History of the Residence Halls at
The University of Texas at Austin
Turn of the Century: Texas' Flagship University Opens her Doors
The University of Texas was founded in 1883. The original campus included forty acres of land, one building, two departments, eight teachers, and 221 students. In 1890, George W. Brackenridge funded the creation of UT's first residence hall, University Hall, generally called B Hall, which housed 58 male students. Need for more housing led to the first University-funded residence hall, known as the Women's Building, which opened its doors to 72 female residents in September of 1903. The building was later converted into an academic building, but, during its tenure as a residence hall, the Women's Building was committed to the holistic education and development of women. It was generously equipped and staffed with a gymnasium, swimming tank, a diet kitchen, a large reception area, a housekeeper, a matron, and a physical directress.
Growth and Establishment through the Roaring 1920s
Student enrollment at the University rose steadily during the early twentieth century, but no new halls were erected. By the mid-1920s, Major George W. Littlefield donated a portion of funds needed to construct a residence hall that would house freshmen women. Named for Major Littlefield's wife, Alice, Littlefield Residence Hall opened in 1927 and is currently the oldest residence hall on the University's campus. With the construction of Littlefield, the University deemed it necessary to renovate men's residence halls as well. Buildings were remodeled to house 100 men while B Hall was transformed into an academic building. Plans were also underway for the construction of Brackenridge Hall, which opened in 1932.
Campus Evolves through Challenges in the 1930's and the Depression Era
In an effort to provide students with inexpensive residential accommodations, the college established cooperative housing alternatives. Cooperative living required students to share in household chores in order to keep rental rates at a nominal level. With assistance from the Dean of Men and the Dean of Women, 14 houses were created for men and four for women.
Financial loans enabled the construction of five new residence halls: Andrews Dormitory for women and Roberts Hall for men opened in 1936, Carothers Dormitory for women and Prather Hall for men opened in 1937, and Hill Hall, which housed athletes, opened in 1939.
Meeting New Needs in the 1940's during the Second World War
University of Texas President Homer Price Rainey formed a committee in 1944 to study student-housing issues. The goals of the committee were to (1) make the residence halls a strong part of the University community, (2) build more facilities to meet rising student numbers and (3) incorporate an educational element into each residence hall. In response to committee findings, the University established the Office of the Director of University Residence Halls in 1947. The same year, Brackenridge and Deep Eddy Apartments opened.
Post World War II Era and Organizational Change during the 1950's
The early 1950's brought a major organizational change for the University's housing program, with the creation of The Division of Housing and Food Service. The director was F. C. McConnell until 1968. In order to meet the rapidly increasing demand for more housing, the University funded six cooperative houses, which opened in 1952. The Co-ops, as they were called, housed 96 women. Additionally, Simkins Hall, for male law and graduate students, Blanton, housing 270 women, and Moore Hall, for male athletes, opened in 1955. In 1958, Kinsolving Dormitory opened as one of the largest residence halls in the Southwest, housing 776 female students. The 1950's proved a pivotal decade for the housing system not only because of the establishment of DHFS and several new residence halls, but also because of the advent of racial integration.
Campus Responds to Racial Integration and Civil Rights Era
The University of Texas was "the first major institution in the South to admit blacks as undergraduates (Duren, 1979, pg.5)." Although black students were allowed in the classroom in 1956, it wasn't until May of 1964 that an integration of the residence halls was voted upon and approved by the Board of Regents.
Between 1956 and 1964, the cultural fight for equality was central to the quality of life that University students had as well as to the overall future trajectory of residential life and campus involvement for black students. In the fall of 1961, after housing policies were posted in all residence halls preventing certain "rights" from black students, several students filed suit against the University - the first case against the University since the Heman Sweatt suit of 1946. Shortly thereafter, concerned students met with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when he was in Austin to "enlist his aid in planning nonviolent activities to lead to total integration."
In the years which followed, barriers to full integration continued to fall progressively. A memo dated June 1, 1964 from UT President Norman Hackerman declared that "with respect to student and faculty housing situated on premises owned or occupied by the University, neither the University of Texas nor any of its component institutions shall discriminate either in favor of or against any person on account of his or her race, creed, or color" (Duren, 1979, pg.14).
