Organization and Powers of the Governing Board of the University
THE term "regents" which has become a characteristic title in governing bodies of American state universities, apparently originated in the old University of Paris, where it signified certain masters of arts qualified to teach. Later, the English universities applied the term to those masters who possessed the functions of both teaching and governing the university. In the New World the University of the State of New York, upon its organization in 1787, utilized the title, but changed the function and made the regents a governing, and not a teaching, body.
When the question of the organization of an educational program in the state of Michigan was under consideration in the years after 1817, the term "regent," following the New York precedent, was employed in several tentative plans for changes in the original act of 1817. Although the precise date is not given in any of these drafts, which have been published by the University, the year is recorded in at least one of them, in Judge A. B. Woodward's handwriting, as 1818 (Early Records, pp. 182-97).
Thus, when the University was finally organized under the Constitution of 1835, the governing body, following these precedents, was denominated as the Board of Regents, and the University of Michigan became the first of the state universities to employ the term. (The University of the State of New York existed only as a centralized governing system for the educational institutions of the state.)
The powers of the Board of Regents. — In exploring the history and present status of the powers of the Board of Regents of the University, one seeks his information in the several enabling acts establishing and providing for the University and in the constitutional provisions giving the University a quasi-independent status as a constitutional corporation.
Throughout the life of the institution there have been five major statutes and two constitutional provisions defining, prescribing, and affecting the powers of the governing board. The first of the statutory enactments became a law on August 26, 1817, and is to be found in volume II of the Laws of the Territory of Michigan (p. 104). The second act was dated April 30, 1821 (I Terr. Laws, 1821, p. 879), and the third was enacted March 18, 1837 (Laws, 1837, p. 102). The fourth was approved May 18, 1846, and may be found in the Revised Statutes of the State of Michigan …, 1846 (p. 216). The fifth (Laws, 1851, p. 205), was an act approved April 8, 1851. In addition to the foregoing, there are several minor statutes of small consequence dealing with matters of detail.
The two constitutional provisions are found respectively in the Constitution of 1850, Article XIII, sections 6, 7, and 8, and in the Constitution of 1908, Article XI, section 5. Since the constitutional provisions are necessarily brief in text and general in nature, a proper understanding of their real meaning can be attained only by an examination of the decisions of the Supreme Court of the state and of the opinions of the several attorneys general construing and applying the general language of the fundamental Page 141law. As will be observed later, the constitutional provisions, as interpreted, have to all intents and purposes superseded the earlier statutory enactments, and have set up the Board of Regents as a virtually independent constitutional corporation with plenary governing powers over the University. The powers derived by the Board of Regents from the several above-mentioned sources will be discussed seriatim in the following pages.
Act of 1817. — The initial act creating the University and establishing the powers of its governing board was adopted on August 26, 1817. Being a territorial law, it was adopted, approved, and signed by the territorial legislative agency, i.e., the acting governor (the governor having been absent from the Territory), the presiding judge of the Supreme Court of the Territory, and one other Supreme Court justice. The act established an institution known as "the Catholepistemiad, or University, of Michigania," the legal predecessor of the present University of Michigan. The Catholepistemiad was unusual, not to say formidable, in structure. It was composed of thirteen didaxiim, or professorships. The "didactors," or professors, were appointed by the governor. The law provided that the didactor of "Universal Science" should be president of the institution, and granted to the president and the other didactors, or a majority of them assembled, certain specified powers:
[The president and didactors shall have power] to regulate all the concerns of the institution, to enact laws for that purpose, to sue, to be sued, to acquire, to hold and to alien property, real, mixed, and personal, to make, to use, and to alter a seal, to establish colleges, academies, schools, libraries, musaeums, athenoeums, botanic gardens, laboratories, and other useful literary and scientific institutions consonant to the laws of the United States of America and of Michigan, and to appoint officers, instructors and instructri [sic] in, among, and throughout the various counties, cities, towns, townships, and other geographical divisions of Michigan.
