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Murphy, Thomas H. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Vol. 72, Number 7 (May 1971)

Are Americans losing faith in their colleges?,   pp. [9]-[24]


Page [11]


were not so complex. But in fact these are serious problems to which there
are no easy answers. We wrestle with them every day.
  You are certainly right to be worried about the existence of this university
(and all campuses) as a forum for the free discussion of ideas. There are
many
who would use the American college or university in a political struggle
to
advance their own political ideas. Even well-meaning students would do so,
because they do not understand the dangers of such action. Those of us
charged with the responsibility must fight with all our wit and strength
to
prevent that from happening.
   I do not think we can win by using force or repression. Rather, we must
continue to work with students to convince them that their efforts to politicize
the university can destroy it, and this would be terribly costly to society
as a
whole. When and if the line must be drawn, then we will draw it and deal
with the consequences. But we will do everything we can to avoid actions
that
will limit our options and bring about the violence and polarization that
have
crippled some great institutions.
   It is clear to me that the colleges and universities in America are, to
a very
 considerable degree, reflecting the problems and divisions of the larger
society.
 That can be unpleasant and painful, but it is in some ways a proper and
very
 useful role for a college or university to play.
   Consider, if you will, society's other institutions. Can you think of
any that
 are not in similar turmoil? The church, the public schools, the courts,
the city
 halls, the political parties, the family-all of these institutions are also
feeling
 the profound pressures of change, and all are struggling to adapt to problems
 and needs that no society has ever faced before. If we as citizens and mem-
 bers of these institutions respond simply by withdrawing from them or repu-
 diating them, then I fear not only for the future of our institutions but
for the
 future of our nation. Disraeli once said, "Individuals may form communities,
 but only institutions can make a nation."
    T    HIS UNIVERSITY IS INDEED INVOLVED in the controversy which en-
 gulfs America and from which progress and constructive change will one day
 come. Our students and faculty are indeed concerned and vocal about the
 rights of their fellow citizens, about the war, about the environment, about
 the values of our society. If it were otherwise, our alumni and alumnae
would
 certainly be justified in refusing to support us.
    Very simply, Mr. Y, the current generation of young people will one day
  run this nation. They are here and cannot be traded in for a quieter, more
  polite, more docile group. Nor should anyone want to trade them in. This
  university cannot abandon them, or isolate them, or reject them. Our mission
  is to work with these young people, to sensitize them, humanize them, edu-
  cate them, liberate them from their ignorances and prejudices. We owe that
to
  the students, but even more to the country and to our alumni and alumnae.
  The course is uncharted, to be sure; it will be uncomfortable at times
and
  somewhat hazardous in spots; but it is the only course a great university
can
  follow.
     I'm sorry you won't be on board.  Sincerely,
                                       President X


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