Mural of "Joe College"

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Coffman Ballroom Annex 1940s cropped.jpgMain Ballroom Annex, 1940s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


In April, 1940, the University issued a call for artists and art students around the United States to submit designs for a floor to ceiling mural to go in the new Union ballroom. The mural was to be painted on a gunmetal black wall in oil and the artist could use only set colors that went with the color scheme used in the building.[1] The painting's subject was to be: "Campus life and activities, done in a humorous and gay style."[2]


Charm Inc, Coffman Union, 1948.jpg

Charm Inc, Main Ballroom Annex, 1948, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


According to the October 4, 1940 of the Minnesota Daily an artist named Justaw Krollman was selected to paint the mural.[3] The artist who painted the mural was almost certainly Gustav Wilhelm Krollman (1888-1962), who trained as a portrait painter at the Academy of Arts in Vienna. [4] He arrived in the United States in 1923 and moved to Minneapolis and accepted a position teaching at the Minneapolis School of Art in 1931.[5]


scan-070 Annex of Great Hall Coffman Union 1940s.jpg

Main Ballroom Annex, 1940s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


The mural depicted: "Joe College's mad whirl of 4 years of university life." [6] While there is not a great deal of documentation on the mural, it was briefly mentioned in the Saturday Evening Post's article on Coffman Memorial Union, which wrote that the the building included: "Lusty murals portraying the madcap progression of Joe College from freshman year to graduation." [7] Unfortunately, there do not seem to be photos that document the entire mural, but one can see much of the progression. 


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Main Ballroom Annex, 1940s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


By spring, 1955 the original mural was replaced by a new piece painted by Robert Lesch, who was a senior in the College of Science, Literature and Arts. The 120 foot long mural took Lesch 150 hours to paint, using a roller, wall paint and heavy string. Like the previous mural, it described student life.[8] However, there do not appear to be any photos of Lesch's mural in the Berton M. Atkinson Archive.


_____________________________________________________________________________

[1] "U. Issues Mural Specifications," Minnesota Union, April 25, 1940, 2.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940, 4.
[4] Linda Andrean, "Gustav Wilhelm Krollman," Center for Austrian Studies, University of Minnesota. A biography of Krollman is available here: This piece describes Krollman's career in more detail, including posters he painted for the Northern Pacific Railroad.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940, 4.
[7] Bradley L. Morison, "Clubhouse on the Campus," Saturday Evening Post, May 24, 1941, 95.
[8] Press Release, April 19, 1956, File 1, 1950s, General History 2, Berton M. Atkinson Archive.

Board of Governors (now with women!)

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scan-066 Union Board Committee Winter 1949 in Coffman Union.jpgUnion Board Committee, Winter 1949, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


Although the Minnesota Union had opened to women in 1934, the Board of Governors was made up solely of men until 1940. That spring, prior to the opening of the union, a new Board of Governors was established. The new BOG was made up of nine men students and six women students, along with four faculty members and one alumnus, all five of whom were men.[1] The proportion of nine men to six women presumably had something to do with the proportion of men to women students in general.[2]. Including women in BOG was certainly an important step forward, but certain policies reflected traditional gender roles. For example, it was decided that the President would be a man and the Vice-President a woman, so that only men were eligible to run for the former position and only women for the latter position.[3]



Board of Governors, c 1945 46.jpg

Board of Governors, 1944-1945, president Janet Nissen is at left, future presidents to her right: George Wright (1945-1946, second from right) and Joan Keaveny (1946-1947, seated), Berton M. Atkinson Archive.


However, BOG was not to remain with its original proportion for long, as World War II drastically changed the ratio of men to women, so that there were nearly twice as many collegiate women as men in 1943-1944.[4] The 1945 Gopher reported: "Right along with everyone else, the Union Board of Governors had a shortage of men this year. The ratio of men to women members was five to ten, as compared with the pre-war ratio of nine to six." [5] That year BOG elected its first elected woman president, Joy Nissen.[6] It appears that vice-president Janet Burley became president after the president Ed Babcock was called to war.[7] While gender ratios changed drastically after the war as men flooded the student body, women continued to be able to serve as President.[8]

__________________________________________________________________

[1] Franklin F. Page, "It's Yours! A Bigger Better Union," Minnesota Daily, October 4,1941, 6.
[2] See, The Bulletin of the University of Minnesota: The Biennial Report of the University of Minnesota to the Board of Regents 1938-1940, 221 for the Net grand totals, collegiate which showed 12,989 men to 8,823 women (a ratio of 1.4 to 1). https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/91585
[3] "Minutes of the Union Board Meeting, May 31st, 1940," Union Board of Governors Minutes, May 1940-1941, Berton M. Atkinson Archive.
[4] The Bulletin of the University of Minnesota: The Biennial Report of the President of the University of Minnesota to the Board of Regents, 1942-1944. In 1942-1943 the collegiate total of men was 9,435 and 7,795 women (1.2 to 1) but between 1943-1944 there were only 4,579 men to 8,054 women (.56 to 1 or women to men 1.75 to 1)  https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/91587
[5] "Union Board," Gopher, no. 58 (1945), 218. http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567867
[6] Ibid.
Joy Nissen's obituary is available here
[7] Janet Burley's photograph is in the conference room listing her as president during Spring, 1944, but there is no mention of her presidency in the or even in the Board of Governors Minutes.
[8] In 1946-1947, there were 25,658 men to 10,920 women (2.34 to 1) and in 1947-1948, 24,742 to 9, 389 (2.63 to 1). See, The Bulletin of the University of Minnesota: The Biennial Report of the University of Minnesota to the Board of Regents 1946-1948.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/91588

"Here is Your Union": A Tour of Coffman Memorial Union

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women in front of Coffman Union 1940s.jpg Women in front of Coffman Union, 1940s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


Coffman Memorial Union was built to serve four main purposes:
      1. To provide social facilities
      2. To provide a cultural setting and program
      3. To provide for recreation and extracurricular activity
      4. To provide a dining center and other services.

The building was constructed to meet the needs of approximately 15,000 students, along with faculty and alumni.[1] The first brochure for Coffman Union includes: "An imaginary trip through the building"[2] and the Minnesota Daily dedicated its October 4, 1940 issue to introducing the new union.[3]

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Coffman Memorial Union Bookstore, c. 1947, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


Some of the features of Coffman Union are the same today as they were in 1940, but others are very different. The main vestige of the men's union and Shevlin Hall was in the men's and women's lounges, but it was emphasized that the union was "for the women, too." [4]  People entering the building were requested to leave their coats at the coat check, which was located where the information desk stands today. The Billiards Room and Games Room were located on the first floor, although the Bowling Alley was in the basement as it is today.[5]


Art Studio, 1940s, scan of negative.jpgArt and Craft Studio, 1940s, scan of negative, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


The basement also included an Art Craft Workshop, where students learn to make different kinds of objects and could purchase materials for leather work, pottery, carpentry and plastics.


