Title

Exhibit - Dormitory Life: The first one-hundred years of students living on campus.

Since the founding of Michigan State University, many changes have occurred, but some things are not so different from when they began. Dormitory life for students is a huge part of their college experience. In 1857, two years after the university was founded, the first boarding hall opened. This building would later receive the nickname Saint’s Rest from a popular religious book at the time by Richard Baxter called “Saints’ Everlasting Rest.” The building stood four stories high and resided on the east side of the current museum. The kitchen, laundry, and “community wash room” were in the basement. The second floor (which was the floor that one would enter the building on) had a dining room, parlor, living quarters for the steward and his wife. The third and fourth floors were the resident quarters for the men. Up to four men would reside in each of the twenty-eight rooms in Saint’s Rest and there were two men per bed. Students rented bedding and furniture to make their home away from home more comfortable. Each room had its own small wood stove to heat the room and each floor had a box on the floor that was for common wood for all residents to use. Saint’s Rest was destroyed by fire during the winter break in December 1876.

In 1869, the first Williams Hall opened to accommodate the rise in the population of students. The new dorm building stood four stories tall and could house 86 students. This building was located close to the site of the first dormitory building. When women were first admitted to Michigan State in 1870, some of the students were given rooms on the ground floor of Williams Hall where the steward and his family lived. This was a short term arrangement until a better solution could be found for women students. Many women students rented rooms in faculty houses or commuted from their homes in Lansing because of the lack of housing on campus.

In 1896, college president, Jonathan L. Snyder, initiated the women’s program. He made Abbot Hall into a female dormitory, which had previously been occupied by male students. Abbot Hall would house forty women and other facilities that were related to the new program. The women quickly outgrew this facility and the first dormitory built specifically for women would follow in 1900. Known as the Women’s Building at the time, the building was later renamed Morrill Hall. The Women’s Building included offices, a kitchen laboratory, dining room, recitation room, kitchen, gymnasium, music rooms, waiting and reception rooms, and room for one-hundred and twenty co-eds in double rooms with single beds. Women faculty members also had living quarters in the Women’s Building.

The same committee that recommended the creation of the women’s program also called for “the gradual abolition” of the college’s dormitories. At times dormitory life seemed out of control to the faculty, and, though various solutions were tried, nothing seemed to help establish order in the dormitories. President Snyder opposed the abolition of the dormitories on campus. He believed that dorms were good because they broke down the social and class distinctions. He also felt that if the college did not provide dorms for the students, then the poor students would not be able to attend college.

In the early years, a good portion of student life centered around pranks in the dorms. Freshmen male students would commonly have their dorm rooms “stacked” as part of an initiation process by the upper classmen. This event would involve stacking all of the student’s belongings into a giant pile in the room. By no means was this an easy or neat process. Some students would take apart furniture in the process or open keepsake boxes and scatter the contents throughout the stack of belongings. The worst of the physical pranks were limited to the male students, however in 1913, an incident occurred at the Women’s Building. Several sophomore men stood outside and sang suggestive songs to their female classmates. These same men also managed to let a cow into the lobby of the dorm room.

There have times on campus when finding housing was a struggle:

• In 1925 the campus was struggling to find housing accommodations for the nearly 3,000 students. At the time, only Wells Hall housed men and most of these men were upperclassmen. The freshmen and other male students who were unable to get a dorm room in Wells Hall were forced to live off campus and inevitably could not perform well in school. Women at this time could only live off campus if it was their second term, a sorority house, and had a C grade point average.

• In 1946, the campus saw the world’s largest one-room dormitory at the Jenison Gymnasium. On the second floor, two-hundred and fifty double deck beds for five-hundred students were placed for WWII veterans for temporary housing as they attended the university.

• In 1962 the campus dealt with yet another rise in the population of students and to diminish the over population of the campus, the rules for students living off campus changed. Previously, only male undergraduates who were twenty-one years or older and at least in their junior year with a C grade point average were allowed to live off campus in unsupervised housing. The only exceptions to these rules were for students who were veterans or lived locally. The rules for women living off campus were the same as that of the men, except they had to be at least twenty five years or older. These old rules were abolished and the new ones that were set in place allowed for men or women who were twenty one years or older to live off campus with their parent’s consent. East Lansing city officials strongly discouraged this decision because they were concerned with noise levels and partying at unsupervised housing locations.

Not only were the rules about students living off campus loosened during the 1960s, but the rules for dress while eating in the resident halls were as well. The old rule of men being required to wear coats and ties while eating in the residence halls had been in effect since the end of World War II. Based on a survey from students not finding the old way of dressing all that popular, a new rule was set in place. Male students were now required to wear clean and neat dress slacks (no jeans or shorts), dress shirts (no t-shirts, knit shirts, plaids, or bold stripes), and dress shoes (no slippers, tennis shoes, clogs, or thongs). It was also during the 1960s that the current rule about students on campus and automobiles was created. Freshmen were not allowed to have automobiles on campus because they could be a potential distraction from their course work.


Exhibit created by Kim Toorenaar, September 2012.
Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.

