Thursday, November 24, 2011

Reaching 40 In Beijing

I gave copies of Reaching 40 to some faculty and administrators at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.  This was a gift, but it was also part of an effort to help them understand what it is Stockton is and what it is like.  If they are to work with us and create articulations of any kind, then they should have a better sense of Stockton and I hoped that the book would be useful in this regard.

It turns out that I may have been correct in this.  The following day after giving the book one of the professors informed me that she was very impressed with the volume and had found it a particularly enjoyable read.  What she felt most intrigued by was the fact that as a volume commemorating the history of the college it wasn’t merely celebratory, which any volume about a Chinese university would have been.  She was most impressed with this and found it inspiring, and she hoped that her colleagues would also.  She herself believed in being critical and not merely accepting the positions of a regime, but she was surprised to see that a volume of this nature would also end up as an arena for critical analysis.

I indicated to her that this book was unusual for any commemorative volume in the United States as well, and that this is one of the things that makes Stockton unique – or distinctive, if you will – that it has always had spirited debate and conflict, and that it is for this reason that we (the editors) did not feel we should  shy away from controversy in our anniversary volume.

Rob Gregg

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others

It is not much of an overstatement to say that I spent twenty-five percent of my time as the Founding Dean of General Studies trying to explain what a General Studies course was and how it was different, say, from an introductory course in a traditional discipline.

I interviewed every candidate we brought to the campus including those we didn’t hire. This was my primary chance to explain what I had in mind about General Studies and how they would participate in that curriculum. I also inquired about courses that they wanted to teach but, for a variety of reasons, had not done so. Not wanting to seem too radical most suggested courses in their disciplines but for a general audience. Having gotten that out of the way, I then asked about what courses outside of their field they felt qualified to teach.

At this point they usually tried to escape my probing by saying that they hadn’t given such courses much thought. This response usually caused me to question whether they should be hired.

Those who had thought about such courses responded eagerly giving me four or five examples of courses they “had always wanted to teach”. These were the excited – and exciting – candidates who got a strong, positive response from me.

This was, of course, only one of the criteria that I used to make judgments about candidates. Some of the ones who hadn’t thought about such courses responded when I made suggestions. Some of those who had such courses in mind faded when I asked questions about resources they would need, about assignments, about how the course might be structured and about what sorts of students they imagined taking the course.

Interviewing for an non-existent college was complex, lengthy, sometimes contentious, always probing and I absolutely assumed that if a candidate had been invited to the campus she was worthy of my respect and support.

Keep in mind that candidates coming to the campus had already been showered with our position papers, Academic Working Papers and any other writings we had produced. We did this, of course, so they wouldn’t be under any false expectations about what we were, what we expected of them and what they could expect from us.

One of my favorite approaches was the “Year” course. If candidates were stumped about what to teach as a General Studies course, I would suggest that they think of a year significant in their field or to them and design a course around that year as a theme. This comes from a very old desire on my part to teach a course called “1381”. For England, this is a critical year. For example, it is the year of the Peasant’s Revolt so there are economic and political issues that could be investigated. It is also a significant year for architecture in that Richard II rebuilt Westminster Hall, supported all of the arts which environment, in turn, gave Geoffrey Chaucer opportunities to write his later works. Two issues about which historians have argued since the 19 c. are Richard’s concept of kingship and his fragile mental state.

Under the theme of a single year, then, my course in 1381 might contain political, historical, artistic, literary and psychological issues. Such a course could be designed on almost any year.

It would be a suitable General Studies course because it would be interdisciplinary, unlike most courses in the disciplines, precisely focused, introductory and would permit the faculty member to teach a bit outside of her comfort zone.

The Definitions of a General Studies Course

So the simplest definition is that a General Studies course is interdisciplinary, not a traditional introduction, can be outside of the instructor’s disciplinary training, can be current and involves risk on both the faculty’s and student’s part.

Saying this does not make creating such a course easy, however.

Imagine that I am a young medievalist just hired by Stockton to teach medieval literature. I have taught – or would know how to design and teach – the following medieval courses:

1. A survey of medieval literature
2. A course in the writings of Chaucer
3. A course on Beowulf and Old English
4. A course on medieval romance
5. A course on minor works of the Middle Ages

This is wonderful for the Literature Program; these courses are exactly what I was hired to teach.

What, however, can I teach in General Studies. I can’t simply teach an introduction to Chaucer or Beowulf using translations. The minor works are too specialized for a general audience. I might be able to design a course using medieval romances in translation especially if I organized it thematically. But I am still limited by concepts of discipline, my graduate experience and what’s appropriate for literature majors.

Students in a General Studies class will not all be literature majors; as a matter of fact, frequently few of them are. This means that they have little experience with the conceptual basis of literature – genres, symbols, criticisms, characterization, plot structure, etc. – so the instructor cannot assume they do. Another way of looking at the type of student is to understand that a General Studies course – unlike a course for literature majors – is not open-ended.

When I teach literature majors I assume that they have had some exposure to this conceptual basis and that they will have more and different exposure to it in the literature courses of my colleagues. General Studies students, on the other hand, may only take my General Studies course and never again take another literature course. If I am going to prepare them to read literature carefully and sensitively, I have to do it in this one course.

I am not, of course, suggesting that a conceptual basis not be part of a General Studies course. In some ways, it is an even more important part given that such information will be often repeated in a course for majors. For example, I always review the Five Act structure that Shakespeare used in all of his plays though I understand that some of my students will have covered it in other courses in the major. It is, in my opinion, a central issue in General Studies courses.

The idea of a set of concepts underlying and/or preceding the content of a course has become a problem over the forty years of General Studies. As the leadership and acculturation of what a General Studies course has declined, young faculty increasingly imported introductory courses from the major into their contributions to the General Studies curriculum. If I am a young, rising faculty striving to get tenure and a promotion and believing that that tenure and promotion depends almost totally on the teaching I do for majors and the research I do in my discipline, what I do in General Studies seems vastly less important. Generating and teaching new courses is hard work so, many of these young faculty seem to conclude, why not teach a watered down version of what I teach to beginning majors? Unfortunately, General Studies teaching has not always been viewed as an important element in decisions about promotion and tenure.

How Is the General Studies Student Viewed?

When I was the Dean, I had clear ideas about how students taking General Studies courses should be viewed:

1. We did not need a college-wide requirements for General Studies courses.
2. We did not see ourselves as “redeeming” the student.
3. We did not see ourselves and our work as the beginning of education.
4. The General Studies experience was not a foundation for the major.
5. General Studies courses were to be taken throughout the student’s stay at the College.

College-wide Requirements

Frankly, I have never seen a need for college-wide requirements in general education. What sorts of requirements specific disciplines create is their business. We all assume they know the field and can match requirements for majors to their field.

But general education need not be so restrictive.

Such requirements are the result of attitudes about students (“they are unformed clay and desperately need shaping by elders”); (“they are dolts who need ‘redeeming’ from their doltish state); and (“they are at the beginning of education and, thus, need introductions to as many of the traditional disciplines as can be crammed into the first two years”). I reject and rejected forty years ago all of these assumptions.

Students came to Stockton forty years ago – and today as well – having all sorts of preferences and opinions about their futures. These were not and are not always correct but they had information about what they wanted to do.

What they needed – as we viewed students forty years ago – was to be challenged with other information, other opinions, other facts. That was the fundamental role of the preceptor as we originally conceived of that person.

Advising was, then, teaching. An advisor would meet with the student and begin the long process of uncovering what the student knew and had experienced. On the basis of these facts, the advisor would suggest gaps in the student’s thinking (“perhaps you should find an American History course that would give you a clearer understanding of 20 c. wars and how they have shaped all of modern life”).

There is, admittedly, a thin line between requiring and advising. To require means that all students have the same needs and that, left to their own devices, would continue in their ignorant bliss. Requirements also assume that all students need, say, a biology or math course and that all students learn the same way.