The matter of fiscal support was not overlooked. Existing taxes were increased 15 per cent, and from all "present and future public taxes" 15 per cent was appropriated for the University. An additional and novel means of support was also afforded: the University was authorized to "prepare and draw four successive lotteries," deducting from the prizes 15 per cent for the benefit of the institution. Lest extravagance ensue, a ceiling was placed on professorial salaries. The honorarium (apparently the amount paid by each student) for a course of lectures could not exceed $15; for classical instruction it could not exceed $10 a quarter; and for ordinary instruction $6 a quarter was the limit. The "forgotten man" was remembered, for, "if the judges of any county court should certify that the parent or guardian of any person had not adequate means to defray the expense of suitable instruction and that the same ought to be a public charge," the honorarium was to be paid from the treasury of the Territory of Michigan.
Under the provisions of this law the University was launched on August 26, 1817. Acting Governor Woodbridge appointed the Reverend John Monteith and Father Gabriel Richard to fill the professorships, and they were authorized to put into execution the grand scheme contemplated by the legislation. They made a modest beginning by establishing schools and courses of instruction in Detroit, Monroe, and Mackinac. The Catholepistemiad was short-lived, however, for the governor and judges of the Territory adopted a new act in 1821, Page 142changing materially the structure and existing powers of Michigan's institution of higher learning.
Act of 1821. — This second enabling act, dated April 30, 1821, was apparently based upon a somewhat different theory of higher education. The University, instead of being state-wide in its geographical scope, seemingly was limited to the city of Detroit. The professors were no longer to constitute the governing board, for the institution was placed under the authority and direction of a board of twenty-one trustees, including among their number as an ex officio member the governor of the Territory. It was provided that the trustees should hold office at the pleasure of the legislature and that all vacancies on the board should be filled from time to time by the legislature. The trustees and their successors were declared to be "a body politic and corporate with perpetual succession in deed and in law, to all intents and purposes whatsoever, by the name, style, and title of 'The Trustees of the University of Michigan.'" As a corporate entity the trustees were given the power "of suing and being sued, holding property, real and personal and mixed, of buying and selling, and otherwise lawfully disposing of property." Eleven of the trustees constituted a quorum "for the purpose of disposing of property and of fixing compensations." Seven constituted a quorum for all other purposes.
The act provided in much greater detail than did the act of 1817 with respect to the powers of the Board of Trustees. The trustees were permitted to apply any part of University funds "to the promotion of literature and the advancement of useful knowledge within this territory." It was provided:
The said trustees may, from time to time, establish such colleges, academies and schools depending upon the said University, as they may think proper, and as the funds of the corporation will permit; and it shall be the duty of the said trustees to visit and inspect such colleges, academies and schools, to examine into the state and system of education and discipline therein, and to make a yearly report thereof to the legislature; to make such by-laws and ordinances, not inconsistent with the laws of the United States or of this territory, as they may judge most expedient for the government of such schools, academies and colleges, or for the accomplishment of the trust hereby reposed in such trustees; to appoint a president, professors, instructors and other officers, to fix their compensation, and to remove them when such trustees think proper, and to confer such degrees as are usually conferred by universities established for the education of youth.
For fiscal support, certain public lands were given to the Board of Trustees for the purposes of the institution. Section 7 of the act provided:
The said corporation shall have the control and management of the township of land granted by the act of Congress, passed March the twenty-sixth, one thousand eight hundred and four, and entitled "An act making provision for the disposal of public lands in the Indiana territory, and for other purposes," for the use of a seminary of learning: Provided, That the said corporation shall have no authority to sell the said land, nor to lease the same, for a longer time than seven years, nor then with a covenant for renewal.
In addition to the foregoing, section 8 provided:
… The three sections of land, granted to the College of Detroit by the treaty of Fort Meigs, concluded September the twenty-ninth, one thousand eight hundred and seventeen, shall be vested in the said trustees, agreeably to the terms of the grant, and all the property, real, personal and mixed, and all rights, credits and debts, granted, given, conveyed, promised, or due to the corporation established by the act, entitled "An act to establish a Catholepistemiad or Page 143University of Michigania," shall be vested, and are hereby vested, in the corporation established by this act; subject, nevertheless, to the uses, trusts and purposes for which the same property was granted, given, conveyed or promised: Provided, nevertheless, That the corporation established by this act shall be liable to the payment of all the debts which are due, and to the discharge of all the duties incurred by the corporation hereby dissolved.
