Maturation and Stability
Henry Johnson was appointed as the fifth Vice President for Student Affairs/Student Services in June of 1972. The selection was fraught with turmoil as the activist students sought to exercise influence with the selection of an individual who would be totally responsive to them. This principle was rejected by President Fleming, who sought an individual mindful of student needs and interests who would function as a member of the executive staff. Given the times and the prevailing well-enunciated philosophical and practical differences by the activist students and the corporate officials of the University, this disagreement did not bode well for the new appointee.
Without fanfare, Johnson began his tenure by emphasizing staff accountability to agreed upon objectives through the Management By Objective technique. In workman-like fashion he sought to solidify the authority of the various department heads in Student Services. The One obvious means of achieving this, was to convert the student-faculty Policy Committee created by his predecessor into policy recommending bodies, rather than policy determiners. In setting the example for this conversion in philosophy and practice, he successfully dealt with the issue as it related to the Office of Student Services. Subsequent adjustments in the operating units soon followed. One outgrowth of this change was the ultimate dissolution of the newly reconstituted Policy Committee/Unit Committees.
In the President's Annual Archival Report for the 1973-74 academic year, Johnson was identified as the chief administrative officer in Student Services. It went on to indicate that he was responsible for advising the President, Regents, Faculty, and other agencies on matters concerning Student Services. As part of this responsibility, he responded to the needs of students, but was not dictated by those needs.
Page 12One of the biggest undertakings he assumed during the early years of his Vice Presidency was the reorganization of the Student Government Council. President Robben Fleming had called the Regents attention to the growing concern over the viability of the current central student government. President Fleming felt the problem had reached crisis proportions in the April 1973 student election when only 900 valid votes were cast for Student Government Council candidates. Another concern stemmed from the fact that the Regents continued to fund such a government through imposition of a mandatory student fee. Therefore, in October of 1973 the Regents directed the Vice President for Student Services to impanel a broad spectrum of student leaders and faculty consultants to prepare a plan for the reorganization of the central student government.
The Commission to Study Student Governance submitted their final report to the Regents in December of 1974. The result of nearly a year of cooperation between students, staff, and faculty were reviewed. During 1975 the Michigan Student Assembly, with representation from each of the fourteen schools and colleges, replaced the previously existing Student Government.
The report of the Student Governance Commission was before the Regents for some time (from December 1974 to November 1975). Several of its recommendations were supported by the students and rejected by the faculty. The efforts of the Executive Officers to find a middle ground was rejected by the students. Most of the controversy concerned the section of the report which pertained to student participation in decision making and student governance system.
In June of 1975 Johnson established a Task Force to examine the issues related to student counseling. By the time of the 1975-76 annual report to the President, he identified five major thrusts of responsibility for Student Services. These were: Page 13
- 1. Facilitate educational development of students;
- 2. maintain an optimal physical and educational environment within which development can occur;
- 3. maintain a balance between the needs of students and the needs of the University community;
- 4. integrate Student Service programs into the University Community; and
- 5. critically evaluate the existing Student Service functions.
By January of 1979 the Regents formally agreed to substantial changes in the Michigan Union including transference of administrative responsibility to the Vice President for Student Service along with conversion of all but twelve of the hotel rooms to student housing. Also the Regents agreed to the financing of major physical rehabilitation and rejuvenation of this sixty year old structure. One of the first non-physical improvements was the creation of the Campus Information Center which would provide comprehensive, accurate, and timely information and referrals to students.
Johnson's Vice Presidency, conceived in a tumultuous setting, over the course of time settled into a stable, well-ordered, systematically arranged organic service to students. It also became a valued part of the University. Initial conflicts were diffused with the changes in student values which were becoming more conservative, self-oriented and directed towards personal objectives. While Johnson may have benefited administratively by this change in student values, he earlier had identified the direction in which the Office of Student Services was to move.