Advising personalizes and tailors the curriculum to the student’s past and future (“I never like studying a language but I want to be a public school teacher in New Jersey”). It is based on face to face contact and not some list of required courses on a sheet of paper.


I also rejected the assumption that beginning students needed introductions. All courses are “introductions” to students. In one sense, all General Studies courses are introductions for the students. They were not and should not be today deliberately designed as introductions.

The course in “1381” that I described above will certainly be an introduction. Almost all students don’t know a single fact about that year. But my design of the course would be radically different from a traditional Introduction to the Middle Ages. First of all, such an introduction would include works from Anglo-Saxon texts through Malory in the 14 c. The course in 1381 would, per force, only include works from that year. Such an introduction would include the major genres of literature; my course would probably not include them. An introduction would probably offer texts in translation; mine would be read in the original Middle-English. An introduction might not offer contextual/ancillary readings at all; mine would be full of them. An introduction might not include definitions of terms; mine would be filled with such definitions.

Faculty, generally, would prefer to teach traditional introductions in General Studies because that is the easiest route. I rejected this desire and urged/forced faculty to teach new courses that were not easy or cut-and-dried. From the beginning, I saw the General Studies curriculum as a powerful way for faculty to grow; as powerful as it was for students.

Taken Each Term For Four Years

Because I rejected these assumptions, it became clear that students should take General Studies courses throughout their four years at Stockton. If one conceives of general education as a foundation for all other disciplinary courses, then it makes sense to take up the first four terms with general education. After this probationary period students can go on to the major of their choice.

But, once all this traditional underbrush is cut away, it becomes clear that they should take General Studies course throughout their work at Stockton.

To conclude, then, a General Studies course at Stockton should fit the following criteria:

1. It is not an “introduction” brought into General Studies from a disciplinary major.
2. It is a fabulous opportunity for faculty to try new courses, new pedagogical techniques and new approaches to old material.
3. It is a “closed experience” in that faculty must not assume students will build on a single course.
4. It is a course that includes all sorts of contextual content.
5. It is not a course that will lead to specialized knowledge, a job or eternal happiness. It is its own justification.
6. Good General Studies courses show relationships, continuities, connections. Other courses MAY do these things but General Studies courses do them deliberately.
7. A General Studies course makes few assumptions about the students in the course.
8. A General Studies course is a time for both faculty and student to “try” something.

I can’t say that, on the many, many occasions when I was asked to define a General Studies course, I was very successful. Over the months, however, I did develop what I felt then and feel now was a successful way of talking about these courses. I argued that the curriculum of a major would prepare a student for a career in that discipline. Thus, the Literature faculty would offer courses that would make it possible for students to teach literature in high school.

General Studies courses, I argued, were for all of the other “identities” we carry with us: the spouse, the lover, the citizen, the tax-payer, the consumer, the parent, etc. What part of the college experience educates those folks? That’s the role of the General Studies curriculum.

I believed that forty years ago and I believe it even more intensely now.

Monday, May 23, 2011

“How Does It Feel To Be Famous?”

If the question “what was the most infamous incident in the early years of the College?” is asked to older faculty they will, without much hesitation, respond with two names: (1) the Candace Falk trial and (2) the Barense nude teaching class. The former seemed important then – Falk had asked Army recruiters to leave the campus; it was a very mild act of civil disobedience. They complied and Falk was later charged and brought before the Campus Hearing Board where she was acquitted. It was an early rejection of the Viet Nam war and became a legend almost immediately.

The Barense case was, and is, far more serious and no less legendary. The popular myth has been that Barense held a session of a class he was teaching at his home in the nude. Though student disrobing was voluntary as was that particular class and it was held at Barense’s home, he was not, subsequently, retained. It would seem to be a classic violation of his academic freedom and that is the way it has been perceived for 40 years.

Recently, I was asked to write a short statement about academic freedom at Stockton and in thinking about the issue, I began to gather facts about Barense and the case. It is time, I submit, that those facts be reviewed and made public. There is no hidden scandal or villain in this case – exactly – but there are issues that in a different time would be critical to understand.

The Environment

It is necessary to examine the environment of the early College. When the College opened in 1971 there were no casinos and Atlantic City – once THE playground of the eastern part of the US – had fallen on very bad times. The largest employer was the FAA Tech Center (NAFEC). The urban blight of Atlantic City had spread throughout the eastern part of the county. Everything about the area was unattractive and unproductive.

There was also considerable distrust of the College. The public seemed torn between pleasure at having a major institution of higher education dropped in its lap and genuine distrust about what its intentions were. Carl McIntyre’s protest of the College claiming that it supported and taught revolutionary communism was real though slightly ridiculous. While his congregation was tiny, his views were certainly shared by many in the area.

Once the College had moved to the present campus in 1972, there seemed to be constant offenses to the popular culture. There was bra burning at the quintessential American event – the Miss America Pageant. There were class trips to cut sugar cane in Communist Nicaragua and to DC to protest the Viet Nam war. There were two incidents that must have also concerned the local community: a photographer took pictures of nude sunbathing at Lake Pam and there were pictures taken of the “clothing optional” sauna below the I-Wing gym.

South Jersey was conservative, religious, insulated, rural and undeveloped. It was into this environment that Jack Barense stepped when he took a teaching job here in 1972.

Why Barense Was Hired In the Management Sciences Division

Wes Tilley – the first VP of Academic Affairs – did not like business schools and the courses they offered. In Tilley’s view, they were anti-liberal arts and anti-humanities and that was sufficient for him to distrust them.

This is one of the reasons why the Management Sciences dean was not hired when the other deans were (summer 1970); indeed, that dean was hired in January of 1971 -- well after the work, the collaboration and a resultant community was well founded by the other four deans.

Further, Tilley specifically looked for candidates who had a strong background in the humanities and strong intentions to mold business majors into broadly educated graduates.

One decision – and this is the very root of this whole issue – was to insist on hiring a philosopher to teach in the management programs. Tilley’s argument was that such a teacher could teach ethics, logic, decision-making and leadership but from a philosophical perspective. As it happened, Barense was that philosopher.

In hindsight, it would have been incredibly better to have hired Barense in the Philosophy Program and then to have asked him to teach courses for management and business.

But that wasn’t what was done. The fact that there was a philosopher in the Management Sciences division becomes part of the argument which was used against Barense a year or so after his arrival. More on this later.

The Basic Facts

It is important, at this point, to understand the fundamental facts of what happened. In the spring of 1974, Jack Barense taught two sections of a General Studies course – GS3240 Workshop in Sexism. This course was, essentially, a re-designed course he had previously taught – GS 3321 Sexism as a Social Problem. It is unclear whether his wife, Diane, co-taught the course, participated in the design of the course, was paid for her efforts or what, exactly, her role was.

Barense described the focus of both courses in a statement to Robert Helsabeck dated July 26, 1974. Sexism As a Social Problem “was traditionally academic in that the focus was on various sociological, political, psychological, and anthropological studies of sexism.” The subsequent course – Workshop In Sexism – “was designed to focus on those elements of Sexism As a Social Problem which seemed to most strongly motivate most of the participants to think critically about sexism; namely, personal examinations of sexism in their own lives.”

These classes had recommended readings though “academic materials were only used for background reference, seldom as the focus of discussion. It was clear that much reading was done by some participants, little by others.” Nowhere that I could find in the documents is there any mention of tests or papers.

Sequence of Courses

Spring – 1973         GS3321 - Sexism As A Social Problem
Fall – 1973             GS3321 - Sexism As A Social Problem
Spring – 1974        GS3240 - Workshop On Sexism
Fall – 1974            GS3240 - Workshop On Sexism


It needs to be clear that Barense had had nude sessions in each of these courses. He mentions in a memo to John Rickert – Dean of Management Sciences (10-31-1974) that his class had visited a local nudist camp with the class in the Spring of 1973. Fourteen members of that class disrobed. He does not mention whether or not nude sessions were held in the Fall 1973 class; given his commitment to the technique one can easily assume there were.

