Office of Ethics and Religion (University of Michigan) records, 1860-1991
Using These Materials
- The record group is open for research.
- University of Michigan. Office of Ethics and Religion.
- University of Michigan office established in 1973 to counsel students in matters of faith and morality, successor to several organizations concerned with student religious activity. Records are mainly of predecessor organizations, the Student Christian Association (1860-1937) and the Student Religious Association (1937- 1956), but does include some records of the Office of Religious Affairs (1956- 1973) and of successor organization, the Office of Ethics and Religion (1973- 1991); also records of component and related organizations, including the University of Michigan chapters of the Young Men's Christian Association and the Young Women's Christian Association and the Association of Religious Counselors.
16.3 linear feet
1 oversize volume
- Call Number:
- 87292 Bimu F27 2
- Finding aid prepared by: Bentley Historical Library Staff
- Scope and Content:
Although the name given to this group of records is the University of Michigan Office of Ethics and Religion, the researcher should note that the records consist primarily of predecessor organizations, the Student Christian Association (SCA), the Student Religious Association (SRA), and the Office of Religious Affairs, as well as component and ancillary organizations such as the University of Michigan Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Association of Religious Counselors, and the Christian Federation Advisors.
The record group begins with a summary history of the organization written by C. Grey Austin and entitled A Century of Religion at the University of Michigan (1957). Covering the period up to the establishment of the Office of Religious Affairs, this history provides solid information about the role of religion at the university and the activities and restructuring of the SCA and the SRA. Written by the same individual who wrote the sections on the two organizations in The University of Michigan; An Encyclopedic Survey, this volume is more detailed than those summaries and should be consulted first for background information.
- Biographical / Historical:
Although the University of Michigan was never intended to be a sectarian school, from the beginning religion played a key role in its activities and curricula. Most of its first administrators and faculty were clergymen, starting with John Monteith and Gabriel Richard and continuing with Henry P. Tappan and Erastus Haven. In 1845, students formed the Union Society of Missionary Inquiry, which started out with a religious character but soon evolved into a kind of sectarian debating society. The students who were dissatisfied with the Union Society later formed a chapter of the Young Men's Christian Association. Established in January 1858, this association of the Y.M.C.A. was perhaps the first college chapter in the country.
In 1859-1860, the organization rewrote its constitution and changed its name to the Students' Christian Association (name later changed to Student Christian Association in 1920). The SCA affiliated with the national Y.M.C.A. in 1866, but because of its willingness to accept women into its activities, the University of Michigan association never really fit the national Y model. Nevertheless, the SCA flourished, becoming the most active student organization at the University of Michigan in the period before the turn of the century with a broad-based program that included religious meetings and lectures, a monthly news bulletin, a program to orient new students to the university, an employment bureau, and a foreign missions program.
The facilities used by the SCA in this early period were located in the South Wing of University Hall. In the period 1886-1890, funds were raised for a new building for SCA activities. This building - Newberry Hall - was dedicated for use on June 21, 1891 and was to serve as a center for campus religious activities for the next half century.
The national Y.M.C.A. made repeated efforts to divide the SCA into a Y.M.C.A. and a Y.W.C.A. In 1895, some Michigan men did form a Y.M.C.A. chapter, but in 1897, an effort to restructure the SCA by dividing it into separate branches for men and women was defeated. Thus in 1901, to balance the Y.M.C.A. chapter, a Y.W.C.A. chapter was formed, giving the university community three student religious organizations, all of which prospered as separate entities for a time. But as they all needed separate funding for their support, they soon realized their need for cooperation. So in 1904, the 1897 plan of organization was revived and the SCA became the parent body to the two Y's with responsibility for the organization's home, Newberry Hall and with the university's Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. chapters becoming program centers. With this organizational restructuring, the religious focus of the SCA and its component organizations underwent a change. Discontinued were the prayer meetings, chapel services, and the monthly newsletter; in their place emphasis was given to secular projects such as a Freshman Handbook, a rooming agency, an employment bureau, and sex hygiene lectures. Because of the inadequacy of Newberry Hall for all of SCA's programs, a building campaign commenced in 1915 and with some support from John D. Rockefeller, enough money was raised for a new home for SCA. In 1917, Lane Hall, named in honor of Victor H. Lane, was opened.
