Rutgers is the only institution in the country to include in its heritage the colonial college of the 18th century, the land-grant tradition of the 19th century, and the development of the modern state university. With its roots in the original liberal arts college, the School of Arts and Sciences is the largest academic unit of the university and is the undergraduate school for arts and sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
Chartered as Queen's College on November 10, 1766, Rutgers was the eighth institution of higher education founded in the colonies prior to the American Revolution. King George III of Great Britain granted the charter in response to a petition presented by the education-minded Dutch settlers of New Jersey and New York. While no copy of the original document has survived, a second charter granted in 1770 provides for the "education of youth in the learned languages, liberal and useful arts and sciences." The first students were enrolled in 1771 to work under a single tutor, and the first student to graduate received his degree in 1774.
In the years immediately following its founding, Queen's College continued to carry out the charter's provisions, except for brief periods during the Revolutionary War when the two tutors then in residence departed for civil and military service. These were hectic years for the institution as the British troops made periodic forays into the New Brunswick area, forcing faculty and students to find temporary quarters at various points in Somerset County. Continental troops were active in the vicinity as well. On the knoll now occupied by Old Queen's, the university's central administration building, Colonel Alexander Hamilton commanded a battery of artillery that harassed the British during Washington's retreat from New York in 1776.
In the college's early history, religion played a major role. All forms of recreation were forbidden on the Sabbath, and students were confined to their rooms throughout the day except for required attendance at morning and evening church services. They wore black academic robes on such occasions, as they did to all official college functions. Students were required to doff their hats upon meeting the president or a member of the faculty.
In 1825, the name of the school was changed to Rutgers College in honor of Colonel Henry Rutgers, a veteran of the Revolution, "as a mark of respect for his character and in gratitude for his numerous services" to the institution. Rutgers became the land-grant college of New Jersey in 1864 and assumed university status in 1924. Legislative acts in 1945 and 1956 designated all its divisions as The State University of New Jersey.
The New Jersey College for Women was established in 1918 and renamed Douglass College in 1955 for Mabel Smith Douglass, who cooperated with the New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs in making the case for an institution of higher education for women in New Jersey and who became the college's first dean.
University College-New Brunswick was founded in 1934, with a unique mission and subsequently a long and successful history of providing academic opportunities and serving the needs of adult and nontraditional students.
Livingston College was founded in 1969 with the mission of bringing together a diverse group of students, faculty, and staff in a shared learning community committed to the pursuit of academic innovation and excellence, especially in its focus on the diversity of our urban communities and issues of social justice. Today, that mission has been embraced by the entire university.
In 1981, the faculties of the four undergraduate liberal arts colleges at Rutgers in New Brunswick were combined into a single Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In 2007, the colleges themselves--Douglass, Livingston, Rutgers, and University--were reunited with the faculty to create the School of Arts and Sciences. The school offers all students an expanded choice of majors, closer connections with faculty, a common Core Curriculum, a single set of policies and standards, and a wider range of educational opportunities than ever before. The School of Arts and Sciences' Core Curriculum is the hallmark of the shared undergraduate academic experience. It provides students with the possibilities for common educated discourse, and prepares them for economic success, leadership, and global citizenship.
In 2015, the universitywide Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History embarked on the Scarlet and Black project seeking out the untold story of disadvantaged populations in the university's history. Its exploration has resulted in an initial work, Scarlet and Black, Volume 1: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, published by Rutgers University Press, and many recommendations for acknowledging the influence of disadvantaged populations in Rutgers' history and ongoing development.