Coffman Main lounge 1940.jpgCoffman Union main lounge, 1940, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


The staircases at the front of the building were spiral and there were stairs at the side of the Main Lounge, rather than the central escalators present today. The post office, which included 18,000 mailboxes, took up more space than the original bookstore.[6]  Unlike today, the bookstore did not sell textbooks, but notebooks, souvenirs, jewelry and novels were available.[7]


Coffman Mailboxes.jpg
Coffman Memorial Union, student mailboxes, 1940, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


Other amenities included both a beauty shop and a barber shop, both located on the ground floor. There were restaurants on the first and ground floors. Some student offices were located on the second floor, but the cultural centers did not yet exist and the largest spaces on the second floor were the upper part of the main lounge, and the men's and women's lounges. An emphasis on art has been part of Coffman Union from the beginning, as the third floor originally held a music and arts room (and a record lending library), which later became the President's Room.[7]


Fine Arts Room, c 1940s, now President's Room.jpg

Fine Arts Room (now the President's Room), c. 1940s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive



Students in Fine Arts Room 1940s in Here is Your Union Brochure.jpg
Students in Fine Arts Room, early 1940s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


____________________________________________________________________
[1] "The New Center for Student Life," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, October 19, 1940, 91.
[2] "The Center of Student Life," The University of Minnesota Presents: Coffman Memorial Union, 1940, Berton M. Atkinson Archive
[3] The Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940.
[4] "It's for the Women, Too", Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940, 7. Interestingly, the article uses the word "women" rather than referring to women students as "coeds" a common term that emphasized that universities originally were meant solely for men.
[5] "The New Center for Student Life."
[6] Ibid.
[7] "A Newcomer," Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940.
[8] "The New Center for Student Life."

Dedication of Coffman Memorial Union

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Thumbnail image for Coffman Memorial Union.jpg
Coffman Memorial Union, 1940s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


Coffman Memorial Union opened in time for classes in September, 1940 and was dedicated on October 25th as part of the Homecoming celebration.[1] An article in Time claimed that the new union: "Rivaled the Hanging Gardens of Babylon."[2] Exaggerations aside, Coffman Union did offer many amenities, but the Minnesota Alumni Weekly was quick to point out that there were unions across the United States that cost more, despite having smaller student bodies.[3] The Minnesota Daily took a different tone and announced that, out of the big ten, the union was second in cost only to Wisconsin. [4] The most important part of the union was not that in included many new amenities, but that having one large building was: "A symbol of University unification." [5]

Coffman main lounge pre 1976.jpg

Coffman Union main lounge, n.d. c. 1940s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive

In the dedication, W. A. Jessup a longtime friend of President Coffman, stated that he hoped Coffman Union would be at the core of university culture, "the hearthstone of the university." [6] Jessup addressed the beauty and cost of the building, but emphasized that the building must serve a higher purpose in order to be worthwhile. He wrote that the union's main objective was to be: "A contributing factor in the development of an even finer Minnesota man and Minnesota woman." [7] Jessup's dedication represents the perspective that the union was not just a social space, but a place that would help shape students and prepare them to be contributing members of society. This viewpoint on the student union also is reflected in writings by and about President Coffman, which demonstrates how appropriate it was to name the union after him.[8]

__________________________________________________________________

[1] "Union Opened," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, September 28, 1940, 42.
[2] "Student Union De Luxe," Time, November 11, 1940.
[3] "The New Center of Student Life," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, October 19, 1940, 91. The first brochure for Coffman Memorial Union also included this article.
[4] "Our Union, Best in Big Ten," Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940, 3.
[5] "The New Center of Student Life."
[6] W. A. Jessup, "Coffman Memorial Dedication Address," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, November 2, 1940, 144.
[7] Ibid.
[8]See, for example: University Archives, President's Office, Coffman Speeches 1932-1938 (Box 478).

Resolving the Conflict

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President Ford responded to those who did not wish to support Coffman Union because they did not feel they would benefit from its construction. He argued that the common good was more important than whether or not one person received direct benefit: "Surely good citizenship in such things does not ask at every turn: 'What do I get out of it?'"[1] The arguments against the union were not based on opposition to the philosophical idea of a student union as a central meeting place at a university, but to its cost if it meant raising fees.


New Union gopher.png
Gopher, no. 53, 1940, , Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


At least in the Minnesota Daily, the dissident voices temporarily succeeded in drowning out those who supported Coffman Union, although it is difficult to know from a few articles and a number of letters to the editor how the majority of the student population felt. There must have been support among many students, as almost 1200 students were recruited to work on the union fund. Each student was assigned eight or ten other students with whom he or she spoke about the fund drive for the new union.[2] Ultimately, the protest of the new union did lead to a few positive changes: the men's and women's lounges were changed from two stories to one to save space, a bookstore was guaranteed and the cafeteria prices were not raised.[3]. The changes did not alter the cost of the building, but seem to have placated the opposition nonetheless.[4]

___________________________________________________________________
[1] "Ford Answers Protest on Union," Minnesota Daily, February 16, 1939.
[2] "1200 Students Are Enlisted in a Drive for a New Union," Minnesota Union, February 15, 1939.
[3] "Union Plans Began 25 Years Ago," Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940.
[4] See "New Union," Gopher, no. 53, (1940), 165.
http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/664761
This piece alludes to the conflict over the union. I have not been able to find information as to how the Jacobin club and others came around.

Conflict over the New Union Part II

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During February 1939 controversy regarding Coffman Union raged in the pages of Minnesota Daily. Some students suggested that they would be happy to have a new union, so long as there were no $2 per quarter increase in fees.[1] Others suggested that $2,000,000 was an extravagant amount to spend, arbitrarily suggesting solutions such as spending half that for a less beautiful building.[2] Another proposed idea was to use the PWA money for other purposes, such as new labs.[3] Some students complained that they would not get their money's worth out of the new building and were opposed for that reason.[4]


scan-031 Farm Union at Old Dairy 1940s.jpg
Farm Union, c. 1940s, Burton M. Atkinson Archives


Students who spent most of their time on the St. Paul campus, then known as the Ag Campus, were upset with having their fees raised to support Coffman Union, given how inadequate their union was. [5] Ray Higgins, director of the Minnesota Union, pointed out that the majority of union dues paid by students on the Ag Campus went towards improving their facilities.[6] The Ag Union was improved with $24,000 that came from the government and Union and Shevlin fees. The remodeled Ag Union was designed to be used by both men and women and opened in November, 1939, [7] about eleven months before Coffman Memorial Union.

