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Interview #16: Cadmus, Robert (1977)

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Interview with Robert Cadmus

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00:00:01–00:00:48 Went to Swarthmore, came here with a...

Went to Swarthmore, came here with a teaching assistantship in 1968. Just leaving for North Carolina.

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00:00:01

LS

I’m interviewing Robert Cadmus in the Physics Department on January 12, 1977.

Well, you’re a, you’re just leaving the UW and going to North Carolina.

RC

That’s right.

LS

As a what?

RC

As a postdoctoral research associate.

LS

And what have you been in?

RC

I’m in physics.

LS

Did you finish your PhD just recently? Or some time ago?

RC

A few weeks ago.

LS

Three weeks ago.

RC

A few. I don’t remember the exact date.

LS

Where did you come from?

RC

I came here from Swarthmore College in June of ’68.

00:00:48–00:02:43 Reasons for coming to UW. Strong department.

Reasons for coming to UW. Strong department.

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00:00:48

LS

That’s a very difficult college. Why did you decide to come to the UW?

RC

Because it has a strong physics department. And because I had worked at a lab which was at that time doing joint projects with my major professor here. So I knew the group here through that connection.

LS

Is your major professor Hugh Richards?

RC

No. It’s Willy Haywood.

LS

I see.

RC

So I sort of knew of him, and knew that he was doing things in which I was potentially interested. And I applied to several graduate schools and had some choice and decided to come here partly because of that, and partly just because I like Madison. I like the people.

LS

This was in what year that you came here?

RC

‘68

LS

Just that’s sort of the height of everything. That was after the battle. Had you, you had gone into physics in Swarthmore, obviously. Why did you go into physics?

RC

Because I was interested in it.

LS

Is your father a physicist?

RC

No. He’s a doctor.

LS

Did you know you were going to–

RC

No particular interest in science, specifically. I just had been interested and curious about things. I originally had wanted to go into astronomy. But the way to get into astronomy, at least at Swarthmore, is to do physics first. But by the time I graduated, I had been diverted by a summer job into physics.

LS

So you came here with a fellowship, or with a TAship?

RC

With a teaching assistantship.

LS

Teaching assistantship.

RC

Actually, I had a research assistantship for the first summer. I came here in June, and then started teaching.

00:02:43–00:04:02 Where he lived.

Where he lived.

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00:02:43

LS

Where did you live?

RC

First summer, I lived in Witte Hall. Then I moved to the high rise apartment across the street for the next year. And after that, I moved to Mifflin Street, where I lived for maybe another three years. Until, after I’d been married for years.

LS

So the TAA was, I guess, officially formed in 1969. But it was already, or I guess it was recognized in 1969.

RC

There was activity maybe a little earlier than that.

LS

You joined right away, did you?

RC

I’m not, I can’t answer, I don’t know exactly where you’re measuring right away from. I had been in the TAA for some time at the time of the strike.

LS

When you came, you were a TA. And somebody came around and said, “Why don’t you join the TAA?”

RC

Yeah.

LS

Do you remember David Burress? Did you know him?

RC

Burress, yeah.

LS

I’ve interviewed him. But he didn’t say much about the Physics Department. He did speak of an incident that soured him. Do you remember what it was?

00:04:02–00:06:22 Remembers a meeting of physics students...

Remembers a meeting of physics students interested in forming a free university at which Dillinger of physics department expressed disapproval of idea. Angered students.

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00:04:02

RC

Do you have it in your mind at the moment? One thing I remember very vividly, and I don’t know whether he was involved or not, it didn’t have to do specifically with the TAA. But it had to do with a thing called the Free University, which was just a scheme to have people teach courses on the side, and things that they were interested in. And people in the community wanting to take them would do that. And, I’ve known people who were interested in that and had some kind of organizational meeting. And a professor from the Physics Department arrived.

LS

Who?

RC

His name was Professor [Dilliger?]. And I guess did not look kindly upon the idea, for reasons that I’m not sure were clear to me then, and I certainly can’t reproduce now. But it was, I think it was sort of a bitter confrontation between the people who were interested in the Free University concept and his point of view.

LS

It wasn’t just physics students. Was it all–

RC

The Free University involved, I think, lots of disciplines. But as I recall, this meeting was only physics people.

LS

So that’s why a physics professor came.

RC

He was the only professor who came.

LS

His objection was to you spending your time doing something else?

RC

I don’t really remember. I think it had to do more with principles of education. I’m afraid to put words into his mouth, because I don’t remember exactly what his argument was. But I don’t, he was of a fairly conservative persuasion, and I don’t think was on very good terms with most of the relatively liberal to radical people who were involved. And this was not their first meeting. Not the first meeting between him and that group of people.

LS

Was the meeting here in the physics building?

RC

Yes.

LS

And David Burress was involved in that.

RC

I’m not sure specifically. But he was certainly active in the group of people that was involved in this operation. Whether he specifically was at that meeting or was involved in this particular program. I’m not sure. I would guess he probably was.

00:06:22–00:08:51 RC was interested in TAA as a way to...

RC was interested in TAA as a way to improve undergraduate education. Resigned from TAA just before strike because felt that many of issues were economic and not his idea of primarily role of TAA.

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00:06:22

LS

So you were one of the, you were an activist. Would you label yourself that way?

RC

No. I was interested in the TAA as a way to improve undergraduate education. I resigned from the TAA before the strike vote, because I felt that I should, if I voted, then I would, on sort of union principles, would feel obligated to go along with the decision of the union. And I felt that some of the issues involved in the strike were not, they were valid sort of labor/management type issues. But they were outside what I thought, what I considered to be the primary goal of the TAA, in my mind, not necessarily the leadership’s mind, as being a way to improve education. It was getting to be an awful lot of talk about, essentially, economic issues benefiting the TAA, benefiting the TA rather than benefiting the students. And I was not willing to deprive my students of the education that they expected in order, to a great extent, to advance my economic situation. This is an extremely complicated situation.

LS

Yes, I know.

RC

And there are lots– I mean, I was never on one side of the fence or the other. On each issue, I was on one side or the other. It was a very hard decision to make.

LS

Well for instance, limiting class size, which would mean, which in fact did mean that some students couldn’t take courses they wanted. Was that the sort of thing that you were anticipating?

RC

I feel that limiting class size was worthwhile–

LS

Oh, you do.

RC

–a worthwhile thing to try to do. I don’t, I frankly don’t remember all of the details, exactly, what was in that contract eight years ago or something.

LS

There was planning, help, assisting in planning courses was one of them, I think.

RC

Right.

LS

I don’t know whether that affects somebody in physics, does it?

RC

I think. I would imagine it does as much as–

00:08:51–00:14:41 RC's teaching experience here....

RC's teaching experience here. First several traditional courses. Then was involved in two new courses. One was Physics in the Arts. Students got a lot of individual attention. A course designed to once again win interest of non-science majors, people had been turned off by science.