There were two sections of the class in the Spring of 1974 and in both nudity was employed. Indeed, in one section, a student’s mother participated but the daughter didn’t. This group did not again disrobe because “the good feelings of the nude participants were, they reported, spoiled by the non-participants.” The other section was so pleased by the experience that they met a number of times in the nude.

As I have mentioned, there were two contemporary incidents of nudity at Stockton; they were photos taken at Lake Pam (Lake Pam is a small pond on campus with a “nude” beach) and in the sauna under the gym.

While certainly not a national movement, there were frequent episodes of public nudity in the late 1960s to early 1970s. There were streakers at major athletic or musical events; there was considerable nudity at Woodstock in 1969 and there was some nudity in college drama.

The Unofficial Story

Barense maintained, after the start of the grievance process, that there were two versions of the administration’s narrative: the official version and the unofficial version.

Barense, in a memo to the College Review Board dated December 1, 1974, writes that the incident began on October 31, 1974 when he was pulled from his class to meet with John Rickert. At that meeting, Rickert reported that  “Vice President Thrombley was furious over reports that I had used nude exercises…” and that “he was taking a lot of heat on this one.” Barense’s response was that he would write an explanation for Rickert but the dean responded by predicting “that it would not mollify Woody.”

There is an interesting time shift in all of this. First the class with the nude session that had triggered the administrative response was held in the Spring of 1974 – some six months before the talk with Rickert in October. Also, Robert Helsabeck’s request for information about the course came in late July of 1974 – some three months before the talk with Rickert. It is difficult not to conclude that the administration knew about the nude sessions but had done nothing about them until October. It’s possible that Thrombley had not been pressured by someone off campus until October when he “took a lot of heat”. I believe that it is outside pressure that began the process of rejecting Barense. Had only a few on campus known about the nudity – as it seems they did all through the Spring and Summer of 1974 – not much would have happened. But pressure from the outside couldn’t be ignored so Thrombley moved aggressively to demand it stop.

Once Thrombley had ordered Rickert to direct Barense to cease the nude sessions and to move the class back on campus – Barense ultimately agreed to this demand – in a memo from Rickert to Barense dated November 1, 1974 it seemed that the issue was settled.

Barense signaled his compliance to Thrombley’s demands in a letter dated November 15, 1974 and, there, he also announced his intention to begin grievance procedures.

The Official Story

With the filing of the grievance the problem becomes one for the administration. Barense claimed that in a meeting with Thrombley on November 7, 1974, the latter admitted that a small, intimate class might be better in a home and that Thrombley was willing to allow meetings there but that Barense could not use nude exercises. But in a memo from Thrombley dated November 11, 1974 Thrombley ordered Barense to conduct the class on campus and not to use nude exercises.

At this point the evaluation process had begun and on November 6, 1974, the Faculty Review Committee voted 8 to 1 to recommend reappointment. On November 13, 1974 John Rickert’s recommendations were sent to Thrombley but they were returned to Rickert a couple of days later “for corrections”. Rickert’s first evaluation was positive recommending Barense for reappointment. By November 20, 1974, Rickert recommended that Barense NOT be reappointed.

Thrombley submitted his recommendations to President Bjork on the November 20, 1974 as well including recommending that Barense not be reappointed.

Rickert’s Claim

In late June and early July, 1975 at an arbitration hearing, Barense, under oath, gave the following as testimony:

I was very surprised when Dean Rickert said that he had not himself recommended me for retention. He said that he had intended to do so; that he very much wanted to do so but that Vice-President Thrombley had told him that if he did this he would reverse him; that the Vice-President would reverse Dean Rickert, and in addition would put
 some dirty information into my file. Dean Rickert
 said that he himself felt that he could put a negative recommendation into my file which would give 
just institutional reasons and be able then to
 give me a very positive recommendation for a position elsewhere, and he thought he was doing me a
 favor by submitting to the pressure from the Vice
 President. He said, however, he didn't even --
well, he said that his original recommendation
 which had very little negative information into 
which it just gave institutional priorities of 
need for accountants over people with my schooling.
 He said that that memo which was sent back to him --
that original recommendation was sent back to him 
on the 15th and he said not by accident on the 15th,
 that being the day that I filed my grievance
 together with an angry memo, handwritten memo, from 
the Vice President -- 'Look, you got to get more 
negative stuff on Barense. This isn't strong 
enough and if you don't I'm still going to put 
in a negative information myself into his file.'

So, the Dean said he then wrote a second letter 
of recommendation, not making it clear whether
 he had taken the first one out or whether the Vice
President had taken the first one out, and in this 
he said, *Well, I really couldn't come up with any 
additional negative information of any substance.'...

Dean Rickert said that he probably made a mistake in 
submitting to the pressures of the Vice President;
 that I probably would have a strong case with a
 grievance filed, but that he said I was indeed a
 very clever fellow. I could probably find in the
 record enough information to undo whatever harm he
 had done me in this respect...

He did say that, of course, the whole thing was a result of having filed the grievance of the Workshop 
having used the nude exercises and of having filed
 a grievance trying to protect my right to use those
 in the future. He also did say that he would deny
 everything that he was telling me outside that room."

If true, this is an astounding report. First of all, it is a violation of the AFT Agreement where Article VI, Section I states that “no reprisal of any kind shall be taken against any participant in this grievance procedure by reason of proper participation in such procedure”. It seems clear today that, again if the Rickert remarks are true, Thrombley’s anger resulting from Barense’s grievance is being used against Barense’s reappointment. Indeed, John Searight, Chairman of the SFT Grievance Committee, says this in a letter to President Bjork dated December 16, 1974.

In addition, Searight states that in spite of the requirement that all documents put into a faculty evaluation file have to be copied to the faculty member, neither the first positive recommendation nor the second negative recommendation were sent to Barense.

Saying that not retaining Barense is really helping him sounds like something a person might concoct when caught between a rock and a hard place.

Finally, Thrombley’s insistence that Rickert must find “more negative stuff” speaks volumes about Thrombley’s anger and desire to be rid of Barense.

The Telephone Call

Rickert states in the second, negative recommendation – dated November 18, 1974 – that he had spoken with Barense’s dissertation director at the University of Wisconsin to ascertain what progress Barense was making, if any, towards completing his dissertation and earning a Ph.D. It is certainly acceptable for a Dean to put pressure on a faculty to complete a degree. The curious issue here, however, is that there is NO requirement that a faculty have a Ph.D. to be retained. A faculty only needs a higher degree to be granted tenure which, of course, Barense was not seeking.

Further, this seems like the kind of “negative stuff” that Thrombley asked Rickert to find. The “negative stuff” is – first paragraph – that “In a period of scarce resources, we cannot afford to continue to hold a position that does not maximize the needs in course work for the Management Sciences Division.” In the second paragraph, Barense is not to be retained because he hasn’t finished his degree. In the fifth paragraph, Barense is unsatisfactory because he hasn’t given promised guest lectures. Finally, in the sixth paragraph, Barense did not “follow through with these suggestions (some sort of suggestions made before a Faculty Review meeting) or even his own suggestions.”

Rickert claims in this same letter that “earlier in the month [November] he had placed a call to Barense’s dissertation director. But going through College phone records, Barense found that the call had been made on November 20, 1974, two days AFTER the recommendation not to retain had been written and placed in Barense’s file!

It seems clear, though it is impossible to prove with documents, that Rickert first wrote a positive letter. Under intense pressure from Thrombley, he was forced to secretly retract that letter and write another filled with “negative stuff”.

When asked, under oath in July of 1975, about the discrepancy between the dates of the telephone call Rickert “offered no explanation ( and no satisfactory explanation on cross examination) for the patently false statement, ‘according to a conversation…earlier this month’.”

