Special of the week; Issue 48-70
NBER the national educational radio network presents special of the week. Early in October at the American Council on Education meeting in St. Louis two distinguished American college presidents spoke out on the Scranton report. The report on campus on rest on this program. Part of what they had to say. Dr. Maurice Abrams is president of Brandeis University and Dr. Robin Fleming president of the University of Michigan. First Dr. Abrams. Now I think I have two advantages. I wanted to Agnew in commenting on this report. According to Mr. Fanshawe colleague in the White House he had not read it. And I have and I see nothing wrong in the report which says to the president that he should inspire diverse people and to set the tone for a nation. Rather I intend to make it clear that I agree with Mr. Nixon who once said that it is the responsibility of the president to articulate the nation's
values define its goals and to marshal its will. I regard the president as the chief political educator of the nation and one of the chief sources of moral authority. And I think it is especially important for him to be that if he has a vice president who is unwilling or unable to help. Now turning to the report overall I think I got from it that it describes a society beyond the description of the society by the Kerner Commission on violence in the country. You will remember the Kerner Commission said that this country is moving towards two nations separate and unequal. Speaking of the racial divisions in the line I would summarize the Scranton report in my words as saying that the society is further along and that we now have a society
further endangered by the collision of two cultures reciprocally offensive and mutually intolerant. The report deals I think very perceptibly and at length with what it calls the new youth culture and I'm persuaded and I'm sure you are having that experience that not all youth have joined the new human culture not by a long shot but that may not be very significant. The style setters of this generation on our campuses have joined this new culture and of those who have not joined it. Do not stand them down because if there is a generational gap there is also something much tighter and much more binding which I would describe as a generational bomb between young people.
The manifestations of the new youth culture are not clearly divided in this grand commission report but I discerned the following elements which may be divided in the following components each with a different significance. The first is the outward manifestation of the new youth culture. We see it in the dress we see it in the language we see it in the lifestyle. We hear it in the news. And for any of you who have not yet seen what stock I urge you to see because I have seen nothing like it sense as a small child in rural Georgia. I attended a holy roller camp meetings and singing conventions of the fundamentalist faiths. One sees the same staring one sees a same massive motion and if one listens to the singers use hear the same each in the voice that the revivalist preacher under the circus tent displayed.
Now these manifestations do not appear to me to be terribly significant. After all the beards and the hair are things that we are accustomed to amongst our great whether they be jesus or whether they be Moses. And with respect to dress I do recall the fact that Mr Gandhi was one of the admired heroes of our generation. I was not dressed in his later life by Savile Row tailors. The second manifestation of the new youth culture however deals with something much deeper. It deals with the emotions and the drive of the youth. I would say that the new youth culture is engaged not in the celebration of reason but in the celebration a feeling one sees it in a desire to be primitive. One sees it in there and the materialistic Herge about everything except electronic music devices in which they are most sophisticated and some of their writing instruments including motorcycles. We see it in their
propensity to erect and to a part regulation over cognition sensation over analysis. The mistake over what we regard as a reasonable and a devotion to what they would regard or call the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person. Now these particular aspects of the human culture I believe have a relationship to the university which is profound and fundamental. If you conceive of the university as a place of structured learning and reason this I do not believe was fully explored in the Kerner Commission. But if one sees this drive against grades this drive against me looser less structured curriculum. If one sees this this bias almost of a meritocracy or a graduated scale of invidious comparisons as they would regard it amongst various classifications of students and scholars. Because as they like to put it we are all human. One sees I
think the manifestations of this culture seeded in the university and affecting the university as a seat of structured learning. I do not know what to do about it and I suppose the Kerner Commission other Scranton commission did not because I made very few suggestions. But I do point out to you that from my own experience I find the disenchantment of the curriculum by the best students not to apply to the curriculum in the natural sciences in the physical sciences so much as to the humanities and the social sciences. It seems almost a given to most students that one must learn the theory of business before one applies it in the laboratory. Something that many good students will not admit with respect to either the humanities or the social sciences. And that leads me to the belief that maybe there are some very fundamental flaws in the curriculum with respect to the humanities and the social sciences.
