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Office of the Dean of Students papers

Identifier: ua-00994

Scope and Content

This collection represents the administration of both Deans Nicholson (1917-1941) and Williamson (1941-1968). The collection is a primary resource for documenting student life and services at the University during the early-mid 20th century.

Papers regarding Dean Nicholson's tenure include reports generated after complaints regarding student behavior and student organizations, such as The Seekers and the campus literary magazine Foolscap, in addition to administrative papers documenting departments and University activities.

The records record Dean Williamson's dealings with student organizations and his activities as a national leader in higher education. One file which highlights Williamson's conflict with student organizations is the Pajama Parade, an annual event sponsored by the Greek letter organization which often resulted in mischievous behavior. The section which best illustrates the demand for his time and talents in higher education are the various committees listed under the American Council of Education. Most of these groups were formed to work on pamphlets or handbooks for student personnel workers.

Post-World War II problems of dealing with the influx of veteran students are reflected in the Housing Bureau records and the University Village Union. Other student groups represented in the collection are fraternities and sororities, Negro students (term used in collection), and discrimination issues. Notes following folder titles highlight material of historical interest or explain contents. The majority of folder headings are self-explanatory.


  • 1904-1968


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Historical Note

The Office of the Dean of Students was created by action of the Board of Regents on June 13, 1917. It was the outgrowth of the work which had been done for several years by Edward E. Nicholson, as chair of the Students' Work Committee of the College of Science, Literature and the Arts. The Board of Regents confirmed Nicholson's appointment as Dean of Student Affairs on August 1, 1917, and he remained in office until his retirement on June 20, 1941. Edmund Griffith Williamson was appointed Dean of Students on July 1, 1941. The office expanded at that time and the name changed from Student Affairs to Dean of Students upon the retirement of Dean Williamson. In 1968, the Office was reorganized and renamed the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.

Although Nicholson was Dean for twenty-four years, his administration followed traditional lines of monitoring student activities and only acting when complaints were received regarding student behavior. Nicholson was confronted with some interesting problems during his tenure as dean. Among these were suppression of a campus literary magazine, Foolscap, and surveillance of a socialist club, The Seekers. Another troublesome area for Nicholson was ongoing protests against compulsory military drills from campus anti-war groups.

Dean Williamson's administration was quite different in nature. He espoused the philosophy of "in loco parentis." He held the opinion that the responsibility for the behavior of underage students living away from home was transferred from the parents to the University. He was also deeply concerned with damage to the University's public image due to student misbehavior. Williamson's paternalistic style brought him into frequent conflict with student organizations. Fraternities were a special concern and one of Williamson's campaigns was to control drinking by underage students. Williamson was also interested in student welfare and was a pioneer in student counseling services to help students with academic or personal problems.


40 Cubic Feet (32 boxes)


Collection contains the papers of Deans Nicholson and Williamson during their tenure in the Office of the Dean of Students at the University of Minnesota.


The older section of the papers, those dated from 1904-1945, was organized alphabetically by subject. Dean Williamson's office staff used the same alphabetical organization until 1958 when they adopted a numeric code. It was decided to merge the two alphabetical series but not to attempt to reorganize the numeric files. Although the "new" material was weeded, no attempt was made to weed the previously processed collection nor was it refoldered.

Source of acquisition

The collection was transferred to University Archives in multiple deposits during the 1940s-1970s.

Related Materials in University of Minnesota Archives

Edward E. Nicholson papers

Edmund G. Williamson papers

University of Minnesota. Bureau of Veterans' Affairs papers

University of Minnesota. Office for the Vice President for Student Affairs papers

University of Minnesota. Student Activities Bureau papers

Processing Information

The older section of the Office of the Dean of Students papers was processed by Marian Huttner in 1947.

Office of the Dean of Students papers, 1904-1968
Penelope Krosch; updated by Karen Spilman and Susan Hoffman
updated July 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area