Red TAPE Newsletter January 1918, an underground student newspaper during WWI, Rice Institute

With the arrival of the ROTC, the freedom of college life took a backburner to military drills. 

Rice students did not take to these changes in silence. At the beginning of the spring semester in 1918, an anonymous student publication was distributed across campus. Aptly named Red TAPE it was full of scathing articles noting the discontent of the student body.

The publication listed grievances that stemmed from the implementation of the highly regimented schedule across the Rice Institute campus. The anonymous writer criticized the excessive use of permits needed to do anything “useful” between the hours of 7:30pm and 10pm. This, the article explains, interrupted the flow of scholarly work that students needed to complete in order to be successful in their courses. There were policies regulating every aspect of student life on campus and the writer stresses that this was not  what the War Department had intended in the implementation of the ROTC on college campuses. In fact, the writer goes on to stress that instead of the required 3 hours of training a week outlined by the ROTC, Rice students were committing to at least 5 hours and were instead forced to obey a strict schedule implemented by the institute's administration. The publication goes on to mock the 220 regulations set to inform the behavior of students and tell them how to "eat, sleep, dress, and go to church."

Letter from the Office of the President, January 1918

Letter responding to Red TAPE, 1918.

The publication prompted an uproar on campus by both students and the administration, and even received coverage by local papers. The administration responded quickly with a letter from the Board of Trustees issued by the Office of the President on January 26, 1918 scolding the publication and the students behind it for not taking the proper routes to issue formal complaints. Towards the end of the letter an agenda is described for the following week in which the administration planned to respond: appeal will be made on Monday morning to the offending students to cease their rebellious attitude and conform to the rules and regulations of the Institute. At the same time the President, members of the Board of Trustees, and possibly others interested in the student body, will endeavor to show them the error of their way and urge obedience to rules and regulations. Every student will then be called upon to state to the Trustees and Faculty whether he will obey the rules and regulations of the Instittue so long as they are in force. Those who refuse thus to pledge themselves will be immediately dismissed from the school with directions to return to their homes.

The letter goes on to request that parents urge their children to "submit cheerfully" to all rules.

A parent wrote an open letter to a local newspaper in response to the letter sent January 26, the following is an excerpt:

I am not at all surprised to know that there was no formal complaint made before the distribution of ''the scurrilous document" to which you refer. The thing which would have surprised me would have been if the student body had been able to get through the barbed tape entanglements at the foot of the tower, so as to make a formal complaint. I tried it once myself, was denied admittance when asked to be allowed to telephone to Mr. Lovett on an urgent matter and was flatly denied. I finally got hold of Mr.McCants, who further denied me the opportunity to talk for two or three minutes with Dr. Lovett.

At a meeting to address the concerns of students, Captain James A. Baker is quoted by one local newspaper as saying

Rice is not a military school, and only has this feature as long as the war lasts. It is hard to convert  an academic school into a military school in the course of a few months. Rules not properly enforced cause disrepect for military rule. We all feel that the things asked for are reasonable and, under the existing conditions we granted them.

The meeting abolished the call to quarters, guard duty, taps, and roll call, and formed a student association with the president of each of the four classes as members to consult with President Lovett in the future.