And as one who received a fairly structured and rigid education and as one who reveled in it. May I suggest that maybe the students are as a Scranton Commission pointed out in one obscure American craving for a liberal education which which presented professors as persons indicated with an interest and a deep devotion to humanize the values of truth or reality and justice even as those concerns are displayed and examined in classic literature. Maybe it is true that students find that a smattering of this and a smattering of that to make a degree the smatterings frequently reflecting only the proclivities and they Ph.D. entries of a particular professor which summarize our Another got into a catalogue. Maybe this is something that really challenges an individual. Maybe it isn't a view of a great subject great meaning something with academic distinction with a huge literature which man has killed over and
reflected on for a long time and which a student must study until it becomes different and until his emotions and his motivations are engaged by something worthwhile. The Scranton commission however paid most of its attention I think properly so to the political implications of the new youth culture. These are to be found in the manifestations of the students it hear and belief and proclivity towards absolute perfection. I think you all would agree with me that so many of our students really believe that man is perfectible something I long ago became disenchanted about as a liberal. I believe that man as perfectible an improvable in small increments. But I do not believe and I would deny that he is perfect. They may fall or result in this respect. I suppose I'm more but I hate to admit it I fall apart or so students have a marvelous ability to use the microscope on every
aspect of political life and social life in our society. They can examine it under a microscope and find every flaw and every imperfection and God knows they're there but they have a peculiar inability or unwillingness to use the telescope and thus peer backward into history or forward into the future towards which we are going. Though I'll be at a much too slow. And also the students do have as a scraggly commission points out an incredible frustration and impatience which has led them to believe that the vote and the changes through the vote is not important. It's always amazed me that with 12 million kids between the ages of 18 and 21 who asked voters could elect anybody president in this country could have decided any election that there never has been a confrontation anyway over the right of the 18 year old to vote. But anyway they do not believe in my belief that representative government is quite what they want because in the view of
those participants and participatory democracy anything under the absolute one man one vote principle by which government is done directly is something less than honest and maybe the equivalent of a frog. And as the Scranton commission points out free speech free press and freedom of assembly as these have not eliminated racism war and poverty then they must not be very effective. Thus in a recent survey which confirms I think the Scranton commission I saw that 54 percent of college leaders throughout this country agree with the state quote The majority of Americans are incapable of understanding or working for meaningful social change and precisely because of the charade of freedom. We love one of the most oppressive kind of social system subtle though it may be. Now 54 percent of the leaders believes we are in
deep trouble in this country and there's no wonder there is this turn to confrontation and violence. And no wonder that this becomes permissible and believed by them to be a fact. Now as a student the Scranton commission point I have no program but a stance they do not even face us with a set of choices. If they have no program if they have no alternative to present except rage. There is nothing which we can opt for. Now I want to be careful. I give the students great credit for what they have done in educating the people of this country about the Vietnamese War and other issues. But they didn't like the program. But students do have instead of a program a very pretentious view of the university. They believe the university can do most anything if it has the will and has had the commitment yet for sound academic reasons the Scranton
Commission report points out. We cannot use the university as a political instrument. Therefore it seems to me that the first thing we must do is to try to make our government far more responsive in the areas of student concern even though they may have no program by which those concerns could be accomplished. However it is my belief and I think the Scranton Commission's belief clearly delineated that violence on the campus must be stopped and it's got to be controlled. Maurice Abrams president of Brandeis University speaking at the St. Louis meeting of the American Council on Education Next on the program Dr. Robin Fleming president of the University of Michigan. First we really need is it a good reporter isn't it. And by my lights it is a good report. I suppose that reflects my biases as I read it I thought to myself that it is a
report which could have come from any number of us writing much the same thing out of our experiences over the past few years yet makes clear for instance what the public so widely mis understands that this is a very complex and involved kind of problem that it is not simplistic that it is not just a law and order kind of problem as the publics often would so desperately like to believe. And they traced that and they've traced it whether it provides a useful review of some of the history of the last few years with Berkeley with Columbia and stuff. And I must say that one of the things that disturbed me as I read it was to be reminded of how many occasions there have been over these last few years in which there has been not only violence but death. I really I guess perhaps in my own mind added discarded some of the number of deaths that have occurred on campuses
and it makes clear to us by reminding us how often this can't happen. The president whether it's a good report or not I think is going to be a fury for reasons which I'll talk about later. And I'm not sure that's ever going to be a relevant question in the public's mind the matter of fact. But if you just pointed out well is it or isn't it a good read for I would say it is and I would defend that thesis and I will defend it if you like later on and then I said to myself Well if it's a good report what are some of its deficiencies and I listed the jurors reading that there that where I think it is not a satisfactory report in the sense of clarifying an issue which I regard as a difficult one. One of those clients is that it points out as other publications have that the greatest honor Rashed has occurred in well large institutions. Well I would argue that's not a very meaningful term. Maybe that just reflects the fact