_________________________________________________________________
[1]For example, see, "Over the Back Fence," Minnesota Daily, February 10, 1939, 4. $2 is equivalent to approximately $30 in 2013 dollars, which would mean an increase equivalent to $120 per year.
Also see: Rod Lawson, "Progressive Oppose Any Fee Increase," Minnesota Daily, February 11, 1939, 2.
[2] Joe Brochin, "He's for 'Better Boondoggling," Minnesota Daily, February 10, 1939, 4
[3] N.B., "Use New Union Money for Labs, He Pleads," Minnesota Daily, February 10, 1939, 4.
[4] Leroy Day, "Didn't Get Money out of Old Union," Minnesota Daily, February 10, 1939, 4
[5] Alton Finstad, "Not Fair to Ag Campus, He Says of New Union," Minnesota Daily, February 10, 1939, 4
"Two Petitions, Resolution Opposes Construction Plans," Minnesota Daily, February 15, 1939, 1.
[6] "Higgins Defends Ag Fee Raise: Says Funds will go for Ag Facilities," Minnesota Daily, February 15, 2.
[7] "Ag Union May Prove a Model," Minnesota Daily, 12.


Conflict over the New Union

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In 1939, the Jacobin Club, which was an academic fraternity, wrote a 1500 word letter to the Board of Governors calling for a complete revision of the plans for Coffman Memorial Union, including a location change and slashing the cost of the union by two-thirds.[1] They argued that the new location was inconvenient for the majority of the student body and that it would make more sense to build a smaller building near the original union and Shevlin Hall and continue to make use of both older student buildings. The Jacobin Club was opposed to amenities such as a bowling alley and a "grandiose dance hall," and also felt that insufficient space was allocated to students in the new plan, pointing out that reading and study rooms were not provided. They also criticized the amount of dining space, as it was no larger than the Union's cafeteria, which was already over-capacity.[2]


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Aerial view of the University of Minnesota, 1930, Photograph Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota

The Jacobin club criticized the cost of the new union, arguing against raising student fees, particularly because three floors of the building were allocated for faculty use. They also suggested that a union as the "center of student life" was not needed, as 60 percent of the student body lived off campus and that: "Comparison of the facilities of Minnesota with those of such places as Iowa City and Ann Arbor are fallacious, for in those places large universities are located in small towns, and almost all undergraduate life is necessarily centered on the campus."[3] Of course, the purpose of a union was not just to provide a space for students, but to help students become participants in university life, and, presumably, to foster connections between students who commuted and lived on campus.


____________________________________________________________________
[1]"Jacobins Request Change in Site of New Edifice," Minnesota Daily, February 7, 1939, 1.
[2] Ibid., 3
[3] Ibid.
[4]"Union Building are Essential," Minnesota Alumni Association, April 1, 1939, 4.

Naming and Construction of Coffman Memorial Union

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Lotus Coffman.jpg

Lotus Delta Coffman, 1938, Photograph Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


In early 1939, President Guy Stanton Ford announced that the new Minnesota Union would be named Coffman Memorial Union after President Lotus Delta Coffman[1] who unfortunately died in office in on September 22, 1938.[2] During his tenure, Coffman fought to have a new union constructed. He had insisted that the new union be large enough to meet the needs of the University, rather than construct an insufficient building and be compelled to make expensive additions later.[3] On April 6, 1936, Coffman wrote in a letter: "Someday the University of Minnesota will have a Student Union as the center of its social life."[4]


Coffman Drawing 1938.jpg

Architect's Sketch of Coffman Memorial Union, December 3, 1938, Minnesota Alumni Weekly, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


Tentative plans for the new Union were presented to the Union Board of Governors in November, 1938[5] and Construction for Coffman Memorial Union started in January, 1939.[6] The new Union was to include all of the features of the original Minnesota Union, plus a 200-car garage, post office, terrace and men's and women's lounges.[7] The new Union over twice as large as Minnesota Union (Nicholson Hall) and Shevlin Hall combined.[8] The architect's sketch shown above provided the first view of what the new Union was to look like.

_____________________________________________________________________
[1]"Union to be Coffman Memorial," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, March 4, 1939, 383.
[2]"Death Takes Dr. Coffman," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, October 1, 1938, 4.
[3]"Union to be Coffman Memorial," 383.
[4] See: "Late President L. D. Coffman Stated," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, April 1, 1939, 3.
See Also: Fred B. Snyder, "Acceptance of Coffman Memorial Union," Speech at Dedicatory Exercises for Coffman Memorial Union, Friday, October 25, 1940. Retrieved from: "Summary of Historical Data: Coffman Memorial Union Dedication, October 25, 1940," President's Office (box 8 of 449), Coffman (Remarks About Him), Jan. 1939- July 1951.
[5]"Union Campaign," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, October 22, 1938, 129.
[6] "New Union Plans are Studied," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, November 5, 1938, 158.
[7]"Space in Union," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, February 25, 1939, 368. Shevlin Hall was 27,00 square feet and the Union was 72,616 (combined 99,616 square feet). The new building was to be 234,588 square feet.
[8] "Union Campaign," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, December 3, 1938, 226.