Thus, the act of 1821 reduced the geographical area of operations of the University and changed the character of its governing board from one made up of professors of the institution to one made up of citizens appointed by the governor from without the University staff. Furthermore, a radical change was made in regard to fiscal support. The original act had provided that all public taxes in the Territory should be increased by 15 per cent, the proceeds of the increase being appropriated for the support of the University. This provision was eliminated, and the University was required to rely for support upon student fees and the proceeds of the sales of public lands.
The institution set up by the act of 1821 made little progress. The trustees confined their efforts to the maintenance, for a time, of the primary schools and the classical academy which had been previously set up in Detroit, but by 1827 these enterprises had been abandoned, and the only function of the trustees appears to have been to grant the use of the University building to approved teachers for carrying on private instruction. This state of affairs continued until Michigan became a state in 1837.
Act of 1837. — When the constitution of the new state of Michigan was formulated in 1835, higher education received specific recognition. Section 5 of Article X provided definitely:
[The legislature shall take measures] for the protection and improvement or other disposition of such lands as have been or may hereafter be reserved or granted by the United States to this state for the support of a university; and the funds accruing from the rents or sale of such lands or from any other source for the purpose aforesaid shall be and remain a permanent fund for the support of said university.
The constructive governmental activities of the period of state-building brought into focus the shortcomings of the earlier institutions, and as a result John D. Pierce, Superintendent of Public Instruction, was requested to draw up a plan for a university. His suggestions were incorporated in a new University organic act, adopted on March 18, 1837.
This act, following the act of 1821, provided that the institution should be called "the University of Michigan." It stated that the object of the University should be to furnish the residents of the state with "the means of acquiring a thorough knowledge of the various branches of literature, science, and the arts." The government of the University was vested in a Board of Regents, to consist of twelve members and a chancellor, who was ex officio president of the Board. The Board was nominated by the governor and was appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The governor, the lieutenant governor, the judges of the Supreme Court, and the chancellor of the state were all ex officio members. The Regents were said to constitute a body corporate with the name and title of "The Regents of the University of Michigan," with the right as such of suing and being sued.
It was provided:
The Regents shall have the power, and it shall be their duty, to enact laws for the government of the university; to appoint the Page 144prescribed number of professors, and the requisite number of tutors; also to determine the amount of their respective salaries; and also to appoint a steward and fix the amount of his salary.
(Origin and Government, p. 9.)
The first Board of Regents of the University, in accordance with this action, was constituted as follows: ex officio members, Governor Stevens T. Mason, Lieutenant Governor Edward Mundy, Chancellor Elon Farnsworth, and Chief Justice William A. Fletcher, together with Judge George Morell and Judge Epaphroditus Ransom. The twelve Regents appointed by the governor were as follows: John Norvell, Ross Wilkins, John J. Adam, whose terms were fixed at the first meeting of the Regents for one year; Lucius Lyon, Isaac E. Crary, and John F. Porter (to serve for two years); Samuel Denton, M.D., Gideon O. Whittemore, and Michael Hoffman (to serve for three years); and Zina Pitcher, M.D., Henry R. Schoolcraft, and Robert McClelland (to serve for four years). Charles W. Whipple was chosen as secretary of the Board and C. C. Trowbridge as treasurer.
Twelve members of this Board met in Ann Arbor for the first meeting of the Board of Regents on June 5, 1837. The members of the Supreme Court and four of the regularly appointed Regents were not present. Within a year Regent McClelland was replaced by Seba Murphy, John F. Porter by Jonathan Kearsley, and Michael Hoffman by G. C. Leech.
