September 1790

Controlling the Celebration

For many years, Brown’s commencement was a public celebration that drew observers from around the state. As historian Janet Phillips describes it, “Although much of it was conducted in Latin or Greek and was over the audience’s heads, it drew a large, mixed, and often boisterous crowd, the more respectable ones dressed to the nines and the rowdier ones ready to get drunk.” In 1790, the College asked the General Assembly to have the Providence County Sheriff attend future commencements “to preserve the peace, good order, and decorum,” a tradition that continues today.