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00:08:51

LS

Is there that much choice as to what you can teach in the course?

RC

Sure. Because of the course, though. There certainly are valid issues having to do with teaching physics. How it’s taught, in addition to what subjects you choose.

LS

Could you say what they are, some of them?

RC

Maybe I should explain a little bit of what my teaching experience here was like. I taught for the first several semesters, first three or four or something like that, more or less traditional courses that were in the department. I was in the traditional role of a TA, teaching discussion sections in those courses and labs. After that, I started to work with a couple of professors who were then putting together a new course called “Physics in the Arts.” And I worked with them from the very beginning of that course. And it was a completely different kind of course from the others in the department, in that there was no attempt to communicate certain standard issues. And we chose those things which we felt would be interesting to the students and which would in some way shed some light on parts of their lives.

Like we taught things about the physics of music and vision, color perception, photograph. Physics of musical instruments, and those kinds of things. We tried to avoid teaching anything that was purely a physics laboratory phenomena. That they were all things that one could observe in the living room.

LS

This was in a Physics Department course.

RC

Right. It was–

LS

Who, what professor was involved in this?

RC

The two professors who were involved in the beginning were professors Haeberli and [Kemreen?] And I guess I stayed with it for a long time after that with [Kemreen?] and Haeberli sort of taking alternate turns. There were other TAs who sort of came and went. But it was, for me, an extremely valuable experience. Because the teaching is just different from any other physics course. Labs were very, very small. This instructor, the ratio of students to instructors was very, very small, compared to standard physics courses, which means each student got a lot of individual attention. In that kind of circumstance, you can give students the freedom to investigate things and make use of their, develop their ability to cope with situations, rather than just giving them what’s come to be called in physics education the textbook, the cookbook lab, where you just sort of follow the instructions and do it. At any rate, that’s an example of different approaches in teaching physics. How much you want to control the information that’s transmitted. Whether you’re willing to settle for having some education take place, but not be too particular about exactly what education flows.

LS

Wait a sec. [pause in tape] –students per TA?

RC

I can’t answer that directly, because it was, I think in effect, a political decision that was made, a decision made by the Physics Department and Letters & Science, I guess. It was argued – and correctly argued, in my opinion – that you couldn’t teach that kind of course to those kind of students. These were not science majors. But what we were trying to do, in fact, was reach people who had been turned off by science. And those are the people who we’d most like to turn back on. And they’re the ones who sort of take the most attention. Because the barriers that have to be broken down are the most formidable. So the labs involved a lot of personal work with each student.

It was also because of the nature of the things we were trying to teach, like physics of musical instruments. Some of these lab experiments are not simple. They involve complicated equipment. And it just takes a fair amount of interaction between the instructor and the student in order to not have all this complicated equipment become a barrier to learning something about the world. So in order to teach that course in the way we wanted to, to the kinds of students we wanted to reach, it was, we felt, essential to have that kind of ratio.

Now why, why we were able to get it, and I was very grateful for it. The course was terrific. Everybody loved it. Plenty of people not in the sciences said it was the best course they took at the university. The response was very positive. It was expensive for the university to teach, both in lab equipment and staff. If we had tried to teach that course with one TA and twenty-five students in a lab section, it just couldn’t have been done.

LS

Whereas that can be done in a regular physics course.

RC

It can be done. There might be better ways. But it does get done.

LS

You’re speaking of this course in the past tense.

RC

That’s only because my interaction was in the past.

LS

It’s still going on, though.

RC

It was taught this last semester. And I can’t speak for the future, but it’s still going.

LS

What was the number?

RC

It’s 109.

LS

That’s interesting.

00:14:41–00:17:34 Physics for Poets course quite different...

Physics for Poets course quite different, didn't have a lab, didn't satisfy science requirements. But was popular.

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00:14:41

Listen to this segment

RC

There had been another nontraditional course called Physics for Poets taught before that. But it did not have a lab. And my impression of the university rules was that it didn’t satisfy certain kinds of laboratory science requirements. And it also was very much different because it dealt with things like what physicists in the twentieth century think about.

LS

Yeah.

RC

So it was somewhat liberated from the traditional physics curriculum, but it was not something that you would necessarily carry with you very easily, I think. It was very abstract.

LS

So not so popular.

RC

No, it was popular.

LS

It was.

RC

But its content, I never taught it, but its content included things like relativity and quantum mechanics. This kind of thing taught at a level that somebody with no particular science background could understand. And it’s interesting from that point of view. It’s sort of a cultural, cross cultural type of course.

00:15:44

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LS

Well, now, let’s see. We, you dropped out of the TAA for, are there, do you want to say more about that?

RC

I wish I could remember more about it. I know that it was a difficult decision.

LS

Was this during the strike that you did? Or just before? The strike was in March, 1970.

RC

Right. It was when, it was clear that there was going to be a showdown. It was before any strike vote was taken. I wish, I obviously thought about it a great deal at the time.

LS

Were you talking to other people?

RC

No.

LS

Did other people drop out for this reason?

RC

I don’t know.

LS

I haven’t heard of that happening. I should imagine it might have.

RC

I think to some extent, people were either not of the general persuasion of the TAA. I mean, generally speaking, my sort of political persuasion was roughly in line with people in the TAA. Less extreme, but going in that direction. I didn’t object to the TAA in principle, the way some people did. I wish I could remember exactly what argument swayed me to not think that a strike at that time was a good idea.

LS

If we had talked about this before, I could have brought over some of the things in the contract. That might have reminded you.

RC

I know that after that, in successive contracts, I was even more disenchanted with some of the things proposed by the TAA. And certainly was never, as time went on, because less and less inclined to rejoin.

00:17:34–00:20:08 A good consequence of TAA was increase...

A good consequence of TAA was increase in student faculty. Cost has been in divisiveness within departments.

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00:17:34

LS

I know many faculty feel that whereas the TAA spoke of wanting to further undergraduate education, that in fact it had the opposite effect in many ways. Maybe you are on that same wavelength.

RC

It’s many, well, lots of things are complicated, including this particular issue. There were definite positive effects from the TAA. One of them, which I can’t speak for other departments, but in the Physics Department, one of the things that was achieved was much, much closer evaluation of teaching assistants’ performance by the students and by the faculty. From what I understand, the only useful evaluation comes from the students. Apparently the professors’ evaluation of TAs are just not all that valuable. That, I think, has probably been definitely worthwhile, limiting class size, worthwhile. The cost has been in conflict and divisiveness between various factions of the department. The ragged edges in various places.

LS

Things could no longer be worked out by meetings and compromise, but had to be worked out by grievance procedures.

RC

It became an adversary type procedure, instead of a sort of a cooperative effort. And I think that was resented by, it was my own feeling, not a result of a poll. It was resented by a large fraction of the faculty.

