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For eight hundred years Western societies of turn to universities for the teaching discovery and preservation of advanced knowledge from small beginnings in Bologna and Paris men have built giant educational complexes to serve not only students but governments industries and the general public as well. The huge American Multiversity these are the subject for this series Multiversity today. The programs were produced in the studios of WRAL the University of Illinois Broadcasting Service. Dennis Corrigan is your host for today's program about what's going on inside the Multiversity today. The Multiversity what good is it. What should it be. What should it do. Not so much for the individuals we've already touched upon this in our series but for the society as a whole. The first problem with these questions is understanding what we're talking about. It's all too easy with these sweeping questions to
find equally sweeping answers that leave us with an abstract feeling of satisfaction but little understanding of the situation. The next problem is one of definition. What are we talking about when we're talking about society. For most of us when we think of society we are tempted to think of a nebulous group of beautiful people or some sort of mass of humanity but society is not abstract. Society is the bikini clad girl on the beach and the Quiet Woman meticulously attired for a luncheon. Society is the chubby man puffing down the street and the sleek young athlete jogging along a country road. Society is the great and the famous. The neighbors the wealthy man in his air conditioned limousine and the family that alternately shivers and swell tears in the ghetto. Society is people with all their fears limitations ambitions and hopes and what society does is an expression of
those fears those limitations those ambitions and hopes in small and tightly knit groups of people. There is unity in the goals and most community actions but in a large diverse society such as the American people. There is not only controversy about how we should go about reaching our goals but there is considerable disagreement about the goals themselves. It is not unexpected then that there are conflicting ideas about higher education. What it is what it should be. And nowhere with an American higher education is the conflict more severe than with them the multi-verse of day to day. You're. Multiverse of days particularly land grant institutions usually
divide their operations into three general categories teaching research and service. The multiverse cities have assumed these responsibilities and answer to the needs of our society. In doing so they have had to develop ways to balance such things as supplying information about cattle raising teaching freshman English and providing equipment and funds for research on the problems of minority groups. How can you arrive at a proper balance for these operations. Indeed what is the proper balance. During an interview prepared by WKRN for this series Dr John B Wilson assistant proboscis of Michigan State University and director of undergraduate education answered this question How does Michigan State University balance teaching with its other responsibilities. Well this question like all of the ones that came before is a very difficult one. The problem of balance and trying to strike a balance amongst all of the responsibilities
all of the obligations that a modern university can quite properly speak to are discharged very very difficult. No rules it seems to me can be drawn that will lead you to a notion of perfect balance here. This I suppose arises out of the university's traditional commitment to preserve knowledge on the one hand to teach it that is to say to teach the next generation of students and then to create new knowledge too. These are the sort of tripartite obligations that all universities everywhere I suppose must try to meet got additional ones added onto that more and more specifically given our land grant heritage here the felt obligation to take. The new knowledge and to apply it to the solutions of try to come up with solutions to problems that people are feeling in the society all over the state of Michigan and it's often difficult and then a one time to say this is precisely the balance that ought to be maintained in any one department or any one precinct in
the university community. I think that I suppose in a way that the the most frequent Lee heard metaphor these days the metaphor that refers to the flight from teaching that is supposed to characterize many of our teaching faculty today the faculty who now have more and more opportunity every year to engage in consulting with outside firms or government or even gauging research here in the university or by some through sponsored funds from outside the university. I think this metaphor speaks to the problem of striking the right balance I think that we've really got to do and what we're coming to is is it is another definition or redefinition of the primacy of teaching. After all universities are educational institutions first and foremost they're not research institutes they are that too but they are primarily it seems to me
educational institutions. This must be the touchstone this must be that they must do that as well as they know how. And the other things are complementary things are things that reinforce the research and the consulting and the work outside of the community that can follow. I think we've got to re-establish these priorities. Yes but it's a difficult job and certainly difficult job or university as a whole. Well one must continue to redefine and rework these definitions so that a balance can be struck. Even if we assume that the primary responsibility of a Multiversity is teaching the Multiversity space a considerable amount of criticism some criticize what is taught some how it is taught. Some who is taught in this time of student done rest there are those who are questioning the
kind of students we have in our Multiversity. As it is said the students don't care about their work. They are only there to sponge off their parents or avoid the draft or find a husband or avoid having to work. Yet as David Reese min reminds us just as no college can exist solely for students seeking enlightenment without also catering to students seeking marriage useful contacts or for more years on the old man's payroll. So scholarship itself proceeds through the mixed motives of its devotees and through harnessing against the culture some of the motives which support the culture of freedom of speech as of investigation would soon die out if it could only be claimed by the pure in heart. So sense whether we like it or not. Multiversity serve a variety of people by and their own aims. How can we describe what our Multiversity is are doing. Henry Johnson assistant professor of education at the Illinois State University touched on this topic when he answered
these questions. What is the function of a university and has it changed. Well I think it's changed enormously. But in order to understand that change you. I think it's necessary to have a certain kind of interpretation of the whole process and simply put that's this that education is in every case I think with perhaps some rare exceptions but in almost every case I would I would call the derivative function that is it's something that exists as a consequence of something else namely the general cultural life and the intellectual life particularly of course of a time. And it proceeds to. He Salman and and had this intellectual and cultural life and it's changes when that intellectual cultural life changes. So that whenever you see an educational change there is usually a corresponding cultural change which is usually preceded it.
