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One Hundred Semesters

One Hundred Semesters: My Adventures as Student, Professor, and University President, and What I Learned along the Way

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    One Hundred Semesters
    Book Description:

    InOne Hundred Semesters, William Chace mixes incisive analysis with memoir to create an illuminating picture of the evolution of American higher education over the past half century. Chace follows his own journey from undergraduate education at Haverford College to teaching at Stillman, a traditionally African-American college in Alabama, in the 1960s, to his days as a professor at Stanford and his appointment as president of two very different institutions--Wesleyan University and Emory University.

    Chace takes us with him through his decades in education--his expulsion from college, his boredom and confusion as a graduate student during the Free Speech movement at Berkeley, and his involvement in three contentious cases at Stanford: on tenure, curriculum, and academic freedom. When readers follow Chace on his trip to jail after he joins Stillman students in a civil rights protest, it is clear that the ideas he presents are born of experience, not preached from an ivory tower.

    The book brings the reader into both the classroom and the administrative office, portraying the unique importance of the former and the peculiar rituals, rewards, and difficulties of the latter.

    Although Chace sees much to lament about American higher education--spiraling costs, increased consumerism, overly aggressive institutional self-promotion and marketing, the corruption of intercollegiate sports, and the melancholy state of the humanities--he finds more to praise. He points in particular to its strength and vitality, suggesting that this can be sustained if higher education remains true to its purpose: providing a humane and necessary education, inside the classroom and out, for America's future generations.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2730-5
    Subjects: Education, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    Most people do not stay in school for a long time. For them, the world after and beyond school is more attractive than the academic enclosure. For them, the ladder of education—kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college—is climbed once and then laid aside. They go on to “real life” and obtain jobs, establish careers, and look back on formal education as a moment, just a moment, that happened when they were young. Their youth ending, their formal education ends too.

    But school never stopped for me—that is the subject of this book. My continuing...

  5. 1 I Knew Exactly What I Was Doing
    (pp. 6-10)

    When it came to college, I knew exactly what I was doing. I was going to West Point. The year was 1954 and I was a high school junior in Bethesda, Maryland. Many of my classmates were seeking an NROTC college scholarship, for with it the cost of college would be defrayed, provided you agreed to serve in the Navy upon graduation. This sounded good to me, but West Point sounded even better. Patriotism was in the air. The “police action” in Korea was still in the news, the armistice having been signed in 1953. West Point—the United States...

  6. 2 Haverford—the Guilty Reminder
    (pp. 11-21)

    When I applied to Haverford in 1955, I was one of about 450 young men to do so. Of those admitted—about 240—120 chose to enroll, and those young men—boys, in fact—constituted the Class of 1960. The aim of the College was to have a total student body numbering 460. In the language of present-day admission officers, that means that for the Class of 1960, Haverford had a 53 percent admission rate and a 50 percent yield rate. The aim of every admission officer at so-called “elite” colleges and universities today is to reduce the admission rate...

  7. 3 And All Will Be Well
    (pp. 22-34)

    In the early fall of 1956, my father and I set out for Haverford. He drove our family car, a green two-door 1950 Ford, bought used, to New York for a business trip and he took me with him. With me went a suitcase with several shirts and trousers, underwear, toiletries, socks, and a second pair of shoes. I wore my only sports jacket. In addition, I had with me a portable manual typewriter, a dictionary, and a thesaurus.

    We successfully made our way toward Philadelphia and out onto the Main Line, Route 30, to the site of the College....

  8. 4 The Readiness Is All
    (pp. 35-46)

    The Haverford to which I returned in the fall of 1957 was a place for which I was not ready at all. From the start everything seemed wrong. For my sophomore year, I had chosen to live “offcampus,” by which I meant to sound a dissident note. With a roommate, I occupied a second-floor room in a large house, the first floor of which was occupied by a distinguished professor of economics and his family. The remaining two floors above were given over to some fifteen students. The choice of living in such a place—“Scull House”—sent a message...