LS

And you foresaw this? You think this entered into your reasons for dropping out.

RC

I think I was probably, the fact that it was such a us against them approach that the TAA was taking, which might very well have been necessary under the circumstances, I think turned me off a little bit. But I’m not sure I had the foresight to see exactly what would happen, what wouldn’t happen, five or ten years later, at the time.

LS

Do you remember how many physics TAs were members of the TAA?

RC

I never saw them all in one room. But there must have been – it’s just a guess – maybe fifty physics TAs at the time. Roughly. Maybe thirty of them? It’s a very rough guess.

00:20:08–00:22:09 There was definitely a potential for...

There was definitely a potential for confrontation between TAs and faculty in physics department even if no actual confrontation. Not as tense as places such as sociology.

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00:20:08

LS

And again, there was no confrontation in this department. No meetings where faculty and TAs sort of clashed, as there were in other departments.

RC

I don’t remember whether, specifically whether there were or were not. The potential was definitely there. This example I mentioned about the Free University earlier was an example of the people on two sides of the fence–

LS

I see.

RC

–clashing over a slightly different issue. I think the lines were drawn.

LS

So it wasn’t generally satisfied TAs who were merely rising up in defense of other departments, the TAs’ problems. I mean, there was dissatisfaction here.

RC

My impression was much less than in other departments like, I remember specifically sociology was one of the ones where people throughout the university thought that TAs were not getting a fair shake. Generally speaking, I think that the TAs in the Physics Department were not, in my opinion, were not really suffering. But some felt, as I did, that education for undergraduates was not as good as it could be. And therefore, things could be gained. I think a lot of people were strongly affected by the university-wide situation that was going on in other departments.

LS

I’m just– [pause in tape] Well, we have nothing more to say about the TA, I guess.

RC

I think so.

00:22:09–00:26:56 Discusses the problem of assigning names...

Discusses the problem of assigning names to research. With RC's professor, practice has been both names but RC's first. RC discusses justification for including professor's name.

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00:22:09

LS

I guess I had, in talking to David Burress, I’m not sure, I think he was concerned about it, some students’ research having been, or not having received credit for it. How was it handled here? I know the students do the research here in the department, and the faculty do their research through the students.

RC

That’s right. I guess I can only comment on my personal experience with my major professor. and the things that I’ve written on, or I should say, things that we have written on research that I was involved, and the papers we’re writing now on the work that was in my thesis and some other stuff, generally speaking, those papers will be published under both our names. Me being the first author, and my major professor being the second. And in some sense, when one looks– and try to ask who did the work, the answer is all of the sort of taking the experimental data and its analysis, all the stuff was done essentially entirely by me. But my advisor’s role was giving good advice. He, lots of times, helped resolve problems or suggested improvements. Made very valuable contributions. The line is somewhere about where do you decide that someone should be acknowledged in the paper for having helped. And when he becomes a co-author. That’s obviously a question of personal taste.

I, first of all, in the writing of the papers, because of his, the fact that he goes over the papers very carefully with me and with his other students when the papers are written, the papers are much better than they would be if we just went out and wrote them by ourselves. He’s definitely [asked for that?].

It’s also true that people in his position, it seems to me, do make a major contribution to all the research that’s done here, even though they don’t necessarily sit in the laboratory and make the measurements. Because they’re responsible largely for the reputation of the lab and the fact that we have funding, and the fact that students who come here have a good lab to work in. And that takes a lot of administrative work and a lot of political work. And it’s done by people in that position. And I think they deserve credit on the published work. Because it would not have been done without their contributions, even though they didn’t actually take the data.

LS

Would it be that you, in fact, learn more by doing it yourself than if they were doing the research themselves? So that in fact they hand over to the students the chance of learning.

RC

Oh, no. I think as far as doing the work, actually doing the work is an educational process. I mean, it’s essential that the student do virtually everything.

LS

But as you know, in many departments, the professor is doing his own research.

RC

On separate–

LS

Yeah.

RC

Separate things.

LS

Yeah. The student is not doing it. Or he’s doing his own.

RC

Right.

LS

Here, I gather that all the research that goes on is done by the students.

RC

Not necessarily.

LS

Oh.

RC

In fact, I think it depends on individual cases. But it’s not true in general. My major professor, for instance, does not do experiments here on his own, but does collaborate with other groups in other parts of the country. And does work independent of any of the students.

I guess I should also say that when a student has done work which is really entirely his own work, and this particular major professor is not really very involved, there’s no barrier to the student publishing it with his name only. For instance, it didn’t really, perhaps it’s a piece of theoretical work that was done by a student without heavy dependence on the lab, without too much communication with a major professor. It could very well be published under just the student’s name.

00:26:56–00:28:13 How students get familiar with the...

How students get familiar with the accelerator. [LS had been shown through the immensely complicated apparatus associated with the tandem accelerator and was asking how long it took to learn to use it.]

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00:26:56

LS

Do you work with the accelerator?

RC

Yeah.

LS

When did you start working with it?

RC

I started working, I guess, with general terms, as soon as I got here in ’68.

LS

I was just shown through it. And of course to me, it’s completely mysterious. But I wondered how a student is introduced to it, or is initiated into it.

RC

I had worked with another accelerator in the summers when I was an undergraduate, so I had some experience with another accelerator laboratory before I got here. The way students, it depends on circumstances, but when I got here, students were trained in the operation of the lab by helping more advanced students with experiments. And just by observing, sort of.

LS

Now when you say students, do you mean undergraduates or beginning graduate students?

RC

I’m talking about any graduate students. We do sometimes hire undergraduate students to help out with things, including satisfying a rule that there be two people in the accelerator lab. Sometimes hire undergraduates to do that. If they’re in physics, they learn something.

00:28:13–00:29:46 Cost of research with accelerator.

Cost of research with accelerator.

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00:28:13

LS

Do you ever, do you ever take an experiment that somebody else has done and repeat it in order to, and learn that way? Is that one of the ways of learning how to use it?

RC

Not to, not as a pedantic exercise. It’s too expensive to do. I don’t know what the dollar value, exactly, of an experiment is, but it’s high. I think if you took in all the overhead and everything that it takes to do a typical sort of confined physics experiment here, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in the order of ten thousand dollars. So we don’t, every piece of research that’s undertaken is an attempt to gain new knowledge, as well as to educate.

LS

I see.

RC

Sometimes one will re-measure some things, if there’s some question about the validity of the data. But there’s never any laboratory exercise to see if a student can successfully reproduce a known quantity. When you start taking data with the accelerator, you’re after knew knowledge of one sort or another.

LS

I see. And how long did it take before you felt comfortable with it? If that’s the right word to use.

RC

Well, this is very complicated, because I did lots, I was teaching part of the time, which cut down. I was not a research assistant during the year. And it was really hard to put a number on. Partly just because I can’t remember, and partly because my contact with so–

LS

Well, you’ve been here nine years now.