Related Objects

A "stacked" dorm room.
A "stacked" dorm room.
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
A Gathering of Males in a Dorm Room, 1901
A Gathering of Males in a Dorm Room, 1901
April 14, 1901
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
A female student in her dorm, 1896
A female student in her dorm, 1896
1896
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Dorm Room in Williams Hall, 1893
Dorm Room in Williams Hall, 1893
1893
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Dorm Stacking
Dorm Stacking
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Dorm Stacking in Wells Hall
Dorm Stacking in Wells Hall
February 28, 1908
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Early Dorm Room
Early Dorm Room
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Female Dorm Life, 1954
Female Dorm Life, 1954
1954
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Female Dorm Room, 1950
Female Dorm Room, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Female Dormitory, 1950
Female Dormitory, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Female Student Getting Ready, 1950
Female Student Getting Ready, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Female Students Getting Ready for Dance, 1950
Female Students Getting Ready for Dance, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Female Students Sharing, 1950
Female Students Sharing, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Female student studying in Abbot Hall, 1902
Female student studying in Abbot Hall, 1902
1902
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Freshmen Room, 1903
Freshmen Room, 1903
1903
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Girls in dorm room playing record, 1958
Girls in dorm room playing record, 1958
January 1958
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Group of Male Students in a Dorm, 1917
Group of Male Students in a Dorm, 1917
March 1917
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Interior of Abbot Hall, circa 1902
Interior of Abbot Hall, circa 1902
Date: 1900-1909
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Interior of Dorm Room, 1913
Interior of Dorm Room, 1913
June 1913
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Interior of Female Dorm Room, 1950
Interior of Female Dorm Room, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Interior of Female Dorm Room, 1950
Interior of Female Dorm Room, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Interior of Female Dorm, 1950
Interior of Female Dorm, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Interior of Female Dorm, 1950
Interior of Female Dorm, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Interior of Mayo Hall
Interior of Mayo Hall
Date: 1920-1929
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Interior of Williams Hall, circa 1900
Interior of Williams Hall, circa 1900
Date: 1900-1909
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male Dorm Room
Male Dorm Room
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male Dorm Room
Male Dorm Room
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male Dorm Room
Male Dorm Room
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male Dorm Room, 1914
Male Dorm Room, 1914
1914
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male Dorm, 1914
Male Dorm, 1914
1914
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male Dormitory, Ca. 1901
Male Dormitory, Ca. 1901
Date: 1900-1909
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male Dormitory, Ca.1890's
Male Dormitory, Ca.1890's
Date: 1890-1899
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male Students Hanging out in a Dorm Room
Male Students Hanging out in a Dorm Room
Date: 1910-1919
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male Students in Bed
Male Students in Bed
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Male students room together in Quonsets, 1946
Male students room together in Quonsets, 1946
August 27, 1946
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Mary Mayo Hall
Mary Mayo Hall
Date: 1940-1949
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Men studying, 1950s
Men studying, 1950s
1958
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Men's Dorm
Men's Dorm
Date: 1900-1909
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Party at Abbot Hall, Ca. 1906
Party at Abbot Hall, Ca. 1906
Date: 1900-1909
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Rooms to rent building, date unknown
Rooms to rent building, date unknown
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Shirtless male students in a dorm room, 1906
Shirtless male students in a dorm room, 1906
1906
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Sitting room in Mary Mayo Hall, 1935
Sitting room in Mary Mayo Hall, 1935
March 29, 1935
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Student Drawing, 1950
Student Drawing, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Student studying with wife and baby, 1946
Student studying with wife and baby, 1946
August 27, 1946
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students Eating in their Dorm Room, 1914
Students Eating in their Dorm Room, 1914
1914
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students Reading in Dorm Room, 1897
Students Reading in Dorm Room, 1897
1897
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students in front of Morrill Hall, 1955
Students in front of Morrill Hall, 1955
1955
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students playing cards, ca. 1920
Students playing cards, ca. 1920
1920
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Students studying, 1954
Students studying, 1954
1954
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Temporary Housing on Campus, 1946
Temporary Housing on Campus, 1946
1946
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Three Male Students Reading in a Dorm Room
Three Male Students Reading in a Dorm Room
Date: 1890-1899
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Three Male Students Reading in a Dorm room, 1898
Three Male Students Reading in a Dorm room, 1898
1898
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Army trainees studying, ca. 1940
Two Army trainees studying, ca. 1940
Date: 1940-1949
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Male Students Reading in a Dorm Room
Two Male Students Reading in a Dorm Room
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Male Students Studying in a Dorm Room, 1903
Two Male Students Studying in a Dorm Room, 1903
Date: 1900-1909
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Male Students in Abbot Hall
Two Male Students in Abbot Hall
Date: 1890-1899
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Male Students in Abbot Hall
Two Male Students in Abbot Hall
Date: 1890-1899
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Male Students in Abbot Hall, ca. 1903
Two Male Students in Abbot Hall, ca. 1903
Date: 1900-1909
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Male Students in Wells Hall, 1900
Two Male Students in Wells Hall, 1900
1900
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Male Students in Wells Hall, 1901
Two Male Students in Wells Hall, 1901
1901
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Male Students in a Dorm Room
Two Male Students in a Dorm Room
1897
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Male Students in a Dorm Room, 1901
Two Male Students in a Dorm Room, 1901
1901
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Males in a Dorm Room
Two Males in a Dorm Room
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Men Feeding a Doll in their Dorm Room
Two Men Feeding a Doll in their Dorm Room
Date: 1900-1909
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two Men Stacking a Dorm Room
Two Men Stacking a Dorm Room
1902
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two female students in their dorm room, 1946
Two female students in their dorm room, 1946
1946
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two male students in their dorm room at Old Wells Hall, 1900
Two male students in their dorm room at Old Wells Hall, 1900
1900
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two men study in their dorm room, ca. 1955
Two men study in their dorm room, ca. 1955
1955
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Two students in Wonders Hall, date unknown
Two students in Wonders Hall, date unknown
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Williams Hall sitting room, 1896
Williams Hall sitting room, 1896
1896
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections
Women's Dorm, 1950
Women's Dorm, 1950
1950
Image: jpg
MSU Archives and Historical Collections