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The 'M' book: helping first years navigate college life since the 19th century

By Lauren Ceronie
On September 29, 2011

By this time in the semester, most first years probably feel like they have the Miami University routine down. Everyone knows his or her way around campus, knows the people in their residence halls and knows the good places to go uptown. This is the way adjusting to a new place usually works, but Miami students used to have a bit of help adjusting to the Miami lifestyle through the trusty "M" Book.

The "M" Book first appeared at Miami in 1925. It was a pocket-sized handbook with an "M" emblazoned on the cover telling first-years everything they needed to know about college life. Similar pocket-sized handbooks had been appearing sporadically at the university since 1887, but no book was published yearly until 1925.

The introduction of the 1947 "M" book declared, "This is it. It is sometimes known as the Hand-Book. It is the Freshman ‘Bible' and one should read it cover to cover, assimilate its contents and digest them thoroughly. It is published mainly for the yearlings, so, reader, if you are a Freshman, peruse its contents thoroughly, or if you are an upperclassmen, read it so you can answer the Frosh questions intelligently."

The books contained helpful hints for students in a section called "What freshmen ought to know," as well as fight songs, calendars, lists of student organizations and lists of faculty. In 1897, the university had only 14 faculty members, all listed in the handbook. The books also mention The Miami Student as an organization to join.

A special For Women Only "M" Book was also published at the university with helpful hints on what to wear to class, how to be a good hostess and appropriate ways to interact with men.

The "M" Books were published yearly until 1973 when the practice was discontinued. According to "The History of the ‘M' Book," the culture and student attitudes in the 1960s made the book's contents about school spirit and university tradition less relevant to students.

The "M" Book made a comeback in 2000 after Associated Student Government members rediscovered the handbook. It was discontinued again after 2003 due to lack of funding, however. The book was brought back again in 2006 with the hope it would be published for a few years after.

The 2006 "M" Book contained a letter from the president of the university, a history of Miami, university traditions, advice on living in Oxford and, of course, the helpful hints. The hints today include "don't walk on the Seal," "play broomball" and "study for exams." It also gives directions on how to do laundry and has a glossary of "Miami words."

By this time, first years probably feel comfortable on campus, but if they want some extra advice, they can always rely on a trusty handbook.

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