RC

Yeah.

LS

Or eight.

00:29:46–00:31:18 Thinks it would take about six months if...

Thinks it would take about six months if doing just that. No one ever knows it all. Acid test is running accelerator on midnight to 8 a.m. shift when only one helper present and one is in charge.

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00:29:46

RC

Pushing it, yeah. Maybe I should give you an estimate of what I think it takes, typically. I would say a student comes here and starts right away doing things with the accelerator, as opposed to other kinds of development projects, which may not involve the accelerator. I would say six months, roughly, should be fairly– approximate.

First, the laboratory’s very, very complicated. And nobody ever knows everything there is to know. So it’s not sort of a state where all of a sudden, you know how to do it.

LS

Oh, I see.

RC

You start out being clumsy, but you can get along. For instance, people typically start out by when they first run the machine by themselves, run the accelerator, it’s normally during the day. They, for instance, will take over and keep somebody else’s experiment running while he’s sleeping, and do it during the day. So that there are other people around to check on him and to answer questions and to be there if there’s trouble.

LS

Are they nervous about it, the first few times they do it?

RC

I think so. I think so, generally. I guess the acid test comes when you run the accelerator on the shift from midnight to eight a.m. I guess that’s when you finally become a qualified operator, because you’re there, and you’re the only one there that knows what’s going on. You have a helper, but the helper usually does not know how to operate the accelerator. And that’s, I think, a mildly, people are mildly apprehensive, I think, the first time that they’re left all alone in the middle of the night in the lab with nobody to bail them out. [laughs]

00:31:18–00:35:24 Bombing of Sterling Hall....

Bombing of Sterling Hall. RC saw the mushroom cloud at immediate aftermath of bomb. Had heard explosion. RC had long been apprehensive over failure of people to distinguish between AMRC and physics. Drove into campus and arrived when fire department did. Called Haeberli, his major professor. Had to account for people who might be in building. Came back at seven. FBI had roped off building.

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00:31:18

LS

Were you here the night of the bombing?

RC

I was here till maybe 1:30 in the morning. [pause in tape]

LS

And how did you find out about it?

RC

I lived on Mifflin Street at the time, and heard a loud noise, which woke me up, and looked out the window. And I could see a mushroom cloud going up very, very high. It’s conceivable I was the only person who ever saw it. It’s hard to estimate the height. But many times the height of the trees that were visible from the second story balcony. Very high. A couple of thousand feet. Very high.

LS

Fast? Was it going up rapidly?

RC

As I recall, it was more or less stationary by the time I saw it. And I don’t know whether I had some sort of– well, I’ll go back a step. The nuclear physics group shared the same wing of Sterling Hall as the Astronomy Department and as the Army Math Research Center. And we had frequently had rocks thrown through our windows by people who didn’t know the difference between the Physics Department and Army Math. And we knew that there was rising pressure on Army Math. And people in the Physics Department were, I think, apprehensive, because of this failure of people to understand what was in that wing of the building. Because we had been burned by the fact that we were in the same wing before. Anyway, I don’t know whether that was a conscious connection in my mind when I saw this cloud, or whether it was just curiosity, or what. But something motivated me to drive into campus on the spot. And I got here about the same time as the fire department got here, which was fortunate, because I was aware, I knew where the accelerator lab was, and I knew that there were guaranteed to be people there, which was, of course, not known by the fire department.

I called Willy Haeberli, and he arrived not too long after that. It was a memorable experience, to say the least.

LS

So you stayed around.

RC

It was funny. Yeah, I was there ‘til, I can’t remember exactly how long I was around that morning. But finally Willy and I decided that it was not much more, this is after everybody had been accounted for. There was some question for a while about people that may or may not have been in the building. It wasn’t clear whether they hadn’t gotten there yet, or whether they were buried someplace. And after we knew where everybody was, there wasn’t much you could do about cleaning anything up at that stage. So Willy and I said well let’s go home and get a couple of hours sleep, and we’ll meet back there at something like seven the next morning and see what we can do. It just shows how muddy we were under that amount of stress. As you can imagine, it was an incredibly stressful situation, especially when people you know were killed.

LS

When did you find out that there were, that somebody had been killed? Right away?

RC

Yeah. I was asked to identify Bob Fassnacht. I declined because I felt that I knew him and I would have, I think, identified him correctly. But I didn’t know him well enough that I was absolutely positive. And I felt it was extremely bad to make a misidentification. So there was somebody else there who knew him better, another graduate student who arrived about the same time.

LS

Was he in the first floor rooms? Or down in the–

RC

He was in the basement. In fact, from where we are right now, he was just across the hall. In a lab in the basement. At any rate, when Willy and I got back at seven to try to see what was going on, the FBI had beat us to it and completely roped off the place. And we didn’t get back in until another week or something.

LS

That must have been pretty bad.

RC

It was hard to describe what it was like.

00:35:24–00:36:48 RC's office was visible from Lathrop...

RC's office was visible from Lathrop drive, completely bombed out, desk hanging out window. Hadn't started thesis so didn't have to worry about that.

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00:35:24

LS

You were, were you concerned about your own research? I mean, papers. Did that enter into it?

RC

Sure. I mean, when I first arrived, I drove up Lathrop Drive, which is sort of the back of the building. And my office and lab at the time were on the first floor, right above where the truck containing explosive had been. And I could see as soon as I walked up to the building that where my office was was just a big vacant space. And I could see my desk lying down in sort of a very deep window well. I could see all my junk strewn all over the road. So it was clear that it was a mess, right from the outset. I don’t know. I think that I was, it may be that I just wasn’t at that point able to comprehend the whole thing very clearly. I was obviously very upset about Bob Fassnacht being killed, and about sort of general, general insanity of the whole thing. I was in a much more secure position than some people, because I hadn’t started my thesis research at the time. I was working on some development projects, which took me quite a while to recover. But it wasn’t like I had all my thesis work destroyed at the last minute, or something like that.

LS

Yes. That’s unthinkable.

00:36:48–00:38:03 Coping with attitudes of people e....

Coping with attitudes of people e.g. radicals pleased at having gotten MRC and not realizing they hadn't.

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00:36:48

LS

Were you, a lot of people must have been asking you about it because you lived, you were in Sterling Hall. I know Hugh Richards was very angry that nobody seemed to realize that the Physics Department go the major–

RC

This is very true.

LS

How did you handle that? How did you counter it?

RC

Just tried to inform the people that didn’t understand. A lot of them were radical people on the campus, considered it to be a great victory that Army Math had been destroyed. When, in fact, I think there was very, essentially no consequential damage to anything in Army Math. From what I heard, some papers fell off desks and things like that. But they moved everything out fairly rapidly, and went over to Wharf and were essentially unscathed.

