Lee Residence Hall
By June of 1964, a new building graced North Carolina State University’s skyline: the nine-story “Dorm ’62,” which the school renamed “Lee Hall” a year later. The building, located on Central Campus west of Bragaw Hall, was the first high-rise dormitory at State. In 1970 it became another first: the first all-men’s dorm to open some floors to women.
When Chancellor John Caldwell announced construction of Lee Hall in 1961, the campus was “‘700 to 1,000 beds shy’ of meeting its present housing needs,” as an official told the News and Observer (N&O). At eighty-five feet high, Lee could house 840 students, according to a 1965 Statelog.
That year, NC State’s Committee on Institutional History and Naming of Buildings proposed dedicating “Dorm ‘62” to Major General William Carey Lee (1895-1948), an alumnus and former instructor in Military Science (according to Alumni Affairs Director H.W. Taylor). Lee gained fame “organizing and establishing the Airborne Command,” according to his 1944 Distinguished Service Medal Citation. He trained the parachuting 101st Airborne Division to invade Normandy on D-Day in 1944, using what the citation called “exceptional ability, force of character, and the will to get the job done.”
In 1945, the same year Lee received an NC State honorary degree, fifty-eight “coeds” (the twentieth-century term for women attending coeducational institutions, as researcher Lynn Peril explained) enrolled in the school. There were 200 women students by 1962, (2.86% of the student population, according to a Historical State timeline). But women alumnae recalled in oral histories that they felt, as Linda Jewell said, like an “odd duck.” “There were certainly assumptions that you were not going to make it,” she explained, and that “if you did that you were somehow not feminine.” Sally Schauman reported her School of Design dean, Henry Kamphoefner, “didn’t believe that design students should be two kinds. They shouldn’t be men who joined fraternities or women period.”
The rules restricting how women used campus space further alienated them from men colleagues. According to the 1967 Resident Women’s Handbook and a ballot referendum, women undergraduate students had to be in their Watauga Hall dorm by midnight or get parental permission to spend the night off campus. Men could visit only the building’s public area, except during “Open Houses” that married non-students monitored. Male students did not have such rules, according to a 1970 notice by the Raleigh Women’s Liberation Group (RWLG). Historian Amy Thompson McCandless reported that at many Southern schools, “special curfews, dress regulations, social organizations, and campus activities all made sure that Southern women remained ladies. And ladies, of course, were docile and dependent.”
At NC State, male students also denied women their right to private space. Starting in 1955, The Technician consistently reported that men discussed invading women’s dorms during “panty raids.” In 1965, at least 900 men nearly broke into the 90-woman Watauga Hall, crying “we want lace—we want panties,” according to The Technician. They only stopped because men already visiting inside blocked the entrance.
But by 1970, the number of women students, an activist culture, and the lessons of housing women far from men increased the boundaries of female space on campus—including in Lee Hall. The Director of Student Housing reported there were 1,650 women students in 1968, enough that Dean of Student Affairs Banks Talley Jr. said, “there is no doubt we can use additional space for women for the 1970-1971 academic year.”
Campus activism also affected administrators’ feelings about housing women near men. A student referendum appeared on Chancellor Caldwell’s desk during the 1969-1970 school year, a few months after students protested working conditions for facilities workers and cancelled classes for a student-faculty “Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.” The referendum noted, “we should not be forced to live in this artificial environment” of dorms separated by gender. In 1970, Talley agreed: in a proposal, he lambasted the “outmoded and archaic notion that we must confine our women students to one area of campus.” Furthermore, all-women dormitories near several all-men dormitories had proven “beneficial to the atmosphere of the residential area” from 1968-1970, whereas distant all-women’s dorms (like Watauga) resulted in “misunderstandings and ill feelings.”
Therefore, on February 11, 1970, Chancellor Caldwell opened the formerly all-men Lee Hall to women. Male undergraduates would live on the bottom six floors, male and female graduate students would live on the seventh floor, and female undergraduates took the top two floors.
