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Identifier: RG 19/A0/02

Dean of Douglass College (Group II) Records


  • 1965-1981

Scope and Content Note

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.


6.4 Cubic Feet (16 manuscript boxes)

Language of Materials



Records generated by the Office of the Dean of Douglass College during the administrations of Margery Somers Foster, Paula P. Brownlee, and Jewel Plummer Cobb, 1965-1981. During this time period Rutgers University witnessed enormous change, much of which had an impact on Douglass College, including the move to turn the previous all-male Rutgers College into a coeducational unit of the university, student protests over civil rights and the Vietnam War, and a major reorganization of Rutgers that transformed Douglass College from an academic college to a residence college. The records vividly document the position of the Douglass College deans in reaction to this events.

Douglass College: A Brief History

Douglass College presently enrolls some 3400 students, which makes it the largest women's college in the United States. The school enjoys a national reputation as a center for research, public service, and community outreach focusing on women, and it is the home of a premier women's studies program. The inclusive dates of the Dean's Files II --1965-1981)--which are described below, encompass an important period in the college's history, a period that helped to direct the school to its present identity. Administratively, it was a time of transition. The basic functions of the Dean's Office were altered, reflecting what amounted to a redefinition and restructuring of the college's relationship with Rutgers University.

Because a relationship between Douglass College and Rutgers has existed since the school's founding, and because the functions of the Dean's Office have evolved in a proportional manner to the changes occurring to that relationship, an examination of this relationship seems in order. The brief review that follows provides a context for understanding the affiliation between Douglas College and Rutgers, and contribute to a greater appreciation of the many references which are made in the Dean's records to federation, centralization and reorganization.

Early Years, 1918-1967:

Douglass College was established in 1918 as New Jersey College for Women. In the larger scheme of things, its founding represented broad historical forces at work, and may be understood as both the outcome of Progressive Era activism and the product of national and state feminist mobilization. But the immediate impetus for creating a women's college for New Jersey, which was without a college for women, came from the vigorous lobbying of the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs. A committee, led by Mrs. Mabel Smith Douglass, was constituted to organize support for the project. Its members came to recognize that affiliation with Rutgers College would provide a firm foundation for the new school, which was without a major benefactor who might otherwise endow the college so that it could stand alone. The arrangement they conceived resembled Barnard College's association with Columbia University and Pembroke's with Brown. Through persuasion and persistent pressure on those in positions of influence, the idea of a women's college gained favor and a connection with Rutgers College was given serious consideration. It was the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917, however, (which enlarged on the Morrill Act of 1862), that provided the all important mechanism for financing the establishment of the college. It also cemented the new school's alliance with Rutgers. The Smith-Hughes Act appropriated funds for the teaching of Home Economics at land-grant colleges. Since Rutgers was a land grant college the Trustees of Rutgers College agreed to allocate these funds to support the formation of New Jersey College of Women. They preceded to organize it as a department of Rutgers. It is noteworthy that they determined that financial maintenance was to be kept strictly separate from Rutgers. The legislature's underwriting for the new school resembled the structure for the College of Agriculture. In this manner, NJC (its popular acronym), was granted autonomy while at the same time it was incorporated as part of a larger whole. This status was given official recognition in 1930, when the State Board of Regents identified the women's division as an autonomous college within Rutgers University.

Thus from its inception, Douglass College occupied its own orbit within the larger university system. Management of the college was entrusted to a committee of Rutgers Board of Trustees, which included members of the State Federation of Women's Clubs. This was a policy making body whose actions were subject to review by the Rutgers Trustees. A separate fiscal office was set-up and the college was given a separate budget. In keeping with their mandate, it fell to the Deans to go to the state legislature in Trenton to make their requests for the college's appropriations.

It was fitting that Mabel Smith Douglass accepted the position as NJC's first dean. She served until 1933. Her administration is often portrayed as highly personal. Her forceful character and strongly opinionated views on women's education left an imprint on the school that lasted well beyond her deanship. Administrative precedent that shaped future policy, as well as college social traditions were her legacy. Under her supervision the college's first buildings were erected and student enrollment grew to 1,157.

In 1927 NJC was authorized to enlarge its faculty, which had previously been composed mainly of Rutgers professors. This allowed NJC to attract and cultivate a faculty whose allegiance was to the women's college. Dean Douglass also expressed reluctance to allow NJC faculty participation in graduate teaching. These dual aims for faculty development - college loyalty and emphasis on undergraduate instruction - continued to shape relations between the Dean's Office, NJC faculty, and Rutgers University administrators well into the Deanship of Margery Somers Foster.

Throughout its early history, NJC charted a middle of the road course, intentionally avoiding controversies that might jeopardize its position. Although the school enjoyed the status its association with a colonial college bestowed, but it never achieved the prestige held by the elite colleges for women found in the east. Its student body, drawn from the state's public school population, did not represent members of the upper economic strata, as students at the "sister"colleges did, but, rather, reflected the population diversity of the state.

Margaret Trumbull Corwin became Dean of NJC in 1934 and guided the school with a steady hand through the Depression and War years. At the end of her tenure, the name New Jersey College for Women, a confusing and awkward appellate, was changed to Douglass College, honoring its first Dean. A year later Rutgers passed under the control of the State of New Jersey by legislative amendment to the original colonial charter. A Board of Governors was created to oversee the institution's affairs. By this action, Douglass College along with it parent institution became a part of the State University, a public corporation.

Dean Corwin was followed in 1955 by Mary Ingraham Bunting, a geneticist from Yale University. As a vigorous proponent for expansion in order to meet the changing needs of New Jersey's young women, Bunting was also an advocate for programs opening the doors to "returning women students. "A second wave of construction and enrollment growth began in the mid 1950s, and continued through the 1960s, reaching almost 3,000 in 1966. There was considerable expansion of its physical plant, which continued under Dean Ruth Marie Adams, (1960-1966), who succeeded Dean Bunting. At this time the college entered more fully into mainstream university involvement. Nevertheless, Adams saw to it that Douglass Deans preserved their authority for the college's affairs, a cause carried forth since the days of Dean Douglass and bequeathed to Adam's successors. A separate budget was retained with the university auditor's blessing. Significantly, the College became the model for the undergraduate colleges within the university system. That model gave each college its own faculty and its own student-life and student services apparatus, and encouraged definition by geographic residency. The college model called for multi-purpose educational goals.

The Federated College Plan, 1967:

The decade of the 1960s was notable for the tremendous challenges that demographic changes and social responses to those changes brought to American education. At this time Rutgers University confronted new demands on its resources created by the need to accommodate projections of increased enrollment and unique opportunities for physical expansion. As a consequence of the problems such growth created, a period of reorganization and restructuring was launched. The process and results profoundly altered the relationship of Douglass College to the University. In 1967 the Board of Governors directed the University to formulate a plan to deal with the effects of rapid physical expansion and a transformed educational mission. What emerged was the Federated College Plan. An important conceptual aspect of the Federation Plan included the reconciliation of collegiate and disciplinary interests, which had seemed increasingly at odds as the university grew. The Plan in its ideal form was to preserve the interests of the colleges by continuing their budgetary and academic autonomy. The interests of the disciplines, in turn, were to be augmented by the appointment of New Brunswick Chairman, who reported to a new Dean of the Liberal Arts Faculty. The new Dean was charged with mediating between the needs of the colleges and those of the disciplines, and the University's Provost was authorized to work with a Council of Deans to coordinate a wide range of academic activities. The implementation of the Federated College Plan initiated movement toward the centralization of university operations, and it represented a significant increase of authority over the individual colleges. The commencement of this process coincided with the beginning of the deanship at Douglass College of Margery Somers Foster.

Margery Somers Foster, 1968-1975:

Margery Somers Foster was born in Boston in 1914. She graduated from Wellesley College and earned her Ph.D. at Radcliffe. Before assuming her position at Douglass, she had most recently been Dean of Hollins College. Her tenure at Douglass College spanned seven years, 1968-1975, after which she remained at Rutgers University as an Economics Professor. Dean Foster's scholarly research focused on the economic history of colonial America. She had been a lecturer at the Harvard School of Business Administration, and her particular interests included public education and the special role of women's colleges.

Dean Foster was a forceful proponent for a federated college system for the various colleges and schools that composed Rutgers University. She was also a strong advocate for the maintenance of an independent Douglass College. Agreeing with her predecessors, Dean Foster believed that autonomy was essential if the school was to carry out its "special mission," the education of women. One paradigm mentioned in her notes proposes that the colleges at Rutgers be organized according to a Cambridge/Oxford model. In a document composed in October,1969 Dean Foster summarized her philosophy of higher education. She argued that a university should realize its unique position and do things in an "un-business like" way. Efficient corporate structures, she admonished, stymied academic freedom, which required protection if learning and research were to flourish. She asserted that decision making should be more dispersed and that faculty should have most of the power. In these statements, Dean Foster alludes to her study of the Overseers of Harvard University to support her contentions. She sums up by concluding that the situation at Rutgers did not require radical measures, but rather needed only a simple tune-up.