The Astronomy Department had some fire on the fifth and sixth floors. And of course we were almost wiped out. So the upper and lower parts of the building got it much worse than Army Math did in between.

LS

Yes. Because of some kind of wave effect.

00:38:03–00:41:30 Real concern was whether nuclear physics...

Real concern was whether nuclear physics at UW could be revived. Wasn't clear for several months. Couldn't get into lab for a week to find out how much damage had been done. FBI were trying to find pieces of truck the bomb had been in.

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00:38:03

Listen to this segment

RC

I guess one of the considerations from my own personal interest at the time was not so much in whether there was, whether my books or papers were intact or not. Whatever. But whether or not there was going to be nuclear physics at this university after that. It was quite a while after, without going into details of how the accelerator is constructed, it’s fragile. And it’s conceivable that if it had been, its main structural parts had been destroyed through the shock, that funds would not have been available to rebuild it.

LS

I see. I didn’t realize that.

RC

And nuclear physics at this university could have just come to a stop instantaneously, effectively.

LS

Yeah.

RC

And people might have gone to other labs to take some data and things like that, to sort of smooth things over. But it wasn’t clear to me, to anybody, I think, for quite a while after that, whether it was going to be able to, whether the whole situation here was going to completely change, or whether we were just going to have a year of cleaning up before we got back to business. It turned out to be the latter, but it wasn’t obvious in the beginning.

LS

Yes. I didn’t know that. [That would be a?] major factor–

RC

First of all, we couldn’t get into the lab because of the FBI roped the place off for at least a week or so after that. So we all just sort of hung around the ropes for a week, asking when, when, when could we get in to even learn the crudest things about how much damage had been done.

LS

Wasn’t that rather a long time? What were they after? Clues?

RC

They were trying to put together four million pieces of a truck in a road, and sifting through every conceivable paper, looking for any clues they could find. They sifted through everything. I was amazed they could do it in a week. And, of course, they talked to everybody. They did a very thorough job of doing everything. But it took them a long time.

00:40:11

Listen to this segment

RC

At any rate, when we finally got in, because of [details?] the way the accelerator’s built, questions having to do with cleanliness, we couldn’t just, the accelerator is inside a pressure tank. And you can’t really see very much from outside. And we couldn’t just run in, open the doors and look, because the room the accelerator was in was full of concrete dust and wood splinters and was filthy. And we didn’t want to open the tank until the room was clean. So even after we got in–

LS

Because all the dust would get in.

RC

Right. Even after we got in, it was a long time before we felt things were clean enough to be willing to open the tank of the pressure tank, and see how the machine had survived. And there was a great deal of damage to the facility, certainly. The question is, whether the basic structural parts of the machine had survived or not. And that wasn’t known for a long time.

LS

This machine is surrounded by gases, I understand.

RC

That’s right.

LS

And what had happened to that? Because the room where the gas is controlled was destroyed.

RC

I think it, the gas that was used at the time was mostly nitrogen, with low carbon dioxide. I think it just vented. I don’t remember specifically. I don’t remember specifically. I think it’s highly likely that it was just vented to the atmosphere. Though it’s not absolutely necessary. It might–

00:41:30–00:42:41 Concern about radioactivity temporary.

Concern about radioactivity temporary.

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00:41:30

LS

And did you have to worry about radiation at all?

RC

It was a concern for a little while in the beginning. The accelerator does not make much radioactive stuff. There are components of the accelerator laboratory, pieces of hardware that the accelerated beam strikes in its path which become radioactive. But it’s just a radioactive piece of metal which sort of stays where it is. There were some radioactive sources which we were concerned about for a while, but they were all located in one [tat?]. So I think there was no radiation problem. That wasn’t obvious right from the beginning. Except that you could survey and see that the place was not really back. It certainly was not like a reactor accident. There was no realistic possibility of any kind of large scale radiation, probably. Because there isn’t any consequential amount of [radio?] material in the lab.

LS

So then somebody decided it was okay to look inside the shell.

RC

Right.

00:42:41–00:44:00 Group working to clean up lab consisted...

Group working to clean up lab consisted of four professors and 35 to 40 graduate students, staff people, some undergraduates.

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00:42:41

LS

How many of you were doing this?

RC

Well I was, somewhere along the line I went back to teaching. So I was kind of removed from some of this during the cleanup procedure. But the answer is that all the, the entire effort of the nuclear physics group, which was, at that time, I guess, four, I guess four professors and their students and their post-docs–

LS

Around fifty students?

RC

Probably not quite that high. But I would say thirty to forty, maybe? And the post-docs, plus the sort of staff people who work with the accelerator, which is several. Plus, I guess there were a number of undergraduates who were hired.

LS

Were they actually sweeping out rubble? Or was somebody else doing that?

RC

No. There was a lot of rubble sweeping. The people in nuclear physics wanted to sort of have the main hand in cleaning up their own stuff. They didn’t want some guy with a bulldozer just to come through and plow through it.

LS

Yeah. I can see that.

RC

To make sure we could salvage what we could out of the mess.

00:44:00–00:44:59 Machines had to be either rebuilt, or...

Machines had to be either rebuilt, or taken apart and cleaned.

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00:44:00

RC

So most of the cleaning was done by people who under normal circumstances would have been doing experiments, and doing science. When in fact, shoveling piles of concrete counter and things like that. [laughs] And of course there was enormous [unclear], large portions of the equipment in the laboratory had to be either completely disassembled and cleaned and repaired. Or, in many cases, rebuilt from scratch.

LS

And you did that, didn’t you?

RC

“You” collectively.

LS

I mean you, that’s what I mean.

RC

I had to rebuild my own personal experiment from scratch. And everything that we had was sort of one way or another put back together or replaced, or got from government surplus, or something.

LS

Did you learn anything from having to put it back? I just wonder if there was anything–

RC

If you’re asking whether there was a silver lining, the answer is not much.

LS

That’s what I am asking.

00:44:59–00:46:40 Educational process severely hindered.

Educational process severely hindered.

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00:44:59

RC

Every day you live is a learning experience. So from that point of view, yes, you learn something. I’m guessing maybe the greatest lessons were philosophical lessons or physics lessons. I’m sure people did learn things from having to build stuff that somebody had built five years before. But not, the educational process was severely–

LS

You could have learned it another way.

RC

–was severely hindered. We would have learned, everybody would have learned much more if they had been allowed to just continue in the normal way. Because most, a great deal of the effort was on very menial kinds of things.

LS

What was the atmosphere, then? Was it, I mean, was it pretty depressing? Or were you cheerful about it?

RC

No. It’s impossible to be cheerful about it. I think everybody was in a state of shock for a while. After that, I think, when it became clear that the lab was going to rise from the ashes one way or another, I guess that became, partly as a result of having inspected the damage and to see that it could be restored, and I think, I don’t know exactly how this all went, but I imagine that the Atomic Energy Commission somewhere along the line at least made an informal commitment to support our attempt to put things back together. At that point, I think people mostly had the attitude well, the faster we get it cleaned up, the faster we’re back in business. People just sat down and did it.

