Veterans and Student Life
The student experience for veterans at Syracuse was not quite the same as their non-veteran counterparts. Many engaged in common student activities: they wrote for the Daily Orange, participated in athletics, and attended dances. But many veterans also did not feel truly a part of campus life for a variety of reasons. A large number of them lived off campus, had different life experiences than non-veterans, and started college later in life. Of the 2.3 million veterans who attended colleges and universities between 1945 and 1950, over half were married. As a result of these differences, many Syracuse University veterans socialized more often with each other than with non-veteran students and formed their own organizations, such as the Women Veterans Association and the American Veterans Committee.
Older and more experienced, veteran students challenged a number of campus traditions at Syracuse University. First-year students had long been required to wear beanies to identify their freshman status, but expecting a former military officer to don one was quickly recognized as inappropriate. Veterans were also unhappy with the seating arrangement during games at Archbold Stadium. Traditionally, women and men students sat in separate sections, but many married veterans insisted on sitting with their spouses during football games.
Balking at the gender-segregated seating in Archbold Stadium, veterans pushed back, and eventually the University discarded the rule.
From the 1940s until 1952, the Student Union was located in a house at 405 University Place. Attached to the back of the house was a temporary building which included a diner, a favorite spot on campus for many veterans.
“We weren’t college kids,” says [Frank] Funk. “We were veterans, by God. We were people whose lives had been interrupted by the war. I mean, here were people who’d been shot at. I’d bailed out of a plane and ended up in a German prisoner of war camp. We’d lived in mud in tents in Italy. We’d gone through all sorts of privation. We’d been through a lot, and we didn’t have time for what we thought of as silly traditions.” -Alexandra Eyle, “Once the War Was Over,” Syracuse University Magazine, February 1987