It’s possible that no university in the history of the United States has had such a confusing array of units, and names, as Rutgers.
The traditional college that was chartered in 1766 was known as Queen’s College, named for Charlotte of Mecklenberg, the Queen Consort of King George III. In 1825, the name was changed to Rutgers College to honor Colonel Henry Rutgers, an elder in the Dutch Church that controlled the college. The familiar story of Col. Rutgers donating $5000 and a bell to the struggling college is true, but that gift was made only after the renaming.
In 1862, things begin to get more complicated. Rutgers College added the Rutgers Scientific School to participate in the federal “land-grant” program, which gave states land to sell to raise money for colleges in engineering, agriculture and military science. This new school began Rutgers’ official relationship with New Jersey. Rutgers continued to develop an Agricultural School, distinct from the Scientific School except in the state’s eyes. A resolution of 1917 declared: “Rutgers Scientific School, being the State Agriculture College,” would now be designated the State University of New Jersey. The “state university” was now a division of Rutgers College. The State Agriculture College eventually became the College of Agriculture and Environmental Science in 1965, then was renamed Cook College in 1971.
Rutgers also used state funds to establish the New Jersey College for Women, in 1918. “The Women’s College” or NJC was also considered to be a division of the State University, which was a division of Rutgers College. (NJC would be later renamed Douglass College, in 1955.) This created a puzzling situation, where “the State University of New Jersey” was a unit within the private Rutgers College. When the trustees changed the name to Rutgers University in 1925 to try to clear up some of the confusion, Rutgers College ceased to exist except as the College of Arts and Sciences, a unit within the larger University.
However, “The State University of New Jersey” was still merely a division within Rutgers University. In 1956, the whole confederation of schools was reclassified as “Rutgers, The State University,” a state appointed Board of Governors was put in charge, and the private instititution disappeared.
In 1969, the College of Arts and Sciences was then renamed Rutgers College once again, making it distinct from the new liberal arts school at Livingston College. Also, University College had been founded in 1935 as a separate unit for nontraditional students, and by 1969 had its own independent departments, like Douglass and Livingston. So, by the mid-seventies, Rutgers, The State University contained five separate undergraduate colleges in the New Brunswick area: Cook, Douglass, Livingston, Rutgers, and University. (That’s not even counting graduate programs, professional programs, and various units in Camden and Newark!)
To add to the confusion, the faculty of those separate colleges merged in 1981 to become FAS, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Since then, students in the undergraduate colleges have all taken courses from the same faculty, even though they received degrees from five different institutions.
We’re not done yet. The names of undergraduate colleges will change again under the new plan to revitalize undergraduate education, beginning in September of 2007. In the reorganization, the four liberal arts colleges – Douglass, Livingston, Rutgers, and University – will become the combined School of Arts and Sciences of Rutgers. Cook College, continuing its distinct mission, will become the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. All students will then receive degrees from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
The spirit of the colleges will live on as “residential colleges,” campus-based communities with a particular educational and co-curricular focus. The Mabel Smith Douglass Residential College, with a strong emphasis on women’s education and women’s leadership, has already been established. However, the academic focus – and the names! – of the other residential colleges are yet to be decided.
The Rutgers University Archives
The Future of Rutgers