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Reflections on the University of California

Reflections on the University of California: From the Free Speech Movement to the Global University

Neil J. Smelser
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Reflections on the University of California
    Book Description:

    These invaluable essays offer an insider’s perspective on three decades at a major American university during a time of political turmoil. Neil J. Smelser, who spent thirty-six years as a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, sheds new light on a full range of the issues that dominated virtually all institutions of higher learning during the second half of the twentieth century. Smelser considers student activism—in particular the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley—political surprises, affirmative action, multiculturalism and the culture wars, and much more. As one of the leading sociologists of his generation, Smelser is uniquely qualified to convey and analyze the complexities of administrating a first-rate and very large university as it encounters a highly politicized environment.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94600-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Unlike most academics at major research universities in the United States, I spent most of my professional career at one institution. I joined the Berkeley faculty as an assistant professor of sociology in Fall 1958 at the age of twenty-eight, just after receiving my PhD from Harvard. I remained at Berkeley for thirty-six years, retiring formally in 1994 at the age of sixty-four, at the time of the third VERIP—the incentive scheme put forward by the University of California in the early 1990s to induce high-salaried senior faculty to retire early. At that time, however, I assumed another position,...


    • ONE Spring 1965: An Analytic and Autobiographical Account (2008)
      (pp. 9-55)

      In January 1965, in the wake of the turbulent Free Speech Movement on the Berkeley campus and the demise of its chancellor, Edward Strong, the new acting chancellor, Martin Meyerson, asked me to join his staff as a special assistant in the area of student political activity. This was the hottest seat in the chancellor’s office at that moment, given the political fragility of the campus. I served eight months in that capacity until a new chancellor, Roger Heyns, was appointed and I took a scheduled sabbatical leave. Those months were a tense and uncertain period that resulted in an...

    • TWO Berkeley in Crisis and Change (1973)
      (pp. 56-75)

      In the period after he was discharged as president of the University of California in 1967, Clark Kerr established the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, which, mainly through its research and publications, exercised a decisive influence on American higher education for decades. As part of that operation, Kerr created the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) as sounding board for ideas and projects and for reviewing items to be brought before the commission. Situated in Berkeley, the TAC was composed of scholars and others knowledgeable about higher education. I served on the TAC for five years (1968–73) and spent another three...

    • THREE Surprises at Berkeley: Anticipating, Understanding, and Coping with Them (2004)
      (pp. 76-104)

      Midway into this chapter 1 describe an unlikely episode that took the Berkeley campus by surprise and created a period of prolonged criticism, defensiveness, and peacemaking on the part of its campus administration. That episode was the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) “epidemic” of 2002–3. In the wake of that situation some officials in the chancellor’s office came up with the idea that the campus ought to be better equipped to anticipate and deal with such episodes. To that end they constituted a group of administrators and seasoned faculty, which they called Project X—later called the Committee on...


    • FOUR The Politics of Ambivalence: Diversity in the Research Universities (1994)
      (pp. 107-123)

      In 1991 Jonathan Cole and Elinor Barber of Columbia University and Stephen Graubard of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences undertook to hold a conference and produce a volume of essays on the issues facing major research universities in the United States. The project was supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Two planning meetings for the project were held at the academy offices in Cambridge in 1991 and 1992. I participated in the second.

      Just after the second planning meeting the organizers invited me to prepare an essay...

    • FIVE Problematics of Affirmative Action: A View from California (1999)
      (pp. 124-152)

      As part of its 250th anniversary celebration in 1996, Princeton University scheduled many cultural and academic events. One of these was a Conference on Higher Education (supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) held in March of that year and organized by Eugene Y. Lowe, Jr., of Princeton’s Department of Religion. A conspicuous theme of that conference was affirmative action.

      Lowe invited me to participate in one session on affirmative action but left me free to choose my emphasis. He and others mentioned positively my essay on ambivalence and diversity that appeared in 1993 (chapter 4), and I assumed that...


    • SIX California: A Multisegment System (1993)
      (pp. 155-172)

      This essay was commissioned by Arthur Levine (editor), to be included in a major book on the environment and dynamics of American higher education in the last two decades of the twentieth century. The book was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and dedicated to Clark Kerr. The other contributing authors were an all-star cast of scholars and commentators on higher education and included Eric Ashby, Martin Trow, Roger Geiger, Lyman Glenny, Burton Clark, David Riesman, Roger Altbach, Patricia Cross, and Ernest Boyer. I was selected to write about California’s three-layered system because, I surmise, my past research on...

    • SEVEN Governing the University of California (1994)
      (pp. 173-230)

      In spring 1993, I received a phone call from Jack Peltason, president of the University of California, inviting me to join the office of the president as an “advisor on long-term planning.” He gave no further specifics, but it sounded to me that the assignment was to be more or less “without portfolio.” I still have no true idea why he extended the invitation. I did know that the university was in a severe short-term budgetary trough, which, as it turned out, endured until the heady days of the late 1990s. I also knew that the state’s demographic and financial...


    • EIGHT Report of the Commission on Education (1981)
      (pp. 233-278)

      In 1980 the graduate school of Education on the Berkeley campus was in a disheveled state. It had experienced several years of alternative neglect and hounding by the campus administration; it had been reviewed harshly several times; it had failed to secure effective leadership; and it was granted marginal status on the campus and nationally. At something of a loss, the campus administration commissioned another major Academic Senate review. As recent chair of the Academic Senate’s Committee on Educational Policy, I was asked to chair that commission. This chapter is the text of our report.

      The main recommendation of the...

    • NINE Report of the Task Force on Lower Division Education (1986)
      (pp. 279-329)

      In the mid-1980s three major national reports on the quality of undergraduate education appeared. They emanated, respectively, from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the National Institute of Education, and the Association of American Colleges. These reports were uniformly negative in their assessment, using terms such as “unhappy disarray,” “loss of integrity,” “diminished vision,” “majoring in narrow specialties,” and “a vacuum of educational leadership.” They were scarcely uniform in their recommendations, however, the first calling for a revitalization of humanistic learning, the second for mechanisms for involving students in the learning process, and the third for imparting specific skills and...

    • TEN Intercollegiate Athletics at Berkeley: A Report of the Chancellor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics (1991)
      (pp. 330-359)

      As of 1990, the Berkeley campus occupied a neither-here-nor-there position in major intercollegiate sports. It competed in the Pac 10, and had some good years, but usually ended up around the middle or slightly below in the standings. In minor sports it competed across the board, and in a few of them had compiled outstanding national records. In addition, the organization of athletic activities on the campus revealed some anomalies, for example its failure to merge men’s and women’s athletic programs in keeping with the national trend.

      The arrival of Chang-lin Tien as chancellor of the Berkeley campus in 1990...

    • ELEVEN Thanksgiving Dinner Report (1977)
      (pp. 360-368)

      From 1977 to 1979 I was director of the Education Abroad Program of the University of California for the United Kingdom and Ireland. This meant supervising the academic study and being a benevolent uncle for some 135 students each of those two years. While the students were scattered over more than a dozen campuses, I was stationed at the administrative office on Strutton Ground near Westminster Abbey, and my family and I lived in Highgate in North London.

      At that time the prevailing practice was for the director and associate director to host as many of the students as could...

  8. INDEX
    (pp. 369-380)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 381-382)