As summer draws to a close, thousands of college students will begin their migrations to campuses throughout the state. Both Indiana University and Purdue anticipate having their largest incoming freshman classes ever with Purdue expecting over 10,000 new students and IU planning for over 9,000. Many of these students will be moving into dorms and some of those dorms have seen multiple generations of students pass under their roofs. While the basic tenants of dorm living remain the same – providing a place for students to eat, sleep and study – much has changed in dorm life over the years.
Purdue University’s Wood Hall – now part of Windsor Halls – housed female students and in the 1940s featured several unique amenities:
“Much care has been given to meeting the personal needs of the residents. The laundries are equipped with electric washers, clothes driers, stationary tubs, ironing boards and electric irons… The shampoo rooms contain convenient sprays and electric hair dryers. The sewing rooms are equipped with electric machines, cutting tables and panel mirrors for those who do their own sewing or are majoring in clothing in the School of Home Economics.”
Additionally, the dorm featured a dedicated radio room as students were not allowed radios in their own rooms.Dorms often have their own set of rules and codes of conduct and these often reflected the social norms of the time. According to a 1950s-era guide for residents of the Cary Quadrangle at Purdue – which continues to exclusively house male students – each resident had to ensure his bed was made by noon each day. Since this particular dorm featured maid service, failure to make one’s bed or to leave the room untidy would result in the maid reporting the student which could ultimately lead to disciplinary action.
Another rule from the Cary Quad guidebook set out strict dress guidelines for eating at the dining hall:
Oddly, the 1971/72 issue of Indiana University’s guidebook to dorm living contains a very specific entry on its rules for serenading which must have been a popular enough social endeavor to warrant inclusion in the guidebook:
Students have always been encouraged to personalize the small amounts of living space allotted to them. In past eras, this often involved decorating the walls with posters and maybe having a few personal items out on display. By necessity, modern students must cram much more into their rooms. Mini refrigerators, computers, televisions and gaming systems now all compete for space.
One aspect of dorm life which hasn’t changed much over the years is the tradition commonly called Move-In Day where hundreds of students haul all their personal belongings to their new home. Often chaotic, sometimes emotional, and usually requiring the extra hands of parents and other family members, Move-In Day marks the official beginning of the school year for many students.
The Indiana State Library contains an extensive collection of materials such as yearbooks, course catalogs, promotional materials and other publications related to the many colleges and universities in the state.
This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”