One of the hallmarks of the Fleming administration was its openness and the repetitive efforts to insure communication. On numerous occasions, demonstrators and protestors found the President ready and willing to meet with them, to hear the complaints, and to discuss the ramifications of whatever problem was at issue. When the question whether the University should continue to engage in classified research, both on campus and at Willow Run Laboratory, became the focal point for demonstrations, and a sit-in planned for the Administration Building, both the Vice President for Research and the Vice President for Academic Affairs attended the sit-in and participated in the discussion. The affair became informational rather than confrontational.
Moreover, some steps taken to insure open communication left lasting imprints on the university system. In October, 1970, at the height of unrest, it had become very difficult for the administration to get accurate information to the community. A new publication, The University Record, was started and it has continued to play an important part in assuring a communication outlet for all segments of the University. Earlier, Fleming had addressed directly the question of student participation in decision-making by appointing a Commission to study the matter. Its report sparked the tri-partite system for involving faculty, students and administrators. A University Council served effectively for only a limited time, and lapsed into disuse. The campus judiciary ultimately became the Central Student Judiciary and became a student-related body. The Committee on Communications, a tri-partite group, served intermittently to deal with campus problems, and aided in bringing about rational and balanced discussion of controversial matters. Late in the Fleming administration, for example, it became the leader in developing a campus forum on the University's policies on corporate investments. Reference is made elsewhere to the creation of the Committee on Budget Priorities, a committee with tri-partite membership which provided lasting impact, and to other administrative changes which brought shared participation and thus increased communication on important personnel decisions.
Fleming also inaugurated a "public comments" session as a routine part of the Regents' monthly meetings. Any interested member of the community has direct access to Page 29the governing board, without limitation on subject matter.
The Fleming years were thus years of ferment, matching the national mood of unrest in the late 1960s, and carrying forward to a series of challenges faced by all of higher education. They were years of change, but the changes were those which were needed to sustain the preeminent position of the University of Michigan.