Was the 1926 Floating University a Failure?

In 1926 an American university went to sea and caused an international scandal. Could it still be considered a success?

Students on board the Floating University, from Walter Harris, Photographs of the First University World Cruise (1927). Courtesy of the author, Walter C. Harris, University Travel Association.

On the morning of 6 November 1926, readers of the Detroit Free Press woke to sensational front-page headlines: ‘Sea Collegians Startle Japan with Rum Orgy.’ ‘More than a hundred students, among whom six girls were to be noticed, were doing intensive laboratory work this evening, in the bar of the Imperial Hotel’, continued the article. American newspaper correspondents, it later turned out, had themselves been at the bar of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo when the students flooded in, having climbed down the sides of their recently docked ship and snuck onto shore. Knowing promising copy when they saw it, the correspondents fed the story back to the United States, where it quickly appeared in newspapers across the country.

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