THE Alumni Advisory Council is a selected body of representative alumni which meets at the University at least once a year to consider the University's problems and its accomplishments. As organized at the present time, the program at the annual meetings consists largely of answers from various University officers setting forth different aspects of the University's activities in response to questions submitted by members of the Council. Ordinarily, no definite action is expected from the alumni present. In its advisory capacity the Council works through committees, set up from time to time to consider questions in which the University administration feels that the alumni can give effective and helpful co-operation. At the present time the Council consists of about two hundred members.
The first alumni advisory body of this type came at the suggestion of Shirley W. Smith when he was Secretary of the Alumni Association. He recommended that an advisory committee from the alumni at large be created by the directors of the Alumni Association. This recommendation was approved, and the Board of Directors appointed a committee composed of Henry W. Ashley ('79), of Toledo, John D. Hibbard ('87e), of Chicago, Edward C. Hinman ('74), of Battle Creek, H. Clark Ford ('75), of Cleveland, and Clarence M. Burton ('73) of Detroit. This committee met on November 11, 1904, and considered some of the problems that faced the Association, particularly plans for increasing its membership, for collecting unpaid dues, and for the possible appointment of an assistant general secretary in Chicago.
The next year this committee met again, but there was little in the way of concrete results from the movement until James Rowland Angell ('90, A.M. '91, LL.D. '31), at that time (1909) a member of the faculty of the University of Chicago, advocated the formation of an alumni council on a much broader basis (Angell, pp. 399-406). A letter from the Chicago Alumni Association suggested the appointment of a committee of alumni "to devise and establish means for rendering the relations of the alumni to the University more intimate and effective than at present." After these proposals had been extensively considered, a committee of twenty, with power to act, was appointed, and an amendment to the bylaws of the general Association, creating an advisory council, was passed. This amendment authorized each local alumni club with fifty or more members to elect a member, and to elect an extra representative for every two hundred members in excess of fifty. An executive committee of the Advisory Council of seven members was also created.
At the first meeting of the Council, in June, 1911, the University authorities were asked to give suggestions as to the principal needs of the University, and the Dix plan for reunions was approved. This is a plan designed to bring together, for reunion, groups of four classes which were in college at the same time.
In 1914 the Council recommended that the number of members of the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association be increased to seven and that the directors also be authorized to nominate the holders of the Williams professorship, subject to the approval of the Regents. Other measures considered and approved by the Council were the addition of an extra day to the reunion season, the use of Hill Auditorium for Page 373alumni entertainment during the Commencement season — a practice followed for some years — and the adoption of a permanent alumni button.
The next year a committee on student living conditions was appointed by the executive committee of the Council. This committee recommended to the Council in 1917 the establishment of approved rooming and boarding houses, and its report, referred to the Senate Council of the University Senate, led to changes in the University's policy with regard to the control of student housing.
During the war years and the period immediately after the war the Council held no meetings. In June, 1921, a revival of the Council was advocated by the general secretary of the Alumni Association, who suggested that the Council should "have some recognized status in relation to the University." No action was taken at that time, however, and there was no official organization for some years.
President Marion L. Burton meanwhile had called together at various times four groups of well-known and active alumni, who spent a day in Ann Arbor in conference with him and with the other University authorities. These more or less informal gatherings in reality performed effectively the functions of the earlier Council. Similar alumni groups were also called together by President C. C. Little.
It was not until 1928 that plans were finally inaugurated, at a conference held in Detroit, to organize a national advisory council of some one hundred and fifty members, under the auspices of the Alumni Association. As a result, on May 3, 1930, the reorganized Council was called together more or less informally. In 1931, however, at a second session under the inspiration of President Ruthven, a definite plan of organization was approved. A meeting has been held every year since that time except in 1937, when it was omitted because of the centennial celebration.
Although there is no constitution, a summary of the proceedings of the meeting of June 19, 1931, published in pamphlet form, served as a scheme of organization of the Alumni Advisory Council. The purpose of the organization, as stated at that meeting, is "to consider and advise the President on matters affecting policies, or other questions which he may desire to submit." The membership is to consist of three types: (1) representatives appointed by the local alumni clubs and alumnae groups, (2) former directors and officers of the Alumni Association, and (3) members at large appointed by the president of the University. The final decision as to the size of the Council is to be left to the University president. The organization is to have one annual meeting, and "such other meetings as shall seem desirable" to the chairman and the secretary, the only officers of the organization. Also, the chairman of the Council is empowered, in consultation with the president, to appoint such committees "as shall best carry on the express purposes of the Council."
Under this elastic charter the present Council has held ten successful meetings, at which many of the problems and accomplishments of the University have been freely and intimately discussed. Reports of these discussions have been distributed to all the members of the Council, and sometimes sent to the alumni at large. In accordance with the plan of organization, some seven committees of the Council have also been appointed and have met from time to time to consider the special problems laid before them by the officers of the University. These specially appointed committees have been called together to consider such widely varied subjects as University publications, Page 374the University Arboretum, engineering research, the development of a program in social problems, alumni relations, and the program of the School of Dentistry.