Biography and History

The Dean of Undergraduate Students, formerly known as the Dean of Students and the Dean of Student Affairs, is the University’s administrative office charged with oversight of undergraduate residential life, extracurricular activities, and student discipline. The Office of the Dean of Students was established in 1954 by president Harold W. Dodds to fill the need for a dedicated administrator to supervise the social and extracurricular activities of Princeton's undergraduate student population. This decision was largely driven by the increase in undergraduate enrollment and heightened campus activity which characterized the post-war years at Princeton. Though many of the responsibilities of the newly appointed Dean of Students such as oversight of student discipline and registration of student organizations had previously been overseen by the Dean of the College, the increasing amount of time that office dedicated to issues relating to the academic curriculum necessitated a new full-time position for the extracurricular.

Since 1954 several titles have been used for the position, including Dean of Students, Dean of Student Affairs, Dean of Student Life, and in its most recent incarnation, Dean of Undergraduate Students. Despite the changes in nomenclature, the Dean's responsibilities have remained largely the same over the years. Like other Deans at Princeton, the Dean of Undergraduate Students reports directly to the President.

The first individual appointed as the Dean of Students was William d'Olier Lippincott '41 (1954-1968), who had served as Assistant to the Dean of the College since 1946. With his trademark pipe in hand, Lippincott soon became a familiar figure to the thousands of undergraduates who passed through Princeton's doors during his tenure. As Dean of Students through much of the '50s and '60s, Lippincott was forced to reconcile many of the seemingly anachronistic rules of the university with the attitudes and actions of an increasingly modern and worldly student body. Serious disciplinary infractions included the presence of females in the dormitory rooms after hours and the use of personal automobiles on campus. Student dissatisfaction with the University administration over social and political issues was a recurring problem.

On two separate occasions during Lippincott's tenure, everyday campus agitation exploded into rioting and the destruction of private and university property, the "Joe Sugar Riot" of 1957 and the "Spring Riot" of 1963. In both of these instances, the Dean of Students presided over the ensuing disciplinary proceedings. Lippincott retired in 1968 to become Executive Director of the Alumni Council, citing the need to narrow "the gap in age between the Dean and those with whom he works so closely."

Lippincott's successor was Harvard University English professor Neil Rudenstine '56. Upon arriving on campus as Dean of Students one of Rudenstine's primary goals was to develop a stronger relationship between the academic and social lives of undergraduates, however the dominant issue of his brief deanship was University involvement in the Vietnam War. On multiple occasions Rudenstine was faced with antiwar protests from sometimes hostile student groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and in one notable incident was punched in the fracas that ensued during a demonstration. Rudenstine also weighed in on the disciplinary proceedings following the notorious "Hickel Incident" of 1970 in which the visiting Secretary of the Interior was heckled relentlessly during a speech on campus.

Additionally, as the Dean responsible for oversight of housing and extracurricular activities, Rudenstine was responsible for negotiating some of the delicate practicalities of undergraduate coeducation, which began at Princeton in 1969. Neil Rudenstine stepped down as Dean of Students in 1972, and went on to serve as Dean of the College and Provost into the early 1980s.

In 1963 a five-year term was placed upon the academic officers of the University, including the Dean of Students. While individuals could be reelected at the end of the term, the 5-year period enabled frequent evaluation and promoted the development of new ideas and fresh young administrators in the Office of the Dean of Students.

The successive terms of Adele Smith Simmons (1972-1977) and J. Anderson Brown (1977-1982) bore witness to a period of relative quiet among undergraduates, as the tumult of Vietnam dissipated and students returned to academics. An increasing international presence on campus (marked by the formation of the International Center in 1975) led to the diversification of the office's staff, and numerous programs designed to promote social interaction outside of Princeton's traditional avenues for undergrads were instituted. Notable among these was the development and implementation of the residential college system, a move sparked by the recommendations made in the 1979 Report of the Committee on Undergraduate Residential Life. The focus upon the social lives of Princeton students which characterized these initiatives was continued during the 11-year deanship of Eugene Y. Lowe, Jr. (1982-1993) and that of Janina Montero (1993-2000).

An administrative rearrangement in late 1999 brought the first major change to the Dean's responsibilities. The former Dean of Students was renamed the Dean of Undergraduate Students, and the position's oversight of student life was narrowed to focus upon the undergraduate.

From the time of its inception the position of Dean of Students has been set apart from other administrative posts by its high rate of turnover and the diversity of the individuals who have staffed it. The deanship has seen Princeton University's youngest dean, its first female dean, and its first African American dean. Many individuals who have served as Dean of Students have also been professors or lecturers at the University and have gone on to high-profile administrative positions at Princeton and other universities.

Source: From the finding aid for AC136

  • Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students Records. 1907-2015 (inclusive).

    Call Number: AC136

    The Dean of Undergraduate Students, formerly known as the Dean of Students and the Dean of Student Affairs, is the University’s administrative office charged with oversight of undergraduate residential life, extracurricular activities, and student discipline. The Dean of Undergraduate Students records contain correspondence, memos, and meeting minutes, as well as the financial records of student organizations.