There's almost always a tension because education represents usually a conservative function whether we like it or not. That is that necessarily attempts to convey what is regarded as the best in the culture criticize that dynamically of course and they will always find elements of ferment in higher education institutions even if the even in the dullest days. But by and large it's its organization its basic thrust is dependent upon the culture and therefore tends to follow it. So that you'll get the rumblings I say in American higher education. The colleges are hanging on to the old tradition of 50 25 50 years after the handwriting is on the wall plainly for everyone else to read. Famously a report of 1828 research them points the necessity the value of the traditional literary curriculum in the face of a nation which is changing radically becoming technologically oriented. Everybody knows this but
education as an enterprise. I want to hold on to the values which have been true in the past and this is true I think at every stage of the game it's true today university is in some sense fighting against certain trends in the culture which are being armed all was more accepted outside than they are inside. What does society expect its universities to do today. Well I think it expects the university to do what it values. I mean it to preserve these values and to and to advance the interest that it possesses. Clearly today this lies and I should say that this is something of a judgment I suppose that lies and getting jobs and improving technology. It lies in them. Maintaining our political and social structure in a certain way and this is always been the case
so that when the culture changes its mind about something eventually university will change its mind about it. But I think it's very doubtful that the university has at least in the past been been the instrument of change in most cases. We put the same questions to Dr. July Burnett professor of the philosophy of education at the University of Illinois. Well I think typically the public does not have any very concrete operational definitions of what goes on at a university or what should go on. I think what you find in almost any society at almost any time. Well I think what you find is a set of relatively few interest groups and I don't use this as a dirty word. Interest groups which are responding to what they take to be the important needs of society the general public order of their own special vested group
orientations. In the middle ages for instance when you had the church is a very strong force when you had it. The patrons of the arts the sciences the worries it was for instance you found academicians being expected to do certain things. They saw the problems of their time in their society different but they were the people in power. Today I think that without much debate we can say that A. Religion is not a major organized force affecting higher education. I think probably we can say that the family in the communal labor hood no longer are forces. Which affect university or indeed even secondary schools in the fashion they want to do it in the society. I think with the C Wright Mills and some others I would say that probably the military industrial complex too which incidentally General Eisenhower alluded. The political
machinery the political organizations. I think these are bringing the power to bear on American higher education. What the emerging ones will be I don't know. I'm not sure at all what the future holds but certainly if we had peace time and full employment or emphasis I think would shift markedly. We'd be more interested in recreation and leisure and the social sciences for International Understanding and cooperative trade. These sorts of things but that new groups would come to the fore representing these interests in the National League. I don't want to. Even though universities traditionally have not been instruments for social change in recent years there has been a considerable amount of campus agitation for just such change. There have been demonstrations protests and conflicts of
idea as activists students and the highly vocal minority leading campus demonstrations often point to what they feel is the repressive nature of our society. These students often feel that our society through its universities tries to perpetuate its own restrictive right Marty super-PAC an upperclassman from Enid Oklahoma. Explain his view of the situation. During an interview in a campus restaurant in societies over structure the society pays too much for a robot body and soul to the universe and should try to correct you know tilt the scales the other direction restore the balance. If you try to get people to try to create a little anarchy in people's lives you know you're getting them. Try new ways of thinking new ways of that and I was experimenting with the universe not the universe. The full story with a backing or duration with everything and God. Whether or not we happen to agree with Marty super-PACs minority viewpoint what he
has to say does point out one aspect of the Multiversity through the institution the society does attempt to perpetuate itself within certain broad limits this is an admirable goal. The problems come when the society attempts to make meaningful changes either impossible or extremely difficult. A growing number of respected leaders are suggesting that multiverse cities and other institutions of higher education can serve a vital role in the changing life of our society. They suggest that universities must hold the responsibility of providing a place for the exchange of ideas by the development of new attitudes and social values. Ruben Cohn professor of law at the University of Illinois put it this way. Yes I think that a university must be if it is to be a significant institution in our society a place where all kinds of ideas clash for competition and class for acceptance and make.
