Although the country was locked in civil conflict since 1861, the normal exercises of Furman University continued until the summer of 1862. It was during July that the trustees met at the call of the President in order to discuss pressing issues facing the university, faculty, and students. It was at this special delegation that the faculty reported that “while [we] regret the necessity which has compelled the suspension of the exercises of the University—to wit, the enlistment of the young men in the army—cannot but admire the patriotic devotion to their country’s cause, which they have thus evinced” (Minutes 123). Not only did many of the students join the army, but they were also joined by many of their professors as this conflict continued to wage on. However, for the professors that did not find themselves in the ranks of the army, the dire need for a steady income was a pressing matter. It was at this same convention that the trustees voted to allow many of the professors at Furman University to teach at the Female College (Minutes 123). Moreover, the normal exercises of the university (as well as its students and faculty) did not resume until the resolution of the conflict.
From the time of its inception up until its temporary closure during the American Civil War, Furman University was much different than it is today. While many of these differences are rooted in the fact that Furman was a Baptist theological institute, they greatly impacted the way in which the school operated and the perceived student life on campus. For one, the university only enrolled approximately 155 students from across the Southeast. Most students were from South Carolina, and the majority of these found themselves from Greenville and upstate region. However, the student body also had students from Louisiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. These students went through a very different application process than is administered today. Due to the Baptist affiliation, an applicant “must give satisfactory evidence of good moral character, and his attainments are such as to enable him to prosecute with advantage the prescribed course of study” (Catalogue 11). This implies that upon application, he must already know his desired course of study.
Upon entry into Furman University, the student would then find many of the same departments one would discover today ranging from English to classics to philosophy. Classes would meet for approximately and hour to an hour and a half for a set number of mornings a week (much like they do today). However, unlike today, the school year was divided into two equally long semesters of nineteen weeks instead of the revised trimester system used today. Also, the longest break of the year was not summer break, but rather winter break as the students would be home from December 20th until the first Wednesday in March. As tuition rates surpass 30,000 dollars today, tuition in 1858 was approximately fifteen to twenty-one dollars per course. Interestingly enough, Furman required that students who lived a considerable distance from campus, must have a faculty member or Greenville citizen appointed as their “patron of their sons or wards, and to deposit with him all funds for defraying the expenses of the year, with special instruction in reference to its distribution” (Catalogue 37). This is a great example of another major difference between Furman in 1858 and today. There existed a much closer relationship between the university and the parents of the students. Another good example of this is that a monthly report was sent home which traced each student’s academic work and progress as well as his financial expenditures.
Outside of academia, Furman looked entirely different than it does today. Many of the rules outlined in the catalogues demonstrate this difference. For example, tobacco and alcohol were prohibited, chapel attendance was required, fighting or dueling were grounds for expulsion, cursing and profane language were seen as highly offensive and severely punishable, and a demerit system was used in assigning punishments for actions. It is due to these reasons and more that one can plainly see that the academic as well as social environment on campus was entirely different than it is today.