Downstairs, Upstairs: The Changed Spirit and Face of College Life in America


Money and privilege no longer describe college students who, books in hand, stroll across fair campuses. Changes in American college life since the 1960s make the previous 300 years-from the founding of Harvard in 1636-benign by comparison. Today, universities in gritty downtowns admit welfare mothers who struggle to escape grinding poverty. Sometimes they have to take their babies to class with them. Felons from prison enroll through special programs hoping for training that will enable them to surmount ...
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Money and privilege no longer describe college students who, books in hand, stroll across fair campuses. Changes in American college life since the 1960s make the previous 300 years-from the founding of Harvard in 1636-benign by comparison. Today, universities in gritty downtowns admit welfare mothers who struggle to escape grinding poverty. Sometimes they have to take their babies to class with them. Felons from prison enroll through special programs hoping for training that will enable them to surmount previous misdeeds. Men and women in low-paying jobs enroll part-time. They head families, struggle with car and rent payments, and are always tired. But they attend college classes, struggling to stay awake, preparing themselves for better jobs. John A. Flower takes us on an extraordinary professional and personal odyssey in this new book. As dean at Kent State University he was engulfed in the Vietnam War protests and witnessed the shattering events of May 4, 1970. During 20 years as vice president, then president, of Cleveland State University he was the target of racial protests that took place on campus. At the same time a lurid scandal involving the high-profile basketball coach required Flower to dismiss him. For more than 50 years he participated from the inside as profound changes across the nation caused ivory towers to crumble. Flower writes eloquently and powerfully, helping readers to understand how forces for change reshape colleges and universities. He illustrates how external special-interest groups influence campus affairs, and analyzes their influence on curriculum, affirmative action, contract issuance, land acquisition, unionism, and a multitude of other issues. He uses his experience to present ways in which concerned citizens and community leaders can address change in positive ways. Downstairs, Upstairs is a must-read for all Americans who recognize the imperative for higher learning.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781884836961
  • Publisher: University of Akron Press, The
  • Publication date: 11/1/2003
  • Series: Ohio History and Culture Series
  • Pages: 375
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.75 (h) x 1.25 (d)

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Downstairs, Upstairs


The University of Akron Press

Copyright © 2003 John A. Flower
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-884836-96-8


It is no longer clear what the place of the University is within society nor what the exact nature of that society is. Bill Readings, from The University in Ruins

Educating students by immersing them in the classics had always been the major part of "ivory tower" university curricula. These studies were separate from the external world of day-to-day practical pursuits. Educating the mind was kept apart from training in the skills required to make a living. Training had not been the responsibility of universities. It belonged in apprenticeship systems, trade schools, and in family traditions carried on from father to son. Today we include both in our public and private universities.

During my years as provost and president of Cleveland State University, I presided at faculty meetings where teachers in fields of applied technologies whose careers began with pliers and screwdrivers (and who later joined the faculty because they possessed technical skills necessary for vocational programs) sat next to literature and philosophy professors who were vintage yields of humanist scholarship at research universities. To meld the discussions of the two types of faculty members-those engaged in training students for practical pursuits in the job market and those educating students in concepts and ideas-was a challenge I had not anticipated at the start of my career. This dramatic vocational and academic diversity contrasts vividly with the essential homogeneity of faculty members in the past.

A Caste System

Today in American higher education we have definable castes even though educators need considerable inducement to talk about them. They relate to economic status, cultural differences, and race. There is also a differing outlook toward those higher-education institutions seen as lower status (translated as working class) for the purpose of serving students from the mass market. They are in stark comparison to upper-tier campuses serving carefully selected students. The upper-tier campuses are predominantly private but not entirely. In most American urban areas, particularly in the east and south, but to an extent elsewhere there are side-by-side examples of these dissimilar institutions. The elitist institutions are historic while the mass-market campuses came into prominence after World War II.

The differing positions of mainstream business community leaders toward the two types of institutions have been dramatic. These leaders lend their weight to efforts, both organizational and philanthropic, to buttress community projects and institutions. During the fifties and sixties these leaders were helpful, often instrumental, in the formulation of public colleges and universities in their areas. The institutions operate under the purview of the state legislature or, in the case of community colleges, both the legislature and local districts. However, in the decades since, community business leadership has not offered the same energy and help, nor has it translated into fiscal support. (There has been some "bricks and mortar" support, but in those examples people get their names on buildings.)