The Need for a New Union

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Minnesota Union, 1930s_Straightened.jpg
Students in the Minnesota Union, 1930s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


By the time that the Minnesota Union became open to women in 1934, there was talk of building a coeducational student union such as those of Wisconsin and Iowa.[1] Laura Thompson Shafer (Class of 1898) wrote of men and women students: "Their interests are not separated and their activities both overlap and are shared." [2] If the new building had been built in the early 1930s, as had been the original hope, it would not have been coeducational. [3]


Common Peepul's Ball, 1930s.jpg
Common Peepul's Ball, February 11, 1937, Berton M. Atkinson Archive

In the 1935-36 academic year students and faculty brought their request for a new building to President Coffman, who appointed a survey committee in July, 1936. In November, the Alumni Board and Alumni Advisory Committee unanimously decided Shevlin Hall no longer met the needs of the women students and the Minnesota Union lagged behind other Midwestern institutions. In December, 1936 the Board of Regents approved the construction of a new union, but in 1937 the initial plan for federal funds was denied.[4] In 1938, the University of Minnesota received a grant from the federal government that would fund about 45% of the new building, [5] which was to cost a total of $2,000,000.[6]


__________________________________________________________________
[1] Laura Shafer Thompson, "Shevlin Hall," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, November 3, 1934, 147. Thompson's description of Shevlin Hall is rather rhapsodic (with a couple of factual errors), but it describes how important Shevlin Hall was. She explains how both Shevlin Hall and Minnesota Union were being used by both men and women.
[2] Ibid.
[3] "It's for the Women, Too." Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940, 7.
[4] E.B. Pierce "Union Building," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, December 18, 1937.
[5] "University to Have New Union Building," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, September 24, 1938
[6] "Union Campaign," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, October 22, 1938


Women in the Minnesota Union

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scan-103.jpg
Studying in the Minnesota Union, c. 1934-1939, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


The decision to allow women to enter the Union in 1934 increased the need for a new building. Previously, women sometimes were allowed in the Union, but only for special events or with "previous written permission." [1] In 1934, the National Youth Administration (NYA) plan was adopted. [2] Instead of paying student workers, they were provided with meals and the Union was the best location.[3] The Minnesota Union also drew more women as Shevlin Hall cut down on its services in order to save money: "The result of the change is that our men students are losing priority rights at the Union." [4]


Nicholson_003.jpg

Minnesota Union, 1930s, Berton M. Atkinson Archive


Although women were now allowed in the Minnesota Union, not all activities and spaces were open to them. For example, in 1936, a roller skating party was held, but only for men, as: "This form of exercise is a masculine sport. . . ." [5] Likewise, the billiards and smoking rooms were not open to women,[6] although one room in Shevlin Hall was converted into a smoking room for women, suggesting that the rules were beginning to shift regarding appropriate activities for women. [7]


Nicholson_007.jpg

Billiards Room, n.d., Minnesota Union, the Berton M. Atkinson Archive


__________________________________________________________________
[1] "It's for the Women, Too." Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940, 7.
[2] The NYA plan was part of the New Deal.
[3] "It's for the Women, Too."
[4] Vera Schwenk, "Notes on Minnesota Women," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, November 13, 1937, 188. This commentary is not necessarily a criticism of women using the Minnesota Union, but speaks to the importance of a new building.
[5] "Campus Diary," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, February 1, 1936. However, photos from the Burton M. Atkinson collection demonstrate that by the 1940s, at the latest, roller skating had become a coeducational activity.
[6] Vera Schwenk, "Notes on Minnesota Women."
[7] Vera Schwenk, "Speaking of Co-eds," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, November 27, 1937, 220.

Minnesota Union in the 1930s

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It was apparent from the beginning that the Old Chemistry Building was not really an adequate space for the Minnesota Union, especially given that the University was bound to continue expanding.[1] In 1914, when the Minnesota Union opened, there were around 4,000 students on campus, but by 1936 there were 14,000.[2]



Nicholson Hall Spanish Room.jpg

Minnesota Union, Spanish Room, c. 1933, Photograph Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota



In the 1920s, the hope was to launch a campaign among students, faculty and alumni, but the crash of 1929 slowed down the possibility of a new building. Instead, in 1932 $35,000 was allocated to rearrange parts of the building, improve the private dining rooms and generally make the building more functional. Describing the changes, E. B. Pierce wrote: "For the first time in its history, the Union Building is attractive as a men's club house and will be serviceable as it stands for a number of years to come." [3] The Spanish Room, pictured above, is an example of the improvements.


Nicholson Hall cafeteria 1933.jpg
Minnesota Union, Cafeteria, 1933, Photograph Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota



However, the improvements to the building simply were not sufficient and by the mid-1930s students were agitating for a new student union. Even the attic, originally used as a storehouse, had been made over to be utilized as a lunch room. There was a suggestion for a new union to be built adjacent to Folwell Hall, which would have been connected to the armory,[4] although that plan was abandoned for the current location of Coffman Memorial Union.


Nicholson_012.jpg

Minnesota Union, no date, Berton M. Atkinson Archive

___________________________________________________________________
[1] Doug Lyness, "Union Plans Began 25 Years Ago," Minnesota Daily, October 4, 1940, 3.
[2]"Students Petition for New Union," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, November 21, 1936, 192.
[3]"The Union at Minnesota," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 6, 1933, 471.
[4] "Some Opening Remarks," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, January 11, 1936, 279.

Minnesota Union and Shevlin Hall in the 1920s

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Nicholson Hall c 1924.jpg
Minnesota Union (Nicholson Hall), c. 1924, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


By around 1920, Minnesota Union had two branches: The main branch in the building now known as Nicholson Hall and the auxiliary branch at the Farm Union.[1] Likewise as of 1918, the women had Shevlin Hall and the Home Economics building in St. Paul.[2] The yearbooks from the 1920s demonstrate that both the Minnesota Union and Shevlin Hall were central to student life.


Shevlin Hall interior Feb 20 1926.jpg
Shevlin Hall, February 20, 1926, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


In addition to a place to get meals, rest and study, Shevlin Hall provided social spaces for women where they could spend time with one another and develop skills as hostesses.[3]



Nicholson Hall interior 1926.jpg
Minnesota Union (Nicholson Hall), 1926, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


Nicholson_010.jpg
Billiards Room, no date, Minnesota Union (Nicholson Hall), Berton M. Atkinson Archives


The Minnesota Union included other amenities as well beyond those available at Shevlin Hall, although by 1917 Shevlin Hall did have a tunnel connecting it to the women's gymnasium.[4]  Like a gentlemen's club, the Minnesota Union included a smoking room, game rooms and two billiards rooms.[5] There were similarities, such as places to eat, study and host dances, between Shevlin Hall and the Minnesota Union, but they were described differently: Shevlin was seen as a safe space for women, while the Union was modeled after gentlemen's clubs.[6]


Minnesota Union Ballroom c. 1921.jpg
Dance, Minnesota Union, Gopher, vol. 35, 1922, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesta



___________________________________________________________________
[1] Gopher, no. 34, (1921), 530
umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567843/583090?mode=basic
[2] "The Expansion of Home Economic," Gopher¸ no. 32, (1918), 100 http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567840/580966?mode=basic
[3]Ada Comstock. "What the Building Means," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, March 21 1910, 4. https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53313/1/umaaMag-009_4.pdf
http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567839/580416?mode=basic
[4]Dr. Anna J. Norris, "The Women's Gymnasium," Gopher, no. 30 (1917), 230-231.
http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567839/580416?mode=basic
[5] Gopher, no. 34, (1921), 530-531
http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567843
[6] Gopher, no. 34, (1921), 530, See the Minnesota (Men's) Union Scrapbook, Burton M. Atkinson Archive for letters exchanged between the Harvard and Minnesota Unions. The Harvard Union was modeled after gentleman's clubs and was a space where men who were unable to join the elite clubs at Harvard could congregate: "FDR and Harvard's First Great Social Experiment: The Union," The FDR Suite Restoration Project @ Adams House (blog), August 22, 2009. http://fdrsuite.org/blog/?p=216

Farm Union

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Coffey Hall.jpg
Coffey Hall (known as the Administration Building), 1912, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


In 1916, the Minnesota Union Board of Governors ratified an amendment to their constitution in support for establishing a branch of the Minnesota Union at the Ag Campus in St. Paul.[1] It opened around 1920 and was housed in the Administration Building,[2] which currently is known as Coffey Hall. Members paid the same fees as men on the Minneapolis campus and were able to utilize both unions.[3] The hope was to build a new union on the agricultural campus, [4] although it took years for the union to occupy its own space and a new building was not constructed until 1959.[6]

Old Dairy 2.jpg
Old Dairy Hall, 1918, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota

In 1925 Minnesota Union was given a room in Old Dairy Hall.[7] Old Dairy Hall transitioned into the Farm Union gradually, starting with the ground floor.[8] Initially, the Farm Union remained open only to men, but women had a space similar to Shevlin Hall in the Home Economics building.[9] The Farm Union became coeducational in 1938, which increased the need for a larger space.[10]

____________________________________________________________________
[1]Bob O'Kieffe, "Dairy Hall Conversion Continues," Minnesota Daily, August 3, 1948, 1. Retrieved from: Building- St. Paul, Old Dairy Hall, University of Minnesota Archives.
[2]Gopher, no. 34, (1921), 531, umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567843/583090?mode=basic
[3] Ibid.
[4] "Union Plans Agricultural Expansion," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, Tuesday April 24, 1923, 441.
[5] Bob O'Kieffe, "Dairy Hall Conversion Continues," 1
[6] "History of Student Unions & Activities," http://sua.umn.edu/about/history
[7] Retrieved From: Buildings, St. Paul, Old Dairy Hall, University of Minnesota Archives.
[8] "Dairy Hall Conversion Continues," Minnesota Daily, August 3, 1948, 1
[9] "The Expansion of Home Economics," Gopher¸ no. 32, (1918), 100 http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567840/580966?mode=basic
[10] Bob O'Kieffe "Dairy Hall Conversion Continues"


The Minnesota Union

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Minnesota Union exterior.jpg
Gopher, vol. 29, 1916, Courtesy of University Archives
, University of Minnesota


Although there was widespread support for the men's building, it took several years for the university to provide a building for the men. The Minnesota Union, which opened in 1914, took some time for the building to be fully functional.[1] Although the idea for a men's building dates back to at least 1907 and may have been originated by a woman,[2] the 1916 Gopher claims that the idea dates to 1908.[3]  In 1909, the Minnesota Union hosted the first Campus Carnival, which was a benefit that raised money for the construction of the men's building.[4]



Minnesota Union dining room.jpg
Gopher, vol. 29, 1916, Courtesy of University Archives


The original plan to have a new building never came to fruition. Instead, in Fall of 1913 the Board of Regents decided to appropriate and remodel the old Chemistry Building at the fraction of the cost to construct a new building. The Board of Governors had hoped for a grand new structure, but decided that the Chemistry Building would make a "fine Union structure."[5] The building later was renamed Nicholson Hall, but as of 1914, it was the Minnesota Union.

____________________________________________________________________
[1]See: "Lunches at Minnesota Union Building," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, September 21, 1914. 5.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53391/1/umaaMag-014_1.pdf

It is unclear exactly when the building became fully functional, but according to the 1916 Gopher it took some time to furnish. According to the October 17, 1931 issue of the Minnesota Alumni Weekly, the Minnesota Union formally opened for the Homecoming dance in the Fall of 1914.
[2] "Dean Ada Comstock Speaks up for Girls and Professor Potter Takes up Cudgel for Men at Faculty Banquet," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 20, 1907, 11-12.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53298/1/umaaMag-006_6.pdf
[3] Sigurd Ueland, "The Minnesota Unio," Gopher, no. 29 (1916), 156
https://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567838/579629?mode=basic
Granted, there is, if only semantically, a difference between a men's building and a men's union. The former was conceived of first, although the terms "Minnesota Union" and "men's building" were used interchangeably once the Minnesota Union was conceived of.
[4] Ibid. 156. The Minnesota (Men's) Union scrapbook, which is held in the Atkinson Collection contains an original program.
[5] Ibid. 156-157.



"No Better than a Mob": Arguments for a Men's Building

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It is unclear who originated the idea of a men's building, but it may not have been the men students themselves. The arguments used by two prominent women at the university suggested that they thought men were more poorly socialized than women and that a men's building could help men become better members of society. In spring of 1907, prior to the formation of the Minnesota Union in 1908, Professor Frances Squire Potter spoke at a faculty banquet and argued that a men's building would contribute to men's development. She expressed concern that American culture was being "left to the mercies of the women," while men were "in danger of being absorbed into commercialism and politics."[1]


Campus View 1905.jpg
Campus View, Minneapolis Campus, 1905, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


Later, Professor Ada Comstock, who was Dean of Women and a major proponent of Shevlin Hall, wrote of the importance of a men's building. She spoke of how necessary Shevlin Hall was to the health and development of the young women of the University, but that the men needed their own building more than women ever had, suggesting that women had many advantages over men. For example, she wrote: "A girl is exposed to few temptations: a boy, to many" and she described the men at the University of Minnesota as "hardly better than a mob."[2] Her argument that the men resembled a mob may have been rhetorical and stated mostly to contrast the benefits of a women's building to the lack of a men's building, but it certainly is reflective of contemporary views of masculinity and femininity. Unsurprisingly, when the men began to agitate for a building, their argument differed somewhat from  Comstock's.

