RANSOM AND THE REGENTS University of Texas: A Stunning Contrast AUSTIN When I entered the University of Texas in 1952, a young freshman from the sovereign state of Mississippi, the whole atmosphere seemed rather stale ; the campus was only beginning, and barely, to move away from its casual mediocrity toward something better. The University seemed somehow to lack a focus for affirmative change. The then chancellor, though adept at the mechanics of administration, seemed primarily interested in rooting out controversy and in establishing, apparently, a physiological maxim that at least one human being could get through life without grinning, smiling, smirking, or grimacing. The student body, in the vague glow of the Eisenhower years, showed few sparks of vivacity, not to mention sustained intelligence. I remember a meeting of faculty members in 1956, summoned to circumscribeat the administration’s suggestiontheir own rights in the political arena. A handful of brave souls rose to defend the outrageous supposition that professors are partly human, and the faculty ended by voting the measure down. But the task was performed in a mood of hesitation, unhappiness, and considerable fear. AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE of my generation who went to the University of Texas in the ‘fifties and who remain in touch with its life, the contrast in 1962 is a stunning one. In many areas the place seems on the verge ,of superiority. There is an intellectual vitality, a milieu for ideas, which were notably missing eight years ago. Students of all persuasions are infinitely more alert to social and political issues ; they seem to get more encouragement from their professors. When Morris Ernst, quoted a few months ago by John Fischer in Harper’s, claimed after a visit that there was more ferment at the University of Texas than at most schools in the East, and that this was the most underestimated university in the country, his sentiments were much less exaggerated than many outsiders might have thought. There is no doubt that in many respects the University is undergoing a dramatic and basic change. The irony at the University today lies in the leadership of its present board of regents, a not surprising fact considering UT’s long, sad, and erratic history of political exploitation. The leadership of the regents during the previous administration was not without its defects, glaring ones. But if actions and expressions are any criteria, a segment of the board today poses a somewhat greater danger. At any moment they could, and may be quite willing to, force the hand of the one man most responsible for the impressive advances the University has made in the last several years. C HANCELLOR Harry Ransom, as a professor of English in the early 1950’s, had already established a reputation among many students as a good man to have around, as a person deeply interested in and loyal to those youngsters who showed talent and verve. In what seems an incredibly short time he graduated from the ranks to the presidency and finally the chancellorship. In their conduct toward the law school faculty and on the Kinsolving Dormitory issues last year, certain regents have made it quite clear nothing will budge them from their adamant position. At this moment, Ransom is extremely vulnerable. His departure would, in my opinion, be a major loss to the state, a great setback to the emerging promise of a university fully capable of joining the highest ranks in American education. Yet there is little reason, should a crisis brew among the regents, why Ransom should personally extend himself to remain, other than what seems his own desire to stay in Texas. He could have his pick of choic’r and more lucrative academic positions. That is why in the present controversy over the Forty Acres Club \(a curious institution which has all the appearances of a Green Stamps redemption center, but nonetheless has become a distinct symbol of institutionalized racial discrimination be well-advised. to restrain itself, at the moment, from creating a major issue. Let it be considered that in February, just four months from now, three important vacancies will occur on the board of regents. The gubernatorial candidates of both parties have firmly pledged themselves to stress the need for a first-class state university, and to make judicious appointments to its governing board. Three sound appointments will change the complexion of the present regents. On the other hand, if Chancellor Ransom is placed in a position these next three months of having to defend his faculty, which he is certain to do, the consequencies could be serious. Already it is apparent that some regents are extremely agitated about the American Association of University Professors’ meeting last month and about the angry mood of the faculty. NO DOUBT Ransom has blundered on the Forty Acres Club issue. But strong protests now could very well jeopardize his spirit of innovation and reform which has so AUSTIN OUR CORRESPONDENT in New Orleans described the scene at Ross Barnett’s contempt hearing in federal court this week: “The spectators filed out of the courtroom and down the stairs of the old building. On the sidewalks outside about a hundred curious people waited to catch a glimpse of Meredith, or maybe even Barnett. Ten elderly men and women stood with placards proclaiming treason and communist influence in the government and the Supreme Court. One especially baggy gentleman in a wash-and-wear suit that had seen little of the former but much of the latter carried a sign reading: ‘Reds Move Into White House Impeach the Supreme Court Or Surrender to Russia’ “Finally Meredith and his little group, harried by radio and television interviewers, came out and walked down the sidewalk as the pickets fell in and the crowd craned to catch a glance. One old lady, apparently slowed down by rheumatism or arthritis, brought up the rear as best she could with a sign proclaiming: ‘Let All Dissatisfied Negroes Go Back to Africa. We Need More Ross Barnetts. Interposition Is Legal.’ “About a mile away or so from this departing group stood a statue in honor of a man who dealt with interposition in another century. The inscription under the stone figure of Andrew Jackson reads : ‘The Union Must and Shall Be Preserved.’ ” * THE STATEMENT of the governor of Georgia, Ernest Vandiver, is a graphic illustration of the genuine division within the South. “Ours is a nation of laws,” Vandiver said. “For anyone to defy the laws and constituted judicial processes is to strike a blow at the very foundation of our nation. “As long as Mississippi does not secede from the union they, like every other state, must abide by the laws and the decisions of the courts which directly affect them. As governors, improved the University these last years. The catalogue of improvements is not inconsiderable. Ransom has imported dozens of outstanding young scholars and teachers, often from Ivy League jobs. He is responsible for the Texas Quarterly, an experiment which may have contributed some inferior offerings, but at the same time has produced special issues as splendid as the one on contemporary Italy. The quality of several of the Quarterlys speaks well of a growing sophistication. Under a critics program Ransom originated, poets and writers like W. H. Auden, Robert Graves, J. B. Priestly, T. S. Eliot, Katherine Anne have come here to lecture and mingle with faculty and students. Under Ransom’s administration there have been notable revivals in several departments. Classical languages, for example, under the chairmanship of a former Oxford don, has begun to publish an ambitious new journal of classical studies which is attracting national attention. Under Ransom the University has developed one of the nation’s leading collections of rare books and manuscripts. An undergraduate humanities center, designed to make books and study rooms more accessible, will be completed next year. Great advances have been made in Plan II, a special liberal arts program. And it was Ransom who conceived the idea for a Junior Fellows program, in which a we cannot tolerate violence and disorder, nor should we take any official action which encourages violence and disorder by others.” Even Gov. Price Daniel’s stand was noteworthy. We. are only five years removed, in Texas, from the infamous segregation laws of the 1957 special session. East Texan Daniel’s neutralist position was in effect a silent censure of Barnett’s defiance. THE TRAGEDY of Mississippi is in many respects the tragedy of any society which has forced meaningful dissent into retreat, and equated even silence as a form of betrayal. The statement by the Mississippi businessmen criticizing Barnett’s handling of the crisis and appealing for restoration of law and order was admirable but belated, symptomatic of a condition in which only dire extremities, and then rarely, bring out a sense of decency there. The Jackson insuranceman who said the state’s adult leaders “failed the youth of the state by inciting them to violence” was all too correct, and too late by a few days or a few years. It took even greater courage for the two members of the Mississippi House. of Representatives, as early as four days before the riots, to praise President Kennedy’s “great strength” in dealing with the state’s defiance of the courts. The two, Karl Wiesenburg of Pascagoula and Joseph Wroton of Greenville, Hodding Carter’s hometown, were virtually alone in their public stance against Barnett’s activities, even though they maintained that some 30 to 40 members of the 140-member House privately supported them. * UNIVERSAL Atlas Cement of Waco, a division of US Steel, sent out a newsletter which has just come to our attention containing some interesting comments. The newsletter cryptically says that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had initially scheduled its spacecraft center for Elgin Air Force Base, Florida, but was “pressured” to locate in Houston. Three paragraphs later: special effort is made to select the most intellectually gifted students in both the arts and the sciences for more concentrated study and personal attention. THESE REFORMS, taken together, have had an unmistakable effect on the whole tone of the University. It is a campus which has become infused with a growing respect for intellectual controversy as the very substance of education, and where Ransom has insisted, despite the pressures, on the right of the teacher to be an individual. The AAUP meeting last month was itself symptomatic of this change. The display there of wit, urbanity, and intelligent repartee would do justice to the older and more secure campuses of the East. This University administration has been one, not of fear, but of stimulation and encouragement. Am I being too sanguine? Perhaps a little. Ransom has that mythic quality which surrounds men who enjoy the sheer wielding of power. The net effect of this power, however, has been to create a mood in the top echelons of a vast academic hierarchy that anything worthwhile may be possible, and that the University of Texas can reach out for the best. One particularly able legislator friend once remarked, the only efficacy in compromise is simply to know when to and when not to. In the present , situation, logic and longrange interest dictate a short period of truce. Faculty restraint now would amount to a vote of confidence. W.M. AlVVVVVVVWVV1 “All available acreage adjacent to NASO Michoud Plant has already been purchased for an industrial park for erecting plants which will be producing subassemblies for Saturn boosters. Owners of the property are Murcheson and LBJ Enterprises.” *’ THE TEXAS HOUSE investigating committee’s recommendations to the legislature on changes in statutes governing oil laws are worthwhile and , necessary. They include a complete revision of the marginal well statute to eliminate the incentive for placing a well on marginal status, criminal penalties for intentionally deviating a well, laws against violation of Railroad Commssion rules and false sworn statements, and a conflict of interest statute establishing a standard of conduct for state officials and employees and providing for criminal punishment. The next legislature would do well to hasten their enactment before the next major scandal, which should occur in the cyclical Texas tradition around next February. Memo AUSTIN Memo to the next governor: Attendance at Texas state parks increased by about half a million persons, to 7,099,672, during the last fiscal year, according to R. W. Barlow, operations director for the State Parks Board. This is a large portion of the state’s population. Overnight campers increased from 398,419 for last year to 499,728 this year. Garner Park attracted 899,033 peoplethat is, nearly a million people who want to camp badly enough to camp side-bp-side, as at a family reunion. As a politician who will seek re-election in 1964, Governor to be, obviously you can convince millions of Texans you’re a good fellow by expanding the state parks. NOTEBOOK ‘Must and Shall Be Preserved’
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