that my own university is a very big one and we do have problems as have many other universities and maybe therefore I'm duly defensive about it and maybe it's quite true that this minor schools have not had some of the difficulties but I nevertheless submit to you that it is not a meaningful definition to say that large universities and quote have had the greatest amount of trouble. Let me give you an example. By the standards of the large state universities which come in packages of 25000 to 40000 higher it is not a big university. We would think of it as a medium sized university and indeed by that kind of a comparison it is we wouldn't think of Columbia as a big university in the sense that the big state universities are now admittedly. They're not just Westerners either or aubergines but to simply say that large universities have had that the greatest amount of trouble. I
don't think it is a meaningful definition of the kinds of unrest there have been I think there are other criteria you can apply. I think one has to look for instance at where the university is located and what the relevance of the urban situation is to it. I think you have to look at the what the traditions of the particular institution are and whether it has always carried in the in the minds of students and in the minds of the public. And in Egypt activism of various kinds. I can't look at the kinds of students that go to institutions where they're from so far. So that when it simply reiterate as other reports have the finding that the greatest amount of unrest occurs in large universities I would say Well first of all you don't define large universities and therefore that it's not a meaningful term to me. And secondly it really glosses over in my mind other criteria which I think are much more important to whether or not there is on rent. Secondly I could I don't
understand even to this point and the concept which the commission has two points which they make together in one more than one place they talk about that universities have got to change their concept of service and then they talk about the fact that we have got to reduce the commitments of faculty members to outside kinds of enterprises and therefore get them involved again within the university. Now I understand those are both private but I don't understand the way in which they develop the thesis. For instance when one first comes to the question of service in the report. One is not sure they understand the long and great traditions for instance of many of the land grant colleges in the field of agriculture and I can say that because Michigan is not a land grant college and doesn't have a school of agriculture in the life I know of them and have served in other universities where that is a great tradition.
But surely we've always thought of that kind of service as one of the great traditions of this country. Moreover it's my impression that people in that service areas like the Eiger cultural field have more and more failed in recent years that it is an obligation of the university to try to apply to other portions of the society. Some of the same techniques. But modified to help the South let's say some of the urban problems of today. Now when they say therefore that we've got to eliminate some of our service concepts again that is not a meaningful concept to me unless you tell me more what you're talking about. They seem to be saying as a result of the pressures of these last few years we have started engaging in a great many relevant things let's say which really don't have any part of the university Now that may be subtle but I can't in my own experience
identify those areas as something which I believe are wrong with universities and which ought to be eliminated. Maybe that my experience is too limited and I just don't know of some of those. But I can't identify the other problem of that we must reduce faculty commitments to outside enterprises in order to really involve them more within the university. I think that's an oversimplification. There certainly are as we all know in all of our universities faculty members who spend a significant amount of time involved in outside work whether it's consulting or what. The trouble I think that most of us have and administrators have had in trying to apply to that is a rule of thumb for its control which is meaningful is that it may very well be as we all know that the man who is significantly involved is also contributing considerably more on the
campus than a number of his colleagues who aren't contributing either place. As a matter of fact and to say to that man you must not be invalid because you're taking too much your time outside and to have you point out to you as he will tell me in what areas I am deficient and it's not very often difficult to do that now that doesn't deny of course that there are cases where faculty members do get too much of their time outside too little inside. But I view that as an administrative problem in meeting it and in laying down some criteria which control the ad and I don't believe one can just say they're spending too much time outside without looking to see whether those are in fact perhaps some of your most energetic and useful and best citizens of the university. So I didn't 10 I didn't find that a very useful kind of thing. And now this other one that my last criticism you may
disagree on completely and you may say well that's only because you don't regard it as a bigger problem than the we do. They are included in their recommendations. A comment on ROTC and said as you may remember that the Defense Department ought to try to find ways in which that program could be largely carried on off campus and still permit those schools who wish to be involved in an RTC program to do it without containing that unit acquired on campus and then they they talked about the question of the classified research and never I thought were able to resolve much out of that one. They sort of ran around the pages the way we have been talking about it. And I had a little feeling suddenly through a cloud of dust and moved on to the next topic with the start of well what do you do with that problem.