In 1965, civil rights legislation led to an increased need for adequate on-campus living accommodations. In 1966, the University responded by building the Colorado Apartments for married students. At a cost of just over $17 million, the campus opened Jester Center - one of largest residence halls ever built in the USA, housing over 3,000 students and encompassing 866,000 square feet. The two-tower complex was designed to house 1800 women in one tower and 1200 men in the other. This was the first time that the University housed men and women in connecting areas, as opposed to housing them on opposite sides of the campus. Additionally, the university opened six more co-ops in the same year. Near the close of the 1960's, leadership of DHFS shifted to Director Firmin Haynie. Firmin served as Director from 1968-1972.
Residence Halls Purposed for Education and Co-Education
The advent of the 1970's saw a shift in operational governance of Housing and Food from business affairs to student affairs, as the Dean of Students assumed the responsibility for the educational programming within the halls. The practice of coeducational housing at the University began in the fall of 1971 in response to an increased demand for male housing and a decline in female residents.
In 1973, DHFS welcomes the leadership of Director Robert Cooke. During his leadership (1973-1994) and through the remaining years of the 20th century, campus saw changes to student accommodations within the halls. Weekly maid service to residents' individual rooms was eliminated along with bed-checks and the requirement that female residents had to 'sign-out' if they were going to be out past 8 p.m. Carothers became a co-ed honors hall in 1992, followed by Andrews in 1993. Brackenridge and Roberts also become co-educational in 1993, followed by Prather in 2004.
The New Millennium
With the retirement of Robert Cooke in 1994, the university sought the leadership of Dr. Floyd Hoelting. Since 1995, Hoelting has held the DHFS reins. Under his leadership, residence halls have consistently operated at 100% occupancy, creating a plethora of opportunities to increase both its services and its staff. The Division of Housing and Food Services currently employs over 375 full-time and 700 part-time and student employees, and operates an $80 million annual budget that serves over 2,500,000 square feet of UT's campus.
In conjunction with the University's goals and a growing need to house more students, the Division of Housing and Food Service (DHFS) constructed San Jacinto Hall on the Southwest corner of 21st and San Jacinto Streets, of which, the North Tower opened in the Fall of 2000 and the South Tower the following January, housing more than 850 residents in the two towers. Additionally, in January of 2007, DHFS completed Almetris Duren Hall, a 588 bed community that cost than $50 million dollars to build. The community is a tribute to Almetris Marsh Duren, otherwise known as Mama Duren, who was a housemother, advisor, mentor, advocate and inspiration to African-American students and to all students, staff and faculty on campus from 1956 through 1980.
In the summer of 2010, at the request of UT President William Powers Jr. and by unanimous vote from the UT System Board of Regents, Simkins Hall - a community named for William Stewart Simkins, a UT law professor who also was a Florida Ku Klux Klan leader - was given a new name, Creekside Residence Hall. Following the motion to vote, Regent Printice Gary defended that "The history behind the name is not in line with today's UT and its core values...On a positive note, we took advantage of this opportunity to restate the university's position regarding the importance of diversity and inclusiveness."
Since the turn of the millennium, DHFS has demonstrated diligence in fostering and celebrating a diverse community that upholds and pushes forth both transformative learning environments and environmental stewardship on the UT campus, and beyond. As an example, the Longhorn Artwork Series functions both as a transformative-learning community that celebrates and preserves the rich evolution of the Longhorn, and its history in Texas, while also promoting unity and school pride. Further, our residence hall communities feature four distinct galleries that provide residents and visitors with a surprisingly pedestrian living experience. In concert with the Institute of Texan Cultures at UTSA, Jester Center proudly displays the Texas Cultures Gallery. As further evidence, The Gallery of Great Texas Women, situated on over 2,000 square feet inside Kinsolving Hall, celebrates the historic accomplishments of nearly 50 great Texas women by displaying their individual stories, photographs, and memorable quotes.
The Division of Housing and Food Service has also increased facility efficiency and raised environmental consciousness in the residence hall by making an array of improvements across campus - implementation of Energy Star Appliances, compact fluorescent lighting, low water use aerators, efficient compressor and generator systems, as well as the installation of new chilled water pumps and HVAC systems. We are constantly striving to improve our practices and efficiency. A recent initiative has been the implementation of a "green" cleaning system in the residence halls that uses microfiber cloths and mops and Green Seal certified chemicals. This improves air quality and decreases water and chemical usage. These vast improvements and others cut costs to the university and set a standard for our peer institutions.
For over a century, students have made their home at the University of Texas at Austin. In that time, there has been great growth and progress both for our physical campus and the ideologies which guide her. Today, under the Division of Student Affairs, Housing and Food Service recruits diverse individuals who are committed to working hard for meaningful causes which better our campus and greater community.