UCLA's put-on hippie—love beads, Galahad locks and mauve granny glasses. He calls it his nonviolent cheer.
This cacophony of modern stadium music is in its way a microcosm of college youth today. It reflects the country's diverse cultures—Midwest traditional, Southern aristocrat, Mississippi red-neck, California showboat—and its disparate ideals, concerns, goals, politics and prejudices. The attitudes behind the cheers are passed on from class to class and generation to generation like the family silver, with some of the qualities being sterling and a few rather tarnished. So fundamentally different are the cheers—and attitudes—of various representative universities that one wonders, in the last analysis, how a Purdue and UCLA, for example, can ever stand across a field and shout at each other.
The legacy at Purdue, the inheritance handed down, is one of clean living and hard work. "This is the last bastion of common sense," an assistant director of admissions at Purdue declares forthrightly. "The parents of our students don't want their sons and daughters going to institutions like Columbia, Berkeley and Antioch. Our students are here to learn a profession. They are not trying to solve the problems of the world. That can wait for another day. They don't have time for that hanky-panky. They think about calculus and chemistry, not 'I should do this' or 'I should do that' for philosophic reasons. Those are subversive groups at Berkeley and Columbia."
Purdue is as level-headed as a crew-cut, and the assistant director's assessment is borne out, and even typified by, Purdue's cheerleaders—though the specter of a disordered world began to arise last year. "Our kids are not activists," says the administration adviser to cheerleaders, Dean Virgil Miller. "If they are taking 18 hours of engineering they don't have time. It is the liberal arts students that are behind the occasional demonstrations here." It was one such demonstration that presented Dean Miller with some trying moments and led to the integration of the cheerleaders. Representation on the squad was one of several demands made by Black Student Action Committee agitators last spring. Purdue had 16 Negro football players, including the famous Leroy Keyes and two starting linemen who—at an average weight of 261—loomed large on the campus landscape. So the request was not surprising. Nor were the athletes directly involved. "I don't think our athletes have any of the problems that you hear about at other places," Dean Miller says. "I happen to be doing my doctorate on the history of the Negro at Purdue. I haven't talked to any of the athletes yet but I don't think—in fact, I'd say categorically—that none of those things happen."
Before the demonstration a panel that included Dean Miller, two members of the campus Pep Committee and three of last year's cheerleaders had selected five boys and five girls as cheerleaders for 1968. All were members of sororities or fraternities. The system tends to be self-perpetuating. A graduating cheerleader coaches and promotes a sorority sister or fraternity brother. Sororities gain prestige by having a member on the cheering squad; it is supposed to be excellent evidence that the house is high-spirited and involved in campus activities. The Kappa Alpha Thetas, which at Purdue are "the better-class girls," according to Cheerleader Captain Mark Jones, had a cheerleading monopoly two years ago; four of the five girls on the squad were sorority sisters.
One of this year's Thetas, Mary Sweet—Sweetie to her friends—has been a cheerleader for three years and now heads the girls. In her purse she carries a splinter from a 1967 Rose Bowl goalpost. The cheerleaders traveled west for the game on a student train—their most memorable locomotive—and Sweetie has an album of snapshots showing them in places like Las Vegas and Denver, sightseeing in their cheerleader sweaters and doing Fight-Purdue-Fight routines in railroad stations.
Her male counterpart, Mark Jones, is the blond farmer's son who drives a Thunderbird. He worked in Chicago last summer but he did not particularly enjoy it. "I like the conservative life," he says. "I'm comfortable in it. I stayed away from Grant Park. Those hippies deserved what they got. The last two years the whole campus has been aware of this other element. People from larger cities are bringing in ideas. My idea is if they don't like the conservative atmosphere here they don't have to come." Were the majority of Purdue students as conservative as he? Jones was asked. "Yes," he said. "The political sentiment was for Wallace. He spoke out and told the truth, not lies."
Given their conservatism, the sorority girls and fraternity boys had to do considerable soul-searching—under administrative pressure—before agreeing to admit two Negroes arbitrarily to the squad. Neither girl, it was pointed out, had earned the right to be on the squad; they had not taken part in the regular cheerleader tryouts. The school administration, it was felt, was applying a principle of forced integration.
After much discussion, the cheerleaders agreed to accept the two blacks, Pam Ford and Pam King, though reluctantly. Pam Ford is the daughter of a Winston-Salem, N.C. milkman ("Oh, I've been telling everyone your father picked tobacco," Mary Sweet remarked one night) and is far from being a militant. Pam King, who has a brother at Dartmouth, is the stepdaughter of an East Chicago, Ind. welder and the wife of Charlie King, a quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. She is regarded uneasily on campus as an instigator of the Black Student Action group demonstration. Without doubt she lacks the grace and coordination to be a good cheerleader. "I had a purpose in wanting to become a cheerleader here," she says. "I saw it as a sign, a good omen, that Purdue could have black people on the squad. And I thought it would give me an opportunity to be close enough to a group of white people to sort of help them when they were being bigoted."
Her presence on the squad may or may not have led to many meaningful exchanges. Consider the following give-and-take, which occurred in a car carrying the cheerleaders to the Northwestern game last fall. Pam King was in the front seat attired in a Mao pants suit that militates against everything and everyone in West Lafayette, Ind. Her hair is "natural." In the back seat was blonde, green-eyed Diane Teder, an active Lafayette girl scout until she was a senior in high school. A Dow Chemical truck passes by.