The Missing Document

John Rickert wrote his initial, positive recommendation on November 13, 1974 but Thrombley had returned it to him “along with several other documents…being not in good form and frankly rather sloppy.” When asked by the Arbitrator in July of 1975, Rickert replied that “Those documents are still in existence for all the different people [faculty]. There were a few, you know, kept on each person.”

The importance of this November 13th recommendation cannot be overstated. Having it would show precisely what Rickert’s initial evaluation of Barense had been and compared to the later negative recommendation would have implicated both Rickert and Thrombley in a conspiracy to change a document supposed to have been kept secure in the file.

Thus the Arbitrator agreed to allow a search for the documents during one lunch recess. After the recess, the testimony records the exchange between the Arbitrator and Dean Rickert:

“Arbitrator: …Dr. Rickert informed us that the document which was to be produced at the end of the recess was, in his mind, the final recommendation by him and not as was intended by the Arbitrator the November 13th recommendation, and that the November 13th recommendation is no longer in existence.”

Not only had the document been destroyed but, though Rickert initially claimed that he was thinking of the November 13th version, after the recess he claimed that the version he meant as still existing was the November 18th version and that the earlier version had been destroyed.
There was, therefore, no means of proving that the original document had existed – except for Barense’s claim – and that it had been changed from positive to negative most likely under Thrombley’s direction.

Penultimate Comments

Throughout the grievance process – the Agreement lists four distinct steps – the whole issue of academic freedom had been lost in favor of more provable claims that the process of reappointment had been violated. For six months the claims and counter-claims droned on. At each stage of the grievance process, the final decisions made by President Bjork were negative: Barense was not to be reappointed. Indeed, that final decision could only be made by Bjork unless the whole struggle ended in the courts. Even the final Arbitrator’s July 1975 opinion could only recommend  an ad hoc committee to re-examine the long, sad struggle.

Jack Barense had moved on. For a time he worked with the ACLU in New Jersey and then went to law school earning a JD so he could practice public defender law. Sadly, Jack Barense died in 2002. I am not aware that he ever taught again.

What About Academic Freedom?

If we lived in a dictatorship or in a society of robots, we would have little need for statements about academic freedom. In such a society, each of us would teach what we were told to teach. In such societies, literature tells us, there is always some individual, some single entity who refuses the directions and demands of the group. This is true in “1984” and in “I, Robot”.

There are, therefore, two parts to any concept of academic freedom. The first has to do with the degree of restrictions laid on the individual by the group. The second has to do with the individual and how she responds to the directions of that group. Thus, the 1940 statement of the AAUP addresses itself to both parties. In that statement, the demands that the group offer and support academic freedom for the individual is clearly stated. But, also clearly stated, is the responsibility of the individual in expressing that academic freedom.

The fundamental, underlying principle in any discussion of academic freedom – and this is where all discussions must start -- must be, as the 1940 statement makes clear, that “the common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition”. If all parties do not agree with this fundamental principle that any discussion of academic freedom will be nearly impossible to undertake.

In an already established college, the dimensions and qualities of the “free search for truth” are well-known, have been thoroughly tested and are part of the institutional culture. Thus, if I had been hired as a new faculty in an established college, I would have been given already written syllabi with established texts and assignments to teach. After a few years of obedient service, I would have been allowed, perhaps, to select my preferred texts and to make my designed assignments. Eventually as I rose through the ranks, I would have been allowed to design whole courses as long as they fit into departmental curricula.

Stockton, however, was in the unique position of having the new faculty design and implement the curricula considered, by them, to be appropriate and relevant to themselves and to their students.  In a very real way, they designed the institution in which they were going to teach. They became both the group and the individuals in that group.

In 1970, both the administration and the faculty understood that the faculty brought with them appropriate professional goals and that those goals would be realized in individual, program curricula. For example, the founding Dean of Arts and Humanities assumed that his literature faculty knew how to construct a curriculum appropriate to the field of literature and one which could stand the scrutiny of other departments of literature in other colleges. In other words, he felt assured that his faculty knew what the “free search for truth” meant for teachers of literature and that they would produce a curriculum that would manifest that search.

This assumption was true across the college and across all disciplines. We all understood that the faculty would create programs of learning that were like most other programs of learning in other institutions.

My point in this, is to assert that the “free search for truth” was well understood, well implemented and defensible at Stockton in 1970. There was no need –– nor was there any intention –– for the administration to create curricula before the faculty had input. So, the possibility of limiting the faculties “free search for truth” was never considered. We wanted, and trusted, the faculty to create their own curricula.

It was in the area of “free exposition” that problems occurred. There is no doubt that history had “set us up for conflict”. First of all, was the revolution of the 1960s going on in America which by 1970 had spilled over into academia. In addition, Stockton hired the youngest faculty in the state. These young men and women were increasingly resistant to older, restrictive power arrangements. Also, we had presented the new college as being genuinely new. Faculty were attracted to Stockton solely for that reason. Finally, old definitions of what teaching was and the style in which it was done were being roundly rejected.

It was certainly clear to the founding administration that the rules of power, the content of the curricula and the relationships between faculty and students were going to be tested.

It didn’t help that we opened in a derelict hotel in Atlantic City. There was very little about us that look like, sounded like or felt like a traditional college. Given all of this, one might expect that Stockton was a hotbed of controversy over academic freedom. One might expect that a restrictive administration would be constantly in conflict with the permissive faculty teaching radical social, political, cultural ideas to unsuspecting, first-generation college students.  If one assumed that he would be wrong. Most courses and most teachers taught traditional material in generally traditional ways.

I’ve included this sad case at this point because it seems, in hindsight, to be a classic incident of the threat to academic freedom. The teacher was free to design the course as he saw fit. The administration seems to have seen the incident as an example of bad judgment, threatening the wider reputation of the college in the community and against the values and mores of the larger society.

Indeed, the college had been featured in the local press as supportive of a nudist beach at Lake Pam and a clothes-optional sauna in the gym. The wider community had condemned the college for these incidents so the college was especially sensitive to the nude encounter.

In spite of the fact that the panel did not conclude that academic freedom had been violated, it does seem to be a classic confrontation. The teacher designed the course to include various learning experiences. The administration saw the incident as beyond the pale of acceptable pedagogy and, therefore, a threat to the whole institution.

Stockton has been fortunate (this is, I suggest, due to its newness) in not having many confrontations over academic freedom. There is a long history now of faculty determining what is pedagogically appropriate and of designing courses that include those experiences. But, and understanding this is critical, there are lines which, if crossed, may well produce a confrontation. Once again, all of this supports the principles stated in the 1940 statement.

I believe that the insistence of the 1940 statement that there be a balance between an individual’s opinion and the wider, traditional search for the truth is vital and critically necessary for democracy to exist. We must be permitted to express our beliefs but we also must be prepared to accept the consequences of that expression. That balance is absolutely essential in an institution of higher learning.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Dark Backward and Abysm Of Time

Rob and I have been looking through books of negatives to find photos we might use in the book. If a book contained a hundred negatives, it would be easy to create categories – sports, student life, classrooms, environment – assign the pictures to those categories and make a selection.

But we are looking at thousands! And they are not exactly what we want. Somewhere around a dozen or more large, green three-ring binders live in our Graphics Department cabinets. For each plastic sleeve of  35mm negative strips there is a contact sheet. And there are dozens and dozens of these sleeves and sheets in each volume.

Unfortunately for us, the dates on the green binders start at 1977 – six years after the opening of the College.

This six year gap brings up some fascinating issues. Why don’t we have pictures from the opening days?

A superficial excuse is because there was no specific photographer assigned to take “official” pictures. That assignment wasn’t made until 1977.

A more helpful excuse has to do with the way we take photos now and the way we took them in 1970. Now, of course, you point and shoot and cameras are ubiquitous. In 1970 if I wanted to take a picture, I had to find my camera, had to make sure it had a role of film in it and if not had to go to a store to purchase it. Next I would have to install the film – all of this just to get ready to take a picture. Oh, yes, if it was dark I had to find and take my flash attachment after making sure I had flashbulbs (repeat going to the store if I was out of bulbs).