____________________________________________________________________
[1]"Dean Ada Comstock Speaks up for Girls and Professor Potter Takes up Cudgel for Men at Faculty Banquet," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 20, 1907, 11-12.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53298/1/umaaMag-006_6.pdf
[2]Ada Comstock, "What the Building Means," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, March 21, 1910. 4-5 https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53313/1/umaaMag-009_4.pdf

Men's Building

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Proposed union c 1910.jpg

Newspaper clipping of proposed Men's Building, c. 1910, Minnesota (Men's) Union Scrapbook, Berton M. Atkinson Archives


While the movement for a women's building has been associated with the union movement, Shevlin Hall was not described as union. However, the opening of Shevlin Hall did help spur men at the university to action and the men formed the Minnesota Union in 1908.[1] By May 1908 men at the University of Minnesota had raised $30,000 and drafted a constitution pledging to raise money for building the Minnesota Union, which would represent all of the men at the University of Minnesota.[2] The Board of Governors was established with the drafting of the constitution. [3]


683064.jpg

Gopher, vol. 23, 1910, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


The original hope was to have a new building constructed that would house the Union at a cost of $250,000.[4] In general, the argument provided in the Minnesota Alumni Weekly was that men needed a place where they could get a wholesome meal and a space that would provide camaraderie. It was seen as necessary for men to develop as members of the university community: According to President Northrop: "It would be one of the most effective contributes which it is possible for them to make for it would tell mightily on the habits, and manners, and character of the men of the University and its influence would be as prolonged as Eternity." The Board of Regents recommended that the state provide $150,000 toward the construction of the building [5].

___________________________________________________________________
[1]Minnesota (Men's) Union Scrapbook, Burton M. Atkinson Archive.
[2]"The Minnesota Union Formed," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 11, 1908, 9.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53303/1/umaaMag-007_5.pdf
[3]"Constitution of the Minnesota Union," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 11, 1908, 9-10.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53303/1/umaaMag-007_5.pdf
[4]"The Minnesota Union Building," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 3, 1909, 5.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53308/1/umaaMag-008_6.pdf
[5]"Men's Building," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, January 28, 1911, 15-17.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53318/1/umaaMag-010_3.pdf

Origins of Student Unions

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the-cambridge-union-society-building-front.jpg


In The College Union Idea, Porter Butts somewhat tenuously links debating societies known as unions to the idea of student unions, which are a place for all of the student body to congregate.[1] The first "student union" organization was founded at Cambridge University in 1815 and was actually a debating society named for the "union" of three debate societies.[2] Originally, the union had no building and meetings took place in a tavern. They established their own space in 1832 and moved into their current building in 1866.[3] Oxford University was the second university to establish a union, in 1823 and was founded as a debate forum.[4] However, both Cambridge Union Society and Oxford Union Society were actually debate societies and are not to be confused with the Cambridge University Students' Union and Oxford University Student Union, respectively.



HoustonHall.jpg

Houston Hall, University of Pennsylvania, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, c. 1900-1910


Harvard Union was organized in 1832 and was also a debate society rather than a representative student union.[5] By the late nineteenth century Harvard Union resembled a gentleman's club.[6] It seems that even in 1901 there was some disagreement as to whether or not the proposed student union at Harvard had stemmed from the identically named debating society/ club.[7] The Union at Harvard University opened in 1901 and was meant to be a space where students who were not part of the elite clubs could congregate. Membership was open to all [8] --meaning men, as Harvard was not fully coeducational until 1977 when Harvard University and Radcliffe College merged. The first student union building in the United States was Houston Hall, which opened in 1896 at the University of Pennsylvania.[9] Houston Hall was the first building constructed in order to provide common ground for all students at the university.[10]

_______________________________________________________________
[1] Porter Butts, The College Union Idea, Stanford California: Association of College Unions International, 1971, 8-10.
[2] "History of the Union," The Cambridge Union Society, accessed December 4, 2012. http://www.cus.org/about/history-union
[3] "Our Building," The Cambridge Union Society, accessed December 4, 2012. http://www.cus.org/about/our-building
[4] "About the Union," The Oxford Union, accessed December 4, 2012. http://www.oxford-union.org/about_us
[5] "The Harvard Union," The Harvard Crimson, (Cambridge, MA), October 9, 1888. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1888/10/9/the-harvard-union-the-organization-of/
[6] "The Role of College Unions," CAS Self-Assessment Guide for College Unions, accessed December 4, 2012 https://spa2010.itap.purdue.edu/ssta/vpsa/analyst/CAS/Shared%20Documents/CAS%20Documents/College%20Unions.pdf
[7] Charles Grilk, "Communication [Letter to the Editor]," Harvard Illustrated Magazine, December 1901, 77.
[8] "FDR and Harvard's First Great Social Experiment: The Union," The FDR Suite Restoration Project @ Adams House (blog), August 22, 2009. http://fdrsuite.org/blog/?p=216
[9] "Houston Hall: Who says you can't teach an old building new tricks?" Perelman Quadrangle, Accessed December 4, 2012. http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/perelmanquad/houston-hall.php
[10] "The Role of College Unions," CAS Self-Assessment Guide for College Unions.

Paint the Bridge

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Washington Avenue bridge rendering.png
Artist's rendering of the Washington Avenue Bridge, Alumni News, October 1965, Courtesy of University Archives


While Paint the Bridge dates back to the early 1990s, there were previous attempts to make the walkways on the Washington Avenue Bridge more hospitable to students, none of which have been as successful. The Washington Avenue bridge opened on October 4, 1965, replacing a bridge that had been built in a slightly different location in 1885. Once the old bridge began to sway in the wind its safety had become questionable. Yet, it took years for the original bridge, which lacked a covered walkway, to be replaced.



Washington Avenue bridge gallery.png
Artist's rendering of the interior of the Gallery, Alumni News, October 1965, Courtesy of University Archives


The architect, Winston Close, had grand plans for the bridge and thought that the bridge would be known throughout the world as an exemplary bridge design. There were high hopes in particular for the walkway, or the Gallery, as it was originally known. The goal was to include restaurants, ticket booths, a bookstore and art galleries, but the bridge would not have been able to handle the additional weight. However, the university did hold events on the bridge, and the first event was a sale of student art works in May, 1968.