LS

And that took a year.

RC

Well, it–

LS

I know some things would have been in operation before that.

00:46:40–00:47:18 First beam accelerated in December....

First beam accelerated in December. Only recently have effects of bomb not been quite noticeable, e.g. tools missing.

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00:46:40

RC

The first beam was accelerated through the machine, I think in December.

LS

Oh, that’s–

RC

So the first beam didn’t take too long at all. But there were lots of supplementary pieces of equipment. It was years, I mean, it’s only been fairly recently that the effects of the bombing haven’t been quite noticeable. For a long time after that, you would need some tool to do something and you’d look around and say, “Must have gone in the bombing.” It’s really been just the last couple of years when the bombing didn’t sort of have an effect on what was going on.

00:47:18–00:48:06 Some students probably left early if...

Some students probably left early if close to leaving anyway. Otherwise everyone stuck it out.

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00:47:18

LS

Did anybody leave because of this? Did any students go elsewhere?

RC

Two professors went elsewhere. [laughs]

LS

I know about them.

RC

There were a number of students who were close to getting out anyway. And I suspect that their departure may have been hastened somewhat. Because there was no point in keeping them around for another year to help clean up when they were within two months of being done. So I think things were, appropriate hands waved and that all got settled. So some people did leave right around then. [pause in tape]

I’m not, I can’t think of any graduate student who just looked at the situation, said, “This is ridiculous,” and left. I think anybody that had any commitment, any commitment to the lab, stuck it out.

00:48:06–00:50:33 For a long time, bombing was life of...

For a long time, bombing was life of nuclear physics people; so when finally got lab restored didn't want to think about it again. Didn't pay attention to trial.

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00:48:06

LS

Do you want to say anything about Armstrong at the trial? Did you have any feelings about that?

RC

I guess not of a particularly useful nature. After an experience like that, it’s sort of, I think the approach that I have, I’m now trying to reconstruct the way I thought about things several years ago, I think the approach I had, which may have been shared by a number of other people, is that the bombing became our life. I mean, for a long time after that, everything we did, and our career, was completely related to the bombing. Trying to recover from it, and agonizing over it, things like that. And I think after a while, people just got sick living the bombing. And by the time the trial came around, I think people had just gotten, or at least me, they’d just gotten to the point where they didn’t want to think about it. It was the past. I spent an incredible number of hours, days, months, agonizing over the bombing, and just wanted to put it behind me. And didn’t frankly care what happened to [Karleton and Dwight] Armstrong, [David] Fine, or anybody else. I didn’t feel any kind of deep revenge. I was just sick of the whole thing. [laughs]

LS

I can see that. Yes. Have you done other things in Madison besides being a physics graduate student?

RC

I have been a graduate student ever since I’ve been here. Obviously I did things–

LS

No, I mean any other peripheral interests, causes. Or has physics taken all your time?

RC

It’s taken a lot. You know, sailed a little bit. Repaired old cars, things like that. Belong to the Madison Friends Meeting, and have been involved in various activities with that. You know, various and sundry other things, but not, nothing which one would sort of put on a pedestal and say that’s a second life, [I guess?].

00:50:33–00:51:27 RC's wife an English TA....

RC's wife an English TA. Also writing teaching materials for extension.

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00:50:33

LS

And your wife?

RC

She is a graduate student in English. And is, to my knowledge, still a member of the TAA. She probably has more coherent things to say about the TAA than I do. She got here a year after I did, so she missed out on the strike and some of those things. But I’m sure has some things to say about the TAA. Anyway, her stay in Madison, and most of the business of being a teaching assistant takes a lot of time. She did that, also. And she’s recently been doing work for the University Extension, writing teaching materials, which is sort of away from the university English Department.

00:51:27–00:56:20 RC is to give a paper in Washington on...

RC is to give a paper in Washington on training of teaching assistants. How he will prepare for paper. Comments on his own training. Was not trained at all except for a little indoctrination re: where stock room was, etc. Got a $500 award from UW for his teaching. Six others that year. Attributes it to his work in revising a lab manual in such a way as to give students more freedom in conducting experiments.

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00:51:27

LS

Is there anything I’m not thinking of about the Physics Department that you would want to say? About, you’re talking about giving a talk in Washington on the training of TAs. Do you, in advance, you haven’t talked to TAs yet. But you could have asked them how they feel.

RC

What I intended to do was kind of go around and talk to some of my contemporaries that are still here, and talk to some of the newer TAs, and just try to kind of get a feeling for how other people have felt about how they were prepared to teach. And then I’ll be going to North Carolina in a week, and will be talking to people down there about their teaching assistants, talk to some of them, get a different viewpoint. And hopefully by the end of April, we’ll have synthesized this into some kind of intelligent thirty-minute talk about what it’s like to be a teaching assistant.

LS

How well do you think you were treated?

RC

I think it’s fair to say, and I think the department would not argue with this, that I was not trained at all. That in the Physics Department, training, let’s see. There are two ways to say it. Success as a teaching assistant is, chances for success are improved by picking people the department thinks are going to be good teachers. You know, reasonable academic records plus some evidence of motivation, and some kind of adherence to reasonable discipline and things like that. In more recent years, they check up on that through evaluation. That wasn’t so much the case when I started. Otherwise, there’s sort of one, I think about a one week indoctrination for a few hours a day or something. You know, you get a little bit of, some people tell you about where the stock room is, and about what the sort of procedures are. But not really very much.

People will, I talked, after I’d been a teaching assistant for a while, I talked to the incoming TAs in this context about some handy tips. About how to start off the first classes of the semester, and how–

LS

There’s no booklet or anything. Some departments have a booklet.

RC

Not to my– there may be now. There certainly wasn’t when I started. I did okay. I got a five hundred dollar award from the university for being a decent teaching assistant, apparently, which I was very grateful for.

LS

My goodness! That’s interesting. How many people get that?

RC

There were seven that year. I don’t know whether this is still being given, or whether it’s been a fatality of economic problems. But not for me.

LS

Your first year?

RC

I guess I’d got it at the end of the first year.

LS

That’s very impressive.

RC

It had to do largely, I think the thing which helped a whole lot was one of the courses I was teaching I didn’t like the way the labs were running at all. Specifically, I didn’t like the lab manual. So I rewrote a chapter a week. And sort of kept a week ahead of the students. So I was rewriting, I was making up and writing up new experiments each week. Which were, in my opinion, obviously better than the ones that were in the book. [laughs] Mostly because they gave the students more freedom. They sort of said, what can you find out about this? Rather than saying, measure A, measure B and measure C.

