The functions of the Division of Student Affairs can be traced back to the 1950s. During this time period, there was no official student affairs organization. Rather, student issues and concerns were handled by deans of men and women, the director of student welfare, and the dean of students. Then, sometime around January of 1958, the position of Executive Dean for Student Life was developed, and a centralized student affairs office was created. Over the next ten years, the positions of dean of men, dean of women, dean of students, and director of student welfare were phased out. The Office of Student Life remained in existence until the summer of 1968, when the unit was renamed the Division of Student Affairs with a vice president as the chief administrative officer of the division. In the fall of 1970, the title of vice president was changed to vice chancellor for student affairs. Then, during the 1988/89 academic year, the title reverted to vice president with the systemwide reorganization of the university administration.
The first individual to hold the executive dean position was James B. Borreson, who took up the office sometime around January 1958. Borreson was followed by Francis A. Gray, who served as acting dean from spring 1964 to January of 1966. Taking up the executive dean position in January 1966, Leslie R. Bundgaard served until the summer of 1967, when Gray again assumed the position of acting dean for one year. The next officer, Winston Martin, took over in the summer of 1968 with the new title of vice president, serving through the change in title to vice chancellor. Following Martin, Joseph F. Metz served as acting vice chancellor for a short period of time during the spring and summer of 1971. Then, in September of 1971, Daniel Bratton became vice chancellor, remaining in office until the spring of 1973. At this point, the rapid turnover experienced in the first 15 years of the unit ended, with the vice chancellorship being assumed by William L. Thomas, Jr. Thomas still holds the position today, in 1991, his 18 years of leadership sharply contrasting the early history of the division of student affairs.
The purpose of the Division of Student Affairs is to enhance the college experience of students, enabling them to get the most out of their time spent at the university. The division serves as an advocate for student interests and needs, develops and facilitates the students' understanding of their rights and responsibilities, and provides a variety of resources and services to guide students through the collegiate experience. To quote a 1977 Affirmative Action report: "the division shares responsibility for the general welfare of the campus, particularly in regard to the various environmental factors which impact on the quality of student life."
Over the years, the Division of Student Affairs has been comprised of a variety of offices and departments such as: Placement and Credentials, the Counseling Center, Commuter Affairs, Health Services, Greek Affairs, Resident Life, the Student Union, Judicial Programs, University Apartments, Campus Recreation Services, Orientation, Veterans Services, the Chapel, and Campus Parking. Of all of these, the Counseling Center has been a consistent member of student affairs; in a 1971/72 annual report, then Vice Chancellor Bratton labeled the center one of the finest in the country and the best unit in the Division of Student Affairs.
During the early and mid 1970s the division experienced a period of change and revision. With the induction of Bratton in 1971, the departments and offices of the division were reorganized into five areas: Student Health and Development, Resident Life, Minority Student Affairs, Commuter Affairs, and Student Services. Both Commuter Affairs and Minority Student Affairs were new undertakings for the division. According to Bratton, no other major large university had any such comparable service for its commuter students.
Parallel with Bratton's reorganization, the division came under review with the establishment by University Chancellor Bishop of the Student Life Study Committee. This committee was charged to review and present recommendations concerning student life and the Division of Student Affairs. The report of the committee cited the failure of the division to "articulate to the university community its views concerning the role and function of student affairs work." The committee ultimately found many of the functions of the division to be inadequate. Bishop subsequently appointed a second committee to focus on the division and review the functions of its departments. The result was another reorganization and the reassignment of offices from Student Services and Student Health and development to the Division of Academic Affairs. Minority Student Affairs was reassigned to Academic Affairs, as well. Accompanying the reorganization was a reduction of funds to the vice chancellor's office.
Still not free from scrutiny, in 1976, Bishop's successor, University Chancellor Gluckstern, continued investigation of the division with the creation of a task force to review and examine the programs and methods of student affairs. While the recommendations of the task force did not result in continued restructuring of the division, they did encourage seeking alternate means of funding for the chapel and the traffic ticket appeals program, a review of the duplication of services between the Counseling Center and the Health Center, and the increase of resources and attention to several other programs.
By 1977, the division was composed of eight major departments: Campus Activities, Commuter Affairs, Counseling Services, Health Services, Judicial Programs, Orientation, Resident Life, and the Student Union. Today, the Division of Student Affairs includes Campus Guest Services, Campus Recreation Services, Dining Services, Graduate Apartments, Campus Parking, Residential Facilities, and the University Book Center.