For the first time the internal structure of the University appeared in the statutes. There were to be three departments — the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the Department of Law, and the Department of Medicine. The act went to considerable lengths to prescribe the professorships to be established in each of the several departments, and it was stipulated that "no new professorships shall be established without the consent of the legislature." The immediate government of the several departments was to be entrusted to the respective faculties, but certain academic matters were put into the hands of the Regents:
[The Board of Regents shall have power] to regulate the course of instruction and to prescribe, under the advice of the professorships, the books and authorities to be used in the several departments, and also to confer such degrees and to grant such diplomas as are usually conferred and granted in other universities.
The Regents were also given the power to remove any professor or tutor or other officer when in its judgment the interests of the University required it. Fees of admission to the University were limited to $10, but to all residents of the state the University should be open without "charge of tuition."
In this act, for the first time, a direct appropriation of state funds was contemplated for the support of the University. In section 16, it was provided that the Regents should, "as soon as the state shall provide funds for that purpose," proceed to the erection of the necessary buildings for the University. The Regents were also given the power, and it was made their duty, "faithfully to expend all moneys which may be from time to time appropriated for books and apparatus." Student fees and proceeds from University lands were also available as means of support.
State-wide higher education was again authorized by the act of 1837. By section 18, it was made the duty of the Board of Regents, together with the superintendent of public instruction, "to establish such branches of the University in different parts of the state as shall be from time to time authorized by the legislature; also to establish all needful rules and regulations for the government of such branches."
Page 145Coeducation was forecast. It was provided that in every "branch" of the University, though seemingly not at the University itself, "there shall be established an institution for the education of females in the higher branches of knowledge whenever a suitable building shall be prepared." Apparently the women were destined to stay close to home where the branches were to be situated, thus leaving the principal institution to the men students (see Part I: Branches).
It was under this enabling act that the University was established at Ann Arbor in 1837. Under its provisions the beginnings of the present vast institution were created. Despite the breadth of view and progressive character of this legislation, weaknesses in the plan soon became apparent. The powers of the Board of Regents were not sufficiently defined and the Board was not given immediate control over the University funds arising from the sale of the federal lands. In the first meeting a committee appointed to consider the legislative acts providing for the organization of the University and the location of the University reported that while they were of the opinion that the legislature intended to vest in the Regents the appointment of the chancellor of the University, "an opinion predicated as well upon the propriety of that mode of appointment, as upon a knowledge of the opinions of many of the individual members of the Legislature, and the impression of the Superintendent of Public Instruction," nevertheless they felt that the "ambiguity of the Act" rendered the exercise of this power "of doubtful propriety" (R.P., 1837-64, p. 2). Therefore they suggested that the governor be requested to lay the matter before the legislature, and submitted a resolution, asking for an amendment to the University law empowering the Regents to prescribe the duties of the chancellor, to create professorships as they might deem proper, and to establish branches without the special sanction of the legislature. A further resolution suggested an amendment authorizing the governor of the state to serve as president of the Board of Regents.
At this time the sale of the federal lands and the control of the University funds arising from these lands, as well as the distribution of these funds between the University and the branches, were in the hands of John D. Pierce, Superintendent of Public Instruction, who looked at the educational problems of the state with realistic eyes and insisted upon immediate development of the branches of the University.
Act of 1846. — The Regents objected to this measure of control on the part of the legislature and superintendent of public instruction. Accordingly, several bills were submitted to the legislature asking for relief from this limitation of their powers.
In 1846 the statutes of the state were revised, and, although most of the provisions of the act of 1837 were re-enacted, the powers of the Board of Regents were increased in several important respects. It was specifically provided for the first time, by section 8 of the revised act, that the Board of Regents should have power to elect a chancellor of the University. The act of 1837 had provided for the appointment of the chancellor by the governor, by and with the advice and consent of the state Senate. The provisions of the earlier act concerning the three departments of the University were repeated without change, as were the provisions prescribing the professorships to be created, the requirement that no new professorships should be created without the consent of the legislature, and the stipulation as to fees and the amounts thereof. Another new feature is found in one of the fiscal aspects of the act. Section 18 provided that the Board Page 146of Regents should have authority to expend "so much of the interest arising from the University fund as may be necessary for the purpose of philosophical and other apparatus, a library, and cabinet of natural history." This section constitutes a legislative recognition of the so-called "University interest fund," a fund consisting of interest on the proceeds of sale of lands granted to the University by the United States. The University receives to this day the income from the amount accrued from the sale of these lands.
