The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.
Page  230

RESIDENTIAL COLLEGE

The Residential College is a four-year degree-granting liberal arts college within the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. In July 1966, the Planning Committee issued its final report setting forth the rationale and educational objectives of the Residential College along with detailed plans for implementation. In essence, to combat the impersonality and inertial drag of bigness, the planners conceived of a small liberal arts college which would be a living-learning community with common intellectual and cultural experience, a close sense of community, and opportunities for educational innovation. Although the Residential College would have an identity of its own, nevertheless it would remain an integral part of LS&A. In keeping with this main objective, the planners envisioned an undergraduate liberal arts college with a total enrollment of 1,200, with its own campus including a variety of student housing, classrooms, offices, and other facilities, and a core curriculum emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach to learning. It would not be an honors college; rather the students admitted would represent a cross section of the LS&A freshman class in ability, interests, and backgrounds. The faculty would come from a wide variety of LS&A departments and, like the students, be self-selected — those interested in teaching undergraduates in a more intimate environment. The curriculum was designed to provide common intellectual experiences for all RC students. In the first two years, students would take a Freshman Seminar, Language and Logic, a year's sequence in humanities, in social sciences, and intensive foreign language study leading to a useful proficiency. In addition, every student during his undergraduate career had to have some experience in the practice of one of the arts. And, finally, each student would sit for comprehensive examinations at the end of the sophomore year and in the field of his concentration during his senior year. The RC would develop its own concentration programs which would not duplicate existing programs in LS&A. RC students would have the option of selecting a major from the combined offerings of the RC and LS&A.

To foster student responsibility for learning, the planners proposed a variety of class sizes from small seminars to large lectures, independent study, tutorials, frequent formal and informal meetings with faculty, and written Page  231evaluations in lieu of grades. Students, along with faculty, would have partnership in college governance.

Because of the primary emphasis on a living-learning community, the planners expected students to remain residential members of the RC for four years. Since the physical environment was so important to their residential expectation, the planners spent much time and thought on the architectural design and layout of the RC campus which was to be on a fifty-acre tract on the north side of the Huron River.

The Planning Committee had consulted broadly within LS&A with Dean Haber and the College Executive Committee, and with LS&A departments and faculty, with Vice-Presidents Allan Smith and Wilbur Pierpont, and with President Harlan Hatcher. As a consequence of these meetings which gave general support to the RC concept, the University Regents at their June 23, 1966, meeting approved the RC schematic drawings, preliminary specifications, and the budget and "authorized proceeding with the project into the final preliminary design stage." The tentative schedule called for bids on June 10, 1967, with construction to be completed by February, 1969. In effect, this Regental action gave official University support for the facilities needed to establish the RC on its own campus.

Rather than wait for the completion of the new RC campus, however, the Planning Committee, with Dean Haber's encouragement, decided to launch the College in interim quarters in Tyler and Prescott houses in East Quadrangle and in the fall 1967, the College admitted its first class of two hundred and seventeen LS&A freshmen after over three years of intensive planning and wide-ranging discussion. Since Dean Thuma planned to retire in 1967, Dean Haber with the endorsement of the Planning Committee appointed Associate Dean James H. Robertson as the RC Director responsible for translating the plans into reality. Dean Robertson, along with Dean Thuma, Professors Newcomb, Cohen, Wunsch, and Robert Rau and Paul Wagner, constituted an administrative staff to prepare for the selection, accommodation, and teaching of the first RC class. Professor Newcomb, in charge of admissions, reported that over 1,400 LS&A freshman had indicated a desire to enroll in the RC. From this group, 220 were selected, who constituted a cross section of the LS&A freshman class Page  232in ability and background and with dynamic differences — they were venturesome, questioning, creatively aware, and non-conforming. These were the qualities the planners had not fully foreseen and were qualities to shape, change, and invigorate the RC from the beginning. The carefully planned core program of courses required of all RC students, for example, ran counter to another basic RC concept, namely, joint student-faculty decision-making authority. If students were to have a voice in shaping their education, the fixed and imposed pattern of the core curriculum was at variance with this principle. Restiveness with the required aspect of the core program grew steadily. But the major emphasis during the first months of the College was on developing a suitable faculty-student governance. Out of many town meetings emerged the Representative Assembly with eight students, eight faculty, and the Director as chairman. This Assembly was the legislative council of the RC, which set up standing committees and controlled the dues collected from students and faculty. The Director, who was the link between the RC and the Dean and Executive Committee of LS&A, reserved the right to veto any Representative Assembly action. This assembly provided the forum for discussion of many important issues, not only curricular matters but serious social and political crises that swept the campus in 1968-71 — the Vietnam War, draft resisters, Black Panthers, corporate recruiters, the ROTC, the Black Action Movement, Kent State. Although RC students and faculty frequently took the lead in responding vigorously to those urgent issues, they did so with more information, more insight, and more civility because of the continuing forum provided by the Representative Assembly.