  9. 5 Berkeley: Thoroughly Unready
    (pp. 47-56)

    Hindsight gives me some understanding of who I was at Haverford and why I behaved there as I did. Some understanding, but not enough. I know now that I was part of the “silent generation,” and that my peers and I had been submerged in the politically and socially somnolent 1950s. One of those peers, the novelist Frank Conroy (Haverford, ’58), later said of the time that “We had no leaders, no programs, no sense of our own power, and no culture exclusively our own.”¹ Call it, as some have, a “transitional generation” or a “middle generation,” our impoverished moment...

  10. 6 The Discipline of Literature
    (pp. 57-68)

    But of all these matters the cohort of graduate students entering Berkeley in English that fall was innocent. We knew nothing about Kerr or his ideas. Numbering 120, the same number of my original class at Haverford, we were preoccupied with where we were and what we had to do. We came from everywhere—the Ivy League, the Big Ten, small liberal arts colleges, public schools and privates. We all had done well with English in our college years and now, we thought, we could advance to the next stage—whatever that might be. In some dim way we knew...

  11. 7 A New Kind of Proletariat
    (pp. 69-76)

    In 1963, when Clark Kerr said that the students, both undergraduate and graduate, would form a new kind of restless educational “proletariat” that would want to turn the university “into a fortress from which they can sally forth with impunity to make their attacks on society,”¹ he was both right and wrong in ways that even he couldn’t have imagined. The Berkeley campus, along with the campuses of Columbia, the University of Wisconsin, San Francisco State University, Harvard, and others, did not become “fortresses.” But they did become centers of political activity and symbols of youthful antagonism to virtually every...

  12. 8 Going South
    (pp. 77-87)

    By the end of that first year at Berkeley, I was not sure that I wanted to go on as a graduate student. I was not alone. By the beginning of the 1962 school year, many faces that I could remember from the previous fall were absent. Attrition had gone about its remorseless work. With mixed feelings about proceeding, I enrolled in two courses—a lecture course on American literature of the nineteenth century and a very small (five students) seminar on Edmund Spenser. The first, though ably taught by Larzer Ziff—intelligent, lucid, and penetrating in his judgments—was...

  13. 9 Reading in Jail
    (pp. 88-96)

    As I began my second semester at Stillman, it became more difficult, day by day, to keep my growing sense of political and social realities separate from my teaching. Many of the students I taught felt the same pressures. By March, some of them began to approach me—shyly and in a roundabout way—to talk about the struggle for civil rights. No more than I had they come to Stillman to protest anything. But they had heard about the sit-ins at lunch counters by black students at schools such as North Carolina A & T in Greensboro, North Carolina....

  14. 10 Poetry and Politics
    (pp. 97-109)

    I returned to California a married man. From now on, it was no longer to be “me” but “us.” JoAn and I chose our strategy, a distinctly “bourgeois” one: we would live in San Francisco, not in Berkeley. No going back to the place where we had once been unmarried graduate students. Now established as a couple, we would live in a real city (albeit one with a grand bohemian history) where college life did not define everything. Berkeley would be “work” and San Francisco “home.” Rounding out this picture of secure domesticity was our purchase of a red Triumph...

  15. 11 The Storehouse of Knowledge
    (pp. 110-120)

    Upon entering Berkeley in the fall of 1961, we, the newest class of graduate students, were told that the normal time to complete the Ph.D. degree was five years. During that period, we should be able to take a number of courses, make only a minimal number of errors on our three language exams, pass an oral examination on our knowledge of English and American literature, and write a research dissertation that would add to the “storehouse of knowledge.”

    No one we knew finished in five years. Legends were handed down about various people who had done so, but their...

  16. 12 Unfolding the Origami of Teaching
    (pp. 121-133)

    As we drove to Stanford, our two dissertations went with us, along with a collection of questions and anxieties. What would it be like to teach as a “real” professor? What would the students be like? What would the colleagues be like? And what would Stanford, with its campus between the Bay and the Pacific Ocean, be like? I took with me the memories of what my Berkeley teachers had said about Stanford’s placidity. Would the place be as dull and rich as they had said?

