Lyndon Johnson and the university Austin For some time I Piave been telling friends of mine on the University of Texas faculty that Frank Erwin, the chairman of the regents, is using Lyndon Johnson’s unique political methods in dominating that university and that there is a distinct possibility that Erwin is simply a stand-in for Johnson, Johnsonizing the university, preparing it for Johnson’s supremacy as president of the campus at Austin or chancellor. Apart from the incredulity, this has evoked two kinds of responses. One acknowledges that if true, this would be an academic disaster of major long-run proportions for the University of Texas. Another has taken the line that Lyndon Johnson would make a pretty good head of the University. At the very end of May, suddenly, the University faculty, in the midst of its annual flight for the summer to climes northeasterly and transAtlantic, was shocked by the rampant rumor that Johnson will be the next chancellor and that the next president of the University of Texas at Austin will therefore be someone to suit his pleasure. Chancellor Harry Ransom resigned the last day students and faculty were in Austin on commencement day, after the last issue of the student paper had Observations appeared for the semester. His resignation was distinctly sudden. The regents gave him just about everything he wanted for his retirement status and got the resignation for which he was evidently being hard pressed. Why? If, indeed, Johnson is to be the next chancellor, the answer to that question is: for exceedingly sneaky reasons. Knowing that the faculty and students would come apart in rage and discord, Erwin and Co. their key moves precisely to avoid the expectable waves of protest. This is what may have happened. The groundwork has been laid for a decision on the chancellorship this summer, perhaps in August, when the campus is a sweltering, empty grove. The president of the university is selected only after a tedious academic process, already well-advanced, but the final decision is the regents’, and if Johnson were chancellor, he would of course expect to get the president he wanted. Doesn’t a chancellor always name his underlings, just like a President of the United States’? THE BASIS of the rumor Johnson will be chancellor is painfully spreading knowledge that a new chancellor’s house is being built with a ridiculously thick and high stone wall around it. In academic circles in Austin, it has been somehow known for some time that this house was not for Ransom. Why, then, the thick rock wall? Why else but to protect Lyndon Johnson? Neighbors who have seen members of the Johnson family looking over the scene have wondered what was going on. Obviously Johnson would make a technically competent administrator. He ran the United States; he should be able to run the University of Texas. But the fact is, his ascendancy over the University of Texas System would ruin it academically. It is perfectly obvious that Dean Gronouski of the Lyndon Baines Johnson school of public service would be having severe problems getting good faculty, had he not adopted his defensive strategy of a tiny first-year staff, recruited on-campus. Lyndon Johnson’s name is poison on campuses all over the United States. June 12, 1970 15 A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance CompanyExecutive offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Pres. destruction, inactivation, or rendering non-usable with weapons which will reduce or destroy the will or ability of the enemy to resist” \(from the USAF ROTC manual entitled Fundamentals of IT IS INSTRUCTIVE to examine samples of Spiro Agnew’s “swinging style,” as a well known West Coast semanticist admiringly describes the Vice President’s eloquence: . . Disruptive demonstrations aimed at bludgeoning the unconvinced into action . .”; “The Vietnam Moratorium . is not only negative but brutally counter-productive. …”; “It appears that by slaughtering a sacred cow, I triggered a holy war . . .” In commenting on these picturesque metaphors, Murray Kempton writes: “A ‘slaughter’ is what one does to a sacred cow; a ‘trigger’ is what sets off a public discussion. The only bludgeon is in the larynx. To be brutal is to be Dr. Benjamin Spock speaking to a lunchtime crowd in the Federal Triangle. The epithets we wore out in real horrors are confined now to mere annoyances.” \(New York Review of Books, While we are mobilizing against the pollution of our air, our water, and our soul, we ought to take a long hard look at our semantic environment, at the poisons secreted into our language, at the way the arteries and veins of human communication become clogged with the excretions of conventional wisdom. We ought to look around for suitable means of getting rid of an awful lot of verbal garbage. Cleaning up the semantic environment is not the sort of task that we Americans undertake with gusto and confidence. We prefer technological tasks where the goals are clearly specified and for which implementing institutions already exist. Much of the enthusiasm for proposed measures of environmental control reflects the relative ease with which the problems can be stated in technological terms. To be sure, we do not have adequate implementing institutions; but these could conceivably be established within the existing institutional framework. The task of cleaning up the semantic environment is of a different order, especially as it pertains to the semantic pollution that legitimizes war as an instrument of foreign policy and makes war machines appear as bulwarks of national security. Neither techniques nor implementing institutions are available for removing wastes and poisons from our semantic environment. On the contrary, some of our most revered and cherished institutions could not exist without this waste and these poisons. In particular, the war-making institutions and their vast industrial and academic auxiliaries wax fat and powerful on their own semantic excreta. NEVERTHELESS, the task of cleaning up the semantic environment is as vital for the preservation of human life as that of purifying the Air, ‘Water, and Earth. We must keep in mind that in addition to these three “elements” of the Ancients there is also a fourth Fire. Fire cannot be purified as some imagine who talk about “clean” hydrogen bombs. Fire must be controlled. And it is the only one of the Four Elements that was not given to us by God. We make it ourselves. Our semantic environment directs the use to which we shall put this “element” whose modern name is Energy. If we do not clean up our semantic environment, we shall certainly destroy ourselves with Fire. Then clean air, clean water, and clean earth will be of no use to us.
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