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Series I. Subject Files,, 1965-1981


  • 1965-1981

Scope and Content Note

From the Sub-Group:

The Dean's files are arranged into three series: Subject Files, Budgets Files, and Committee Files. The Subject Files series comprises the largest part of the Dean's Files - Group II. The inclusive dates span 1965 through 1981 and the bulk of the material relates to the years 1972-1976.

The types of records included in the series represent an array of communications that took place between the Dean's Office and various departmental and administrative branches of Douglass College, as well as communications between the Dean's Office and administrators and personnel throughout the university. These communications take the form of formal reports, financial records, meeting agendas and minutes, memoranda, correspondence, and informal notes. They deal with financial and budgetary matters, data collection and statistical analyses, program and curricular proposals, personnel issues and evaluations of faculty/staff, discussions and dissemination of policies and procedures, and many other topics that were of concern to the Douglass College Dean's Office. Many of the documents are copies - carbon, mimeograph and xerox, (the later deteriorating most rapidly). Some of the documents have handwritten margin notations or attachments, revealing what were no doubt spontaneous reactions to issues that were more deliberative in subsequent formal responses .

The Subject Files are an important source of information concerning the ways and means by which the Dean's Office functioned during the period of reorganization. Records generated for mundane purposes as well as documents with a higher profile reflect how various activities were being redefined and redirected. They also provide a window into moments of resistance, capitulation, and resolution.

The primary purpose of most of the communications in the Subject Files series was to impart routine details about administrative operation. One has to pick through these vital but unexceptional documents to find their connection to loftier educational goals. Exploring the file's contents for a closer reading of the story of women's education at Douglass College and employing them to trace the evolution of Douglass College's special mission during this critical period is problematic. While there are many references made to Douglass' "special mission," nowhere is there in the documents a definitive explanation of that mission. It's meaning was always assumed. Likewise, the importance of women's education is defended on numerous occasions, and the records include evidence of discussions concerned with single sex education versus co-education. (There were some at Douglass College who believed that the new coeducational opportunities offered at some of the other Rutgers colleges were undermining Douglass' attractiveness.) But the records in this particular series contribute little about the theoretical underpinnings of women's education. In several other ways the Subject files are limited. Many folders contain documents that omit coverage of certain years. For instance, one department file may contain documents created after Dean Foster left office and another file may totally lack evidence beyond 1976. Other folders appear incomplete because only a few documents have been inserted, and these pertain to only a single issue - budgetary matters, for example. It is also interesting to note that the transfer of authority from one dean to the next appears seamless. There is no mention of resignation, search, disruption or inconvenience.

The above caveats not withstanding, the Subject Files do provide a vital record of the administrative functioning of the Dean's Office. Files related to the Associate Alumnae Office offer evidence of the important public relations and development role Douglass College Deans played. They indicate the considerable amount of time the Dean devoted to attending special occasions, lending herself out as a figurehead and embodiment of Douglass College. The admissions files show how the Dean and the college sought ways to respond to a number of factors having an impact on applications and enrollment. Demographic changes, the centralization of admissions and registration, and new state mandates for education were a few of the areas that were under investigation. The department files are particularly informative with regards to instruction and the extent to which the Dean had authority over the disciplines. The Dean's Office and Douglass College departments mediated between a conception of a college as an organization of students and an understanding that instruction involved faculties and disciplines. Closely related to this issue was the tension that existed between undergraduate teaching and graduate supervision and research. The department files demonstrate on a case by case basis how these problems were worked out in practice. (The folders that relate to the topic of reorganization provide a view of the problem worked out conceptually, however incompletely, on a university wide level.) It is also clearly evident in the department files that Douglass College Deans occupied the uncomfortable position of go-between. They represented the interests of both their own departments and the university administration, pleading and placating with both as required. The process of incorporation into the New Brunswick Departments and the effects of physical relocation are also exposed in these types of files

A fairly comprehensive collection of documents are related specifically to the university's reorganization plans. Reports, memoranda, as well as personal correspondence and notes on the topic are found in the Centralization subseries, the Master Plan subseries, and the folders titled University Organization and the Provost's Office. It should be noted that reactions and responses to the various reorganization plans are abundant and scattered among all of the files.

The administration of three deans are represented in the Subject Files series: Margery Somers Foster, 1967-1975; Paula P. Brownlee, 1975-1976 (acting); and Jewel Plummer Cobb, 1976-1981. (The voice of Dean Brownlee is almost indiscernible in the files, but Deans Foster and Cobb are prominent, though rarely equally represented in any individual file.) The files reveal an almost seamless transition from one dean's tenure in office to the next. None of the records indicate that Dean Foster resigned due to differences with University administration, nor do they record any reactions to the new dean resulting from any sort of trauma due to these events. Differences in administrative style and professional focus, however, may be discerned, and, more significantly, clear evidence is available of the changing demands required from the Dean's Office. The records illustrate that both Foster and Cobb sought ways to make relevant for a new generation of women Douglass College's mission. The deans encouraged efforts to put Douglass College at the forefront of women's studies and they emphasized the preparation of women for careers outside traditional fields. It is significant that the discipline that was foremost in establishing Douglass College, Home Economics, was eschewed by both Dean Foster and Dean Cobb.

Language of Materials

From the Sub-Group:


Part of the Rutgers University Archives Repository

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