|Sociology professor and Cornell almnus Hamline Freer became
the first dean of the college exactly 100 years ago.
Most of the college's administrative offices familiar to contemporary
Cornellians were not established until the 1920s or thereafter.
Originally the school had only two administrators: the president
(previously principal) and the preceptress. The number was increased
in 1875 when mathematics professor James Harlan, class of 1869,
was appointed registrar. In 1881 he was made vice president, then
became president in 1908. He retained the title of registrar, however,
until he retired from his presidency in 1914. In addition to performing
their administrative duties, Harlan and the preceptresses also taught
several courses each term. There is no record of any secretarial
staff before 1916. Faculty members seemed to have lent a hand
when clerical assistance was needed.
In 1902, sociology professor Hamline Freer, class of 1869, became
Cornell's first dean of the faculty. The teachers seemed not to
have liked having a "boss" other than the president, and
when Dean Freer retired in 1919, an administrative committee replaced
him. The deanship was resurrected in 1924, but the new dean stayed
only two years. A relieved faculty empaneled another committee,
which held power from 1926 to 1931. The next dean lasted five years
and the succeeding committee only one. Thereafter the deanship was
never again imperiled.
In 1969 another sociology professor, Winston Ehrmann, became dean.
A year later he added the newly created title of provost and assumed
the thankless and daunting responsibility for supervising the offices
of student affairs and admissions. The heads of these hitherto independent
departments resented no longer reporting directly to the president,
and their opposition led to the appointment of a new dean in June
1975. Ehrmann continued as provost, but his role was redefined as
head of institutional research. After he retired in May 1977, the
provostship was never restored. In 1994, the incumbent was made
vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.
The preceptress (dean of women from 1903) was charged with safeguarding
the virtue of women students, some as young as 14, and instructing
them in ladylike deportment and moral rectitude. Until 1912, she
was required to room and dine in the women's residence hall. Music
professor Delinda Roggensack recalled the day her dean of women
spotted a student wearing a red dress in chapel and admonished the
girl with the precept that if she continued to wear red she would
come to a bad end.
A quaint theory held that if a school policed its women, its men
would behave. Whatever the reason, the college did not appoint a
dean of men until 1932 although the admissions director had the
additional title in 1926-27 of dean of freshman men. In 1957 the
autonomous deans of men and women became subordinate to a dean of
students and in 1970 were recreated as non-gendered associate deans.
In the 19th century, Cornell relied upon its network of Methodist
ministers to recruit students and assist in fund raising. As an
inducement to excel in these labors, the college promised an honorary
doctorate of divinity for surpassing results. The number of ministers
requesting this earthly reward eventually proved an embarrassment
to the college. When an administrator tried to deny claims from
non-alumni clergy on the fabricated ground that it had always been
the college's policy to award such degrees only to Cornellians,
the president received some very unchristian complaints of betrayal.
Charles Milhauser is classics professor and registrar emeritus.
|Calling student janitors
For years, student janitors received tuition, room, and board
to keep college buildings clean. Charles Milhauser is researching
this aspect of college history and asks that you contact him
if you were a student janitor. He may be reached at email@example.com