I take the picture.

If color, I had to wait until all thirty-six shots had been taken, remove the role, place in tiny can (assuming I could find it), insert the can into a tiny, yellow sack with a label attached. Then, fill out the label, add postage or get it at the Post Office and send it.

Then wait at least a week to get your slides returned.

If B&W film, I would remove the film, take it to a drug store or place where they would send the film off, it would be put in an envelope for pick-up and wait for three days until the prints were returned to the store where I would pick them up.

Is it any wonder that photos were not shot and, hence, are not now available to me of events in 1970?
Also, I don't think that we thought that what we were doing was particularly photogenic, interesting or worthy of note. We met day after day to build a college. In hindsight, it was terribly important but once started, as I remember it, it wasn’t all that significant.

Photos were, of course, taken. I have the first Prospectus (1970) and the Prospectus from 1971. They both have “professionally” looking photos. Not one of them notes the photographer or date. I have not turned them up in any of the collections at the college so far. The negatives seemed to have been shot by a staff member, printed and, probably, then discarded.

The few of these that we have are halftone pictures which do not have the high quality that we want in the book. Yet, they are all we have.

So, we need to find original negatives – if possible – and that means hours looking through green, three-ringed binders.

This looking is somewhat troublesome, at least to me. First of all, there is no classification system. They are not organized by subject, date or place. Volumes are labeled by year but within that category, who knows how they were organized. How easy it would have been to have used the spaces at the top of each page of sleeves – Date, Assignment, Number – but these were seldom filled in. Organizing by subject would be immensely helpful now. I could have looked for pictures of faculty, athletics, buildings, the environment, Lake Fred, the Courts or any of the many features of the College.

But this didn’t occur. Now, each contact sheet has to be visually scanned (a loupe is essential) and when a desired photo is found, its page number must be written down (after carefully confirming that a negative for the photo exists in the sleeve) or confusion is added to confusion.

There is a “visual” thing going on as well. After about ten minutes looking at 35mm contact sheets, visual overload sets in. It’s as if a very long film has been cut into individual frames, randomly mixed and then edited into a linear form. There simply is no linearity in this process or, more precisely, no linearity for more than a very few frames.

All of this confusion has an impact on judgment. If I have even five 35mm negatives in a row – say, shots of a basketball game. You know the scene: lithe bodies levitating towards the basket while a forest of arms struggle to stop the motion. You can hear the camera shouting click….buzz….click….buzz….click…; all motion captured but slightly different in each shot. Frames of a movie.

As I said, I can look at each frame making judgments about clarity, framing, are heads cut off, sharpness, etc. Knowing what I am looking for, I can make a judgment that frame four is exactly what I want.

But my judgment is impaired when I find two shots of the basketball game followed by a shot of six coeds walking through the halls to class followed by a shot of steel beams of a new building followed by a shot of two students in a canoe on Lake Fred. If I judge that one of these shots is good, exactly what I need, then fine. But if I have one or two of some person or activity, the narrative -- to me, at least -- seems gone. There is no encompassing context.

Now multiply this by forty-seven pages of sleeves each with thirty-five photos on each page. It isn't that the task is daunting – if not overwhelming. It’s that after ten minutes it is impossible to do.

Then, of course, none of the persons in these shots are identified. Identification is a central issue in history books, I have found out. Rob and I want to be able to show a picture of faculty from forty years ago and have clear identification of each. Much of the time I can identify who they are – after all I was there – but others can not provide identities and, therefore, such pictures simply become labeled “Faculty Members”. Tragically, their narratives have been erased though their faces remain. It's like going through boxes of old photographs without knowing the identity of any.

History, then, has been subverted and, as a result, of minimal value. Ken Burn’s genius is clear when he shows us a picture of what seems to be a nameless civil war soldier but then he adds the text of a letter and a name. We can connect that story with those eyes and history lives before us.

But what if you can’t do that?

We have worked very hard to provide both the picture but, also, the life of the narrative of that picture. Much of the time we have succeeded; some of the time we have failed. But that’s history too.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Jericho's Walls

I have written here before about the modularity of the original buildings, about the ephemeral nature of our space and the fact that architectural design followed pedagogical function. To the Founders, these were unusual ideas in 1970 but we quickly saw their utility in our daily lives. Unfortunately, later buildings have rejected these concepts and we have moved backwards to designated and fixed pedagogical space.

I bring all of this up because I recently came across a Press article that describes “Planning Guidelines” in a document presented to the Board of Trustees sometime in 1970. So, I sent Louise Tillstrom in the College Archives off on a search and she, of course, turned up the actual document in a trice.

That document is part of a “working paper” of the Campus Planning Committee which described concepts which any building should be designed around. The copy I have is dated June, 1970. No author is noted though I suspect it was written by the Campus Planner – Dick Schwartz – for the committee.

The complete document was over 21 pages long and it described a long list of facilities that were being planned: Classroom Space, Laboratory/Studio space, Computer Center Services among them. The document comments on Phase I buildings – the very first buildings on campus (Wings A, B, C and D) with a student population in 1971 of 1000 students. It also comments on yet-t0-be-built Phase II buildings completed in the Summer of 1972 with a student population of 2000 students.

Central to these concerns about new buildings and the students who would occupy them is the following statement:

Preservation of the natural environment should continue to be a central objective.

Much has been said about this centrality of the environment from the very beginning of the College to the present; indeed there are several important essays in the book describing this centrality in the contexts of the Environmental Studies Program, its faculty and students, the history of the College situated in South Jersey, the rise of “sustainability” and the present emphasis on a “Green College”.

I will list a few of the other important considerations and then comment on their history.

Faculty office areas are to be arranged in such a way that maximum exposure and intermixing of personnel from all academic disciplines will be encouraged. Isolation of any academic unit is to be avoided or other tendencies toward space “empire building”.

Often, colleges have been departmentalized or remain that way because specific buildings have been provided for specific units and their specialized functions. It is Stockton State’s intent to promote greater interaction and integration among all programs, staff and students. This means the entire 7,500-student campus should be viewed as a “living-learning” center with as much mixing of academic, non-academic, living, etc. spaces as intelligent concern for logistics, traffic patterns, and workability permits. Perhaps encouraging different people to come together more frequently takes precedence over the convenience and comfort of like-minded people being housed together.

All administrative areas are to be readily accessible to faculty, students, staff and public. A separate administrative building should not be built and administrative spaces are to be located throughout all buildings with convenience to the user of the administrative function representing a more important consideration than convenience to the administrator.

Traffic patterns should be designed to promote contact between commuter and residence students and this should be complemented by numerous small, informal spaces for people to stop and chat upon meeting.

All spaces are to be planned with maximum flexibility so that areas can be used for more than one purpose. For example, science areas and art studios should be usable as classrooms with a furniture change.

Exterior spaces are to be developed for use as seating, study, circulation, and communication areas with walks, benches, kiosks, attractive lighting, informal group seating, and even a few hideways.

I suspect that most faculty today would find these “quaint” and terribly impractical. “Space that can be changed by changing the furniture?” “But what about the fact that I have just arranged the seats in a circle?” Or, “I can’t teach in a classroom that doesn’t have a podium.”

Indeed, there has recently been a discussion about the arrangement of faculty offices. Younger faculty, who seem not to value living next to faculty not in their discipline, see no reason why offices should not cluster around a divisional center and, I might add, close to the copy machine and mail boxes. Older faculty seem to understand our original planning and seem to value living next door to humanists, mathematicians, chemists, accountants and nurses. If I had to bet on the outcome, I’d bet clustered offices will win and we will have lost another way of finding commonalities in our differences.

The present layout does work. I noticed today going to my class that at one end of the Gallery – where there are comfortable chairs overlooking the Arts and Sciences building – there were a dozen students chatting and typing on their computers.