“State girls are not exactly standing in line to live in the co-ed dorm,” The Technician reported a month after the decree. Some women disliked the building’s distance from academic facilities and the potential need to “look decent” inside. In the fall, the paper also noted some parents objected to their daughters living so close to men. Although one woman resident feared “peeping Toms,” other women told The Technician “the guys are working with us” and were “really polite.” By 1974, the Department of Residence Life proposed turning Metcalf and Sullivan Halls into “co-residential” buildings housing “both men and women students” and they opened suites on Lee’s ninth floor to men (according to correspondence and articles). Popular demand drove other new freedoms: The Technician reported Cathy Sterling, the first woman to be the university’s student body president, tried to make the university system let students decide visitation policies in 1970. Talley abolished curfews in 1971.
Women students still perceived different treatment than men students. Women told The Technician in 1971 that some professors refused to give “coeds” anything better than a “C,” while other professors awarded automatic A’s. In 1970, the RWLG complained NC State’s infirmary refused to perform gynecological tests or discuss reproductive health. Five hundred boys led a “panty raid” on March 26, 1987, according to The Technician.
Caldwell’s “co-educational halls,” however, convinced more men and women residents that women could and should move freely around campus. “Males who lived in coed arrangements were more likely to become more appreciative of female individuality and independence,” 1975 NC State Student Affairs researchers found. Student Valerie Forvendal told The Technician in 1971 that she “had more freedoms…than at an all girl’s school.” Alongside announcements of Sex Awareness Discussions, intramural sports, and air hockey tournaments, a 1974 Lee Hall newsletter about housing crowed, “each of the students gave [sic] proven that the alternate suites can work.”
In 2021, almost all traditional hall-style dormitories were, as University Housing described on its website, “co-ed but divided into sections by gender.” Gold and Welch Halls were “all-male” and “all-female,” respectively, and suite-style dormitories were “gender-specific” by suite. But according to Section 700.8.1 of the University of North Carolina System’s Policy Manual, NC State “shall not assign members of the opposite sex to any institutionally owned and operated dormitory room, dormitory suite, or campus apartment.” Jess Errico, NC State’s 2019 Student Body President, explained to The Technician that the policy prevented “students from sharing housing if how they identify is different from what might be present on their birth certificate or what they are identified as legally.” Although University Housing encouraged transgender students to reach out for help finding “LGBT-affirming roommates” in The Technician article, columnist Zack Jenio pointed out a month later that the policy “creates unsafe and unaccommodating situations for students who are part of the transgender and non-binary communities.” Jenio asked, “why does the UNC System preach that diversity is crucial in education when they blatantly ignore the needs of inclusivity for marginalized groups such as the trans and non-binary communities?”—reflecting the activism that brought more freedom to campus space for women at the beginning of the 1970s.
Original Source References
Board Meeting Minutes, January 17, 1966, North Carolina State University, Student and Other Organizations, State's Mates Records, UA 021.501, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries. https://soh.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/495.
Clark, Becki. “Girls Cool to Coed Dormitories.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC) March 23, 1970. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v54n61-1970-03-23.
Council, Meredith. "States Mates Have Fun While Men Study." The Raleigh Times (Raleigh, NC) ca. 1960-1961. North Carolina State University, Student and Other Organizations, State's Mates Records, UA 021.501, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries. https://soh.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/81.
Detwiler, Amber. “Law against gender-inclusive housing creates concern in campus community.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC), February 14, 2019. https://www.technicianonline.com/news/law-against-gender-inclusive-housing-creates-concern-in-campus-community/article_03781ce6-3002-11e9-8af5-dffa5181aa3a.html.
Edens, Mike. “State Students March in Panty Raid against Watauga, then St. Mary’s.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC) November 18, 1964. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v49n29-1964-11-18.
Haynes, Mike. “IRC Disagrees with Cathy Sterling on Recommended Open House Policy.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC), November 16, 1970. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v51n34-1970-11-16.
Jackson, Jean. “Lee coed plan cut to 9th floor.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC), April 22, 1974. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v54n83-1974-04-22.
Jenio, Zack. “OPINION: The UNC System’s housing policies contradict their claims of inclusivity.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC), March 25, 2019. https://www.technicianonline.com/opinion/opinion-the-unc-system-s-housing-policies-contradict-their-claims-ofinclusivity/article_6b73df7a-4681-11e9-8251-17fd7885763c.html.
