Resources in the Archives on Student Life at UConn

In December 1967, the University Of Connecticut Faculty Senate tasked its Student Wellness Committee with taking the temperature on campus. After a series of systematic surveys conducted between 1968 and 1971, the committee presented a comprehensive assessment of student opinion over the years. The results were not encouraging.

Based on their surveys, the committee found a “clear and constant decline” in the number of students satisfied with their education at UConn. Student government, parking, and housing all came in for particular criticism, yet larger issues lurked beneath the surface. “A general state of uneasiness,” the committee noted, “pervades much of [the students’] outlook.”

In the survey’s early years, the U.S. war in Vietnam figured prominently. But by 1971, the turmoil of war, the draft, and student protest had been replaced by “a feeling of powerlessness, uncertainty of goals, uncertainty of finding a job after graduation.” In their assessment, the committee found students to be “evolutionary oriented not revolutionary oriented.” Most wanted the same things as their parents: a good career, a chance to meet people and form relationships, a meaningful life.

Not everything was bad, though. The committee also indicated that students deemed much about the university desirable. They praised the beautiful campus, the diverse student body, the moderate expenses, and the overall value of a UConn degree. The only thing left to do, the committee reasoned, was to take stock of student grievances and make changes where possible.

Have you ever wondered what life was like for students at the University of Connecticut “back in the day”? How did students experience their time on campus? What did they like and dislike? What were their hopes and fears? How did these change (or not) over time? Archives & Special Collections of the University of Connecticut Library holds a wealth of material for those interested in exploring these and other questions about student life at the University of Connecticut. Among the relevant collections are:

University of Connecticut, Senior Survey Records. The collection comprises administrative records associated with opinion surveys conducted by UConn between 1969 and 1975. The surveys cover student opinions on everything from administration, courses, housing, Greek life, and campus mood. The bulk of the collection consists of individual students responses made up of mostly hand-written responses along with general identifying information. The collection also contains administrative summaries for some years. The finding aid can be found at: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860129464

University of Connecticut, Undergraduate Student Government Records. The collection comprises the administrative records of the UConn’s student government from 1944 to 1985. The records document changes in the name and structure of the student government, as well as the different topics and issues the organization addressed. Topics addressed range from the quality of housing to registration difficulties to political issues and student-led initiatives, such as a campus recycling program. Minutes and agendas for the Undergraduate Student Government from 1985 through the present are also available although they have not yet been integrated into the collection. The finding aid can be found at: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133785

Campbell Collection of the Organization of Graduate Student Action. The collection comprises materials related to a the Organization for Graduate Student Action (OGSA), an organization of graduate students that formed in opposition to the attempt by Governor John Rowland and UConn administration to remove graduate students from the state employee health plan in 2003. The materials range from general information on the state health plan and OSGA advertisements to correspondence with officials and surveys with students. The finding aid can be found at: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860115445

University of Connecticut Memorabilia Collection. The collection comprises ephemera and artifacts associated with UConn that add a material depth and diversity to the textual collections on university life. The collection helps to illuminate student life at UConn through material objects, such as posters, programs, invitations, clothing, pins, buttons, and other artifacts. These materials can be a useful way of supplementing the record of student life found in textual materials. The finding aid can be found at: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133446

University Scrapbook Collection. The collection comprises scrapbooks that document programs, activities, events, and individuals associated with UConn. Similar to the memorabilia collection, the scrapbooks add another useful supplement to the official textual materials from university offices. They cover a range of subjects and time periods, with some dedicated to specific organizations and others produced by individual students. The finding aid for this collection can be found at: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133444

Student Publications. The collection comprises digitized issues of student publications from multiple UConn campuses. The most significant collection comes from the Storrs campus, including extensive runs of early to contemporary student newspapers like the Lookout and the Daily Campus. These newspapers provide one of the most detailed portraits of student life at UConn over the years. Along with the official student newspapers, publications like Contact, Caliper, and the UConn Free Press provide alternative views and information about specific student groups and their activities on campus. The digitized items can be found at: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3AUConnArchives

Nutmeg. The collection comprises digitized copies of UConn’s student yearbook from 1915 to 2008. The yearbooks provide extensive information about students and student life from each year available. Along with class rosters, the yearbooks contain photographs and information about clubs, athletics, activities, awards, and topical material. The finding aid can be found at:
https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A02653871

University of Connecticut Photograph Collection. The collection comprises digitized photographs from throughout UConn’s history. The extensive collection includes photographs of students from all periods of the university. The collection also covers extensive areas of interest, from dining halls and dormitories to the library and classrooms, to athletics and recreation on campus. These materials provide an indispensable visual records of student life at UConn. The finding aid for this collection can be found at: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3AMSS19880010

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

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