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An Exchange On Berkeley

Professors Wolin and Schaar must have written “Berkeley and the Multiversity” [NYR, March 1] in a great hurry for it is not marked by the accurate scholarship for which each of them is justly renowned. They have written more of a political tract than a careful analysis. I should like to note several points.

  1. Knowledge factory” is not “my phrase.” It was a phrase used by Mario Savio. I have quoted Professor Machlup of Princeton University and former President of the American Association of University Professors on his concept of the “knowledge industry”—a concept he uses in quite a different sense than “factory.” His concept included The New York Review! My phrase is “the City of Intellect” (The Uses of the University, page 94).

  2. Professors Wolin and Schaar then go on to use a quotation of mine within their own sentence as follows: the university “must remain ‘as confused as possible for the sake of the whole uneasy balance’ among interests and pressures that make up its environment.” The actual sentence in full reads this way: “A university anywhere can aim no higher than to be as British as possible for the sake of the undergraduates, as German as possible for the sake of the graduates and the research personnel, as American as possible for the sake of the public at large—and as confused as possible for the sake of the preservation of the whole uneasy balance.” (Ibid., p. 18.) The point was not “interests and pressures that make up its environment” but rather the sometimes contradictory internal claims of undergraduate instruction and research, for example—a point recently much discussed at Berkeley. What pure model of a university do Professors Wolin and Schaar advocate where there are no conflicting internal claims, no “mishmash”—only research, only teaching, only service? Furthermore, my original comment was a rather wry and semi-humorous one and the Harvard audience to which these lectures were given accepted it in the spirit in which it was intended.

  3. Regarding a certain “lawlessness” within the university, I quoted Caplow and McGee in the Academic Marketplace and noted the “many separate sources of initiative and power” in any “large university” with particular reference to the “British Model.” (Ibid., p. 35.) Do Professors Wolin and Schaar suggest there should be only one source of initiative and power—a monolithic institution—and thus no “lawlessness” in the sense that I was using the term?

They then state that “the university is reduced to being a puppet…powerless to set its own direction.” This is their view, not mine. I have declared rather that the “new problems of today and tomorrow may lend themselves less to solutions by external authority; they may be inherently problems for internal resolution. The University may now again need to find out whether it has a brain as well as a body.” (Ibid., pp. 122-123.) If anyone were to take the briefest look at the three new campuses of the University of California, for example, he would see the University starting off in new and University-determined directions, not just “twitching to stimuli it cannot control,” as Professors Wolin and Schaar imply. And are Professors Wolin and Schaar themselves “twitching” when they talk about the “remorseful” faculty at Berkeley confessing its “own not-so-small contributions to the machine” and wishing to do something about it? Some “twitching to stimuli it cannot control” may be a good thing! Do they want an institution so unresponsive that it never twitches? A University should do more than just twitch, but it would be a sorry place indeed if it were completely unable to twitch even a little bit—it either would be or ought to be extinct.

  1. They quote me as saying “The process cannot be stopped. The results cannot be foreseen. It remains to adapt.” But my comment is not about the university at all, as they imply it is. It is my paraphrase of a statement by a famous scientist about the works of scientists and engineers. And I go on immediately to add this comment of my own—“And here the social sciences and humanities may find their particular roles in helping to define the good as well as the true and to add wisdom to truth.” (Ibid, p. 124.) Science should not go its unchecked way.

  2. In the two paragraphs in their article to which I have been referring, the authors (a) start with a misquotation, which sets the tone for the subsequent comments, (b) take a phrase about internal problems of accommodation and make it appear as though it were about environmental pressures, (c) take a comment about the inherently pluralistic nature of a modern university and try to turn it into proof that the university is therefore a “puppet” and (d) end up with a comment about science as though it were made about the University. In the process they string together quotations and partial quotations from several pages as though they all flowed together about the “knowledge factory.” The quotations relate to several topics—none of them the “knowledge factory.”