The corporate leaders, themselves mostly graduates of Ivy League and other upper-tier schools rather than those from the mass market, have not had their hearts and minds in support of programs and endowment for these public institutions. They have been uncomfortable. To an extent it has been a "high-class, low-class" thing. Also, the reiterated mantra has been that it is the legislature's responsibility to provide operating dollars to higher education. "After all, we pay taxes." Everyone knows, however, that the legislatures are not going to "support" public institutions. They provide "assistance."

A Stacked Deck

Regional public universities which are owned and assisted but in no way supported totally by the state find themselves struggling against a stacked deck in the development of external, private, and corporate giving. There are a number of reasons for this. To begin with, trustee backing is crucial. If board of trustees members themselves don't provide donations to the university, others cannot be expected to. Board members appointed by governors, often tapped for politically partisan reasons, don't usually have a philanthropic bent and, in my experience, are not often capable of significant giving. Secondly, new universities serving large numbers of students who are the first members of their families to go to college have not had the time to build a loyal and emotionally committed alumni base. Loyal alumni comprise the foundation for private giving. A third reason exists in the fact that most academic and administrative officers of mass-market, public institutions are not very good at hobnobbing with upper-crust society, a source of important giving, both from individuals and family foundations. These officers, like many of their students, often come from backgrounds where they never learned how to handle behaviors within the "high-class" networks they need to deal with in money raising. It may not be sociologically palatable for them to cultivate the elites but that is beside the point. In fundraising you have to go where the money is.

The solutions to this problem of money raising in non-elite, public universities are simple in context but plenty difficult to implement. First, board members' giving has to be worked on and worked on hard. This task falls upon the shoulders of the president and board chair. Having done it, I know how difficult it can be. If a politically-appointed board member does not have the resources to give important amounts of money-often the case-then he or she should at least contribute something, even a modest sum. The problem here often derives from a board member's ego-not wanting to be seen giving a small amount. The president and board chair simply have to convince individual board members who are not wealthy that their participation in providing gifts, even though unpretentious in amount, is important to the larger university effort. For truly successful fundraising 100 percent board participation in giving is requisite. The same should hold true for administrative officers and for the faculty. It is seldom if ever possible to achieve 100 percent participation from faculty, but from the board and university officers it is a must. With the demonstrated commitment of the university family, i.e., board, officers, and faculty, development officials can go to other sources with a strong justification for their "asks." Second, the construction of a solid and loyal alumni base takes place only with the passage of time. It will occur (for example it continues to grow stronger at Cleveland State, where I served) but it will not happen overnight. To relate to alumni requires professional know-how-up-to-date mailing lists and knowledge of the professional accomplishments of individual alums. It is important that they be kept informed about campus affairs, and that they understand "their" university values them as daughters and sons. Third, the president, officers, and board members must not be hesitant to make themselves known to the community movers and shakers who hold the keys to private fiscal power. University leadership must get to know these people, demonstrate confidence and savvy, and get beyond uncertainty and caution. One of the most effective portals into this world is through presentations by faculty members or students with tangible accomplishments and something worthwhile to say.

Before coming to Kent State University as a dean in 1966, where my specific intent was to serve in a context where enrollees were mostly first-generation college students, I had spent almost twenty years as a young teacher, an administrator, and tenured professor at the University of Michigan. There I dealt with and taught echelons of third and fourth generation UM legacy students. I was proud to consider myself a "Michigan Man" myself. But my idealism propelled me into another arena that, in a human sense, was broader and represented the democratic ideals of the nation.

Michigan, as a public flagship institution with massive private support, belongs in the upper-tier of universities-not as high as Harvard, Princeton, Yale, or Columbia-but close. The most difficult adjustment between Ann Arbor, Michigan, where we were very comfortable, and Portage County, Ohio (which at that time seemed to have some aspects not unrelated to the middle ages), was the difference in faculty self-assurance between Kent State and Michigan. There was a palpable sense of professional security on the part of Michigan faculty members which at that time did not exist in the faculty at Kent State. (But that was thirty-five years ago. Kent State is now a different place with vastly bettered faculty achievements and self-perceptions.) One of the reasons for KSU's self-doubt lay in a certain tentativeness on the part of the university's officers. Without forcefulness on their part a university will languish.

