WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY
(from The Insider's Guide to Colleges, 1971)
Location: Winston-Salem, North
Wake Forest is a small, private, Southern, church-related, liberal arts college. If some of those adjectives sound a little contradictory to you, then you've taken the first step toward understanding a very contradictory institution. Wake Forest has historically been dedicated to offering an excellent liberal arts education, but it is run by Baptists and supported by affluent tobacco growers. It maintains a 10 to 1 student-faculty ratio – a distinctly un-Southern characteristic – yet is Southern in practically every other sense of the word.
The campus itself, which is filled with organized, stately, and uninspired Georgian architecture, flanked by 470 rambling acres of meadows, woods, and gardens of the Reynolds estate, offers few clues to Wake Forest's schizophrenia. It never fails to impress its visitors, and indeed, it is one of the prime drawing cards of Winston-Salem, the tobacco city that lured the college to it in 1956. There is little student contact with the city, however – Winston-Salem provides fine dining, wining, and cinema facilities, but for more risqué entertainment students generally go elsewhere. For high culture addicts, the North Carolina School for the Performing Arts offers a fine municipal series at a reasonable cost.
Academically, Wake Forest has always been geared to the undergraduate, although it is now sprouting schools of medicine, law, and graduate studies. No classes are taught by graduate assistants, and even the best professors are generally required to teach freshman and sophomore courses. Wake has traditionally prepared its students for careers in law, medicine, and the ministry, and not surprisingly, its strongest departments are English, history, the sciences, and religion. A few social sciences have crept in lately, and a summer program in British Honduras has been established for several disciplines, but by and large, the college still aims for the traditional Renaissance education. Its greatest handicap in achieving that goal is its stunted fine arts offerings. The performing arts suffer from minuscule programs and lack of facilities, and the art department has only recently grown healthy by expanding its art history and studio courses.
Changes are in the works, however. In the fall of 1971 Wake Forest will embark on the 4-14 semester schedule, and it has already begun phasing out undergraduate business administration majors. An inter-disciplinary honors seminar program promises to fill in department gaps by tackling such elusive topics as "Romanticism, Man, and the Irrational," "The Scientific Method," and "The Comic View." And if you tire of the official catalogue, you can turn to the Experimental College, a student-organized affair that offers forty noncredit courses ranging from fencing to Tolkien.
The admissions department, although it is highly selective (especially for women) does a remarkable job of procuring students from absolutely similar middle-class backgrounds. The large numbers who come from other regions, rather than adding breadth to the school, are quickly absorbed into the Southern social swirl. "Fraternities," said one student mogul, "are the cat's meow. They are quietly riding the tide of hip fashion." Indeed, the hippies can't compete with the frat brothers in the growing drug trade, which, to be run successfully, calls for both a sizable pocketbook and a respectable image. A large, university-supported, nonfraternity organization called the Men's Residence Council is only a cheaper surrogate for the frats, and contains a hefty share of wealthy social dabblers behind its academic and artistic front.
Socially, the girls at Wake Forest enjoy a 2 to 1 male-female ratio, a fact that sends many men to nearby Salem College or the University of North Carolina. Coed visitation, however, is severely limited by the backwardness of administration, which cites the poor quality of the men's dorms as a reason for denying extended parietal hours.
Wake Forest is big enough for the individual to melt into the crowd (and many do), but small enough for him to mold his own education. And the latter is not such a bad thing to do, considering the many opportunities afforded by a good faculty and a pleasant, albeit schizophrenic, environment.
THE INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE COLLEGES. edited by the staff of the Yale Daily News. 2nd edition. 1971