  3. May I cite four more illustrations, among others that could be chosen, from this tract: (a) “It is symbolic that the Chairmen’s group and the Regents never talked face to face.” It might be symbolic, if it were true, which it most definitely is not. (b) It is interesting to note that other campuses had “envies of Berkeley” but that the Berkeley campus had no “petty jealousy towards the other campuses in the system.” (c) Could Berkeley have been such a “magnet” if it really were so “bleak”; and could it have drawn so many students with “activist leanings” if there had not been opportunities quite beyond the normal for activism? (d) If one reads their own account carefully, it does appear (contrary to the FSM complaint, which they endorse, that nobody was willing to “listen”) that somebody was willing to “listen,” for there were several and quite prompt adjustments by the administration and the Regents. Their own account would suggest that the last major group to listen was the faculty. They might have noted, but they did not, that the American Association of University Professors in 1964 gave its Alexander Meiklejohn Award for contributions to academic freedom to the President and Regents of the University of California on nomination made by the Berkeley Chapter of the AAUP, among others. These contributions were made without benefit of sitins or the capturing of a police car or the biting of a policeman. Was civil disobedience necessary in the fall of 1964 to overcome a mistake in judgment by the Berkeley campus administration when it issued its September 14 edict on the 26-foot strip, when so much had been done of the University’s own free will over the prior six years? As a matter of fact, the Regents had voted, 15 to 2, in September 1959 to dedicate this very same strip to the City of Berkeley so that political activities could go on there without any limitation by the University; but unfortunately, the transfer had never been made. The justification for breaking “University rules and a few state laws” and for “episodes of excessive behavior” must rest on the proof that there was no other recourse. Professors Wolin and Schaar do not prove this point, and the record of the prior six years stands rather as proof that such methods were not necessary. Then why were they used?

  4. I should like to conclude with a statement by Professors Wolin and Schaar: “All of these accounts dissolve the real problem in a vapor of fantasies congenial to the commentator.” They were not talking about their own account, but rather the accounts of others. But, perhaps, they might concede that their comment about others might apply, to a degree, even to themselves. Admiring them both, I like to entertain this thought.

Sheldon S. Wolin and John H Schaar replies:

It is regrettable that President Kerr did not deal primarily with the substantive issues raised by our essay. Instead, he charged that we have improperly used certain passages from his book. Except for one incident he has not challenged the accuracy of our account at any point. The incident concerns whether the Chairmen’s group actually met with some Regents to discuss the amnesty arrangement of December 7th. Having checked our original impression with one of the chairmen, we have learned that the President is strictly correct: the two groups did “meet” but after the agreement had been largely accepted by the Regents. They did not meet in a negotiating session, but they did converse afterwards. Whether we erred in describing this as “symbolic” we leave to the reader’s judgment.

As for the errors of quotation it should be noted that our intention was not to write a book review but an analysis of the events at Berkeley. We cited President Kerr’s volume, which we regard as an important contribution to the contemporary discussion of education, in the belief that it would help explain the nature of the multiversity and the behavior of its governors and members. Except for one slip the charges of misquotation and misinterpretation cannot be sustained.

We apologize for having attributed the phrase “knowledge factory” to President Kerr, but we do think it correctly characterizes his conception of the University. Consider the following passage:

The University as producer, wholesaler, and retailer of knowledge cannot escape service. Knowledge, today, is for everybody’s sake. (p.114)

President Kerr (see 2 above) contends that we have strung together two points, the first his, the second ours, to create the false impression that the confused and uneasy internal balance of the University is directly related to the interests and pressures of its external environment. Yet in The Uses of the University the point is made time and again that the external environment profoundly influences the internal life of the University:

When the borders of the campus are the boundaries of our state, the lines dividing what is internal from what is external become quite blurred: taking the campus to the state brings the state to the campus…the multiversity has many “publics” with many interests: and by the very nature of the multiversity many of these interests are quite legitimate and others are quite frivolous. (p. 27)

But these directions [of the University] have not been set as much by the University’s visions of its destiny as by the external environment, including the Federal government, the foundation, the surrounding and sometimes engulfing industry. (p. 122)

In his fourth point President Kerr asserts that his quotation “is not about the University at all” but a “paraphrase” concerning the work of scientists and a preliminary to his main point about checking science by humane values. But if he is not referring to the University, how can he in the very next sentence make his remark about the social sciences and humanities? If on the other hand, he is charging that we have wrongly imputed to him an “adjustment” idea of the University, we must call attention to a remark made elsewhere in his book:

Still, the major test of the modern American University is how wisely and how quickly it adjusts to the important new possibilities [of a period of growth]. The great universities of the future will be those which have adjusted rapidly and effectively (p. 108).

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