Jewell, Linda. Interview by Yona R. Owens, May 1, 2012. Transcript and recording, Lewis Clarke Oral Histories Project, MC 00191, North Carolina Special Collections Research Center. https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/documents/scrc/lewisclarke/content/oh/docs/mc00191-oh-jewell-20120501-transcriptedited.pdf
“Judicial Board Meets Policy on Panty Raid.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC) April 28, 1955. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v39n29-1955-04-28.
Lowder, Wayne. “State Coeds Now Enjoy 5-1 Disadvantage.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC), February 10, 1971. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v51n57-1971-02-10.
“Nine-Story Dorm Planned at State College.” News and Observer (Raleigh, NC). September 15, 1961. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/652156261/.
North Carolina State University, Committees, Institutional History and Commemoration Committee Records, UA 022.009, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
North Carolina State University, Office of the Chancellor, John Tyler Caldwell Records, UA 002.001.004, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
North Carolina State University, University Archives Reference Collection, Biographical Files, UA 050.003, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
North Carolina State University, University Archives Reference Collection, University Buildings, Sites, Landmarks Files, UA 050.004, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
North Carolina State University, Division of Student Affairs, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Records, UA 016.001, NC State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.
“The Philosophy of a Panty Raid.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC), November 18, 1964, https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v49n29-1964-11-18.
Rowell, Suzanne. “Co-ed hours to be extended.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC), September 8, 1971. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v52n5-1971-09-08.
Schauman, Sally. Interview by Yona R. Owens, November 12, 2008. Transcript and recording, Lewis Clarke Oral Histories Project, MC 00191, North Carolina Special Collections Research Center. https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/documents/scrc/lewisclarke/content/oh/docs/schauman_sally_transcript.pdf
Shepherd, Trudy. “Co-educational Hall Living Brings Positive Reaction from Students.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC), September 9, 1970. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v55n5-1970-09-09.
Statelog, "Domestic Trend on College Campus," December 1, 1955, North Carolina State University, Student and Other Organizations, State's Mates Records, UA 021.501, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries.
State's Mates, "Annual Report, State's Mates Club, 1967-1968," North Carolina State University, Student and Other Organizations, State's Mates Records, UA 021.501, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries. https://soh.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/332.
Sullivan, Meg. “Students Pay Poulton a Late-Night Visit.” The Technician (Raleigh, NC), March 30, 1987. https://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/technician-v68n71-1987-03-30.
University Housing. “Residence Hall Options.” NC State University. Accessed May 14, 2021. https://housing.dasa.ncsu.edu/find-a-community/residence-hall-options/.
University of North Carolina System. UNC Policy Manual and Code. UNC Board of Governors. Policy 700.8.1. Chapel Hill: UNC, 2013. Online, https://www.northcarolina.edu/apps/policy/doc.php?id=854 (Accessed May 15, 2021).
Secondary Source References
Dorin-Black, Cathy. “Fabulous 50: Lee Hall Becomes First Co-Ed Dorm.” NC State University Libraries – Special Collections (blog). January 5, 2021. https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/news/special-collections/fabulous-50-lee-hall-becomes-first-co-ed-dorm
Kosmerick, Todd. “African-American Protests, Spring 1969 (Part 1).” NC State University Libraries – Special Collections (blog). March 15, 2019. https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/news/special-collections/african-american-protests-spring-1969-part-1.
McCandless, Amy Thompson. The Past in the Present: Women's Higher Education in the Twentieth-Century American South. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999.
Murray, Kelly and Genya O’ Gara. “The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.” NC State University Libraries – Special Collections (blog). June 23, 2011. https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/news/special-collections/the-moratorium-to-end-the-war-in-vietnam
Peeler, Tim. “Rendezvous with History.” June 5, 2019. https://news.ncsu.edu/2019/06/rendezvous-with-history/
Peril, Lynn. College Girls: Bluestockings, Sex Kittens, and Coeds, Then and Now. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co, 2006.
Special Collections Research Center. “Enrollment and Tuition.” Historical State Timelines. Accessed May 13, 2021. https://historicalstate.lib.ncsu.edu/timelines/enrollment-and-tuition.
University Architect, Office of the. “Lee Residence Hall (087).” Raleigh, N.C.: North Carolina State University, 2021. Emailed to author, 11 May, 2021.