USF History Vault: WWII Plunges Student Enrollment

Dec. 7 will mark the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, whenJapan’s air forces took the naval base by surprise and impelled President Franklin Roosevelt to declare war during his “Day of Infamy” speech. By Dec. 11, Germany and Italy had declared war on the United States; World War II became an even greater problem.

For USF, the nation’s involvement in World War II had drastic effects. As male students volunteered for the army or were drafted, enrollment suddenly declined. Prior to Pearl Harbor’s attack, all divisions of the university had 1,337 students enrolled. By spring of 1945, that number sank to 321 students.

The academic calendar underwent some changes as well. The standard two-semester schedule was switched to a trimester system. The six-week summer session became the third semester.

The law school made its own accommodations as well. Classes were taught in rigorous nine-week sessions, as suggested by the law school regent Raymond Feely, S.J. These changes were implemented to help students complete their programs in less time. This, in turn, assisted students when they were reported for active duty, because they had the opportunity to attend officer’s candidate school, which trains and screens candidates before they serve in the forces.

At the time, USF was conjoined with St. Ignatius high school. USF graduated its students six months early, so that they could have finalized a semester’s worth of study before being drafted. With one semester under their belt, it increased the likelihood of attending officer’s candidate school.

With an enrollment decrease and a possible budget deficit, USF Pres. William Dunne, SJ, was forced to make a trip to Washington D.C. He pushed to maintain retention of the ROTC program and make additions for other university, military training programs.  In July 1943, the U.S. government granted the university just that. An Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) was established at USF. The program attracted 300 students nationwide to USF.

Also, many ROTC students were retained at USF to continue their training.

To make room for the military training programs, temporary buildings were built along Golden Gate Avenue, on the north side of the campus. These buildings included barracks, offices and an infirmary. The buildings were not removed 1965, when the Harney Science Center was built, and later with the addition of the University Center in 1966. Until then, the space was used as classroom space after the war.

Although ASTP program helped financially secure USF, the government discontinued the program in March of 1944 to send men overseas.  USF students were mandated to active duty. Once again, it placed USF in a financially unstable position. USF had continuous monthly deficit of 6,000 to $7,000

To get USF back on its feet, Fr. Dunne assembled a committee of alumni and friends to raise funds. The individuals who helped acquire the Masonic Cemetery–William McCarty, Florence McAuliffe, and Crocker Bank–headed the committee. Their campaign reigned in $150,000.

Although USF worked intently to stabilize finances, World War II had even greater impacts on the entire makeup of the university. Hundreds of USF students served in the war, and over 100 died in doing so.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain

News Editor: Ericka Montes

5 thoughts on “USF History Vault: WWII Plunges Student Enrollment”

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