Another major decision concerned the permanent location of the RC. The planners had drawn up a detailed layout for a self-contained campus across the Huron River with the start in Tyler and Prescott Houses a temporary, interim step. But the members of the Planning Committee actively involved in the RC — Professors Newcomb, Brown, Cohen, Wunsch, Meisel, Benamou, and Robertson — soon perceived that being close to the main campus was a decided advantage to students and staff. They argued that if the Regents would approve a complete renovation of the entire East Quad to suit the needs of the RC, such a home would be preferable to the one envisioned in the original plan. The issue came to a head in March 1968 when the entire RC student body and Page  233staff met with the Regents, President Robben Flemming, and the administrative officers of LS&A and the University. Among the presentations made, those of two RC students — Martha Schwartz and Peter Jepson — were especially persuasive. The Regents subsequently authorized the transformation of the East Quadrangle from a men's dorm to a coeducational residential liberal arts college — the home of the Residential College.

To analyze the persistent issues raised by the required core curriculum, the Representative Assembly created the Core Curriculum Review Committee in April 1969. This faculty-student committee recommended, in February 1970, that interdisciplinary core courses be retained, but that they not be required. This recommendation was adopted by the College. A more sweeping recommendation was made in November 1970, which came to be known as Proposal "C." In essence, this proposal asked LS&A for permission to abolish practically all requirements and to allow each student to construct his own degree program. The proposal was debated vigorously but never finally acted on by LS&A. In the Winter Term 1971, the Educational Policies Committee was created to review college-wide educational policies and to make recommendations for change. This Committee, under the chairmanship of Professor Max Heirich, reported to the Representative Assembly in the Spring 1972, on a variety of important issues affecting life in the College. One of the main problems addressed was the RC's difficulty in attracting and holding selected faculty to plan, teach, and give continuity to the RC educational program. As a result, RC courses and programs had come to rely increasingly on younger nontenured staff, on lecturers, and on predoctoral fellows. The need for an adequate budget and, more important, for the right to appoint and promote its own faculty was emphasized. Dean William Hays recognized the validity of this need, gave what financial help he could, and in his final report as LS&A Dean in June 1970 called special attention to the RC's staffing problem.

In the Fall 1971, Dean Frank Rhodes set up a Residential College Review Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Rhoads Murphey to make a comprehensive study and evaluation of the RC. One of its charges was to determine whether or not the RC should be terminated. To help the Review Committee, the RC Acting Director Ellis Wunsch (Dean Robertson Page  234was on sabbatical leave during the Fall Term, 1971) compiled and edited an excellent self-study. With the help of the RC faculty, staff, and students, Ellis Wunsch gave a perceptive, searching account of the RC's first four years, including shortcomings and problems as well as achievements and successes. One of the main problems was the RC's inability to select, appoint, and reward faculty by rank and tenure. This issue was underscored by the RC Review Committee who, in the Spring 1972, recommended that the RC be given adequate financial support and that it have the same status as a department in selecting and retaining faculty. In addition, the Review Committee recommended the creation of a Joint Board to develop stronger liaison with the LS&A Dean and Executive Committee and with LS&A departments. In the subsequent debates over these and other recommendations in the LS&A Executive Committee and in LS&A Faculty Meetings, the Joint Board proposal was adopted, but the staffing and budget support recommendations were rejected.

Stimulated by the external review criticism, the RC began its fifth year trying to implement the recommendations of the Review Committee. The first RC graduating class had done well in graduate and professional school admissions as well as in creative achievements — many Hopwood winners, two books published by undergraduates, as well as distinctions in drama, dance, and ceramics. Professors Theodore Newcomb and Donald Brown had been conducting comparative research since 1968 on the qualities and achievements of RC students. Their evidence was heartening confirmation of the vision, competence, and loyalty of RC members.

The Joint Board, appointed by Dean Rhodes in December, 1972, was composed chiefly of LS&A faculty with Professor Harold Shapiro as chairman. The Board worked closely with the RC administrative staff in clarifying and developing personnel policies and budget priorities. Specifically, the Board reviewed the status of several important RC faculty who had no departmental appointments, and gained some concessions from departments. The Joint Board, under Professor Shapiro's leadership, became a constructive, influential force in presenting RC needs to Dean Rhodes and the LS&A Executive Committee.

After serving as Director for six years, Associate Dean Page  235Robertson in April 1973 returned to full time teaching. Professor Louis Orlin was appointed Director and, after one year, was replaced by Professor Marc Ross.

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