Lessened Academic Quality

In the year 1900 most American college campuses were private enclaves. They enrolled over 80 percent of students then attending college. Public institutions, mostly land grant colleges and normal schools, served the remainder. At that time, the total number of college students in America was 237,600 out of the nation's population of 76,212,160. This adds up to about three-tenths of 1 percent. Today the ratio of public to private campuses is reversed and the number of enrolled students is beyond 15,000,000 out of a U.S. population of approximately 281,000,000. This approaches 5.5 percent of the total population. Counting enrollments in continuing education and in corporate universities would add more percentage points. As far back as the early 1950s at the University of Michigan I remember the president, Harlan Hatcher, asking rhetorically, "Why not give every child at birth a bachelor's degree? This would save endless wasted efforts and mountains of money."

It was a damning statement by which Dr. Hatcher meant that the quality of undergraduate education had diminished sufficiently that degrees might as well be given away. The forces leading to this have not lessened. However you view it, his point was well taken. It is not politically correct, given today's rhetoric about race, class, and gender, to say that the masses of students funneled into college both from the GI Bill and subsequently through open admissions to public universities resulted in lowering the academic standards required for the bachelor's degree. But this did happen. On the other hand, it can be argued that the social and vocational good of millions more citizens partaking of higher education outweighs its qualitatively lowered level. This greater blessing is a "feel-good" issue. It would seem to indicate a zero-sum game in higher education, where increasing numbers are offset by diminishing academic quality. It says that if increased numbers of American citizens are to enjoy higher education, it is inevitably diluted. I disagree that this should have to happen, even though my disagreement is not matched by facts. During the last fifty years academic quality has in fact been diluted, especially in undergraduate programs at public institutions.

Increase of Students at Public Campuses

The vast increase in students during the fifties and sixties due to the GI Bill was absorbed by public universities through unprecedented expansion. Upper-tier private colleges and universities simply did not admit these hordes of students, even though the government would have paid the tuition. The quality of their degree programs would have been lowered were their campus doors to be opened wide. It is worth noting that in the upper tier of private, American campuses, the number of students enrolled as a percentage of the U.S. population now is dramatically less than it was in 1900. But this elite group of private research and liberal arts-oriented institutions that are generations old possesses most of the resources. Endowments of the nearly 3,900 U.S. institutions of higher education recognized by the U.S. Department of Education total approximately $197 billion. This number fluctuates with the rise and fall of the stock market. twenty-five institutions (twenty private, five public flagships which include three systems) comprising less than 1 percent of U.S. colleges and universities, control approximately $113 billion of this approximately $197 billion.

This means that less than 1 percent of U.S. universities control approximately 60 percent of the total endowment wealth of the nation's universities and colleges.


Excerpted from Downstairs, Upstairs by JOHN A. FLOWER Copyright © 2003 by John A. Flower. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Rain and Shine 24
2 The Pacific Theater 35
3 Back in the States 44
4 Michigan to Ohio 59
5 Vulgarities and Disrespect on Campuses: Lessened Academic Standards 82
6 Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Corruption in Intercollegiate Athletics 104
7 Exponential Increases in Knowledge and the Technology Developed to Teach and Communicate It 120
8 Diversity in Race, Culture, Class, and Affirmative Action 136
9 Students as Customers 164
10 Up Interstate 271 to Cleveland and Cleveland State University 178
11 Professional Politics and Bureaucracy 201
12 What Became Known as the Winbush Affair 209
13 Problems in Shared Governance: How They Relate to Detached Professors and Their Disconnects in Teaching Students 246
14 Rising College Costs, Less Support, Outdated Administrative Management, the Dilemma of Increased Part-time Faculty along with Graduate Student Unionizing 269
15 Morality and Ethics on Campus: The Replacement of Accepted Verities by Relative Values 293
Epilogue: The Impact of Today's Forces for Change: What Will Happen? 316
Notes 345
Index 367
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