LS

And somebody paid attention go this. I mean, sometimes you can do things like this and nobody knows.

RC

No, I think it was probably my major professor, Willy Haeberli, who was aware that this was going on. He must have played an instrumental role in a couple things. So it’s almost, it’s as much his doing, or more his doing than my doing. I’m sure there are plenty of more worthy people at the university who didn’t get it just because they weren’t, there was no connection, nobody was aware that they were doing those things.

And then my wife in English has done lots of innovative things. But people in the English Department just are not aware exactly what she’s doing for her courses. And she would completely escape notice under the circumstances.

At any rate, I felt that I got along okay as a TA, in spite of not much formal preparation. I think it’s a true statement that most of the physics TAs do a pretty good job. Why?

00:56:20–00:57:08 Thinks choice of TAs more important than...

Thinks choice of TAs more important than training. Can't make a good teacher by giving a person a pamphlet.

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00:56:20

LS

They’re chosen carefully. Do you think that’s a factor?

RC

It’s definitely a factor. It’s also, I think, you can’t, I don’t think you can make a good teacher just by spending two weeks instead of one week, and giving them a booklet to read and saying, if you come here three hours a day for two weeks and read this booklet, you’ll be a good teacher. It comes from, it comes from inside. You have to want to do a good job, you have to allocate your priorities differently. I allocated my priorities when I was a TA differently, I guess, than most TAs. And I spent more time being a TA and less time being a graduate student. And I’m sure I could have gotten better grades in some courses if I had divided my time differently. But I was happy with where I was.

00:57:08–00:59:13 In physics department not much question...

In physics department not much question of prestige. Most people TA for a year or two, get research positions if possible. Some branches of physics better supported than others.

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00:57:08

LS

In the Physics Department, is there more prestige attached to being a TA or to being an RA, or doesn’t it matter?

RC

The usual progression is that somebody comes in, is a TA for a year or so, and then chooses a research group and becomes an RA and eventually gets a degree. So being a long term TA, there are some fields of physics where there’s not very much financial support. Those fields, theoretical physics, often people support themselves by being a teaching assistant throughout their career. I don’t think there’s any–

LS

So you don’t try to be one thing or the other. Or it doesn’t sound as if you do.

RC

No. It’s not a kind of status thing. It’s just that usually people go from being a TA to being an RA. So in some sense, RA is a kind of a more desirable situation. But nobody looks down on, say, theory students who are TAs. Because that’s just the way theory students support themselves. There’s nothing wrong with it.

LS

The department pretty much guarantees support for you, does it, when it accepts you as a graduate student?

RC

Not necessarily. I mean, there are people who are not on appointment and are accepted as graduate students without any financial support. Then they–

LS

But I mean the ones who are given financial support the first year.

RC

Oh, do they guarantee it thereafter?

LS

Can you feel fairly confident to–

RC

In an informal sense, you can feel fairly confident. As long as you do a decent job, it’s pretty much a sure– but they don’t put it in writing, “We guarantee your support.”

LS

That was one of the contract items, actually, if you remember.

RC

Like four years or something like that.

LS

Yeah. Three or four years. Because some departments were not supporting them after the first year.

00:59:13–01:01:36 In English department support was withdrawn...

In English department support was withdrawn (for his wife) after four years stipulated in TAA contract. RC not sure whether due to contract.

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00:59:13

RC

It’s also true that, I hadn’t really thought about this before. But I know my wife was an English TA for four years, and was told that after the four years, her four years were up. And it was not obvious to me whether, before the contract, whether in fact she could have kept going. And what they’re doing is saying okay, you want it guaranteed four years, you’ll get it guaranteed four years, period. No more. So her, that source of income sort of dried up. And she was a very good instructor. Spent a lot of time.

LS

Has she finished her PhD?

RC

Not quite.

LS

But almost.

RC

Yeah. She’s going to, I guess, have to write the remaining bits of it in Chapel Hill. Her advisor’s out of town, anyway.

LS

Are you interested in her work?

RC

Sure. I mean, what–

LS

You’re not buried in physics entirely.

RC

No. I couldn’t stand that. I mean, I’m interested in her work primarily because it’s her work. She’s writing a dissertation on something involving William Blake and the tradition of prophecy, which involves lots and lots of work with the Bible and with Milton, and all kinds of things. You have to really be a scholar in those things to comprehend. And we have interesting discussions about it. But I can’t understand the details of her thesis any more than she can understand my nuclear physics thesis. But that’s, I think that’s one of the joys of being married to, I couldn’t stand being married to a physicist. I’d go nuts.

LS

So you think, on the whole, that the people you will talk to and ask “are you being well trained as a TA” will not really complain, but they won’t necessarily think they’re being trained.

RC

I think that’s what may happen. I mean, I’m keeping an open mind on what people are going to tell me. But nobody’s going to say they were over-trained. Because mostly becoming a good teacher, it comes from inside and it comes from experience.

LS

Yeah. I think this is just–

RC

Plus a few hints along the way would be helpful. But I think what I’ll mostly learn about is how TAs taught themselves through experience.

01:01:36–01:03:09 Discusses job market....

Discusses job market. His luck in getting post-doc he wanted.

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01:01:36

LS

Do you expect to teach eventually? Do you want to be a–

RC

I would like to be able to teach. That’s a much easier question to answer than will I be–

LS

Well, will you get a job?

RC

Will I get a teaching job?

LS

Are you trying to get it? Do you want to be a professor?

RC

I would like to be able to teach eventually. I’ll certainly make an effort. The market is extremely poor. The post doc job I have now is the only job I applied for this time around. It was a job I wanted. I wanted to take a post doc before I looked at a permanent teaching job. And the chances, I think, of me personally getting a sort of a major faculty type job in a place where I could do nuclear physics research are effectively zero. It would be an accident if I got it. I think there’s a fair, a fighting chance I might be able to get a reasonable four-year small college type teaching job, which would be, which I would like to do.

LS

Yeah. I gather there’s less work being done in nuclear physics now, I guess. Is it phasing out? Is that a way of–

RC

That’s a very complicated question involving budgets of federal agencies and things like that. Support for labs has been tapering off, and in some cases, labs have been closed down. But other labs have opened up. So it’s hard for me to say, exactly.

LS

But it is–

[End Tape 1.]

tape2

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00:00:08–00:02:36 Remembers creativity of fence around site...

Remembers creativity of fence around site of humanities building. In repainting, good stuff was always kept.