Ironically, just at the time of its greatest influence, the SCA experienced pressures that would eventually lead to its later restructuring and transformation into an entirely different kind of organization. The SCA now faced competition in its program offerings. Area churches began forming guilds to provide programs and services for students of their own denomination. The university, as well as the newly opened Michigan Union and Women's League took over functions that had gone to the SCA by default. The demise of SCA was a gradual one however as the organization sought to carve out a unique role for itself. During the 1920s, the organization managed a summer camp program for youngsters - the Fresh Air Camp - and began the Freshman Rendezvous retreat program to orient students to the religious resources of the campus.
In the late 1920s, president Alexander Ruthven sought to define the role of religion at a secular state university. Realizing the importance of religion, the university created the position of Counselor in Religious Education (filled by Edward W. Blakeman) as a kind of mediator between the university and various religious groups and to counsel students on religious matters. In effect, the university was taking over some of the functions previously performed by the SCA. Because of its own financial difficulties, the SCA could no longer support Newberry Hall and Lane Hall and thus transferred these properties to the university. Although there was no stipulation about their use, it was hoped that they would continue as centers for religious study and activities. In 1936, the regents of the university agreed to take over the activities of SCA, creating a Board of Governors for Lane Hall and a new student organization, the Student Religious Association, established to stimulate and encourage interest in religion.
The creation of the Student Religious Association was a signal that the university was now willing to accept responsibility for a student religious program. The change of name of the organization was also a reflection that the university had students of many faiths and that this new organization would strive to meet the needs of all of them. The constitution made clear that the work of the SRA would be separate from the counselor in religious education that President Ruthven had established, and that the board of governors of Lane Hall would have no jurisdiction over course offerings in religion. Although the distinctions in function were not always clear between the two units, the counselor in religious education was a university position with responsibility (as the name implied) for the religious counseling of students, while the SRA was (as the name also implied) a student organization whose responsibility was in the less easily defined areas of faith, values, and a student's spiritual life.
The first director of the SRA was Kenneth Morgan. During his five-year tenure from 1937 to 1942, the SRA introduced a broad base of activities designed to provoke thought and discussion on religious issues. A series of formal lectures -- including a series on "The Existence and Nature of God," given by Bertrand Russell, Fulton Sheen, and Reinhold Niebuhr -- brought fifteen to eighteen speakers to campus per year. Additionally, SRA sponsored a freshman round table, a weekly discussion group, work holidays, local speakers, choirs, a music society, and book groups. Within the SRA was a bureau of student opinion, which surveyed students regarding their views about politics and religion in the period immediately prior to, during, and after World War II.
As the SRA lost its exclusive Christian focus, Morgan sought to foster a spirit of cooperation among the major faiths on campus. Before that could take place there had to be a cohesive voice to speak for students of the Catholic, Jewish, or Protestant faiths. While Catholic and Jewish students had their own student centers, Protestant students were divided into various denominational guilds. Morgan sought to bring some unity to Protestants with the formation of the Inter-Guild Council. In addition, he created an Advisory Board consisting of representatives of the three major faiths to meet with SRA's Board of Governors to discuss religious problems of the university and to clarify relationships between the university and local religious groups.
