The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
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Undergraduate Education

The Fleming years saw significant changes in the undergraduate program of the University, both academic and non-academic. The $55 million capital campaign which had preceded his arrival had included as one major component the creation of a Residential College. The idea that it should be possible to create, within a large complex university, a small and intimate educational program for undergraduates who might want it, had been developed to the point of plans for new buildings to house the College, and calculations concerning the costs which might be involved. Unhappily, the project did not attract monetary support from those who made gifts to the campaign. But the idea had captured the attention of university constituents, and it had been suggested that the University undertake to create the College within existing structures (one of the dormitories) and fund the project from existing resources. One of Fleming's early decisions was an affirmative answer to that proposal, and the Residential College became reality. The decision is consistent with his persistent interest in undergraduate education. He believed that "undergraduate education must occupy a major share of our attention. We will do a disservice to the cause of higher education if we allow other legitimate interests such as research and service to undermine high quality undergraduate education."

A second, and major, development in undergraduate education at Michigan, came with the decision to make four-year colleges at Dearborn and at Flint. The campuses were originally designed only for upper division courses, intended to be coordinated with the junior colleges which existed at both locations. Limited graduate work was possible. Both operations, however, presented problems of management, of academic cohesion, and of constituency relations, both within and without the University. Internally, Ann Arbor faculty was likely to view the programs as less demanding than those at Ann Arbor, and as siphoning support which might otherwise have reached the central campus. On the other hand, the close administrative control from Ann Arbor tended to be viewed by the local supporters as unresponsive to local needs. This feeling was strengthened by the fact that the chief executive officer of the branch campuses was called "dean." Academic programs which depended upon particular offerings in the first two years were at the mercy of totally independent agencies. Fleming's decision, Page  17approved by the Regents, to press for four-year status, and to secure legislative blessing for such a move was an important development, and after the status was achieved, there followed the needed administrative changes: the chief officers were designated as chancellors with a corresponding increase in autonomy; the fiscal support was segregated in the University's operational budget, and independent presentations to the legislature were developed; direct access to the Regents for approval of curricular development and capital outlay was provided; and local citizens' advisory committees were incorporated into the planning processes of the branch campuses. Within a decade, enrollment at the branch campuses would amount to nearly 25% of the University's total, and physical plants commensurate with the programs were in place at both Flint and Dearborn.

A third development affecting the student body, though not academically, occurred during Fleming's administration, namely, the considerable expansion of the recreational facilities for the University, and the restructuring of financial support for the athletic and recreational enterprise at Ann Arbor. Over a period of many years, the Athletic Department had not only operated the intercollegiate program, but had supplied some support for intramural sports and for recreational activity. Changing levels of expenditure for intercollegiate programs and increased student enrollment had brought great pressure on the facilities. Working with his Vice-President for Academic Affairs, his Vice-President for Finance, the Athletic Director, and with students whose fees would be required to finance most of the recreational buildings, a balance was achieved which produced two splendid new recreational buildings. From that time, the Athletic Director was responsible only for financing the intercollegiate program and without help from the general fund. In turn, the University was responsible for intramural and recreational activities for students and staff. This restructuring was extraordinarily helpful as the intercollegiate program for women began its expansion in 1973 and 1974.

Ironically, one of President Fleming's proposals concerning undergraduate education turned out to be a conspicuous failure so far as producing change was concerned. Near the end of the turbulence, and having heard much criticism from students and the public about the lack of "relevance" in university education, President Fleming suggested in his 1973 "State of the University" Page  18address that major universities could expand their options by offering their students a broader and more meaningful learning experience through optional work-study programs and providing credit for optional specialized courses at nearby community colleges, including vocational courses. "We have always known," he said, "that a liberal arts education is not training for a vocation (but) rather a broadening experience for the mind and spirit … indispensable to the enjoyment and fulfillment of life." He suggested that "our mistake, if we have made one, may be that we have too widely separated work and study, on the one hand, and the intellectual and the vocational on the other hand." He returned to this thesis in his appearance at the 1974 Honors Convocation when he said, "Scholars who spend all of their time on books receive a limited education." He suggested that they build into their lives some work experience outside the academic world and asserted that it will "almost certainly make you better scholars in the long run." He took personal initiative in setting up an agreement with Washtenaw Community College which would allow University liberal arts students to enroll in certain vocational-specialist courses at WCC and arranged for transportation between the two campuses. The proposal received almost no attention in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, and the agreement was largely inoperative.

Fleming pressed the faculty, both undergraduate and graduate, on the need for "ethical standards" in academic work and urged university teachers to seek to incorporate them into their courses. In an era of political terrorism and Watergate he expressed concern that "many of the young people who have testified to political deceit, criminal behavior, and unethical conduct are fully equipped with degrees from distinguished American universities. Why did we have so little impact upon them?"

Despite the difficulties in influencing the behavior standards of mature young people, he said, "I would hope that each of the schools and colleges would devote some time and effort to the value area."

President Fleming, making his university perhaps the first major institution of higher learing to address this issue, created a $15,000 grant from his office to support the development of a lecture and seminar series dealing with major ethical issues and possible future research projects. The year 1974-75 thus earned the designation "Values Year" at the University. The lecture series Page  19opened in October with Prof. George Wald of Harvard, a biologist who won a 1967 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine, delivering a public address titled "The True and the Good."

It is fair to say, finally, that policies which were initiated during Fleming's administration served to open to undergraduate students channels of communication and access to the administrative processes of the University in a significant manner. He inaugurated the policy of placing students on the committees charged with seeking decanal replacements. Students were placed on all vice-presidential advisory committees. The Budget Priorities Committee, a university-wide group, included student representatives, and was created to assure that faculty, students and professional administrative staff were represented in the important budget-making processes. This committee has endured and was later to be an important cog in the University's response to extreme financial privation. It was probably the first time that students officially participated in the budget process. His actions thus spoke as loudly as his words: "Students are quite right," he said, "when they say they have a major interest in the University, although I do not always agree with them. The role of the student in the academic community needs redefinition. Many of the traditional approaches to student affairs must now be altered. I hope to persuade students that they can exert pressure through the proper framework." His interest in efforts to find effective modes of governance persisted as the report of the University's Commission to Study Student Governance was completed in 1974. It recommended to the Regents that student government should be implemented as a multi-level system combining a central governing body with others representing college, school and departmental levels. The proposal provided for more student representation in University decision-making at all levels, up to and including Regents' meetings. Parts of the proposal aroused considerable faculty resistance, and only a few of the recommendations were implemented for student government. Student participation in University committees, however, proved an enduring change.