During the Woolley Period there was a craving for more independence by the student body. There was a need to have space between the faculty and students to lessen the enforcement of so many rules and regulations. To do this, Dickinson House was built nearby for faculty only. However, while this was a step toward giving students more freedom, there was still a surveillance structure intact. At the time, Dickinson House was halfway point between granting students more self-government while maintaining the presence of faculty to enforce the rules.
Construction Begins: In the beginning of the Woolley period, faculty and matrons continued to be present in the dormitories across campus. They also remained an active part in the struggle for democracy between the students and college administration. But with the gradual increase of student involvement within the community, faculty was moved out of the dormitories so students could truly take part in the honor system. If the faculty were still within the dormitories surveying student actions, then how could they be on an honor system? To help facilitate faculty moving out of residential halls, President Woolley commissioned the building of Dickinson House in 1916(48).
Student Independence Grows: This bold move of giving faculty their own house was a clear statement to the student body that the honor system was starting to take place. In addition, by having faculty housing, Woolley was able to increase the faculty to decrease the student to faculty ratio(49). Dickinson House had single rooms for faculty, as well as multiple studies and kitchenettes on each floor. Dickinson House, in essence, created a separate community for faculty to partake in.
But Surveillance Still Remains: Even though faculty was moving out of the residential halls, Matrons still remained. This attendance could be conceived as a safety net for the administration because they feared what students would do without supervision.
Lingering Questions: But the movement of faculty out of the dormitories to Dickinson House, while a step toward independence, what did it really say about the presence of faculty among the students? Even though faculty had their own house to live in, they were still not completely off the college campus. With such a close proximity to students, was the absence of faculty actually viewed as a step toward more independence for students? To truly make a break between the involvement of student activities within the dormitory and faculty presence, would it have been easier to force faculty to find housing? Why keep them so close? These are just a few of the questions that come up when wondering why Dickinson House was built.
Putting Clues Together: In my opinion, Woolley wanted to give students more breathing room and independence in the dormitories and therefore gave housing to the faculty ‘off campus.’ However, it can be considered as a method for Woolley to give students some independence but also have the faculty on the campus grounds to maintain their authority. Rather than have the faculty disperse around the town of South Hadley where they would have no presence of authority amongst the students, Woolley kept them close by as a reminder to students that there was still a periphery surveillance occurring.