A well-known phrase in the marketplace of ideas I think that every idea no matter how abhorrent it may be no matter how antagonistic it may be with respect to the prevailing notions of what may be appropriate and limits of discussion find their place for discussion in a university community. There must be a clash of ideas the Clash and the conflict of opinion so that ultimately truth however we define this must prevail and truth cannot prevail except in the context of open free discussion which may frequently take a very very long form. I'm not talking about violence I'm talking about strong disputation on controversial ideas unless I have long advocated for example the limitation or the elimination of limitations upon persons who may speak on this campus. I believe that externally or internally induced limitations upon whom they speak up on this campus are wrong in
policy. As an individual I absolutely love the philosophy for example of the American Nazi Party as I do the Ku Klux Klan but I believe that the university should provide forums for even these kinds of opinions as they must for opinions which are more consonant with the general prevailing attitudes of the university community were indeed a community at large that the university is and the peculiar institution where this can happen and should happen with an absolute minimum limitation of any limitation upon this opportunity and that only through this process which can best be carried out in a university can we ultimately hope for the achievement of truth the making of essential reforms in our society of the testing the verification process with regard to a social laboratory and how people live and how they should live. And this to me is what a university is about Ghana Multiversity really be a
form variety is can a multiverse today influence society and even change it. No individual or group of individuals stands alone in one way or another. We all influence the environment and individuals around us. Likewise the Multiversity cannot help but be caught up in the forces active in the society at large. It is neither small enough nor financially independent enough to disentangle itself from the needs wants goals and pressures of the outside world. Involvement in the conflicts of the surrounding society is part of the price it pays for being a multi versity. It is caught up in the questions of civil rights or it needs to turn to the entire available population for employees it becomes involved in the problems of the poor but the poor want jobs and education and they turn to the large universities for
help. The turmoil of national politics influences the Multiversity more substantial funds from the federal government are needed for research construction and services in the process of growth. It becomes involved in the problems of property rights. But this is only a part of the picture. Its great size means more students who take on influential positions after graduation. Its buying power and employee needs often play a major role in the economic life of its area and in selected industries around the nation. Research and advisory and informational services influence not only the economic development of farms and small businesses but building methods and laws transportation banking practices union contracts your community school system and hundreds of other areas of our public and private lives Multiversity are a major source of teachers not only in New York Wisconsin in California but in other states too.
