Good morrow! Earlier this week, we began the exciting tale of UMD’s regal history. Gather ’round as we complete the saga of King Tom II and his amazing reign!
King Tom was a leader for the masses! Oscillating between the regal register and casual “party” lingo, it was his wit and blithe approach to politics that captivated many voters. He and his merry court espoused an extreme platform targeting campus security and safety in an outrageous, neo-medieval vision. Their promises included:
“constructing a moat filled with ‘fine, cold imported lager’ around the campus to protect the ‘peasants;’ breeding larger and slower cockroaches for dorms and dining halls, making it easier to catch and kill them; and installing gargoyles to beautify campus buildings.”
According to His Benevolence, the alcoholic safeguard would deter intruders via intoxication, while also transporting the campus to an Arthurian grandeur. Wading through beer, aggressors would become too drunk to walk before they could ever reach his realm, and students would have a free supply of spirits year-round!
The Diamondback also reported a proposal to erect a 30-foot, clear acrylic cube on McKeldin Mall because, as King Tom II stated, “[‘modern’ art [was] in.” Additionally, the King ensured improvements to the Student Tutorial Academic and Referral Center—he decreed that current exams and answer keys be made available during finals.
While charmingly irreverent, strong political dissent under-girded King Tom’s playful antics. The King and his regime envisioned humor as the key to positive collaboration between students and university administration, and they were largely successful. The new monarch himself harshly assessed his predecessors as “a lot of young bureaucrats out there making a little resume for themselves,” and constituents overwhelmingly agreed.
“We’re not so serious about [the] campaign… But we’re serious about implementing change… [I’m] not a reactionary or a radical. I get along well with the administration.. I want to work with them. If we go against them it’s going to be counter-productive.”
Skeptics of his Highness remained wary of his highjinks, however, worrying that a lackadaisical attitude towards student government might lead to gross negligence in allocating the over-$70,000 student activities budget. Some aggressive opponents even denounced King Tom II’s platform as so irresponsible that it would single-handedly lead to the suspension of the SGA by the university administration.
Despite such anxieties and criticisms however, King Tom admirably managed student affairs with his signature comedic aplomb. A Diamondback interview with then-University President John Toll about King Tom’s II 1986 speech to the Board of Regents suggests that the administration fully supported his dynastic rule. “[King Tom II did] a good job in the basic policy decisions, but at the same time [made the Committee on Student Relations] fun for everybody,” explained President Toll, who was reported as laughing several times during the royal address. To read the royal speech in full, click here.
Yet, although King Tom II imbued SGA activities with fun throughout his term, he also governed seriously. The Monarchists successfully lobbied for a more student-inclusive renaming of the student union in 1986. The building’s name was modified in 1983 from the “Student Union” to the “Adele H. Stamp Union,” a small, but significant alteration for campus morale; many students had been distressed by the possibility that their removal from the title might signify the de-emphasis of student services in this central campus building. King Tom II also endeavored to revive the Student Tutorial Academic and Referral Center auto assistance program and supported an escort service to ensure campus safety. Arguably, the most famous of his initiatives in office, however, was a series of carefully crafted proposals and budgets for his $4.5 billion beer moat to surround the campus. The project was never fully realized, but included pricing for glass tubing to preserve the delicacy of various hops and a nuclear submarine for stealthy policing, as well as solicitations for designs from the University of Maryland Engineering and Architecture departments.
Long Live the King!
To celebrate King Tom’s landslide victory, he and his subjects held an extravagant coronation, in addition to the standard SGA swearing-in. On December 3, 1985, amidst cries of “Hail to the King!” and blaring trumpets, former SGA offices swore in their new monarch with much pomp and circumstance.
“Bishop” Barchan dubbed King Tom II the “close comrade of the residents, friend of the Greeks, protector of the weak and defender of the meek… reviler of the nerd… Ayatollah of rock ‘n’ rollah… and preserver of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happy hour.” The Diamondback reported that “a crowd of over 50 subjects gathered to solute their new king and his royal officers, ushering in a new enthusiasm for SGA activities on campus.”
