The Office of the Dean of Students was created by the board of
trustees in 1964 in response to findings developed in a 1961 trustee
report, which proposed changes to simplify and improve Oberlin Colleges
administration. Previously, student affairs was the responsibility
of the principal (for women until 1894), the excusing officer (for
men until 1895), and the dean of men and the dean of women in the
twentieth century. The dean of students, reporting to the president,
directs and coordinates all offices concerned with student services.
In order to create functional rather than gender-oriented job divisions,
the offices of dean of men and dean of women were eliminated in
1971. Bernard S. Adams was dean of students between 1964 and 1966;
George E. Langeler, his successor, served as dean between 1966 and
The Office of the Dean of Students merged with the Office of Student
Support Services on January 1, 1990. Patrick Penn headed this new
division as dean of student life and services between 1990 and 1995.
His office was responsible for coordinating student life and support
services, along with ensuring the timely graduation of all enrolled
students. Charlene Cole 74 replaced Penn as dean of student life
and services in July, 1995.
Scope and Content
Organized into eight subgroups, each with several series, the
records date from 1928 to 1995. Three subgroups, I. Administrative
Records, V. Student Union, and VI. Housing and Dining, are especially
useful in studying the architectural history of Oberlin College.
For the researcher interested in cooperatives, dining facilities,
dormitories, and the student union (Wilder Hall), this collection
is not to be missed.
The records from the Dean of Students office are most valuable
in revealing the importance of the campus physical environment
to students educational, political, recreational, and social activities.
Records explore the relationship between architecture and philosophy,
psychology, values, and quality of life. The desire for a sense
of community, harmony, utility, and comfort is repeated throughout
The first subgroup, Administrative Files, contains some folders
that relate tangentially to Oberlin architecture. The dean of students
was involved in the campus built environment only in ways that
directly affected student life. Thus, when housing is discussed
in this offices annual reports and by various committees, such
as Institutional Research and Space Allocation, architecture is
only important as a facilitator or an obstacle to programs and policies.
For example, students wanted dormitories to promote studying, thinking,
and sharing, according to the 1974 Institutional Research Committee
report. Physical arrangements, such as noise-reducing carpeting
and new kitchenettes, were means to those ends. Structural changes
to facilities were also important to the Committee for Interests
of the Physically Disabled to promote accessibility. Other valuable
committee files include those of the Subcommittee on Dorms and Housing,
1968, and the Living and Learning Committee, 1971. Various other
folders in General Files have a similar philosophical and utilitarian
approach to Oberlins built environment.
While one is likely to find mention of the facilities in sections
of the Student Union annual reports, the bulk of architectural information
in subgroup V is in Series 3 Student Union Committees, and in
Series 4 Wilder Hall. As early as 1955, students suggested converting
the Mens Building, or Wilder Hall, into a student union. In 1956,
the Student Union Committee was formed to plan and establish this
building. This group considered finances, facilities, government,
and the philosophy and purpose of student unions at other campuses
when making recommendations. For instance, the folders relating
to Wilder Hall detail the planning and activitiesincluding budgets,
floor plans, and plans for the snack barsurrounding Oberlins
student union. In 1990-1991, the main lounge of Wilder Hall was
renovated after several years of planning with input from the Architectural
Review Committee and from architectural firm Van Dijk, Johnson and
Partners, Cleveland, Ohio. One planning binder, 1987-1991, contains
budgetary information, correspondence, meeting minutes, and negotiations
with architects and construction personnel regarding this project.
Also included are copies of 50 architectural drawings of Wilder
Hall by J.L. Silsbee, 1905; six by J.A.B., 1944; and eight by J.
Sondles, 1955. Duplicate drawings exist for the Silsbee blueprints
of Wilder Hall.
From the details of dormitory decor to long-term planning, subgroup
VI documents housing and dining at Oberlin College from the perspective
of the students and their deans. Included are series of annual reports,
budget records, committee papers, correspondence, dormitory files,
building administration and use files, building maintenance and
renovation files, and feneral files. The administration and use
series, and the maintenance-renovation files, detail the relationship
between architecture and functionalism at particular buildings.
Occupying about 8 l.f., these records primarily document a wide
range of renovation and construction activity in the 1970s and 1980s,
but also include material on the refinishing of Dascomb and Barrows.
In 1985, an $11 million bond issue made possible dormitory renovationsincluding
1986 improvements to Baldwin Cottage and to Talcott, North, and
Tank hallsand the construction of the North Campus dining/ social
facility (Stevenson Hall). Files in this collection include information
gathered before the bonds approval. For example, the Building Audit
of 1984 describes and evaluates individual dormitories foundations,
internal supports, HVAC systems, windows, and other structural features.
Similarly, a Facilities Notebook compiled by the Housing and Dining
Halls Office between 1983 and 1985 provides the maintenance history,
special building characteristics, floor plans, renovation needs
ranking, custodial questionnaire, and dormitory facts for every
dormitory from Allencroft to Zechiel. Meanwhile, the dean of students
office was actively planning improvements to the dining program,
culminating in the opening of Stevenson Hall in 1989.
The correspondence, planning documents, meeting minutes, reports,
facilities evaluations, cost projections, budgets, and floor plans
in the records of the dean of students are rich in information on
housing and dining facilities, and on the student union, at Oberlin