The Journal of Higher Education was a journal published between 1930-2013. It featured educational research, leaders, and voices in several topics related to the administration, social construct, and higher education organization. Many of these issues have been lost in time, but I discovered them about two years ago and have been fascinated with how each issue was like a retelling of our higher education story. I was also taken at how so many of the opinions and observations offered are still being mentioned and broadcasted today. It truly is Old Whine, New Bottles. This is the first of a weekly series where I will read that month’s issue and feature three of the articles I found contemporary interest in. A word of caution, some of the examples and language can be dated and complicated. So please know that I will try to address these complexities as they arise. I will offer links to the original journal listing for a deep dive because these will be short and sweet observations. So, I hope you enjoy and explore.
The Spirit of the University of Chicago
Robert Maynard Hutchins
Robert Maynard Hutchins was the President of the University of Chicago. He offered what I believe is one of the earliest examples of the town and gown attitude many universities show in our work. It is commonly accepted that universities become a member of the communities they share. For example, I work for a Consortium of Universities in Florida, and for Miami, Tampa Bay, and Orlando, the identity of the city is deeply tied to our three metropolitan universities. The same holds for the University of Chicago. In his article, President Hutchins outlines how UChi provides an outlet for the development of talent for the workplace and serves as a cultural and social hub of the city. While much of the article refers to the story of men, the article’s spirit is that the university’s responsibility is to move beyond intellectual development and develop students of character and citizenship who contribute to the city’s social development. There is also a focus on an urban culture that extends out to the city but is also reflected within. The university also reflects the nature of Chicago and gives it a campus culture.
This is also reflected in how the University of Chicago contributes to the research agenda they have set out. For Hutchins, the need for students to emerge into research that can be applied into the needs of the city and nation. It is also the development of a teaching agenda that is balanced between teaching and research that brings the student into the work being done beyond the classroom. There is a real sense in this article that President Hutchins was developing the thesis of what a modern university is supposed to be and how it becomes a member of our communities and society. I often think about a story I once heard about Appalachian State University in North Carolina. While I had a hard time finding the citation, the center of the tale was that before ASU, the region around Boone, NC had few if any people of color, cultural events, athletics, you name it. ASU added the kind of life that President Hutchins was getting at with this article.
John G. Bowman
John G. Bowman was the Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh and at the time of this writing had just overseen the completion of their Cathedral of Learning. If you have ever spent time on the Pitt campus, you would know this cathedral is a monument to the power of higher education and is a landmark in the city of Pittsburgh. Even if you do not believe you have seen it, you have. It is a beautiful structure and one of the most iconic buildings in higher education. He used the completion of this building to underscore the need for effective teaching in higher education and how that needs to differ from the research agenda. He, of course, discusses the need for competent and applicable research, but he makes a clear distinction. He was also quick to make a difference between the idea of teaching and administration. While the administration was needed, there was not a substitute for the need of those who can guide and develop students to create talent for the workforce and society.
The legacy of President Bowman is evident to this day. At the University of Pittsburgh, there is a teaching scholarship for instructors which encourages teaching excellence. It is one of the most lucrative and prized scholarships in the U.S. In addition, there are several international rooms in the Cathedral of Knowledge dedicated to his work and leadership. Often there is a division among faculty regarding the value of administration and the importance of good teaching over research. Bowman seemed to land in the camp that education is paramount and above all else. Only through good teaching can administration have the space to run a growing and relevant university, and only through good teaching can research flourish. After all, there is no substitute for the power of conveying knowledge and skill to our students. Bowman understood this.
Athletics in America
W. H. Cowley
Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before. Athletics is one of the things that is ruining higher education. This was the perspective of W, H, Cowley, a faculty member at the University of Chicago and someone who disliked athletics in higher education. And here are his list of grievances. Once again, tell me how accurate they are to modern criticisms of college athletics. The first was that college athletics harm secondary schools. The focus on high school athletics and its pipeline of college athletic talent take away from their academic mission of preparing kids for college work. The second is that preparing for game day is hurting the athlete’s ability to study. This is a tale as old as time. While many athletes do struggle, this is not the norm. The supports for student-athletes is well documented, and for many athletes, athletics support their scholarship.
Point three is what I found most interesting. Cowley mentioned the concept that college athletes are given a warped view of social norms. In many ways, they are considered kings and queens of the campus, leading to a sense of entitlement in life. Not sure if there is an argument here when it comes to major college sports. Name, Image, and Likeness alone, while I support this move, are a testament to this sense of distorted self-image. He also mentioned the need for coaches to become more interwoven in their campus culture and civic duty. But, of course, his fifth point undermines the campus culture point. The need for competition results in the inequitable use of campuses resources on the sports and coaches expenses and erodes the resources for teaching and research. He also called out the college alumni to place their giving and support to athletic outcomes, which challenges planning. This is the Flutie effect before we knew what that was. Overall, Cowley had a low opinion of organized college sports, even if his overall view of athletic competition was not as high.