Barzun, Jacques. The American University: How It Runs, Where It Is Going. New York: Harper,

 

Barzun, Jacques. The American University: How It Runs, Where It Is Going. New York: Harper,
1968.

In a very real sense, this is a "How to..." book. It is written by a man with a great deal of
experience in managing a major American university, Columbia. As Dean of Faculty and Provost
for twelve years, he has seen the transition from the 1950s to the 1970s, from the residuals of
Nicholas Murray Butler to the Protest Movement of the late 1960s. And this book is about the
headaches of his office: the complexities of running a university in an era of enormous social
change. He does not spare the reader with the nitty gritty of his job and he tries to explain why
managing a university is a major undertaking. If his book has a single thread it might best be
stated this way: running a university is an extraordinary difficult assignment. It is not a simple as
students would like to make it out to be. It is not as simple as faculty would like to make it out to
be. It is not as simple as government would like to make it out to be.

The modern university (crafted since, say, 1950) has many new tasks set for it. It is not merely a
matter of becoming modern. "...(I)n its transformation the university has developed other
imponderable needs and must serve them too: public relations and image-nursing; continuous
fund-raising; systematic contact with alumni; ‘listening posts' close to federal, state, and city
government, as safeguards against ill- informed legislation; health and safety inspection against
radiation and other dangers incidental to scientific research; regular consultation with comparable
universities on the common problems, particularly tuition rates and the rules of the U.S. Budget
Office; increased occasions for sociability (to counteract both confusion and system) and for
psychiatric aid (when sociability is not enough); continuous surveys and audits of all current
operations through an Office of Facts and Figures; perpetual codification and amendment of rules
and procedures; greatly increased printing, to make known the university to its constituents and
prevent error and self-deception on their part; control over the few or many loosely tied institutes,
laboratories, and centers matured since the war; continuous study of electronic and other
novelties reputed to ‘revolutionize education' every few months; staff and committee work to
cope with the influx of art in all forms and to manage exhibits, concerts, plays - the whole
cultural showcase, as the Mayor of New York calls it; finally, the creation of a planning groups,
with an architectural office attached, to chart the course and study the conditions of future
growth." (p. 31)

In discussing teaching responsibilities, Barzun suggests that faculty holds teaching this way:
"The presumption holds that anyone who possesses certified knowledge and if not a deaf- mute
can teach. No formal attempt to made to impart to the novice any notions of lecturing,
examining, grading, or conducting a discussion group." (p. 35)

Regarding research: "To sum up, government sponsorship of a large sector of university work
has had the usual effect the money in quantity always has - it is unsettling. The good results are
plain and not disputed: the money was indispensable in an age when science works with
expensive machinery and scarce talent. The bad results are numerous and variously perceptible.
Envy, greed, and fraud have been stimulated; teaching has suffered another blow; the university
as such has been the worst victim: semidependent and dropsical, it has been diverted from its
course and diminished in internal authority by the very means that were expected to strengthen it.
Most lately, it has become the areas of political battles and the target of demonstrators who
proclaim that by accepting government subsidies the university is abetting crimes against
conscience and humanity. The charge is ignorant and not always sincere, but altercation brings
down a little more into the bear pit an institution once capable of using detachment and dignity to
good education purpose." (p. 14&)

Barzun talks about the special difficulties of universities getting involved with "social goals,
social research, or politicizing research." He is very keenly aware of the efforts to produce
"social change in 30 days." (p. 148) "They leave the details to the university researcher, for they
believe in science - their faith in the university is a faith in the expert planning and directing of
social change. In this belief the university as such is not so much supported as used for ends
defined by others. Since these ends half originate in the minds of scholars or are accepted by
them, one can say against that a new university partnership has come into being." (p. 149)

He is also keenly aware of the costs of doing research: the university may be penalized
enormously by accepting a grant which it must, in turn, support after external support is
discontinued.

Here is the problem: "The resources of a university are seven in number: men, space, time,
books, equipment, repute, and money. All administrative acts serve this one purpose of stretching
capital and dividing income fairly and fruitfully." (p. 95) Talk about problems!