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The Student Affairs profession transformed: Catalytic events of 1968 to 1972

Michael Roger Laliberte, Johnson & Wales University


This research examines how Student Affairs professionals observed the redefinition of their profession during and after the 1968–72 period of campus dissent. By using historical research and analysis methodology, it explores the effects of this key period of student activism on the Student Affairs profession in American colleges and universities. Before 1968, the Student Affairs profession was not considered an integral part of the higher education community. However, when student activism became unmanageable, members of the Student Affairs profession were called upon to respond on behalf of their institutions. Their responses and the short- and long-term effects of those responses are closely examined in this study. Multiple data-collection methods were used. The primary source of data was persons working in Student Affairs at a college or university during the period 1968–1972 and who continued to be employed in higher education after that period. Data were collected via questionnaires and then oral histories from a sub-sample of original respondents. Secondary sources included original documents, such as professional journals, speeches, and papers published during this time. Through content analysis and interpretation using causal inference, this research supports the view that the Student Affairs profession was transformed during and after the time period studied, and that as a result the campus status of Student Affairs staff was elevated. It finds that during the 1968–72 period Student Affairs professionals functioned as communications conduits between students and the administration, created and changed campus policies, served as managers of campus crises, and were recognized as the primary advocate for student events and activities, As a result, Student Affairs professionals have gradually advanced to executive administrative positions in new and/or expanded Divisions of Student Affairs since 1968–72. These changes firmly established Student Affairs professionals as major contributors to students' educational experience. This research contributes to the history of higher education by providing evidence of how and why the Student Affairs profession was changed and strengthened as a result of the 1968–72 period.

Subject Area

Higher education|Education history

Recommended Citation

Laliberte, Michael Roger, "The Student Affairs profession transformed: Catalytic events of 1968 to 1972" (2003). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3106410.