Her draft, Goals and Operating Objectives of Douglass College, composed in 1973, provides a snapshot of her conception of the college's "special mission," as well as the modifications of some of her previous positions. She states:

"The over-riding objective of Douglass College is, as one of the Federated Colleges: a) fully to participate in the graduate, research, and service activities of Rutgers University while at the same time b) providing rigorous academic training and career orientation for women who seek distinction in their chosen fields of post-graduate and professional endeavor, and c) serving as an experimental center and role model for furthering the development of women's talents."

Dean Foster struggled throughout her tenure to protect Douglass College's historic autonomy. During the period of reorganization she defended the college against what she considered unwarranted usurpation of its independence and sought to prevent the diminution of the authority of the Dean's Office. She went on record with her criticisms of the many studies, reports, recommendations and resolutions that were generated during this period. She was particularly disparaging of the ERA report, which she believed was premised on faulty and insufficient data. As noted, she was an advocate of a federated form of university management. The problems confronting the university, she believed, were the product of poor internal communications, and the solution did not require a new structure, but rather a modification of the Federated College Plan. Her continued opposition to centralization led to her resignation in 1975, (along with Dean Hess of Cook College).

Jewel Plummer Cobb, 1975-1981:

Jewel Plummer Cobb was Douglass College's sixth dean, assuming her position a year after Foster's resignation, during which time Paula P. Brownlee had been Acting Dean. Cobb was born in Chicago in 1924, where she spent her childhood. After graduating from Talladega College in Alabama, Cobb received her MA and Ph.D. from New York University. Considered an eminent cell biologist and cancer researcher, she authored over 30 publications, served on numerous civic, corporate and educational boards, and received many honorary degrees. Immediately prior to becoming Dean of Douglass College, Cobb had served as the Dean of Connecticut College, where she also taught zoology.

Dean Cobb professed a general concern for the education of women and a special interest in the development of minority women. It would appear that she was under no illusions about the new role of Douglass College's Dean. She recounted to her Alumnae Bulletin interviewer that she understood her function at Douglass College "as that of academic leader of the college community with the commitment to provide a constantly stimulating atmosphere for students and faculty." The Dean's Office, having lost the battle for autonomy adjusted its concerns toward the retention of Douglass College's "special mission," within the University. Cobb promised to preserve the school's identity as a women's college situated within the framework of the Federated College Plan. In support of this position she wrote:

"There is no doubt that a women's college, at least at this moment, is the only place where one can see in the classrooms a significant number of women role models as professors. And there is a freedom for students to develop themselves in the total lifestyle of a women's college that many young women at 17 and 18 might be reticent to maximize in a co-educational environment."

Dean Cobb represented these interests and throughout her Deanship worked to make the school's mission more inclusive. She left Douglass College in 1981 to become the President of California State University at Fullerton.

University Reorganization, 1967-1981:

The process of reorganization discussed above entailed a number of structural changes that were effected between 1967 and 1981. The process began with the Federated College Plan of 1967. By the end of the 1969 academic year, there were already university administrators calling for a major revamping of the plan. Meanwhile, the proposed creation of Cook College generated more views and counter views on the means to accomplishing university expansion. Dean Foster opposed a proposed merger of Cook with Douglass, but worked out a "partnership" plan in 1971, and Cook College was fashioned according to a Douglass College model. In another move toward greater centralization, the Board of Governors in 1972 approved the creation of a number of new vice presidencies and established a New Brunswick Provost. New Brunswick departments were formed to enhance the disciplines on a university wide basis. These revisions strengthened the Provost's position at the expense of the college deans.

Almost immediately, the revisions came under attack. The findings and recommendations of two committees, the Effective Resource Allocations Committee, appointed by Rutgers University President Edward J. Bloustein in January of 1973, and the Task Force on a Master Plan for New Brunswick, appointed by Provost Kenneth Wheeler in February 1973, called for more radical corrections to the Federated College Plan. The report on the Master Plan advised forming a single university wide school of arts and sciences, which would have overall responsibility for undergraduate education in liberal arts at New Brunswick. Individual college diversity was to be maintained by "special college programs." The ERA committee went even further and urged scuttling the Federated College Plan. Their blueprint proposed: 1) giving the Provost authority over budget and personnel matters for all college departments in New Brunswick. 2) Providing the college deans with responsibility for coordinating operations on their campuses. 3)Consolidating business offices under the Provost. And 4) letting the various college faculties retain their power to determine curriculum and degree requirements on their own campuses, subject to University Senate approval.

