The anxieties of arriving on campus for the first time can be intimidating for most freshmen, but before the 1930s, University students had to find a place to sleep before they could make new friends.
Modeling German campuses, the first University president, Henry Tappan, reasoned that student housing wasn’t necessary in an effort to save space for additional classrooms, so students were forced to find rooming houses or take up residence in a fraternity or sorority on campus.
By the mid-1920s, there were only 325 women and no men living in select University dormitories, including the Martha Cook Building, Betsy Barbour House and Couzens Hall. At the same time, about 3,000 men and women lived in Greek housing. An additional 4,500 men took up residence in rooming houses, and another 800 women lived in approved league houses.
Soon, then-new University President Clarence Little and Sociology Prof. Robert Angell became concerned about the distracting elements of the fraternities and rooming houses.
Little decided to introduce dormitories as a way to ensure that intellectual and social needs were being properly met, with professors “living in” to look after student activities.
But the plan for residence halls had a few setbacks. Landlords lashed out, fearing a catastrophic loss of tenants, and Little had to tread lightly, knowing that powerful alumni were loyal Greek community members.
Eventually, after a decision by the Board of Regents and financial help from alumni, construction of Michigan’s first large dormitory began. In 1930, the University opened the doors of the Mosher-Jordan Residence Hall.
Later, after the Great Depression ended, a series of additional residence halls were constructed.