In 1947, the SRA underwent an organizational change. Lane Hall was recognized as the center for religious study and activities under the supervision of a Board of Directors. The board was to encourage student interest in religious study and was to maintain co-operation on behalf of the university with off-campus religious groups. The board was also to encourage and maintain within its jurisdiction the Student Religious Association as the student organization. In 1949, Edward Blakeman resigned as counselor in religious education, and his responsibilities were transferred to the Director of Lane Hall. In 1954, the title of the Director of Lane Hall was changed to Co-ordinator of Religious Affairs. The year 1955-56 brought a further re-evaluation of the university's provision for the religious life of its students by establishing the Office of Religious Affairs. The ORA was under the direction of the Co-ordinator of Religious Affairs who was responsible to the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Board of Governors for Religious Affairs. One of the Office of Religious Affairs' major activities was the Freshman Rendezvous, an orientation camp for incoming students to the university. Although the Rendezvous began before both the Student Religious Association and the Office of Religious Affairs were founded, it grew to its largest point under the direction of the Office of Religious Affairs. The Office of Religious Affairs also coordinated a committee on religion in the curriculum, which studied a degree program in religious studies, a program of university lectures on religion, a faculty colloquium on religion, and an improved library collection of religious works.
The purpose and function of the Office of Religious Affairs was to provide the University of Michigan with a program of educational services in the field of religion. The office provided faculty and students with the opportunity to understand one's own faith as well as the faith of others in order that they be prepared to live in a multi-faith world. During the academic year 1971/72, the functions performed by the Office of Religious Affairs were folded into the Office of Special Services and Programs of the Office of the Vice President for Student Services. During the mid-1970s, the Ethics and Religion program was established to counsel students in matters of faith and morality. Specific areas of concern included sexuality and the male/female relationships of Afro-American students. The five areas of principal activity included: counseling, group education, public events, advising and advocacy, and community relations. In 1978 all religious counseling services were transferred to the Counseling Services Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. The focus of the Office of Ethics and Religion shifted to include religious, spiritual and ethical development of the student through group facilitation and education programming. In 1993, the office was reorganized and down-sized. Currently the office is staffed part-time and the major focus is to serve as liaison with the campus ministries.
Office of Religious Affairs Directors Date Event 1955-1954 DeWitt C. Baldwin, Director 1955-1966 DeWitt C. Baldwin, Coordinator 1966-1968 DeWitt C. Baldwin, Director 1968-1970 Lloyd W. Putnam, Acting Director 1970-1973 A. Theodore Kachel, Director Office of Ethics and Religion Date Event 1973-1974 A. Theodore Kachel, Director 1975-1977 Leonard Scott, Acting Director 1978-1993 Robert Hauert, Coordinator 1993- Leonard Scott, Liaiso
- Acquisition Information:
- The record group (Donor 1717 ) was received beginning in 1951.
The records have been divided into three principal organizational subgroups with two smaller groupings of genre (photographs and printed materials) that overlap the three organizational divisions. The bulk of the collection is almost equally divided between the records of the Student Christian Association and the Student Religious Association with a much smaller grouping of records for the Office of Religious Affairs.
- Additional Descriptive Data:
For additional information on the Office of Ethics and Religion at the University of Michigan, the researcher should consult the records of the University of Michigan. Vice President for Student Affairs.
The researcher should also consult the Bentley Historical Library's printed works catalog under the heading "University of Michigan - Office of Ethics and Religion" for descriptions of other printed materials.
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Young Men's Christian Associations.
Young Women's Christian Associations.
Student Christian Association (University of Michigan)
University of Michigan. Student Religious Association.
University of Michigan. Office of Ethics and Religion.
University of Michigan. Office of Religious Affairs.
University of Michigan -- Religion.
Young Men's Christian Association (University of Michigan)
Young Women's Christian Association (University of Michigan)
Fresh Air Camp (University of Michigan)
Freshman Rendezvous (University of Michigan)
Lane Hall (University of Michigan)
University of Michigan -- Buildings.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1931-1940.
University of Michigan -- Students -- Social life and customs -- 1951-1960.
Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971.
Russell, Bertrand, 1872-1970.
Sheen, Fulton J. (Fulton John), 1895-1979.
Using These Materials
The record group is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright is held by the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright is not held. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
item, folder title, box no., University of Michigan. Office of Ethics and Religion., Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan