Historical Background

By Phyllis Meek and David D. Bynes

The University of Florida (UF) Dean of Students Office (DSO) as we know it today has undergone a complete transformation in structure since its founding days in the early 19th century. Since that time, however, the overall functions and services of this UF unit have remained the same, with student development continuing to be the office’s primary function even today. As time has passed, the office has continued to adapt to new trends, new political structures, and new types of students within higher education, adaptability thus being a key to successfully carrying out the mission of the office and the institution.

Many of DSO’s current functions and services have their origins in the offices of Dean of Men and Dean of Women. The Dean of Men’s Office was established in the 1920’s, while the Dean of Women’s Office was established in 1948, which happened to be the year after the institution officially became coeducational. The first Dean of Women was Dr. Marna Brady, and at the time, Mr. Robert Beaty was the Dean of Men.

Many of the functions and services of both offices were related to the expectation that in dealing with students the university would serve in the place of the parents (in loco parentis). Staffs of both offices also advised student groups such as fraternities and sororities, student government, and service and honorary organizations; had responsibility for new student orientation; did short term counseling; and handled student crises. Another important function was working with the various judicial processes of the time. In addition, the staff of the Dean of Women’s Office was responsible for advising the Women’s Student Association, the student group responsible for enforcing rules and regulations that applied specifically to women students, such as curfews, dress codes, and the like.

In 1966, Dr. Marna Brady retired as the Dean of Women. Her successor, Dr. Betty Cosby, served as the second and ultimately the last Dean of Women. At this time, Dr. Frank Adams was the Dean of Men. During Dean Cosby’s tenure, significant changes directly affected women students, particularly such things as the abolition of the dress code, the elimination of curfews, and the elimination of other rules specifically designed for women students. Moreover, in the late 1960’s in loco parentis was replaced by increased student rights and demands. The ever-changing times in the world and in higher education as a whole would soon bring major changes to UF and to the Dean of Men’s and the Dean of Women’s Offices.

Consequently, in 1969 the Offices of Dean of Men and Dean of Women were merged to create the Office of Student Development. Typical of the times, Dr. Adams became Dean for the Office of Student Development while Dr. Cosby was named the Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs. Also, in an effort to change student’s perceptions of the office, all judicial functions were removed from the office and turned over to a local part-time attorney, who served as the Director of Student Judicial at the time. This director reported directly to the Vice President for Student Affairs. With the prevalence of change during the late 1960’s, two additional programs were added to the Office of Student Development—the programs and services for international students and the Institute of Black Culture.

In 1973 as Dr. Art Sandeen was appointed as Vice President for Student Affairs, it was decided that it was time to change yet again. With Dr. Tom Goodale in the major leadership role of Dean for Student Services, the Office for Student Development’s name was changed to the Office for Student Services. Most of the services and functions of the office, however, remained the same. The one addition was that the office of Student Judicial Affairs rejoined the Office for Student Services.

In the early 1990’s, programs and services for international students were transferred to Academic Affairs, and the Institute of Hispanic/Latino Cultures was added to the Office for Student Services. In fall 1998, the name of the office was changed again and has since remained the Dean of Students Office. The functions and services, as during prior changes within the office, remained the same.

Today, the Dean of Students Office continues to be the primary generalist office in the Division of Student Life, and staff members frequently serve as an extension of the Office of the Vice President for Student Life.