    A hint of what was to occur that academic year 1968–69 came in...

  17. 13 Tenure and Its Discontents
    (pp. 134-142)

    Being a member of the English department meant this: as one of two newly hired assistant professors in 1968, I was expected to teach well, contribute to the well-being of my colleagues, and, in time, write something worthy of publication. That trio of expectations—teaching, service, and research—was then, and is today, the established code for progress within the professorial ranks. Its parts, however, were not equally important in the 1960s, nor are they equally important today. When the Day of Judgment comes, when an assistant professor is “up for tenure” and thus for permanent employment at a research...

  18. 14 Tenure Tested
    (pp. 143-152)

    In my first years at Stanford, the value and meaning of tenure were subjected to a profound—indeed, unique—examination. It all had to do, dramatically, with my “revolutionary” colleague Bruce Franklin.¹ As I watched it from the sidelines, the collision in 1971 between the institution and an individual faculty member turned out to be a decisive and historic examination of what security of employment at a university means. The case taught me and many others about the rights a professor has and the rights a university has. It asked me and everyone else watching the affair about how these...

  19. 15 Teaching and Its Discontents
    (pp. 153-164)

    In the first years of teaching, I thought about the words of a student, Eric Cross, who returned punts for the school’s football team. When asked why he could run so quickly after receiving kicks from Stanford’s opponents, he said: “Fear. I run out of fear. I don’t want to get caught. They’re fast and so I run faster.”

    In lecturing on black literature for three years, and later when I was given “American Literature, 1917 to the Present” to teach, fear was my fuel. I wanted to get things exactly right and make no mistakes. That meant controlling, for...

  20. 16 The English Department in Disarray
    (pp. 165-176)

    But I was no administrator yet. I still had much to learn about my own department and my own teaching. I became attentive to how the incorporation of non-mainstream cultures into the curriculum was changing not only the required freshman course but also Stanford’s English department. The “Western Culture” requirement, newly established, brought in its wake another requirement, that students also take a course in a non-Western topic. The old geographical restraints were being loosened and new topics revealed. This change sat well with some of my departmental colleagues, for they had discovered enthusiasms about literary areas earlier thought to...

  21. 17 Why Join the Administration?
    (pp. 177-187)

    Very few professors think they will become administrators. And few do. Seen from afar, a career in administration looks dull or suggests that one’s career as a scholar has dried up. It is true that deans, provosts, and presidents make more money than professors and enjoy some perquisites unavailable to faculty members. But since the work is reputed as at once tedious and labor-intensive, the perks don’t seem entirely enticing. If you are to spend long hours with paper, better the paper in books and research reports than in committee minutes and budgets. And to separate oneself from the special...

  22. 18 Exchanging Reflection for Action
    (pp. 188-197)

    As I learned about working in a dean’s office, I would sketch rough drafts of the world, organized and disorganized, that I observed. The chief feature of that world was that the faculty populated it. Budgets were important; space in which teaching and research could be conducted was important; and the many rules, some of them the legacy of academic life for centuries, were also important. But nothing was more significant than the presence of hundreds of professors. A taxonomy of a university faculty reveals that each and every professor is a specialist, not a generalist. Over time, the specialties...

  23. 19 Diversity University
    (pp. 198-207)

    In fall of 1987, Haverford College, my alma mater, announced a search for a new president. Twenty-six years had passed since I graduated from the College. I was still using the intellectual capital it had given me. Haverford had formed my understanding of intellectual and ethical standards. My most intense memories of not knowing and then knowing came from that campus. I had made big mistakes there and I corrected them there. When I wrote, I could feel my Haverford teachers still standing over me, watching and editing. No institution in my life had left a stronger imprint on me....

  24. 20 Marching to a Different Drummer
    (pp. 208-221)

    Much has been written about being a university president—by those who, at one extreme, glorify what presidents can do and by those who, at another extreme, doubt the entire enterprise. A real job with much to do, or an impossible job with only ritualistic functions? Some see the office as a glorious station and others regard it as a kingship empty of power. In anticipating what I thought I could do at Wesleyan, I found comfort in the words of William Rainey Harper, long ago the president of the University of Chicago: “The life of a university officer is...

