remember well an afternoon meeting of Department Heads at
the Kansas City Art Institute with President Andrew Morgan.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Andrew mentioned that in
examining the school bulletin, he had noticed that we did
not have one teacher with the rank of Professor. We discussed
this and felt that it was relatively unimportant. Finally,
he looked at us and said, Do any of you guys want to
be a Professor? We all said no, we were not interested.
On reflection, I think one or two of the Department Heads
did want the rank, but they were not going to say so in front
of the senior faculty who so emphatically had refused.
sixties brought the first rumblings of student activism. Initially,
student rebellion grew out of opposition to in loco parentis
policies existing at most educational institutions. At the
time, many schools and universities operated their own cafeterias
supervised by dietitians. There was strict dormitory supervision
with enforced policies, and institutions imposed restrictions
on student activities in and out of class. Student reaction
quickly spread to educational policies. Most programs had
rigid requirements with few electives, and students were not
permitted to cross or mix disciplines. Students began demanding
to do their own thing in terms of program of studies
and course content. These were the years that minority students
began to enroll in large numbers, and they strongly impacted
on educational content and student bodies.
next escalation in student activism was social and political.
The 1960s were the period of civil rights legislation which
coincided with urban riots, protest marches and considerable
violence throughout the country. The Vietnam war was becoming
more unpopular with the general public by the day, and it
was bitterly contested by young people. More young males went
to graduate school during the Vietnam years than anytime since
as graduate school or teaching exempted students from the
were emerging concerns for world environment, population control
and social equality. Students were at the forefront of these
movements. The anger of students was directed mainly at the
establishment, what they perceived as the relatively
small power blocks of wealthy and influential individuals
or corporations who controlled government and industry.
many instances, student anger was directed toward any authority.
The cumulative effect of student actions was violence and
destruction of campus properties, disruption and an upheaval
in traditional educational and institutional policies. It
became clearly evident that academic authorities were unable
to maintain control or protect property, and the administrative
composition and role in education was to irrevocably change
because of the student rebellion. This marked the beginning
of dramatic growth in the size and role of administration.
Business practices and values began to replace academic ones,
teachers became employees, students were customers and education
a service. Efficiency became more important than effectiveness,
and educational standards seriously declined.
drugs, music and the freedom to do what you want were symptomatic
of student behavior. Peer group pressure became the dominant
force in shaping student attitudes and behavior. A curious
aspect of the time was communication through touch with all
students including minority students. At times when students
needed reassurance, an arm around the shoulder, a touch on
the hand or knee conveyed to them that the teacher cared,
accepted and was genuinely interested in them as individuals.
Today, these same actions by a teacher would most likely trigger
sexual harassment charges before you could remove your hand.
insight into students from that period occurred during a series
of visiting lecturers. The first lecturer had carefully prepared
his lecture and it was given without hesitation or flaw. Student
response was strained and minimal. Tom Geismar gave the next
lecture, and he had been extremely busy at his studio before
coming, so he put his lecture together rather hastily. He
had two or three slides upside down for which he apologized,
and at times he rambled during his talk. Student response
was overwhelming. The student reaction to the two lecturers
piqued my interest enough to ask students why the different
responses. They said the first lecturer was too good, too
perfect, so they did not trust what he had to say. On the
other hand, Tom Geismar was just like them, he made mistakes
and sometimes had difficulties with verbal communication,
so they could identify with and trust him.
grades were characteristic of the period and they have never
normalized. Too many teachers did not want to argue about
grades with students who already were angry and rebellious.
At the worst, low grades could lead to teachers having tires
slashed or the car spray painted. At many schools, students
protested having grades, and they demanded a pass/fail evaluation.
Invariably, after each grading period, some students approached
teachers privately to ask by how much they had passed or failed.
the years of retrenchment in the seventies, with declining
student enrollments there was pressure on faculty at some
institutions to not fail students because of tuition loss
in private schools, and reduction of funding to colleges and
departments at public institutions which was based on enrollment
figures. In the mid-seventies, I was interviewing at Central
Michigan University for a Department Head position. In my
interview with the Dean, I gave my assessment of conditions
and suggested how the educational quality might be improved.
After a few minutes, the Dean interrupted me to say, I
dont give a damn about making it better, I only want
to know how you can handle more students with less teachers.
in the sixties, educational programs were fragmented to accommodate
student demands, and many still are highly elective, particularly
Fine Arts. Some student attitudes from those years persist
even today. Student activism ended much more suddenly than
it began. The movement ceased with the shootings at Kent University.
In terms of student motivation, I never had a more difficult
year than 1971-72. My students were completely demoralized,
most of them did not finish assignments and they did not care.
student movement was followed by what was then called retrenchment.
The Vietnam War had concluded, the national debt had reached
proportions that affected government spending, and federal
money for education evaporated. The economy was weak and inflation
began to rise. Educational institutions were over extended
and student enrollments were declining. Tuitions at most educational
institutions, particularly in the private sector, dramatically
increased. It was during these years that many students who
formerly attended art schools began to move to state universities
where tuition increases had been less. Educational administrators
saw conditions as being temporary. They believed that once
the economy recovered, and the national debt was reduced,
the government would again pump money into the educational
system. This did not happen.
these same years, the number and role of Community Colleges
changed dramatically. Formerly called Junior Colleges, these
institutions received new recognition because universities
were experiencing problems growing out of huge first-year
enrollments and equally large drop-out rates during the following
two years. Some form of intermediate schooling between secondary
schools and university seemed a logical response to the situation.
Since that time, there has been significant expansion of the
Community College system and its educational role.