When New College first opened its doors in 1960, College Hall was the center of student life. Gatherings and meetings among the student body were held there, along with multiple classes. It was used as a library for an extended period of time before Jane Bancroft Cook Library was built. The former Ringling mansion was the most important building on campus.
Today it’s an administrative building, with a handful of professor’s offices and classrooms available for a few members of the Social Sciences department. Its primary purpose is as home for Admissions, the first stop in tours for prospective students, and as a lavish gathering place for upscale events.
Somewhere between 1960 and now that switch from student space to administrative space occurred, and the transition did not escape the attention of the student body. Notes from the Student Life Committee meeting of October 1984 include discussion on the use of the building. “P. Adema and M. Gottlieb wanted to discuss item 3 concerning the fate of College Hall in some detail,” the notes say. “Students were extremely concerned that the Hall not ‘fall into the hands of administrators’. Students suggested multiple uses for various floors including offices, art studios, meeting rooms, and lounges. They further suggested that unlike Cook Hall, College Hall should be open part of the night for social activities.”
The notes continue, “B. Kline interjected that he had heard no plans radically different from what the students proposed … It was suggested that the matter be deferred to the space committee.”
Four years later, a 1988 list of Student Concerns documented yet more complains regarding access to College Hall. “Despite assurances from various administrators, the students still do not have access to the student lounge. Russ Sizemore wrote an essay in Salmugundi extolling the potential virtues of a College Hall open to both students and New College faculty,” the report states. “Many students favored access to College Hall for parties during inclement weather. Some administrative and janitorial concern has been expressed about the condition of the building following parties. A solution would be for the NCSA to employ a student for the purpose of cleaning up the following day. This has worked well in Hamilton Center.”
Sometime between 1984 and 1988, College Hall slipped further out of the grasp of students and into an administrative space. Students have been unsuccessful in reclaiming it ever since.