  25. 21 The Puzzle of Leadership
    (pp. 222-239)

    The academic year 1990–91 was my third year at Wesleyan. I thought at the time that I would stay there for many years. I had only begun to work on some of the major issues of the place: its budgetary shortfall, its far-flung curriculum, and, above all, the painful question of its identity. There was a great deal to do. Over the years Wesleyan had lost key faculty, and these individuals, I knew, had provided much of the intellectual lifeblood of the place. We had to replace them with scholars who would replenish and then increase the school’s educational...

  26. 22 Looking at Success; Looking at Failure
    (pp. 240-251)

    At the end of every Wesleyan academic year came Commencement and, with it, a brief moment of blissful reassurance. I enjoyed the presence of many proud parents and relatives and momentarily cheerful faculty colleagues and trustees. The majestic procession of students who, one by one, shook my hand and received their diplomas reminded me of the meaning, through the decades, of the old ceremony. JoAn and I hosted a reception afterwards at the house and greeted the graduates’ families. They were grateful for the education of their sons and daughters; we were happy for their gratitude. I heard from mothers...

  27. 23 Learning and Then Leaving
    (pp. 252-269)

    Not all of my hours and days at Wesleyan were given over to the presidency. Every year I stole time from that role to become another person, but a person I once knew well: a professor. Sometimes I taught a course on James Joyce and sometimes freshman English. This innocent theft reminded me what the school meant to so many people. When I entered the classroom, I knew that the students were first puzzled that their teacher was the president, but when I returned their first writing assignments, adorned with the usual kind of corrections and comments in the margin,...

  28. 24 A School with Aspirations
    (pp. 270-286)

    When departing with JoAn from Wesleyan in the summer of 1994, I was pulled aside by an administrative colleague who once lived in Atlanta. “Bill,” he said, “keep something in mind: when you leave Atlanta, you’re in Georgia.” Atlanta is a sprawling and prosperous urban enterprise, a city of banking and law, traffic and commerce. It is the home of Coca-Cola, UPS, Home Depot, and Delta Airlines; its airport is the busiest in the world. Surrounding it is a largely rural, agricultural, and poor state, one bogged down by public schools that are among the feeblest in the nation. Weak...

  29. 25 Being a Proprietor
    (pp. 287-305)

    After my first years at Emory, I found it easy at times to believe that I had become the proprietor of a large commercial enterprise. I usually overcame such thoughts by reminding myself that a university is a tax-exempt nonprofit endeavor with learning as its central activity and knowledge its most important “product.” Yet considerable evidence now and again suggested otherwise.¹ First of all, Emory—just like a business—needed a great deal of money to sustain its operations, to meet its payroll, keep its utilities running, operate its sophisticated computing networks, and pay down its bond issues. It could...

  30. 26 Real Power and Imaginary Power
    (pp. 306-326)

    By 2000, I was making almost half a million dollars a year. My salary was greater than that of anyone else at Emory, save several clinical physicians and those who oversaw the affairs of the health sciences. It was three or four times as great as it would have been had I remained a professor of English. Moreover, JoAn and I lived, free of any cost to us, in that large and imposing house. When we entertained, which was about three times a week, we had cooks, servers, and people to prepare and clean up. Since we ate so often...

  31. 27 “A King of Infinite Space”
    (pp. 327-338)

    On September 23, 2003, nine years and one month after JoAn and I came to Emory, I gave a formal farewell to the presidency, and the university said goodbye to us, at least for a while. The trustees awarded me a sabbatical year to mark the time before I would come back to teach in the English department. JoAn could put behind her forever a role that was wholly stimulating and at times exciting, but also ambiguous, demanding, and uncompensated. For her, no more afternoon teas and no more amiable and gracious pleasantries to compose the entire substance of many...

  32. INDEX
    (pp. 339-354)