What ensued after the circulation of these reports included debates, discussions, counter recommendations and the formation of more committees to study the problems and proposed solutions. Trying to reconcile differences, Provost Wheeler advised reform rather than abandonment of the Federated College Plan. In April, 1974, the Senate appointed the Ad Hoc Committee to Evaluate the ERA and other Reports. This committee recommended retention of the Federated College Plan, but suggested, among other things, that cross-registration be made easier. This was an issue that was but the tip of the iceberg of a hotly contested problem pertaining to the integrity of college based curricular and graduation requirements. Referring to the mass of reports as "The Great Debate," President Bloustein asked the Board of Governors in October, 1974, to continue with the Federated College Plan, but to accept a list of eight resolutions he had set forth. The changes Bloustein requested shifted the balance of power from the colleges to the Provost' Office and the New Brunswick departments. Concurrently, directions were given to begin centralizing student services. These reforms, in fact, represented a major overhaul of the university system, and had an especially critical impact on Douglass College, dramatically altering the powers, functions and relationship vis-a-vis the university of the Dean and Douglass' faculty.

University wide acceptance for reorganization and the implementation of restructuring measures took years to achieve. In concluding his history of the Federated College Plan, Richard P. McCormick wrote that even by 1978 the plan and its revisions lacked consensual support. In 1980 the Provost in his annual report related what had taken place so far with regards to academic reorganization. A New Brunswick faculty of Arts and Sciences had been established to strengthen the college disciplines and other programs were in the process of being organized with various professional schools. The undergraduate colleges, he explained, still retained responsibility for achieving their special missions, administering student life programs, establishing admission and graduate requirements, and undertaking general advising. The newly created Body of Fellows at each college along with the college deans oversaw implementation of these activities. In 1982 the Provost reported that substantial progress had been made to fulfill the "educational objectives and recommendations set forth in the academic reorganization resolutions of the Board of Governors." (Which had adopted President Bloustein's resolutions). His report also mentioned that Cook College had been re-created as a professional school and that programs in Home Economics had been transferred into the college, signaling a new era for Douglass College.

Arrangement Note

The files of the Douglass College Dean's Files (Group II) are primarily ordered alphabetically by subject. Within each folder the records exist in a chronological sequence, with the most recent date at the front. The physical arrangement of the files was initially completed in 1981 and 1982. The present file description has not altered in any way the original order or intellectual arrangement of the files. Each folder has been replaced at the time of producing this description with acid free folders and labeled according to the original title assignations. It should be noted that several significant folders originally described on the 1982 folder list were found to be no longer in the file boxes in 1995. The missing folders are: Administration - Job Descriptions. 1970-1971 (includes "Views on Douglass Deanship" 1976); Centralization - Special Reports; Women's Center (Studies). 1972-1975 (includes status reports); and from the Associate Alumnae File, "Brief Summary of Alumnae Highlights" 1973-1978.

Below are descriptions of the contents of the folders that comprise the Subject Files series of the Dean's Files II group. The intent of this finding aid is to provide a more detailed description of the folder's contents to complement the already existing series list. An effort has been made to draw attention to particularly significant records. The descriptions, however, are summaries, and there has been no attempt to catalog individual documents. The evaluation of the intellectual content has been mainly concerned with an analysis of the evolving functions of the Dean's Office and its relations with other college and university offices and departments.

Each folder description indicates the approximate file size and denotes which dean or deans were in office during the file's creation. A description of the type of records found within the file follows and includes a brief comment regarding the over all significance of the documents. If specific records are noteworthy, this is mentioned. At the end of each folder description are the names of college and university personnel associated in some meaningful way to the records.

The Records of the Douglass Dean's Office are arranged into the following thress series:

  1. I. Subject files, 1965-1981
  2. II. Budget files, 1967-1980
  3. III. Committee files, 1967-1978
Inventory to the Records of the Dean of Douglass College (Group II), 1965-1981 RG 19/A0/02
Edited Full Draft
Louise Hartman
May 1995
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • June 3, 2004: douglass_deans_2 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

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