From Our Collections: Criticisms and Cartoons in the William Flinn Rogers Papers

Author: Sierra Maxwell, Archives Graduate Assistant

For the past few weeks I have been working on the William Flinn Rogers collection at ETSU. This collection has yielded some interesting pieces on race and culture, since Rogers was a professor from the 1920s through the 1960s. The records within this collect reflect a change in popular, political, and social culture. One of the more interesting folders I came across contained The Frigate, ETSU’s “unofficial-independent-free student-faculty publication,” dating from the 1960s. Merriam-Webster defines a “frigate” as: “1. a light boat propelled originally by oars but later by sails; 2. a square-rigged war vessel intermediate between a corvette and a ship of the line, 3. a modern warship that is smaller than a destroyer.” The title seems to stem from the idea that the student body (the frigate) is a community formed against the “wave” that is the faculty at ETSU. In the upper left corner, you can see a drawing of a ship.

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From reading a few of the articles from several copies of the The Frigate owned by Rogers, I discovered that ETSU had a somewhat substantial student body aimed at the faculty (or at least enough to produce The Frigate). The idea that publications can express dissent and dissatisfaction is definitely not a new one. But what was surprising to me was the fact that the ETSU Archives did not hold any copies of this publication – maybe because these pieces were the only ones published, or perhaps because no one thought it important enough to keep. While the students publishing The Frigate probably had no idea their small newsletter would be archived over 50 years later, its presence represents a voice for the student body, and a movement to check faculty power. The fight for students’ rights can be seen on campus today, with issues such as student/faculty relations, and the eliminations of organizations on the front line. Students can access the records of the University through the Archives, which enables both groups to have an open and understanding relationship.

While processing Rogers’ materials, I found no other materials related to The Frigate, nor did I find any material to suggest that Rogers either supported or suppressed student rights. However, I did find these fun cartoons that would suggest that Rogers was generally liked by his students (and his name is not mentioned in any of The Frigate publications). I like to think of him as a cheerful and helpful history professor, who challenged his students to expose their full potential!

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