Paint the Bridge 2010 (19).JPG
Paint the Bridge, 2010

The plans to make the walkway a gathering place for students never flourished and the bridge and the walkway were neglected. As of 1986, the U planned to paint the interior of the walkway bright colors to make it more welcoming. Although there are some reports that Paint the Bridge started in 1990 or 1991, the first reference I found in the Minnesota Daily was from April, 1993. Students were able to paint environmentally inspired murals. As of 1994, Paint the Bridge has taken place in September and originally was open to both students and alumni. In 1996, The University Community Building Project and the Office of Student Activities merged to form the Campus Involvement Center. Currently, Paint the Bridge is run by the Student Activities Office and continues to provide registered student groups a chance to express themselves, highlight their group, and improve the ambiance of the walkway.  


Paint the Bridge 2010 (21).JPG
Paint the Bridge, 2010     


Let no man enter here

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Shevlin Hall let no man enter.jpg

Gopher, vol. 21, 1908, 321, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota

     
     Shevlin Hall gave women students at the university autonomy over their lives, but it also served to monitor their behavior. During the early twentieth century expectations for how a young woman should behave differed greatly from how a young man was expected to behave. Shevlin Hall gave women a space where they could socialize without jeopardizing their reputations. Yet, it also it meant that there was more oversight regarding how they used their time.[1] Young women were observed by the Dean of Women, the House Matron Mrs. Ladd (who later became Dean of Women from 1919-1923), and by one another.[2] They also were a source of curiosity to the men attending the university who wondered what occupied the women in their shared space.[3]


Shevlin cross section.jpg
Gopher vol. 23, 1910, 458 Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota
Click here to link to larger image


    While much of the discourse around Shevlin Hall spoke of how important a women's building was, there were some jokes about Shevlin Hall written from the perspective of men who were not allowed to enter the hallowed halls without permission. For example, the 1908 Gopher includes a satiric play depicting the fate of a young man who dares to enter the building without prior approval. The young women, having organized themselves into a union, have become rather militant and instituted very strict rules.[4] However, in reality, each woman was allowed to use the building to entertain men a limited number of times throughout the year, so men were allowed to enter under certain circumstances. Women also were allowed to invite men to parties with more than twenty women present, as long as at least one woman had not already entertained men three times that year. In addition, various events were held in Shevlin Hall that were open to both women and men.[5] Presumably, however, men were only allowed in certain areas of the building.

______________________________________________________________________________

[1] Ada Comstock. "What the Building Means," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, March 21 1910, 4. https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53313/1/umaaMag-009_4.pdf
[2] See: Ada Comstock. "What the Building Means," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, March 21 1910, 4. https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53313/1/umaaMag-009_4.pdf
[3] Ibid., See, Also: "Matron of Alice Shevlin Hall," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, September 17, 1906.
[4] See, for example: "Cross Section of Alice Shevlin Hall," Gopher, no. 23 (1910), 468. "The Only Man: A Drama," Gopher, no. 21 (1908), 349-351.
http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567830/575508?mode=basic
 [5] "The Year in S. G. A.," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 9, 1910, 7.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53314/1/umaaMag-009_5.pdf

Ada Comstock and Shevlin Hall

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Ada Comstock 1910.png

    Professor Ada Comstock, The Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 10, 1910, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


One of the most significant figures in Alice Shevlin Hall's history is Professor Ada Comstock (1876-1973), Dean of Women.[1] As Dean of Women, she held regular office hours in Shevlin Hall along with many teas so that she could get to know as many young women as possible.[2]  Dean Comstock's goal was to get to know each of the 900 young women at the college.[3] The 1907 Gopher was dedicated to Shevlin Hall and included an inscription by Professor Comstock. She wrote that the building served for health, comfort, the education and refinement of women and, most importantly served to help create: ". . .A sort of personal cultivation which women students derive from free, helpful intercourse with one another; and which manifests itself in tact and sympathy and comprehensions and the open heart."[4] Shevlin Hall was meant to provide women with a space where young women could interact with one another and gain skills that would serve them both as students and later in life.



681495.jpg

Student Council of Women's League, Gopher vol. 20, 1907, Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


Evidently, Shevlin Hall lived up to the purposes that had been used to justify its existence in the first place. In a letter to The Minnesota Alumni Weekly Professor Comstock wrote that: "A student's building is, in my estimation, worth more than any other single addition which can possibly be made." She went on to describe the importance of Shevlin Hall and wrote the building contributed to the health of young women who had to remain on campus all day, as it provided them a space to rest and study and a place to have a meal. Women at Shevlin Hall also were able to use the building as a place to entertain and thus learned how to be good hostesses. Comstock argued that, most importantly, having a shared space encouraged women to look out for one another.[5]

___________________________________________________________________________

[1] "Ada Comstock Notestein: 1876-1973," The Harvard Crimson, December 20, 1973.
http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1973/12/20/ada-comstock-notestein-1876-1973-pbabmerican-education/
[2] "Dean Comstock Gives Teas," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, October 28, 1907, 7.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53299/1/umaaMag-007_1.pdf
[3] "Co-Ed Dean Has Plans," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 20, 1907, 7                       https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53298/1/umaaMag-006_6.pdf
[4] Ada Comstock, "The Alice A. Shevlin Hall," Gopher, V. 20, 1907.
https://umedia.lib.umn.edu/node/567829/574790?mode=basic
[5] Ada Comstock. "What the Building Means," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, March 21 1910, 4.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53313/1/umaaMag-009_4.pdf

Alice Shevlin Hall: A Space for Women

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Alice Shevlin Hall drawing.jpg

Prospective drawing of Alice Shevlin Hall, The Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 14, 1906

   

    In 1906, Alice Shevlin hall was the first student building to open at the University of Minnesota and was built where Old Main had stood prior to burning down in 1904.[1] Shevlin Hall was named for the wife of Hon. Thomas Shevlin who donated $60,000 for the construction of the building.[2] He later donated another $20,000 to for an addition plus four $10,000 fellowships.[3] The building provided women with basic amenities like restrooms along with a space where they could engage in intellectual and social pursuits.[4]


Thomas Shevlin.jpg

Hon. Thomas Shevlin, The Minnesota Alumni Weekly May 14, 1906


     On May 14,1906 The Minnesota Alumni Weekly dedicated a large portion of an issue to describing the forthcoming Alice Shevlin Hall. One of the earliest ideas for a women's building would have been a tiny structure containing restrooms and little else. The plan for a larger women's building emerged around 1900 when Ada Hillman, general secretary of the U-YWCA, arrived at the University and discovered that that there was a lack of resources for women at the university. She decided that there was a need for dormitories, a women's building, and a Dean of Women.[5] Given that most women commuted from home or lived with relatives, a building for all university women was a more pressing issue than dormitories.[6]