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00:00:08

RC

It seems now, obviously, one of the biggest activities on campus is movies, which is fine. But that maybe is a little less creative activity than there was. And the only example I can think of to support that is when the humanities building and the art center were being built, this is now in ’68, ’69, and ‘70ish, around there, there was a wooden plywood fence that went all the way around the block, and was completely painted, sort of one panel at a time, with either ads for concerts or appeals for peace, or just decorations, or birthday wishes, or whatever. And some of them were truly works of art. And every morning as I walked by the thing on my way to campus, it was always different. It had always been repainted. Some section of it. But the people who repainted always knew what was good and what was bad. All the really good stuff stayed till the end; it never got painted over. And all the things which just said “Happy Birthday John” on a black and white background, after two days, somebody would paint that over in the middle of the night with something else. So the quality of the stuff on the fence just kept going up and up and up, as all the bad stuff got replaced with better stuff, and all the good stuff remained. And I was just always impressed with it as sort of a unique art form.

LS

I’m glad you mentioned that. I had forgotten about it.

RC

I don’t know. I would hope that somebody somewhere has preserved those pieces of plywood, because there were some really nice things. [laughs] But I can’t put my finger on anything on the campus right now, that at least outwardly seems that creative. Obviously there are lots of creative people doing lots of creative things on campus, I’m not saying that. But just the nature of the campus just doesn’t seem to have that kind of spark to it.

LS

Well, the freedom–

RC

Maybe just because there’s no big fence. I don’t know. If somebody put up a big fence in the middle of campus again, maybe it would [clean up a little?].

LS

Outside of that wonderful sign that says “US Out of North America Now.”

RC

Right. [laughter]

LS

I worry that somebody is going to take that off.

RC

The other thing I like, and I don’t know who’s responsible for this, but the little vents in the ground that are painted like mushrooms. I’ve always enjoyed that. It was somebody. I don’t know, I doubt that Physical Plant is doing that.

00:02:36–00:06:56 Comments on quality of fellow graduate...

Comments on quality of fellow graduate students--generally high.

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00:02:36

LS

Did you, I didn’t ask you how you compared Swarthmore, I mean, your background is from Swarthmore, to other physics graduate students who you met who were here that first year. Were you aware of the–

RC

An awful lot of them came from other small schools. Places like Carleton and St. Olaf’s, places like that. So a lot of us had similar kinds of experiences.

LS

You compare Swarthmore to Carleton.

RC

Hmm?

LS

You compare Swarthmore to Carleton? I was surprised.

RC

Generally speaking. I mean, I’ve never done in depth comparison. But they’re both, I would say, high quality liberal arts, small liberal arts colleges.

LS

So you weren’t conscious of having any particular advantage in your training.

RC

No, I don’t think so. I mean, it’s obviously, obviously I had a good preparation. But I was really impressed with the quality of the students I met when I got here. Wisconsin, there’s some organization that rates graduate schools by departments. Wisconsin was, I don’t know, somewhere in the top ten departments in the country in physics. There were a lot of, everybody can’t go to Berkeley and Harvard. There were a lot of people, good students, who came to Wisconsin. The people at Swarthmore would come back after having gone to graduate school someplace, not necessarily in physics, and say, “Boy, I just went through the first year and didn’t, it was all just repeat of stuff I did as an undergraduate. And everybody there was a real dope,” and things like that. And I didn’t really find that was true when I got to Wisconsin. I met lots of really, really sharp people I had a great deal of respect for. And partly, you know, how much one has to work in graduate school is related to how smart the individual is. Certainly plenty of people around here are smarter than I am. So I didn’t coast.

But certainly, some of the, my particular major professor, people I know best are students of his. And I would judge them to be an extraordinary, extraordinary group of people. One of my former fellow graduate students is, in fact, now a faculty member here in nuclear physics.

LS

Oh, he was one of the ones who, isn’t his office right over–

RC

Yeah. [Lynn Kusey?] And many other people who were high quality physicists.

LS

Could I ask you how you feel about people in plasma physics, and what are some of the other? Do you get acquainted with each other? Have anything to do with each other?

RC

Not, I mean obviously you know people in other sort of fields in the Physics Department. But not formally. The people I can think of that I know in other fields within physics, I in fact did not meet through the Physics Department. I met somewhere else, and discovered that they, in fact, were also physics graduate students.

LS

So there’s just really no crossing over of lines.

RC

Oh, there’s some. But there’s not, there’s obviously much more communication among all the people in nuclear physics, and within plasma physics, than there is between plasma and nuclear physics. We’re just, because the groups are separated geographically within the Physics Department, we just don’t have any need to communicate with each other. But that doesn’t mean that there is no [knowledge?].

LS

Well, are there any other, do you have any other observations about changes since you first came to [Madison?].

RC

I’m sure if I sat and thought for a long time there would be things. But not off the top of my head.

LS

No, it’s not easy.

00:06:56–00:08:05 Comments on students of mid-seventies...

Comments on students of mid-seventies. Luxury of students in sixties.

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00:06:56

RC

Certainly that, it’s a cliché to say that campus life has sort of slipped back into the ‘50s. I think, it seems to me to be a fair assessment of the changes that have occurred in the last five years. People are much now talking primarily about undergraduates. And they’re much more concerned about getting an education that will prepare them for getting one of the few available jobs. They don’t sort of have the luxury that people had when I was an undergraduate, of being able to sort of undertake the search for knowledge and truth, and be able to take on various other causes on the side, for the sake of humanity, and still be able to sort of feed oneself afterwards. People now are in a little tougher position.

I’m saying this now, say for me in a different situation. Five years ago, the people who were getting PhDs, you know, could sort of–

LS

Could get a job.

RC

You could get five good job offers and take your pick. And now, most PhDs write many, many, many letters in order to find a job.

00:08:05–00:09:50 Major concern for RC now is whether he...

Major concern for RC now is whether he and wife can work out their careers so as to stay together. That is, one or the other will have to make some sacrifices.

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00:08:05

LS

Are you depressed about your prospects or not? Of course, you have, what is this, a four-year appointment?

RC

It’s probably going to be two years, but it’s negotiable. It could be less or more, depending on what happens.

LS

But you’re–

RC

I was not, as far as getting a job immediately after getting my degree, since I had decided in advance that I wanted to get a postdoctoral job, those were available. And I wasn’t the least bit worried about, I was hoping it would turn out to be a nice place that I wanted to go to, which it did, as opposed to having to go to Chicago or New York City, or someplace I didn’t particularly want to go. So I wasn’t worried about this particular stuff. The real concern, in fact, doesn’t have to do with specifically whether I think I’m going to get a job or not, but how my wife and I are going to simultaneously work out our career plans. That’s obviously much more difficult than, to get two good jobs in the same place is much more than twice as difficult as getting one good job in any place. So, and English is, the job situation there is worse than it is in physics. So it’s going to be, we’re a little apprehensive. It doesn’t make me depressed; I just don’t think about it until the time comes. But if I do think about it, it’s discouraging. Because the odds are that one or both of us is going to have to make some sacrifices somehow. Because it’s unlikely to work itself out in a fairy tale fashion.

LS

I think you’re right. Well, we’ll stop now at this.

[End Interview. End Oral History #16.]

00:09:50

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