And they train most of the graduate students in our nation thus becoming the major source of college teachers can all diversities do more. Can they bring about substantive changes in the direction and quality of our society. We would suggest that they can. If this is science he is already looking for a new direction. For example when universities assumed responsibilities for direct service to the government of general public they were responding to public demand. This was explained by Professor Henry Johnson. When we ask if government contracts in public service were new ideas. Well I think so. I think this is partly the German universities heritage of course. The German university was given a social role of very great importance in the 1900s when we did import this idea of the United States. Unless you examine it it's difficult to imagine the degree to which the later 19th century educators were almost overwhelmed with the idea of a German university. You know
if you don't know I was a particularly strong contender in this regard. Most of our early administration was very much influenced by the by what they saw as the great social role of education in Germany and how it was shaping a nation and producing and producing a high degree of the fish and sea and and and here scholars are really digging down and taking account of the problems of every day. And which of course is an essential role these days. But the kinds of questions that had been asked elsewhere other than Germany and had previously been asked in American culture the questions of Who Am I one of my doing. What does it mean to be a man. What are their theological or literary humanistic doesn't make any difference I mean these are questions about interpretation identity. These come to be very lots much less about you. And today certainly our universities are primarily concerned that they justify themselves in terms of their degree of success in advancing certain national tasks and and particular interests
and the disciplines themselves are developed in this direction rather than as an educator of activities which I would say is distinguished from training by where Knight intends to deal and not have any Whether its basic thrust is to deal with a person or whether it's allegiances to some other task. Our thrust is not with the educated function in a large university anymore it's with it's with these socially defined tasks I think yet Multiversity days are emphasizing the socially defined tasks. Professor Johnson mentioned Ganley yes to Titian is change enough to assume new responsibilities for society. Probably but not without keeping a lot of older and perhaps out dated activities too. For as Nicholas von Hoffman pointed out in his book The Multiversity American universities can add new studies new activities are new organizations with relative ease but must torture themselves to make any change in what already
exists. It is easier for them to join with three other schools to build a new multimillion dollar research facility than to revise the freshman English requirements or more drastic yet make adjustments and the ESTA to shit which would alter relations between people. And yet universities do change but slowly perhaps but they do change. One example of this was explained by Dr. Robert Corley dean of student affairs at the Chicago Circle campus of the University of Illinois. I think the Multiversity itself if I understand would be a large motorbike you know. But most of my department colleagues kind of environment is a change. In our traditions and our procedures have been very often changed with it. I find myself having to write two letters of recommendation to schools such as Columbia Harvard and
George Washington for a student whom I've never met but whom they require. A letter of recommendation from the dean of students and I think this is an example of the fact that our procedures are out of date very often to say to a student you've got to go to your dean of students and get a letter of recommendation doesn't recognize the fact that most of our students are now attending Multiversity and that he may have to be told to get a letter of recommendation from somebody who knows you not from the dean of students. I think this whole idea stems from the fact that a number of years ago we still think in terms of university of being a very small place where everybody knew everybody else and just simply isn't true. So I think there Governor that the multiverse theory itself is a change and I think in terms of educational patterns that it's a good change it provides far
greater opportunities than many small schools can provide. The bulky versity. What good is it. It provides higher education of the type demanded by society it provides service to the public. It conducts research in answer to the demands for more and more technical advances. Can the Multiversity s also answer our social needs. Certainly efforts are being made in this direction more and more Multiversity as are developing programs to cope with our urban society with the problems of the poor with the problems of minority groups. There is pressure and demand for such help not only from outside the Multiversity but from inside as well. For however much we might like to think otherwise. The problems of people do not
stop but the Multiversity gate a student from the ghetto would take his background with all its hates prejudices and accumulated sensitivities to the Multiversity a segregationist does not drop his outlook when he walks into the classroom. A poor man does not suddenly find all the answers to his problems in a Multiversity job. The individuals with radically conservative or liberal outlooks do not suddenly become neutral in a Multiversity environment. With all of these influences operating inside our giant institutions of higher education we can hope that our Multiversity can assess as much in our social problems as they have in our technical problem. In any case these social questions offer one of the greatest challenges facing our Multiversity these today. Are good. Or good.
During the past half hour. You have heard the 10th program in a series about what's going on inside the Multiversity today. Next week at this time we'll hear what educators have to say about the future of Multiversity. Where do we go from here. Your host for today's program was done and score again. The music was performed by the University of Illinois somebody's Orchestra under the direction of Charles Delaney. The program was produced and directed by Louise Geissler is in the studios of WRAL the University of Illinois Broadcasting Service. Or good. Good bye. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
The multiversity today
what Good Is It?
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University of Illinois
WILL Illinois Public Media
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3648. This prog.: what Good is It? The relationship between society and the multiversities: what it is and what it should be.
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Producing Organization: University of Illinois
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
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Chicago: “The multiversity today; what Good Is It?,” 1968-11-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
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APA: The multiversity today; what Good Is It?. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from