The section in the earlier act concerning the education of women in the higher branches of learning was continued, and in addition it was provided that there should be established in each branch of the University a department "especially appropriated to the education of teachers for primary schools." Thus the modern school of education was foreshadowed.
In general it may be said that the revision of 1846 added but little to the previous powers of the Board and contributed little to the development of the University. It may well be, however, that the restrictions, most of which remained in effect until the Constitution of 1850 was adopted, were on the whole wise. The Regents were inexperienced in educational matters, and they had few precedents for the task before them. This uncertainty is shown in the reports of their first meetings. Nevertheless, in the main, the attitude of the legislature was interested and co-operative. In authorizing the state to accept its own depreciated scrip in payment of the University debt in 1844 the legislature gave much-appreciated relief in a financial crisis which almost threatened the closing of the institution.
The Constitution of 1850 and the act of 1851. — The next and last general statutory revision of the laws relating to the University was made in 1851 following the adoption of the Constitution of 1850, and went into effect on April 8, 1851.
The difficulties of the University during all of this early period and the gradual recognition of the special educational problems which faced the Regents, as well as the superintendent of public instruction and the legislature, had inspired certain changes in the constitution which gave the Regents new powers and clarified their relationship to the state administrative system. The new constitution provided that the Regents were to be elected by state judicial districts rather than appointed by the governor and legislature and made them not only a body corporate but also a constitutional part of the state government, coordinate with the legislative, executive, and judiciary divisions. It was provided by the new constitution that "the Board of Regents shall have the general supervision of the University and the direction and control of all expenditures from the University interest fund" (Art. XIII, sec. 8), and that the superintendent of public instruction was also to be elected by the people rather than appointed by the governor.
These changes had the effect of emancipating the University from legislative control, although it was not for many years that the full import of this independent status of the Regents was finally recognized by the legislature. Furthermore, a series of decisions by the state Supreme Court was required to free the University completely from control by the legislature. These measures also relieved the University from control by the state superintendent of public instruction, except for his prerogative of appointment of a board of visitors. With slight modifications, these provisions were repeated in the Constitution of 1908.
As was the case with the revision of 1846, the important features of the prior Page 147legislation were continued in the statutory act of 1851, and the new features were few and of comparatively minor importance. Section 5 provided for the first time for the election of a president of the University instead of a chancellor, who had hitherto been legally designated the principal administrative officer. For the first time, also, the Board of Regents was given discretionary power with respect to the establishment of new departments, section 8 providing, in addition to the three departments previously authorized, that "such other departments may be added as the Regents shall deem necessary and the state of the University fund shall allow." Section 9 contained a new and unusual provision:
The Regents shall provide for the arrangement and selection of a course or courses of study in the University for such students as may not desire to pursue the usual collegiate course in the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts embracing the ancient languages, and to provide for the admission of such students without previous examination as to their attainment in said languages and for granting such certificates at the expiration of such course or term of such students as may be appropriate to their respective attainments.
Section 11 of the act contained an important change in the government of the several departments of the University. Whereas previously the government of these departments had been entrusted to their respective faculties, it was, by the act of 1851, entrusted "to the president and the respective faculties." The provisions as to fees, including the prohibiting of tuition charges to residents of the state, were continued. The possibilities of use of the University interest fund were broadened. Specific provision was made for the erection of buildings from this fund, but it was stipulated that no such building should be erected until provision was made for the payment of existing indebtedness of the University, nor "until one branch of the University was established in each judicial circuit of the state." Obviously, the limitations were such that not many buildings could be built from the fund, and none ever were built.