As I walked down the stair, I came upon an area of high tables near one of our coffee-snack bars. There were probably 30 or 40 students eating and drinking coffee in transit to or from a class.

In the same area, students were streaming in from parking lots and housing on the other side of the lake, who would peel-off to go upstairs to a class or further down the Gallery to another wing. Because this is in the oldest part of the complex, students have been doing these very things for 40 years. The spine of the campus is a street and it works wondrously. For me, we need more activity on this street. We need sales, art, drama – last year a medieval play was presented in the Gallery in front of the Library – announcements, foreign foods, demonstrations, quick classes, music.

The street could support the early conviction that the whole College be a living-learning center. Unfortunately, the lines separating spaces have been drawn though not as clearly as they are on many campuses. There are activities – musical events, comics and other performers -- that are done in the dorm areas that do not appear on the street.

And what about meetings? While some areas of the Gallery are too raucous, there are places where, say, Student Senate meetings could be held. These are always held in some other, more interior space. Wouldn’t it be exciting,, however, to see College democracy in action on the street?

We have managed to keep from building an administrative center though the Presidential Complex in one wing is close to it. Like the faculty, I suspect administrators would argue efficiency but that word can hide all sorts of not-particularly-efficient-activity.

Participatory democracy, decentralization, personalization, stressing commonalities, rejection of class, distrusting privilege and equality – all de rigueur  in the 1960s and 1970s – seem old fashioned now. We took these very seriously on every level of our lives. It doesn’t take much to hear these ideas in the Planning Guidelines above. We “operationalized” each and every one of them.

Finally, I come to “hideways”. This is one idea that never appeared on campus and we are less for it. Why didn’t small areas appear where both students and faculty could meet in some privacy? Was it because later planners distrusted students and faculty. Was it because it was not appropriate for the college to supply intimate space? I’m not sure; what I am sure of is that in a community of 8000 students and 300+ faculty, there are very few spaces that are even partially private. Humans, in my opinion, need such spaces – for rumination, meditation or simply to be alone for a few minutes before a class. All of this is moot, of course; no public institution today would risk public condemnation of such an idea. It is evident from the article where this discussion started; it ends with this statement:

Yes, hideways. And that, students, is real togetherness!”

Our loss.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

First Of The First

A few days ago when going through some papers in a file, I found a copy of an Atlantic City Press article from 9 January 1971 which has the headline: “11 Professors Hired By Stockton College”. The article lists the names, official titles and salaries of the group. Wes Tilley – the first VP of Academic Affairs – is quoted as pointing out that this group of 11 brings the total number of faculty hired to 20. This is 1/3 of the projected total faculty of 55.

As I read the article, I wondered who the first faculty hired was. This sent me to the College Archives and to Louise Tillstrom, the incredibly helpful Assistant Archivist. I asked Louise if she would try to find the exact dates and names of the faculty appointments in the Minutes of the Board of Trustees. She spent a goodly part of the morning searching through the Minutes and found all of the appointments of the First Cohort of 55 faculty.

Before I provide the listing and try to answer the question of who was the first appointee, I want to review our recruitment plans and procedures.

The Founding Deans worked through the summer of 1970 setting up policies, organizational structures and academic definitions for Programs, governance, divisions and disciplines. It was clear to us that with all of this in place we would then need to hire faculty to flesh out the work of that summer. To make sure that we had requisite faculty, we began recruiting in the early Fall of 1970. Our goal was to have the faculty hired by the Spring of 1971 when they would be involved in the details of the curricula during that Summer in preparation for opening in the Fall of 1971.

The first recruitment ad for the College was placed in Academe in June of 1970. It started with this paragraph:

Richard Stockton State College of New Jersey: Scheduled to open with 5OO students in September, 197l; will accept applications for faculty positions all levels for the 197I-72 academic year. A new and rapidly developing institution, Stockton will encourage innovation and experimentation in the undergraduate (and later, graduate) curriculum. Stockton should appeal most to the teaching scientist or scholar who is interested in shaping exceptionally sound and significant programs. Located just outside Atlantic City, Stockton will offer the advantages of comfortable living and convenient access to Philadelphia and New York. Salaries will be competitive with most institutions.

This was followed by a description and contact information of each division. Here is an example for the Social and Behavioral Sciences:

The Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences will include the disciplines of Political Science, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, and Psychology. The division will use new interdisciplinary methods to define and attack a variety of urban and environmental problems. For further information please write to W. H. Tilley, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Richard Stockton State College, Pleasantville, New Jersey 08232.

By the Fall of 1970, the ad* had been rewritten, Wes Tilley’s name had been replaced by Woody Thrombley – the first Dean of the Division – and the description had been rewritten (it would seem that Tilley wrote the first but the second version was changed by Thrombley).


There are other changes between the first ad and the second. The Division of General Studies omitted from the first has been added to the second. Originally, when I interviewed for the position in March, 1970 I was not going to have any staff. By the time I had arrived in July, that decision had been changed and General Studies was going to have an initial six staff so text was added to the recruitment ad placed later in the Summer of 1970.

The Deans (actually, we were officially designated as Chairmen but that is another tale) actively recruited in the Fall of 1970.

To structure and universalize our recruitment practices Wes Tilley wrote a five page document in August, 1970. The document outlines where we would place ads:

  •     Placement Offices of Major Universities
  •     Professional Colleagues of Established Reputations
  •     Chairmen of Graduate Departments
  •     Notices in Professional Journals
  •     Commercial Agencies

There is nothing terribly different in the listing from a national search today but it does illustrate the bed from which we were going to pluck flowers.

 Our overall schedule – a very detailed, hour-by-hour interview schedule is also included in the document – was as follows:

  • During October and November [1971] we should aim to fill about one-third of our projected positions, giving priority to projected majors.
  • During January and February we should aim to fill another two-thirds.
  • During April and May we should  be able to fill most of the  assigned positions. It may be necessary , however, to keep several positions unassigned, in order to meet the pattern of late enrollments.
  • When the candidates finally arrived on campus, we were to consider them within the following general purposes:
  • We want the candidate to get a sense of the academic community, and of the larger community which it must serve.
  • We want an opportunity to hear at length from the candidate, in order to assure ourselves that both the faculty and the students will be able to work with him toward the established goals of the institution, and that he will be able to do his share in the development of outstanding programs.
  • We want an opportunity to acquaint the candidate with our ways of thinking and with our previous decisions, so that during the interval before he joins the faculty he will be able to think constructively about his future on our campus.

It should be noted that (1) we had made previous decisions during the 12 months leading up to this moment. It has been claimed by some early faculty that we “over sold” the new College by suggesting that everyone’s input would have significance. (2) that we wanted evidence from our discussions with candidates that they really liked students especially state college students. In addition, we sought faculty who wanted to build programs (read: departments), curricula, policies, etc. Not all did especially those who came to us directly from the most famous and most scholarly institutions. (3) We also wanted candidates to understand that there were many communities at the college including actual communities in the environs and that our expectation was that they served all of them.

The document concludes with the “principles of faculty selection” that we were to employ:

  • Our first consideration must he pedagogical excellence. This would be s simple requirement if it were not so easy to confuse with popularity.
  • It is essential that the candidate show an interest in teaching the kinds of students we shall probably have at Stockton.
  • It is also essential that the candidate show outstanding intellectual, scientific, or artistic ability and very desirable that he show at least two of these.
  • While long lists of publications ere suspect, the candidate ought to show a serious interest in the continuing inquiry that is properly called research, if he is to teach effectively in s serious institution. (We encounter a paradox here: people who are not interested in doing or at least in aiding research seldom make good teachers; but what is usually called research is more often the grinding out of routine operations or, especially in the humanities, the spinning out of undisciplined cerebrations: and this kind of thing does not make for intellectual scientific, or artistic leadership -- which is to say, does net make for good teaching)
  • We should pay careful attention to the probable capacity of a candidate to work in flexible und open situations. (The kind of candidate who keeps to himself end wants to work only with his chairman may find Stockton unpleasant, if not unendurable.)
  • Because we are placing so much emphasis on the interactions of faculty and of faculty and students, the candidate should show that he is able to carry on a productive academic discussion.
  • Finally, somewhere in the candidate’s experience there should be a period of several years during which he has worked or taught in a first-class institution.

