterior of the Mearns Centre for Learning/McPherson Library.

UVic and Victoria College annuals and other student publications are listed in the library catalogue and included in University Archives holdings. University Archives is open to the public Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:30 (September to April) and 10:30 to 4:30 (May to August).

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