Shevlin Hall interior drawing.jpg

Prospective drawing of living room, The Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 14, 1906


      A committee of women was organized to furnish the space, as it was thought that the women who were to use the building should have a say in its interior appearance. The basement contained bathrooms, lockers and a lunch room. The main floor was "devoted to the social and religious life of the women students," and contained an assembly room, offices for the Women's League and YWCA, parlors and a large living room. The top floor contained study rooms and an emergency room where one could rest in case of illness. Shevlin Hall provided women with a place to study, rest, socialize and obtain healthful and affordable meals.[7]

_______________________________________________________________

[1] See: Ada Comstock, "The Alice A. Shevlin Hall," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 14, 1906, 10.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53286/1/umaaMag-005_4.pdf
[2] Esther Chapman, "How the Women's Building Movement Started," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 14, 1906, 9.
[3] See: "Shevlin Makes Transfer," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, January 31, 1910, 4.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53312/1/umaaMag-009_3.pdf
Helen Lydon, "The Student Government Association," Minnesota Alumni Weekly, May 10, 1910, 9.
https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/53314/1/umaaMag-009_5.pdf
[4] Ada Comstock, "The Alice A. Shevlin Hall," 10-11.
[5] Esther Chapman, "How the Women's Building Movement Started," 9.
[6] Ada Comstock, "The Alice a Shevlin Hall," 10.
[7] Ibid.


Unions 1967- to Present

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In circa 1967, the Department of Student Unions was formed in an effort to coordinate the administration of all the student Unions on the Twin Cities campus. The four (and later three) unions still maintained independent governing boards, but a single Minnesota Union Coordinating Board was also formed, and given authority over the individual boards. This administrative arrangement lasted until 1985. From that time until 1991, the three student unions were again administered independently.


In 1991, Coffman Memorial Union and the West Bank Union merged their administrative structures and governing boards, and became the Minneapolis Student Union. By 1996, much of the space formerly administered by the West Bank Union had been given up. In that year, the name of the Minneapolis Student Unions was changed to Coffman Memorial Union and West Bank Services, and the name of the governing board was changed back to the Coffman Memorial Union Board of Governors.


In 1999, the administration of Coffman Memorial Union and the St. Paul student Center merged and became the Twin Cities Student Unions. The Governing boards were also merged on one year later, and became the Twin Cities Student Unions Board of Governors. In 2007 Twin Cities Student Unions became known as Student Unions & activities. 


Written by Jeremiah L. Mason

Four Student Unions

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Coffman 1948.jpg

Coffman Memorial Union, 1948, Photograph Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


      By the time Coffman memorial Union was opened in 1940, discussions of a new union facility for the St. Paul campus were already underway, and continued to gain momentum over the years. But before a new student union facility was built on the St. Paul campus proper, a third student union opened on the Twin Cities campus, at University Village. University Village was a group of temporary housing and mobile home/trailers established to accommodate the influx of GI's attending the University of WWII, and their families. The University Village Union opened shortly thereafter to serve the needs of the unique student population. The University Village Union had its own governing board, and specialized in programs geared toward young married couples and their children. (The University Village Union closed sometime after 1967). The new St. Paul Student Center finally opened in 1959.


SPSC 1959.jpg

St. Paul Student Center, 1959, Photography Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


        With the construction of the West Bank Campus in 1962 came the establishment of the West Bank Union. The West Bank Union was administered independently, and had its own Board of Governors, like the other three existing student unions. The West Bank Union was a decentralized union which developed in conjunction with the rest of the West Bank campus. The construction of a dedicated union facility on the West Bank was discussed, but never carried out.


Written by Jeremiah L. Mason

Farm Union and Coffman Union

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Old Dairy.JPG

Union at Old Dairy Hall, Courtesy of Berton M. Atkinson Archives


                 In 1916, the first amendment to the Minnesota Union constitution was made, establishing a branch of the Minnesota Union at the University Farm, now known as the St. Paul Campus.  (It is not known at the time for how long this administrative structure was maintained) the Farm Union was established in what was known as Old Dairy Hall.


Lotus Coffman.jpg

                                                    Lotus Delta Coffman, 1938,                                                                           Photography Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota

              

           Despite improvements made Shevlin Hall and the Minnesota Union through the 1910s and 1920s, the original student union building was soon too small for the growing student population on the Minneapolis campus.  In 1936, University President Lotus Coffman Formed a special Student Union Committee, and it was with his support that the construction of a new co-educational Minnesota Union was made possible. President Coffman died in office in 1938, the same year that ground was broken for what would be Coffman Memorial Union.



Coffman 1940.jpg

               Coffman Memorial Union, 1940 Photograph Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota

Again, the union building was paid for by student subscriptions, as well as through WPA funds.  A new constitution was drafted for Coffman Memorial Union, recondition of its status as the single, co-educational Student Union on the Minneapolis campus.


Written by Jeremiah L. Mason


Beginnings of Student Unions

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Shevlin Hall 1.jpg
Shevlin Hall, 1933, Photograph Courtesy of University Archive, University of Minnesota


A Short History of the student Unions on the Twin Cities Campus begins with the opening of Alice Shevlin Hall in 1906. Shevlin Hall was meant to provide a place for women student groups to have offices and hold meetings, to provide a place for women students to eat and relax, and enjoy adequate toilet facilities, all of which had been completely lacking on campus or woefully insufficient prior to its construction. The Dean of Women led the charge for the construction of Shevlin Hall, on behalf of, and presumably at the behest of the women students and the women student organizations on the Minneapolis campus. The construction of Shevlin Hall was financed in large part by a donation from the family of Alice Shevlin. Shevlin had been governed in part by the Women's Self-Government Association (and possibly the Women's League) and was administered by the Dean of Women.


Nicholson Hall.jpg

Nicholson Hall, Photograph Courtesy of University Archives, University of Minnesota


Following the opening of Shevlin Hall, and in conjunction with the nation-wide student union movement, the men students at the University of Minnesota soon began to agitate for their own clubhouse on campus. In 1908 an organizing committee was formed, and the first Minnesota Union Constitution was drafted. The same year, a campaign was begun to raise funds for a Minnesota Union building, and schematic plans for it were drawn up. The building was never constructed as planned. However, in 1914, the Board of Regents officially recognized the Minnesota Union, ratified their constitution, and granted them use of the building now known as Nicholson Hall. There were a number of faculty members involved with the Minnesota Union from its inception, and their involvement was crucial to the acceptance of the Minnesota Union by the Regents.


Written by Jeremiah L. Mason