There are significant expectations in this list.

Notice, first, that teaching was the absolute criterion. In addition, notice that traditional scholarship is doubted as a litmus for good teaching. Evidence of scholarship is also suspect – not because Tilley thought that it might have been falsified or plagiarized – but because, if a candidate presented a long list of articles, chapters, books and other scholarly writings, he created that list at the cost of teaching. For Tilley one couldn’t have both.

It is also clear that Tilley and the Founding Deans understood completely what sorts of students Stockton was going to attract. This is significant because there are critics who argue that the early Stockton faculty was blinded about the sorts of students we were going to attract here and, therefore, were shocked and dismayed when students actually appeared. The College may have been jokingly named “Princeton In the Pines” but we all understood that we were not ever going to live up to that title; nor did we want to!

We also were in agreement that Stockton was and would be in flux and that faculty had to delight in change and impermanence. I have, for example, written elsewhere about the pedagogical values implicit in the fact that all of the walls of the college were modular and could be changed easily and quickly into other configurations. The shape of the College was impermanent not for architectural reasons but the architecture was shaped by pedagogical demands. We wanted faculty not only to understand this but to seek it.

There is an implied – not very covertly – collegiality in these desiderata. Faculty connections to other faculty and to students was expected. We distrusted candidates who displayed tendencies to isolation or who showed contempt for students. We wanted, and generally got, faculty who had had very positive experiences with students and who would treat students as equals. This was particularly true about the science faculty though it pertained across all of the Divisions.

Tilley closes with an acerbic comment on other institutions; let me hasten to add that, generally, the Deans totally agreed with Tilley on these issues so we did not – at the time – find them distasteful or wrong.

Please remember that the point of all these comments is just to help us find scientists, scholars, artists, and intellectuals who will teach in both an exciting and a responsible way. It seems vitally important that we work together to bring that kind of academician to Stockton. No doubt mistakes will occur. But in the long run, if we keep the objective in mind, we shall probably succeed -- if only because most colleges and universities have other objectives, or have lost sight of their objectives, or still do not know what their objectives ought to be.

The recruiting process started with ads. The next step was to send the four Deans forth into the country to interview interested candidates. Each of us was assigned a “territory” and we spent a week or more going from university to university interviewing candidates – most of whom were graduate students.
I went to the mid-west visiting Chicago, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. While exhausting, these trips gave us an opportunity to gauge interest, to find out where our descriptions of the College and the position needed tweaking, to report back on where it was going to be easy and hard to recruit specific disciplines. We all came back with lists of candidates and suggestions for sharpening and clarifying our presentation of the College.

All of this effort paid off; we received 5300 applications for 55 positions!

Here are some stats that may be of interest:

  • Among the 56 First Cohort there were 11 Professors, 10 Associates, 30 Assistants and 5 Instructors.
  • The average age was 32.6
  • The number of doctorates was 30
  • The number of doctorates expected was 21
  • The number of women was 7
  • The number of African-Americans was 3

The faculty was born in 19 different states and 5 foreign nations. Based upon the place of recent employment, the faculty came from 21 public colleges and universities, 22 private colleges and universities, 10 public agencies and 3 private concerns.

The doctorates earned by the faculty were granted by 27 different institutions.

The first group of 5 faculty presented to the Board of Trustees was on December 9, 1970. The were Enscoe, Hecht, Marsh, Mench and Solo.

On January 7, 1971 a second group of 11 were presented. They were Broughton, Constantelos, Decker, Klein, Lacy, Lester, Lubenow, Mikulak, John Miller, Reiss and Wirth.

A third group of 6 was presented in February 11, 1971. They were Daly, Epstein, Jaffe, Milstein, Rickert and Townsend.

On March 4, 1971 Bean, Ferrell, Ford, Loft, Steinberg, Wilmore were presented. It was the fourth group of 6.

The fifth group of 17 was presented on April 6, 1971. They were Bogart, Colby, Falk, Good, Haggerty, Hartzog, Helsabeck, Larsen, Manley, Marino, Ozersky, Plank, Richert, Richey, Sanford, Sternfeld and Wood.

On May 18, 1971 the sixth group of 10 was presented to the Board of Trustees. They were Bailey, Burkman, Drummond, Gilmore, Martin Miller, Silverman, Smith, Sorkin, Stanton and Taylor.

Interestingly enough, out of this First Cohort of 55 only 7 remain at the College teaching full time. They are Daly, Epstein, Farrell, Helsabeck, Lester, Lubenow and Wood.

So who was the first faculty member hired at the College? Because the names were presented to the Board alphabetically and because they had to vote on each recommendation separately, the first one voted on had to be Gerry Enscoe.

[I apologize for the illegibility of this quote from the ad. It comes from a scanned version which is a graphic instead of text. I am trying to find a cleaner copy]

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Standing On Shoulders

I am not an organized person. I wish I were but there it is...I am not an organized person. It's not that I haven't tried; I've had lists in leather bound journals, lists on computers, lists in computer databases and in software specifically designed to keep track of personal possessions. But they never work out for me.

On the other hand, I am not like the Collyer Brothers. I do have file cabinets and boxes where, if I look long enough and patiently enough I usually find what I need. Right now, for example, I have lost an obituary of my great-grandfather. It would help if I could remember whether it had been sent to me as a postal letter or it had been sent as an email attachment. I have an email database going back to the late 1990 so it will be there if I received it as an email and if I can figure out the search word I need to get a hit. If it was sent via postal mail, then I should be looking through the papers on most of the flat surfaces in my computer room. I've done both but it hasn't revealed its whereabouts.

I have a retired colleague who should be given a national prize for organization. In 1971, he and his family left Texas to take a job at the brand new Stockton. The contents of his house had been loaded onto a commercial moving van while he and his family drove to New Jersey by car. They got here a couple of days before the moving van so were living off the floor of their new home.

A day or so after they arrived here, a man knocked on their door, identified himself as a claims adjuster for the moving company and informed them that on the trip from Texas the moving van had caught fire and burned to the ground! All of their household goods were gone. He then explained that he could replace the cost of the lost furniture on an average family of my colleague's former home and family size.

My colleague asked what the insurance company would need to reimburse exactly what was lost? The reply was: accurate lists of every object, its condition preferably with a photograph as well as original sales slips for major appliances as well as the dates of purchase. My colleague went into another room and returned with a large cardboard box; he opened it and produced folders for each room of his house in Texas with photos of each item along with sales slips for most of them.
The adjustor was astounded; he reported that he had never seen such set of documents and promptly covered the loss in full.

I also suspect that my colleague could provide any assignment, test or writing topics for any class that he had ever taught. He is, without question, the most organized person I know.

All this is preface to the fact that my wife handed me a stack of mimeographed pages today; she had found them in an old file cabinet she was emptying. I quickly glanced through them realizing immediately that they were from the chairman of the English Department where I had my first full-time teaching job in 1965 - 1967. As I worked through the stack I saw agendas of English Department meetings, proposals for and Honors program, curricular redesigns and, best of all, a four page document entitled Some Comments on General Education -- 3 October 1964

The date is important because it is some months BEFORE I had accepted a teaching position at Millikin University. The date is six years before the founding of Stockton and my involvement as the first Dean of General Studies.

I quickly read the four pages and realized that what I held in my hands was an document antecedent to the thinking about general education that had so occupied me for 15 months between July 1970 and September 1971 when the College opened.

