Prior to World War II the University of California regents actively resisted providing housing on campus. They preferred the German approach to organizing a university and encouraged an informal agreement with the city to avoid conflicting interests with the local food and housing establishments. There was, however an undercurrent of support for the English tradition of Oxford and Cambridge that included residence halls and dining areas (Kerr, 2001). During this time, there were only three campus residential options and those were all privately funded. The three buildings were Bowles and Stern Halls, and the International House. Eventually, the Fernwald-Smythe dorms (now called Smyth-Fernwald Family Housing) and Albany Village were constructed to accommodate temporarily the influx of World War II veterans. Despite their original temporary status, both of these housing options continue to provide housing and programs for students with families.
In 1948, after conducting over 2000 interviews with students, the Alumni Association issued a report to the Board of Regents entitled “Students at Berkeley”. In this report the Alumni Association encouraged the Board to extend its interest in student well being and create a more hospitable environment for students. Building residence halls was a key recommendation for improving the environment. Unfortunately, the report was largely ignored until Clark Kerr became Chancellor in 1952. He encouraged the Board to seek funding to provide student housing on campus. By 1956, the regents approved a plan to begin building permanent residence halls and Unit 1 was completed in 1959.
The residential model envisioned by Chancellor Kerr was the residential college approach that was an integral part of the Yale and Harvard systems. The appeal of this design was that it would provide a place to make connections between the vast amounts of information students gather in the large, specialized classes that form the early undergraduate experience at Cal. Supporters thought that the more intimate environment of the residential college would allow students and faculty to engage in a broader level of intellectual discourse than in the large classes. With this model in mind, as the halls came on line, Clark Kerr’s successor Chancellor Seaborg, along with members of the faculty created a faculty “fellows” program. Unfortunately, not enough of the faculty embraced the idea and it was eventually discontinued (Kerr, 2001).*
Even with the demise of the residential college model, more than buildings were required to provide students with the hospitable environment called for in the “Students at Berkeley” report. The “House Mother” model was popular at colleges across the country in the 1950s and 60s but by the mid 1970s, UC Berkeley mirrored the national trend away from this in loco parentis model and started developing a residential education program called University Housing Programs. However, by the 1980’s, which was a more conservative decade, students expected more services in their residential communities. In 1983, we became Residential Programs and focused attention on bridging the living and academic experience at Cal. By 1984, professional live-in staff were placed in each residential unit and these professionals promoted a student development approach to leadership, programming, counseling, crisis management, and discipline.
To strengthen the academic/residential bridge, we also started a program that provided Faculty and GSIs (Graduate Student Instructors) with housing and/or stipend incentives to live in two of the residential communities. By 1990, this effort expanded to include a fully staffed Academic Center in one of the residential communities and by 1999, all five undergraduate communities had professionally staffed Academic Centers. This integration of a full range of academic and computing services into the residential communities places Cal at the forefront of a national movement to address the academic, intellectual, social, civic, and cultural development of students. An interesting note about the academic centers is that years after he retired, former Chancellor Kerr toured the housing unit that is named for him. In the tour, he visited the Clark Kerr Campus Academic Center (then called the Academic Resources Unit) and he was so pleased to see that “highly successful students” were providing tutorials for less successful students, an activity reminiscent of the residential college model.
Also in the 1980’s the University Village, which had provided housing for students with families since 1957, developed a more systematic and developmental approach to programs and services. In the early 1990’s Residential Programs incorporated Family Living (as the University Village programming component came to be called) and together we became Residential and Family Living.
New Student Services (NSS) joined Residential & Family Living in 1998 and the name of the department became Residential and Family Living/New Student Services. Merging with Residential and Family Living was the most recent step in the evolution of a program that began in 1965 as the first formal student orientation program for the University of California, Berkeley. It was originally sponsored by the ASUC (Associated Students of the University of California) but by the late 1960’s the University took over responsibility for the program and in 1995 it was renamed New Student Services. NSS also has as part of its scope the Summer Bridge Program for entering students.
In 2004, the department name evolved into the Office of Student Development. This name represents more completely and more accurately a holistic picture of our approach to the services and programs we provide to Cal students from the time they state their intention to attend Cal throughout their stay in the residential communities and beyond.
Over the years, the number of students living in University housing has grown. The first official residence hall was Bowles Hall, built in 1929. Bowles was, and still is, an all male hall that accommodates 190 residents and it was accepted to the National Register of Historic Places 1989. Our current overall capacity is over 5600 residents throughout five distinct residential areas with another 3000 plus students and their families living in the Family Housing communities of Albany and Smyth Fernwald. By 2006 our residential population will increase by another 1000 students.
Kerr, C. (2001). The gold and the blue: A personal memoir of the University of California, 1949-1967 (Vol. 1). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
* We are breathing new life into the “faculty fellows” concept. Please go to our Academic Services page for more information.