Another important change was made by section 18 of the new act. Whereas in the previous legislation the Board of Regents was simply authorized to establish branches "in different parts of the state," leaving the matter subject to the discretion of the Board, the act of 1851 provided:
… As soon as the income of the University interest fund will admit, it shall be the duty of the Board of Regents to organize and establish branches of the University, one at least in each judicial circuit or district of the state.
A further change in the composition of the Board was effected in 1863, when, pursuant to an amendment ratified in 1862, a law was passed providing for the election of the Regents at large rather Page 148than by judicial districts, and also for a rotation of the Board. Accordingly, the election of two Regents has been held every second year since then, in place of the election of an entire Board at once, as formerly.
Constitutional provisions and the powers of the Board of Regents since 1850. — The complete powers of the Board of Regents over the conduct of the University and in the administration of its funds has remained to the present day. In the Constitution of 1850 the appointment of a president by the Regents was made mandatory, resulting in the selection of President Henry P. Tappan. He took office in 1852, and from that time the administration of the University assumed a more assured and settled form.
The Regents have always held the power of appointment of members of the faculty and administrative officers and the granting of degrees, but in practice, honored almost from the beginning, these matters have been left with the various faculties, and their recommendations are seldom if ever questioned by the Regents. Thus, the internal government of the University rests almost completely with the University administrative officers, the faculties of the various schools and colleges, and the University Senate, which, in practice, expresses its wishes ordinarily through the University Council. The Regents, however, have always exercised their constitutional prerogative in controlling the fiscal policies of the University, investment of its funds, erection of buildings, and the control of its budget.
The action of the electors of the state in writing into the state constitution a specific grant to the Board of Regents of the power of supervision and control correspondingly limited the power of the legislature to deal by legislative enactment with the affairs of the University. Although the full meaning of this change in policy did not become immediately apparent, a series of judicial decisions of the Supreme Court of the state, beginning in 1856 with the case of People v. Regents of the University of Michigan (4 Mich. 98), and ending in 1896 with the case of Sterling v. Regents of the University of Michigan (111 Mich. 369), supplemented by a series of opinions by the attorneys general of the state, has made it clear that under the authority of this constitutional provision the powers of the Board of Regents include everything now necessary to govern the internal affairs of the University. Conversely, they have made it equally clear that legislative enactments cannot affect the internal affairs of the institution, and as a consequence, the act of 1851, as well as all subsequent enactments purporting to deal with such internal affairs, are inoperative. The University is now governed under the plenary constitutional powers granted to the Board of Regents. The series of judicial decisions to which reference is made is fully reviewed and discussed elsewhere in this volume (see Part I: Constitutional Status).
So far as the present status of the powers of the Board of Regents is concerned, the following conclusions may be drawn:
- 1. The Supreme Court has followed a liberal policy of interpretation of the constitution, to the end that under the constitutional grant of power of "general supervision" the Board may exercise plenary power over all matters of internal management of the University free from limitations contained in statute law.
- 2. The Board of Regents is, however, subject to the general legislation of the state having to do with public health, safety, morals, and general welfare. The constitutional power of the state legislature as to these fundamental matters must of necessity be paramount, and the Page 149powers of the Board are circumscribed by legislative enactments in these fields. Since the nature of the functions of the University is such that the activities of the institution seldom if ever run counter to legislative enactments of the kind designed to promote general public health, safety, morals, and welfare, this limitation on the powers of the Board of Regents is not of great significance. Hence, it may be said with reasonable accuracy that, under the constitution of the state, the powers of the Board are today coextensive with the needs of the University.
Organization and policies of the Board of Regents. — The first meeting of the Regents comprised a three-day session which opened in Ann Arbor on June 5, 1837. A second meeting was held in Ann Arbor on July 12, 1839, and after that time occasional meetings were held at the University, presumably to give the Regents an opportunity to acquaint themselves more intimately with the University's progress. But for some years most of the meetings were held in Detroit in the Supreme Court room in the old Capitol Building. The meetings in Ann Arbor were held in the Library room at the University. In 1852 another room on the campus was set aside especially for the Regents — No. 23, in the building now known as Mason Hall, but which was then called "North College." From that time on most of the meetings of the Board have been held in Ann Arbor. A new Regents' room was provided when the Law Building (now Haven Hall) was enlarged in 1898. This was in use until 1934, when the present Regents' room in Angell Hall, adjacent to the president's office, was made available.
