Since the El Paso Junior College closed its doors in 1927, and the Liberal Arts courses from that school were transferred to the College of Mines, there has been a divide between students studying engineering, and the pedagogues, or “peedoggies” who were not engineers. While the vitriol that can be found in issues of The Prospector that was traded between the colleges has cooled over the years, lingering evidence of the rift can still be found. One notable remnant is the “green line” painted by engineers in order to separate the campus.
The College of Mines and Metallurgy was founded as a mining school and catered to the needs of engineering students. The engineers were expected to be tough and sardonic, emulating the character of the Dean of Engineering, John W. Kidd. The future engineers resented the influx of those interested in the humanities; they did not chew tobacco as was expected of the engineers, nor did they “speak French” by excessive cursing as was the norm for engineers according to Dean Kidd. Future engineers became increasingly resistant to the changes occurring in the premiere mining school in Texas and were unwilling to accept the “peedoggies.”
Due to the higher volume of pedagogues, the school’s name was changed to Texas Western College in 1949, the change was more than the engineers were willing to stand and they had had enough. The engineering students under the guidance of their dean painted the first “green line” across campus. The line denoted a boundary between the School of Engineering and the hated Liberal Arts College. It was painted between what is now Quinn Hall and Prospect Hall and separated the west side of campus from the east, engineer from pedagogue.
The painting of the “green line” is still an annual event at UTEP, and is one of the events in which engineering students participate during “M Day.” According to Mr. Willie Quinn at the UTEP Heritage House, other engineering traditions, such as the freshman initiation at Oro Grande, were far more harrowing. While some students still endure the kissing of the “blarney stone,” they are not blindfolded and forced to crawl across a narrow wooden plank over what they are told is a mineshaft 50 feet deep. Although the hole they traversed was a mere 2 or 3 feet, the “slime” as Mr. Quinn refers to the unfortunate initiates (including himself), believed they were in imminent danger of a catastrophic fall. The galvanizing effect on the young engineers only strengthened their resolve to maintain a distant relationship with the humanities and the line remains present, if not quite as divisive.
For more information about the engineering-liberal arts rivalry, see “The Wet Stope” in The Prospector.
[Post by Matthew J. Liden; Sources: El Burro, 1953-1954; Nancy Hamilton, UTEP: A Pictorial History of the University of Texas at El Paso; The Prospector; interview with Willie Quinn, March 25, 2013]
Matthew Liden is a student in the history master's program at UTEP.