Residential Life Through the Decades

 

THE 1940s

Thanks to the G.I. bill, World War II veterans and their wives flocked to campuses across the country, where they often lived in temporary trailer-park style housing. At SUNY Oswego, the student housing shortage was addressed by obtaining surplus military barracks and erecting them along the bluff behind what is now Park Hall. This makeshift housing became known as Splinter Village.

“ I lived in Splinter Village.”

Installation of the barracks began in spring 1947, with 74 units open for living by June. The buildings soon became known as Splinter Village, and the village had its own fire truck and snow plow.

According to David J. Kidd ’49, author of Splinter Village 1947-1949, each apartment was heated by a coal stove in the living room. Rent was $18 a month. Very few tenants felt they could afford a telephone, but a public phone booth was attached to the end wall of the most centrally located apartment building.

“For those of us who lived in Splinter Village, our social life was mostly with other married couples,” Kidd wrote. “For the most part, we stayed close to home. No one owned a TV set.”

 

THE 1950s & 1960s

In the late 50s and 60s nationwide, the trend was to build large but modest residence halls. The leading principle was form follows purpose, which resulted in corridor-style brick and concrete box buildings on college campuses. At SUNY Oswego, this was a period of rapid growth in on-campus housing: In the 1950s and 1960s, 11 residence hall were erected and opened.

“ We lived in Moreland Hall.”

Equipped with women’s rule books and a pamphlet titled Oswetiquette, Moreland residents were subjected to strict curfews—and even clothing choice was part of the rules.

“No slacks before 4 p.m.,” said Susan Harsh Belloma ’65. “Our knees were chapped from wearing skirts in the cold.”

Each night at 10 p.m., the women of Moreland Hall would dance in the hallways to a 45 record of “Runaround Sue” by Dion before quiet hours were enforced. And that same 45 record is still in existence in a box of momentos maintained by Marie Darmento Scarcella ’65, full of the contents of a “more simple” time. Scarcella is an historian of sorts for the Moreland Girls, who get together regularly—even vacation together—because they bonded so closely in Moreland Hall.

“We’ve stayed friends through everything—getting married, having kids, now our grandkids,” Scarcella said. “I came to college with a transistor radio and a typewriter. Life was so different then, but the friends I made have lasted a lifetime.”

Social activities with the opposite gender were often structured. Men could call on the women from the lobby during appropriate times, and dances provided an opportunity to interact.

“Away from home for the first time, we were strangers to one another and to our surroundings,”said Louise Franco Hornung ’65. “Yet, we all got along, helped each other and had fun. We bonded because we didn’t have so many distractions.”

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Marie Darmento Scarcella ’65 (left) and Susan Harsh Belloma ’65, then and now.

 

THE 1970s

In the 1970s, many U.S. colleges moved from having only single-sex residence halls to providing coed residence halls, with male and female students housed on alternating floors or wings.

“We lived in Waterbury Hall.”

It was second semester of her freshman year when Judy Jaffie ’75 heard the news: Waterbury was going coed.

In her sophomore year, Jaffie became part of the first contingency of women to take on coed living at SUNY Oswego’s Waterbury Hall, where there was a male wing and a female wing on each floor. Initial resentment gradually diminished, and the women felt accepted, she said.

“The main lounge was the social center,” Jaffie said. So were dining halls and floor lounges, where students often gathered to share stories of ‘last night.’

“We played cards; listened to dorm mates play guitar or piano; played countless games of pinball, ping pong, and foosball in the basement,” Jaffie said. During her junior year there was a student living below her who always played loud music at night.

“I used to go bang on his door and demand he turn down the volume,”Jaffie said. The downstairs student was Mark Shupe ’77, and the couple will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in May.

“Since Waterbury was so important to us, we requested permission and were married outside there,” Jaffie said.

“The friendships made in Waterbury have been central to our lives,” Jaffie said. “Viva coed!”

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Click the link to read about An Early Residence for Oswego Students

Click the link to read about Scales Hall: Programs Help Form A Community

 

THE 1980s

I n the 1980s nationwide, the cinder-block dorms of the 1950s were ill-equipped to handle the cusp of the computer revolution, and the drinking age was increased to 21. Coed hallways and bathrooms became more common, further shocking traditionalists.

“I lived in Cayuga Hall.”

Kevin Moran ’87 remembers the day he moved into Cayuga.“My family and I were carrying in my belongings,” recalled Moran, who had been encouraged by his parents to request a quiet floor so he could focus on his studies. “What I didn’t realize is the front half of the hallway was male rooms and the back half of the hallway, separated by a fire door, was for females. Right then and there, I knew the quiet floor was not going to be so bad.”

Moran said the camaraderie in Cayuga built from that day forward.

“There was no social media, no Internet,” he said. “We practically became family in the residence hall.”Dining halls and floor lounges brought 80s students together. Television sets were often a reason to gather—to view everything from world events to the marriage of Luke and Laura on General Hospital in 1981.

Moran said the sense of allegiance to one’s own residence hall on campus was very apparent once a year—during the Battle of the Bridge, a.k.a the great snowball fight between new campus and old campus residence halls.

“It happened the first significant snowfall of the season,” he said.“Word would spread, and then there would be 500 or 600 kids involved with this tradition.”

Residents of west campus or “new” campus would try to make their way to old campus, and vice versa, Moran said.

“The fight would go back-and-forth across campus as each side gained more reinforcements to gain an edge,” he said. “I don’t think anyone really won.”

What did happen, Moran said, was a sense of devotion and loyalty to one’s own residence hall.

 

THE 1990s

In the 1990s nationwide, more civic and college-sponsored social programs were introduced as a component of residential living, and resident advisors became educational agents and peer counselors. This was in great contrast to the 1960s and earlier, when administrators believed it was their in loco parentis responsibility to ensure morality and integrity were maintained by young students.

“I lived in Funnelle Hall.”

Jerrell Robinson ’94 M’96 arrived on campus as a freshman from Harlem.

“I was very aware of my opportunity to be successful, as well as the sacrifices made to put me in a position to attend and complete college,” Robinson said.

There was an abundance of activities—from social events to intellectual lectures. Resident advisors brought students together with movie nights in the lounge, ice cream socials, hall meetings, sports and group dinners in the dining hall.

“Life on campus during the early 90s was vibrant,” Robinson said. “What stands out was the campus life in the Hewitt Union. It was the focal point of the campus. It was the social mecca for all students during that time, where students gathered, ate, studied, debated, celebrated culture, protested, met new people. The Hewitt Union was the life of the campus.”

Philanthropy played a critical role in Robinson’s college experiences. Active in Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, he engaged in programs designed to give back.

“I continue to stand by our motto,‘Culture for Service and Service for Humanity,’” he said. “Our very existence was founded on the idea that we must give back to our communities.”

Living in the residence hall was his first college lesson on the meaning of community, said Robinson, who is now senior director of student life for health and wellness services at CUNY LaGuardia Community College.

“I was able to learn that diversity is not defined by who you are, but by your experiences and your willingness to learn about others and be accepting of difference,” Robinson said.

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Back row, from left: Matthew Lewis ’94, Alphonso Shepherd ’94, Andrew Jones ’93 M’96, Jerrell Robinson ’94 M’96, Hayward Alfred Jr. ’94; Front row, from left: Tracy Austin ’94, Anthony Guzman ’93 and Rynell Calloway ’94 M’97

 

THE 2000s

Across U.S. college campuses, a push to renovate for efficiencies to control operational costs—and introduce green concepts and sustainability—took the forefront in residence hall design. At SUNY Oswego, some residence halls were renovated with all of that in mind, including Riggs Hall and Johnson Hall, the latter of which underwent a $14 million renovation prior to reopening in 2003. (See photographs of the book left by the first women of Johnson Hall in 1958-59 for future residents in our exclusive online content).

“ I lived in Riggs Hall.”

Giselle Guerrero ’09 was among the first resident assistants when Riggs Hall reopened in 2007 following its $10 million renovation.

“To be a resident assistant in a brand new building was amazing,” Guerrero said. “Everything was so new and the environment … felt so magical.”

The renovation included Lakeside Dining Hall. Students from Riggs Hall were particularly pleased that the renovations included an indoor walkway between their residence hall and the dining center.

“The dining hall was beautiful; eating and looking out to the lake,” Guerrero said. As a resident assistant, Guerrero invited students to go to the dining hall together. As they walked, the group would grow larger and larger as more Riggs students saw them gathering to go eat together.

“While this is a very simple task, it shows the sense of community Riggs had,” she said. “Residents went to dinner together and enjoyed each other’s company at a moment’s notice.”

Some of her fondest memories of college happened within the walls of the residence halls, Guerrero said.

“Living with diverse people, I learned you have to get to know people first,” she said. “We were all different. I learned that you have more things in common than you think. Give everyone a chance.”

Giselle Guerrero ’09 (right) in Riggs Hall

Giselle Guerrero ’09 (right) in Riggs Hall

 

THE 2010s

In the 2010s nationally, students are still asking for technology—and more. Upscale living with deluxe laundry facilities, air conditioning, fitness rooms, satellite dining facilities, coffee shops and convenience stores are routinely considered for new construction and renovation projects. Common spaces for socializing and studying are becoming abundant.

“ I lived in The Village.”

Anna Hu ’13 was among the first residents of a $42 million Tudor-style townhome complex, opened in 2010. The Village is located just south of Glimmerglass Lagoon, and each four- and six-person unit features a full kitchen with dishwasher, furnished living room and laundry facilities, all built with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) principles of conservation. Students today clamor for a spot in The Village, which is home for about 350 juniors, seniors and graduate students.

“It was as much a part of the learning experience as taking classes,” Hu said. “You learn to live on your own and build relationships with complete strangers.”

Hu, a post-production assistant at Sirens Media in New York City, said life in The Village was made easy by the amenities. Plus, she learned to cook and got a taste of the responsibility of cleaning and maintaining a home.

But most importantly, she learned about other people, and herself.

“The people you live with can wind up becoming your best friends for the rest of your life,” Hu said.

Hu echoed the sentiments shared by alumni through the decades—from Waterbury to Funnelle, from the 1940s to present day.

“Living on campus is an extremely critical component to the college experience,” she said. It’s all the pieces—academic growth, understanding of diverse peers, funny moments, camaraderie and immersion in all the campus offers that add up to the final result of the residential college experience:

“I learned how to grow as a person,” Hu said.

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(From left): Victoria Howard ’13, Mark Furlough ’12, Anna Hu ’13 and Benjamin Gordon ’13 met while living in Seneca Hall, moved into the Village together and have remained friends.

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