At the first meeting in June, 1837, five committees were appointed: (1) on ways and means, (2) on buildings and improvements, (3) on the number of professors and tutors. (4) on a code of laws, and (5) on the library, philosophical apparatus, and cabinet of natural history. Other committees, including one on branches, were also appointed from time to time, and in the meeting of March 3, 1838, a standing committee on the organization and government of the University was appointed. This evidently led, on August 20, 1841, to an executive committee of three, "who shall discharge for the present the same duties with respect to the University that the Committee on Branches discharged with respect to the Branches" (see Part I: Branches). This was the beginning of the executive committee, which has functioned to the present day.
By 1844 the list of standing committees, in addition to the executive committee, was as follows: library, branches, auditing, finance, and professors.
At the meeting held December 31, 1850, the original Board of Regents appointed by the governor came to an end and the first meeting of the Board lately elected by the people and entirely new with the exception of Elon Farnsworth, was held on the following day, January 1, 1852. An executive committee, a finance committee, and a committee to correspond with possible candidates for the presidency were appointed immediately, but no lists of standing committees appear in the Regents' reports until 1865, when, besides the executive committee, there were committees on finance, on the classical course, on the scientific course and chemistry laboratory, on the Law Department, on the Library, on the Museum, and on the Observatory.
This represented in general the committees as they stood for many years, with each department of the University under the special charge of a committee — a division of responsibility on the part of the Regents which led to very close relations between the faculties of the departments Page 150concerned and the Regents particularly interested. The departments which happened to have vigorous influential committees were sometimes especially favored, and certain members of the Board of Regents tended to become identified in their own minds as well as in those of others with some part of the University rather than with the whole institution. The result was that in some cases actions were taken by the Regents without formal reference to the president and to the regular University administrative system.
This arrangement continued more or less in force until 1920, when President Marion L. Burton caused the committee system to be completely revised, with the new organization designed to cut directly across the whole University administrative structure and deal with general interests in which all departments share. Thus a return was made to the more general division of responsibilities of an earlier day.
Under this reorganization, in addition to the executive committee, provision was made for a finance or budget committee, a salaries committee, a buildings and grounds committee, a library committee, a committee on educational policies, a committee on promotion of research, and a committee on student welfare. This list was changed in 1939 so that the standing committees were reduced to six: an executive committee, a finance committee, a committee on plant and equipment, and committees on educational policies, public relations, and student and alumni relations.
Throughout the history of the University the Regents have been distinguished by their public-spirited attitude and devotion to the fundamental interests of the University. At times they have been sharply divided on certain University policies and have split into factions in certain crises in University history. The question regarding the abolition of fraternities in 1848 represented one such controversy, and the summary action of the retiring Board of Regents in 1863 in the dismissal of President Tappan represented another. The long-drawn-out controversy between the Department of Medicine and Surgery and the advocates of the establishment of a homeopathic department divided the Regents for many years, as did also the question of the removal of the Medical Department to Detroit, a policy long sponsored by many prominent members of the medical profession throughout the state.
Perhaps the sharpest division in the Board came over the Douglas-Rose controversy, which began in 1875 and lasted for nearly four years, with the state legislature involved in the question before its final settlement (see Part I: Douglas-Rose Controversy). In 1906 a demand from a strong section of the alumni for the withdrawal of the University of Michigan from the Western Intercollegiate Conference resulted in a summary action by the Regents and compelled the resignation of the Board in Control of Athletics and the appointment of an entirely new board. Since this action represented control of athletics by the Regents rather than by the faculty, in opposition to the rules of the Conference, relations with the Conference ceased automatically, and it was not until 1917 that an adjustment was made by the Regents which assured control of athletics by a board constituted by the faculty.