It's got some pros and cons of it. I guess I would not have myself have regarded that those problems as so critical at this point in time. That it and I don't deny that there are going to be problems on our own campus they're going to be proud. Rest yes friend said the other day there were the same of the three Rs ROTC recruiting and and research but I do believe they've lost some of their their intense interest and I believe that they're not going to be as critical and therefore I guess I would have perhaps not spent much time on them in this particular part because I think the focus on other things was more important. Now the next question I asked myself was what really impact of that report be I really divided that into various to various parts I ask myself first on the political front and then on the back of my head. On the political front I report to you my extreme pessimism that it will have any effect whatsoever.
I believe that it is extremely popular in this country at this point in time for both Republicans and Democrats to take the simplistic point of view that yes the administrators would just take more calcium pills and would stand up and let's have a law and order on campus that these products could be taken care of. I will be very surprised I say quite frankly if the president does much of anything with it. I know a little people who believe he will I know there are those who believe that Governor Scranton will be successful with the president. I've read the editorial in today's New York Times which says the president must speak to this meaningfully. And I am unmoved. I still believe that it is not going to attract much political attention and I don't believe that if the president ignores it you're going to find the Democrats making much of an issue of it here. I don't think either party wants much to do right now.
If this had come out after Gov. Denver I believe it is possible it might have been spoken to more me but I don't believe it's going to be now. And I'm quite pessimistic that there's going to have any impact whatsoever on the political front. Now as you say an attack. Because up front then I think it does have some meat. I think for instance that as I read the chapter on the use of police which I take it might've been drafted in part with the skillful help of the the chief in New Haven who certainly has attained a reputation for moderation understanding. I thought there was a good chapter. I commend it to you for your own careful reading I think it is a useful chapter. I think it's a chapter which is well worthwhile in giving to your people who must deal with these kinds of problems. I thought it was a balanced exposition of the police problem and I believe it is useful to us in the university world to distribute to our colleges and talk about. I
believe that there is strong expression about supply. The National Guard with live ammunition may have some impact. I would think that that is not a political issue and therefore one might expect even those running for office and to suggest that supplying live ammunition to the National Guard is not healthy for stews and I believe that may be something which will get across and it would not surprise me if one saw that have had significant influence on National Guard I think that would be a very healthy one in more ways than one. There is a clear statement in there for instance that universities have failed as moral institutions and I must say I think there's a good deal of truth in that. I believe we have in many ways and I wish I knew the answer to how one corrects that kind of problem. I think there is a desperate search among young people for the value
system. I think they are rejecting much of our traditional value system. But I think it's going to be a great mistake if we conclude from that that there is no value or structure which of any is of any interest to them. And I think we are failing in that respect and somehow we have to be imaginative enough and innovative enough to be able to speak to that point. I may be guilty of wishful thinking. I believe at least on our campus that there is a somewhat different mood this far about violence and destruction. I think that terrible incident in Madison for instance had Sun impact all over the country I'd be interested in whether you think so on your campuses. What should we do about exploiting the reporting of our own event. My answer to that I guess I've already given. I believe that it is of primary use to us in turn because in the context of the election I think the realistic estimate is that it is a very popular position in this
country politically to be against students and to say that of administrators and faculty just had little guts and would stand up to these problems. They could all be washed away and I don't think anything we can say about it is going to change that in the next month because I think that's firmly entrenched now after that after the elections. I think it may be possible to get a more rational discourse. Maybe that's only because one can't remain in university world walloping doesn't believe that sometimes there's going to be rational discourse. Thank you Dr Robin Fleming president of the University of Michigan on the special of the week portions of the remarks delivered by Robin Fleming and Dr. Marrs Abrams president of Brandeis University at the St. Louis conference of the American Council on Education held in early October. This is any are the national educational radio network.
- Special of the week
- Issue 48-70
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