While Carman Hall is now a well-known first-year residence hall, housing roughly 40 percent of Columbia’s first-year class, its early years were spent in name limbo as “New Hall.” Columbia secured a loan from the then-named Federal Housing Agency to build the residence hall and it remained unnamed. Spectator articles from the time claim that Columbia held off naming in hopes that a generous donor would cover the loan in exchange for naming rights. When the building opened in September 1959, Spectator sponsored an informal naming contest that month. The “Serious” category winner suggested Hawkes Hall, after Herbert E. Hawkes, dean from 1918 to 1943; the “Humorous” winner suggested Aaron Burr Hall as a counterpoint to Hamilton Hall. However, neither name was endorsed by the University administration and the building continued to be known as New Hall.
In early 1965, Spectator published an editorial suggesting that the building be named in honor of Harry J. Carman, dean of the College from 1943 to 1950, who had died in December 1964. The name was approved by the Trustees and on April 29, 1965, the building was christened Carman Hall.