Unsatisfied with this small gathering, however, the King commissioned a larger ceremony as part of LaPlata’s Beach Blowout celebration– an annual Student Entertainment Enterprises (SEE) sponsored gala– in 1986. To begin the festivities, King Tom, brandishing a two-foot-long sword and speaking of prophecy, marched in a procession beginning at the Stamp Student Union and ending at Fraternity Row, blessing campus buildings on his way. An entourage of members from the campus Veterans Club, dressed in beefeater suits, four members of the Maryland Medieval Mercenary Militia dressed as knights, campus police, and countless student subjects, toting the Monarchist sigil (a banner embroidered with a beer stein), escorted King Tom II.
Braving unseasonal 40-degree temperatures, subjects gathered later in the evening on LaPlata Beach for regal entertainment, including The Royal Band—King Tom II, Chancellor of the Exchequer James Reardon, Duke Sir Paul and Gill Leigh, SEE concert director. These troubadours performed a rendition of The Sex Pistol’s infamous “God Save The Queen,” with King Tom II as their front man and lead singer. Rejoicing heartily, the King was reported to have sprained his ankle while dancing to “Black Market Baby.” During the festivities, King Tom II was again crowned with a bejeweled cardboard diadem and bequeathed a royal orb (croquet ball), a medallion, and a royal scepter on a stage in front of hundreds of people.
His Beneficence carried over his major promise of a beer-filled moat into his second campaign and term the following academic year, along with new goals to eradicate all “Baby on Board” signs and change the mathematical equivalent of pi to 3. He became the first candidate ever re-elected as president of the University of Maryland SGA. In an unexpected turn of events, in January 1986, King Tom resigned due to academic and physical duress. Complications related to two broken legs he sustained attending a Marine Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, the previous summer caused his grades and commitment to SGA to suffer. He therefore abdicated for the school’s well-being.
Return of the King—King James I
Despite King Tom’s untimely departure from office, the Monarchy Party remained active on campus. Having run an even-cheaper campaign than the Monarchy ticket, defeated 1986 candidate, Jim Risner was integrated into the SGA by King Tom and dubbed Sir James of Parking Lot 4. Groomed as regal successor, Jim Risner became the next king to be elected and was crowned King James I in 1988. According to Wikipedia, the main rallying cry for this election was “Vote Moat or Implode.” In addition to keeping true to the long-standing Monarchy Party platform to construct a beer-filled moat, King James I attempted to get jousting performed during halftime at the Maryland Terrapin football games. Little else is known about his platform or exploits.
A Legacy of Mystery
After their time in office, the activities and whereabouts of both kings remain a perplexing mystery. Wikipedia reports that King Tom II later served in U.S.Marine Corps during the Gulf War, and then as a Maryland State Trooper, affectionately dubbed “Super-duper Trooper Cooper.” Dwindling in number, the success of the party was slowly forgotten, as the university greeted the 1990s. Yet, while the royal line remains dormant, King Tom II’s significant impact on campus politics lives on. He proved his abilities to maintain a light atmosphere with unusual campaign promises, while effectively performing SGA tasks, illustrating that regardless of academic rank, athletic career, or social status, any motivated student can make a difference in campus politics.
Do you have your own tale to tell?
In our efforts to revive the lost Monarchist legend, the Archives seeks photographs, memorabilia, and personal accounts of both the reign of King Tom II and the reign of King James I. Additionally, if you were a member of the Monarchy Party, or remain in touch with anyone on the executive board, please contact us! We’d love to know what’s happened to our valiant Kings and their courts.
This post complements the series by graduate student assistant Jen Wachtel, who is collecting data for the Diamondback Digitization Project. Check out the Twitter hashtag #digiDBK or the DigiDBK tag on the blog for previous posts, and look for her posts every other Monday.
The Diamondback provides a crucial student perspective on student activities on campus, As the university’s primary student newspaper, Diamondback reporting is essential to the history of the University of Maryland. The University Archives is digitizing the entire run of the newspaper, which is now currently available on microfilm.Thanks to generous donors and our successful Launch UMD campaign, The Diamondback will be online and searchable in 2016.