I have mentioned here recently what the influence of Wes Tilley was on me when he was my first Chairman at Millikin in 1965 and, subsequently, here at Stockton when he was the first VP of Academic Affairs. He mentored me in all sorts of ways -- pedagogically, politically, culturally -- as a new, young, almost Ph.D. teacher.

One of the primary topics of our almost constant discussions was general education. The idea of General Studies at Stockton was a compilation of Wes Tilley's ideas (precisely expressed in the 1964 document) and my very early ideas about how to make the whole thing work.

The germs of what we eventually created at Stockton vis-a-vis General Studies are in the 1964 document. It is those four pages I want to outline here.

The document contains nine "comments" suggesting a basic general education theory as well as practice for a college (specifically Millikin but meant also for wider communities). It covers the need for choice, advising principles, instructor effectiveness and the design of inter-disciplinary courses. The center of the argument discusses the content of inter-disciplinary courses and how a teacher would, necessarily, teach in such courses. Needless to say, teaching in an inter-disciplinary course was, Tilley argues, radically different from teaching in a major/disciplinary course.

The specifics.

At the heart of everything Wes Tilley thought about was "choice". He devoutly believed that without choice not much learning took place. His writings at Stockton -- the Academic Working Papers, Goals at Stockton (both of these have been discussed and analyzed extensively here), and other memos -- consistently argue for providing choice, challenging choice, encouraging choice and learning through choice.

In this document, Comment 1 states: Students usually profit more from academic requirements if, within the requirements, they are permitted to make some choices for themselves. I hope we can offer every freshman first a choice between disciplinary and inter-disciplinary courses; second, some choices among courses of either kind.

Numbering this 1 clearly shows the centrality of the idea.

Students, he argues, cannot make good and informed choices unless they have guidance -- from an advisor. Thus, his second comment states: In advising a student, it is helpful to keep in mind that he may have no clear idea of the nature of an inter-disciplinary course. He should be discouraged from choosing such a course merely because he does not like the disciplinary courses that he would otherwise be required to take, The students who seem to do best in inter-disciplinary courses are (1) the more intelligent, and (2) those with the wider range of interests. Those who do best in disciplinary courses are (1) older students, and (2) those with the more clearly defined goals and predilections.

While we might find Tilley's insistence that intelligent students do better in inter-disciplinary courses troubling, he would most likely counter that it takes a particular and broad view of the self and the world to appreciate the range of ideas in an truly inter-disciplinary course.

If students need choice, instructors need to teach what they are interested in. Tilley states in the third comment: Instructors are most effective when they teach the kinds of courses they like to teach. It would be essential to a sound program of general education that it permit each faculty member to teach disciplinary or inter-disciplinary courses as he preferred.

This seems fundamental but only because at Stockton faculty have the freedom to choose which courses they will teach -- especially in the General Studies curriculum. This is not true at other, more traditional institutions where beginning faculty are told what they are to teach. In such institutions, a departmental syllabus is quite common.

Tilley then turns his attention to what an inter-disciplinary course is, how it is structured and what some possible courses might look like.

Here are the next three comments (Numbers 4, 5, 6): It is important to keep in mind, when devising inter-disciplinary courses, that they can more easily combine materials than methods: in a course combining historical, philosophical, and literary works, there is likely to be some sacrifice of two disciplines, so that what emerges will be either a history course with literary and philosophical illustrations, a literature course in which history and philosophy figure as types of literature, or a philosophy course in which literary and historical works are examined for their ideas, (Even when the materials are combined by a committee. the different kinds of courses will be determined by the disciplines of the various instructors.)

5. There has been a tendency in some institutions to try to decide the content of  interdisciplinary courses by committees, as if once the contents were decided, everyone could teach the same course; This procedure handicaps the teacher of an interdisciplinary course so badly, it is hard to see why anyone would support  it, unless he wanted the course not to succeed. It should be recognized that no one teaches well who does not feel able to devise his own courses, or free to change  them as his training, his interests. and the nature of particular classes seem to indicate he should.

6. From these remarks it will be clear that I do not wish to restrict the teacher of an lnter-disciplinary course in any unnecessary way -- and that, further. I do not believe that a teacher should be any less free to determine the nature of an inter-disciplinary course than of a disciplinary one. What form, then, should inter-disciplinary course offerings take at Millikin?

Finally, in the final comment, Tilley argues for an honest “ignorance” on the part of the faculty teaching an inter-disciplinary course. This “ignorance” is a fact because no faculty can master two different disciplines so it is best to admit this up-front and then use the occasion as an opportunity for both the faculty and the students to learn. Here is what Tilley says: Pedagogically, the main difference between inter-disciplinary courses and disciplinary ones is that on inter-disciplinary course, calling as it does upon a variety 
of disciplines, will not permit on instructor to take the role of master-disciplinarian. He must necessarily confess his ignorance of much that pertains to the
 materials under examination and enter into something like a Socratic relationship 
with his students. Teachers who do not wish to teach in this way, or who are
 inclined to regard regular inter-changes between instructor and students as mere conversation, or as “a pooling of ignorance” probably should not teach inter-disciplinary courses. The instructor of an inter-disciplinary course should be chosen, not for his knowledge of, say, the novel, or of Victorian literature, but for his 
general knowledge, his interest in broad questions, and his ability to carry on a 
reasoned dialogue with his students. These remarks do not necessarily prescribe
 “discussion” technique of teaching: they suggest the attitude of a good inter-disciplinary instructor toward his materials and his students. He may talk most of the time or he may not: but when he does talk, he expresses the results, not of specialized training and research, but broad learning and a reasoned examination of the materials in the course.

I want, now, to turn to how these ideas have manifested themselves in Stockton’s approach to general education. Tilley’s comments contain the minimal but central ideas that he – and, then, I – implemented in our General Studies curriculum.

First of all, I was a clear as Tilley is about the need for choice in course selection. It is as central to my thinking as it was to his. I originally placed no restrictions on the selection of GS courses; it was a smorgasbord of possibilities. I did create minimal categories but, primarily, as an administrative means of identifying course content; it was never – at that point – a distribution requirement. These came later.

Choice at Stockton meant – as it meant to Tilley – someone to guide those choices; in our case, that person was the Preceptor. The Preceptor was central to the process of choosing. Her task was to help the student – using Socratic questioning – to identify interests which would lead to informed choice of course.

The third leg of this stool was the instructor. Teaching in the General Studies curriculum was a contractual obligation. Each faculty was to teach two courses per academic year in GS. I assumed at the beginning that the best GS courses would be, somehow, inter-disciplinary.

For example, in the interview process with new candidates, I would ask what courses they might like to teach in GS. Usually, the response would be conservative. Thus, a sociologist almost always replied with a course very much like SOC 101. I would then counter by stating some of the ways a GS course might be created and structured. The example I would give was a course that I have always wanted to teach. I called it “1381”. This course, centered on one year, would include literature (The Canterbury Tales), history (The Peasants Revolt), politics (The Deposing of Richard II), art (Building Westminster Abbey) and any other cultural material I could find that occurred in 1381.

Almost always, the candidate would immediately see that Stockton was no usual place, that we not only desired but required new ideas and that I was eager to hear about any course they had up their sleeves. Indeed, almost all actually had such courses up their sleeves but weren’t sure I would welcome them.

From this point in the conversation, the faculty candidate and I spoke the same tongue and could actually design workable GS courses in my office. These discussions were exhilarating to both of us.

Faculty who could not get outside of their disciplinary box did not get positive references from me. Certain disciplines seemed to be harder to shed than others. As Tilley argues, these faculty should not teach inter-disciplinary courses.

I am amazed that this unimpressive mimeographed document has survived two moves of my family, 50 years of passing time, to end up in an old file cabinet on my front porch. Without it, we would still understand Tilley’s and my initial ideas about General Studies. With it, however, it is clear that this cluster of ideas is much older than what we have and that those ideas are directly traceable to this document.

I stand on shoulders far greater than mine.