exercise its powers “with wisdom and prudence and with a full awareness of American academic traditions” simply begs the question. No board appointed by a governor of Texas has ever had a full awareness of American academic tradition. The faculty representatives who issued this statement have placed their heads on the chopping block with the hope that the hatchet will not fall. The statements of a legislator that the new legislation provides “at least a framework for more academic freedom than we’ve had in the past” does not suggest that a new era of freedom is in the offing. In a recent article, James Reston, associate editor of The New York Times, posed some interesting questions concerning the apathy of the university community. With the nation’s leader talking of the Great Society and the War on Poverty, the academic community has virtually ignored these subjects. Although the Jameses, the Emersons, Santayana had the philosopher’s vision of Great Societies, for the first time the vision has been adopted by those in political power. It may be hoped that the academic community may yet rouse itself and enter into meaningful discourse on the broad implications of these concepts. In Texas, most discussion of the issues of the Great Society and the War on Poverty have emanated from the executive branch in Austin or from local officials. These have not really been discussions at all but have concerned such vital issues as whether or not a minimum wage of $1.25 per hour labor \(it was originally proposed to pay 75 cents an hour in Texas which would There has been little concern with such basic questions as how much it costs for a family to live in decency and dignity in Texas. The fault lies not only at the door of Texas society in the large. At times, I have suggested to colleagues in my own institution that a heavy commitment it the examination and criticism of contemporary Texas man and his society in terms of his biology, his ethnic psychology, and his economy is of legitimate broad academic concern. The leaden stares of response are clear evidence that much of the humanities is not concerned with humans. I should really like to know whether Ortega y Gasset was right when he wrote, “Man has no nature, what he has is history.” To give credit where due, it should be said that recent attempts have been made at the University of Texas to encourage discourse concerning the War on Poverty, but the bleakest possibility is that the colleges and universities will remain fun-house mirrors of society rather than institutions from which society may, however reluctantly and grudgingly, take its cues, and ultimately its guidance, for social progress. W E STAND at a fork in the road. If we make the wrong turn in Texas we shall repeat the major mistakes, perpetrated in American colleges and universities during the past 35 years. These are not solely mistakes of administrators; they are mistakes of the adult population of the university community with the assistance of a sometimes apathetic and sometimes confused segment of the university community known as the students. Rather than developing as bastions of intellect and cauldrons for steaming ideas, most American universities have succumbed to the blandishments of public relations. As at General Motors, we find that the strong right arm of the university president is supported by the sling of the public relations office. The faculty, at least the “good” ones, are also enlisted in the public relations team. They are involved in enlisting graduate students, recruiting faculty members by the rumor system, and money-getting. This is not peculiar to the better universities. It is a general attribute of our culture in which truly free enterprise is not a valued activity if it violates the rules of public relations. The universities have simply followed the dictates of the culture, except for the curious tribal rites usually described as the “academic way of life.” The significant overall mistake is that the universities have followed the dictates of the most crass elements of what some sociologists term “the rat-race.” The universities have served as a tool of society and have not generated the leadership for society, This is nowhere better seen than at the University of California. The President of that institution published a book recently which was ironically enough titled The Uses of the University. The essence of the book is that the university is all things to all men. I would argue that it has only been all things in its public image and that it is at times a ghastly mirage which mimics the “waist-high culture” with high-fashion sophistication. In his book, President Kerr harks back to the day when there were giants on the American\\ university scene. The days of Gilman at Hopkins, Wheeler at Berkeley, and such are rather wistfully regarded as history, but Kerr concludes that such giants cannot rise again. Kerr’s conclusion is acceptable only if we also accept his dictum that the new university can only be a creature of a modern industrialized society, furnishing that society with products from what Kerr referred to as the “knowledge industry.” It is true that leadership which dominates rather than is dominated by corporate -structure is a difficult attainment in our time, but Kerr’s definition of the university president as the mediator-initiator is unacceptable if the university is going to be something more than a stamping machine. The strength of the giants in American education lay in the conjunction of two elements. The first was, of course, opportunity. The second was adherence to intellectual integrity and unequivocal belief in the free soaring of the human mind. Absent was any real hint of adherence to public relations values. Public relations, if any, were handled from the vest pocket of the giant. The public relations trap is an insidious one. As a minor example, it has become very fashionable in university and college circles to operate a sort of academic variety show. This consists of a continuing parade of visiting stars who do oneor two-day stands on a campus and then rush away into the air. We seem to be developing here in Texas a significant number of stops on the academic vaudeville circuit. It is to be hoped that this can be kept within reasonable bounds, since one really concerned, competent academic man in residence is worth about 75 overnight visits. The University Orpheum circuit could be discussed further in terms of public relations, but I shall not belabor the point. To assuage the grinding of teeth which may be occurring at this point, there is some room for optimism. The positions of academic men in Texas are, for the first time since 1836, in a somewhat fluid and ambiguous state. This is a time when voices may be heard, if the academic man has something to say. This might be a time for vision and opportunity for those who would be giants and leaders of academic man. I am not willing to concede that “administrators” must by necessity cease to be academic men, although it must be admitted that administrator and intellectual are, at times, mutually exclusive terms. The administrators do have the awesome responsibility for nurturing, encouraging, protecting, and leading the intellectual. In the long view, this may be the administrator’s only significant function. HERE IN TEXAS, NOW, is a place in which true statesmen of higher education could arise, if they are to be awakened again in America. Such opportunity for a war on poverty in higher education may never again appear, and as Abraham Lincoln said, “Honest statesmanship is the wise employment of individual meannesses for the public good.” iHofstadter, R., Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1963. 2The Texas Observer, April 16, 1965. June 11, 1965 29 FUN TO READ! The IDLER is a lively, individualistic liberal monthly that entertains as it informs. Warm humor and cold facts mixed into a pleasant, personal and personable journalistic pot. Send $3.00 today for a year’s subscription. Money back if not satisfied. Discover THE IDLER and you will have made a new friend. THE IDLER 125 Fifth St., N.E. Washington 2, D. C. Please send me a one year’s subscription to THE IDLER. Enclosed is $3.00. Name Address Zip
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