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1967: Threshold of a new century

An address delivered at the annual Fall convocation of the College Faculty by James Gemmell, President of Clarion State College, September 7, 1967

James Gemmell
James Gemmell
The past decade in American education has been characterized by a greater dedication to intellectual purpose spurred on by the bristling barbs of Admiral Rickover, by the pungent prose of John Gardner, and by a major alteration in the method of selecting students for college admission. Signs of reaction, however. are beginning to appear. Questions are being raised about the reliability of college board scores and their usefulness in deciding who should go to college. Recently, for example, Wesleyan reported that students dropped for academic reasons had higher entrance scores than students to whom it awarded degrees. The Harvard admission office disclosed that if current admission standards had teen in effect a few decades ago, both Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy would have had to serve their country' without tile benefit of Cambridge residence. Several colleges, including Clarion, have announced that they are going to experiment by admitting a limited number of freshmen who are unable to meet the usual standards for admission.

The past decade has also witnessed a sweeping change in the fabric of higher education itself. There was a time when, in the public mind at least, public institutions were considered inferior in quality to the private, but no more. During the past en years, the only institutions that have been advanced to the top ranks academically are public institutions.

Dramatic increases in state appropriations and federal grants have enabled the public colleges and universities to strengthen their academic programs and to expand their facilities at a time when private institutions are finding it more difficult to survive. The response of the private college has been to limit enrollment and to raise student fees in an accelerating manner - a response that only intensifies the plight of the students from low-income families who seek admission to college. If the door of college opportunity is to be kept open for these young people, the public college will have to keep it ajar.

Future enrollments

No realistic projection of higher education can avoid the reality of increasing numbers. More than 5 million students were enrolled in American colleges in 1965, double the number in 1955. By 1980 we can expect the enrollment to double again to 10 million. The Pennsylvania picture resembles the national pattern.

The future increases in enrollment will lead to the eventual dominance of public, tax-supported institutions. Until 1950 more than half of the students in colleges and universities attended private institutions. Today only one-third do so and in 1980 they will constitute only one-fourth. The relative proportions in Pennsylvania are less dramatic but the trend is identical. This shift of responsibility from the private sector of higher education to the public colleges will create stresses of major nature for Clarion and her sister institutions.

'Two years ago, following a rapid rate of growth, we announced that Clarion would hold the line on enrollment until additional academic and housing facilities could be constructed. That pledge has been kept. Clarion will open its doors this fall to 3000 students, approximately the same number enrolled in 1965. It is unlikely that we shall be able to increase our numbers before 1969, which is the target date for completion of new residence halls that will raise the capacity of the college to an enrollment of 4000. Beyond that the college is expected to plan for an enrollment of 5500 in 1975 and 7000 in 1980.

The number to be educated, therefore, has al ready been decided by citizens who believe that in a democracy education must be available to all. It remains for us to test the relevance of the ideas and Purposes of education that we have against the world in which we Jive. Here it will be helpful to remind ourselves that the aims of a college are determined by the people who work together there at specific tasks in a particular set of buildings. My plea is that we focus upon the ideas. which come to us from our own heritage and try to mold them into a new conception of education itself.

Role of a public college

A state college is viewed by the public as a vehicle through which the taxpayers achieve certain objectives considered to be socially desirable. No public agency can thrive unless it is responsive to the legitimate desires of those who support it. The important role of a public college, therefore, is to respond creatively to the practical needs of the people it serves. Used in this context, however, the definition of ‘practical need" transcends the usual meaning. It is well understood, for example, that research and education in the mechanical and practical arts is practical need, hut so is research and education in the question of race, and in the questions of world peace, desegregation, cultural deprivation, urban transportation, the ghetto and the quality of public service. In short, the proper role of a public college is not simply to respond to social needs but to transform them, not simply to respond by giving society what it wants but what it ought to want.

How then shall we be judged by these who are responsible for our future as we cross the threshold of a new century of service at Clarion State College? Clearly, this college must be responsive to contemporary society if it is to flourish. On the other hand, the spiritual forces which have shaped American society were drawn from the Greco-Roman world and the Judeo-Christian ethic which stress the dignity and importance of human personality. Hopefully we shall pursue a course that reconciles the preservation of our social values with the development of the individual who is the focus of all value in a democratic society. I trust we shall merit the reputation of producing graduates who are not only scholars but sensitive to the needs of others, compassionate as well as intellectual. Our success will be dependent in part, on our willingness to undertake the difficult task of evaluating the full range of our academic programs and altering them in ways that will enable young people to improve their skills and the quality of their personal lives.

I recognize fully the resistance to change that characterizes any institution of higher learning, but the stakes are high. We are talking about the education of young people who will reach the peak of their professional lives in the twenty-first century. If we fail to keep pace with their needs, this college will drift from the mainstream into the back eddies of academe.

We can predict with reasonable accuracy the quantitative growth in student enrollment and staff that lies ahead for Clarion. The qualitative aspects of growth are more obscure. They depend in large measure on the vision and energy that you. the faculty can bring to the task.

Problems of size

There are many advantages to be derived from an increase in size. The unit cost of education--meaning faculty salaries, administrative overhead. plant maintenance, and supporting service functions-- is less per student in a large institution than in a small one. Also important is the influence of size on quality. The diversity of a large institution, the quality of the personnel it can attract, the excellence of its programs-all these are advantages which the smaller institution often does not possess.

Increasing size, however. poses problems of major importance. There is, for example, the problem of adequate communication within the institution as it grows. There is the danger of depersonalization of education setting in. It is typified in student protests by the undergraduate with an IBM card taped on his forehead and a placard across his chest labeled "Do Not Bend, Staple, or Fold."

One of the things which bothers me most in this transitional period in the history of Clarion State College is not only our capacity to accommodate the sharp increase in the number of people to be educated, but also the indistinct lines of the future as we move from a clearly defined teachers' college to one which absorbs this central role into what has been so nebulously called the multipurpose institution. It would be my hope that in the next period of development of this college, its greatest contribution would be in the original and provocative ideas it generates in the education of teachers, and that whatever expansion occurs in program and facilities will make it possible for our teacher education candidates to develop to a higher degree those qualities of character and intellect so essential to successful teaching. If we are to succeed in such a grandiose mission, perhaps we should begin by taking stock of where we are now.

Clarion today

First a few statistics relative to students and faculty may be in order. As we enter our Centennial Year this fall we anticipate an undergraduate enrollment of 2900 full-time students and 100 graduate students. The undergraduates will be distributed among six curriculums as follows: Approximately 68 percent will be enrolled in Teacher Education; 20 percent in Liberal Arts; 6 percent in Library Science; 3 percent in Business Administration; 3 percent in Special Education, and for this semester, 25 or 30 students in Music Education. The enrollments in Business Administration, Music Education, and Graduate Studies may appear to be relatively small, but that is explained by the fact that these are three new degree programs which we have been authorized to begin just this fall. Thus, we can anticipate relatively greater enrollment increases in these areas next year.

The college has accepted a freshman class of 750 and found it necessary to reject 1200 others, many of whom met all requirements for admission. The rejections are regrettable, indeed, but our facilities can accommodate no more at present.

The academic caliber of our student body continues to advance. Judged on the basis of SAT entrance scores and high school rank, Clarion students stand at the top among our sister institutions. The majority of them are able students. Some of them are exceptionally bright. All of them will represent a challenge to our best efforts

Twenty-five hundred (2500) of our students will be accommodated in residence hails or other approved housing here and in Oil City. The remaining 500 will be commuting from their homes or will be engaged in student teaching elsewhere. We have lost about 100 beds for students in the community during the past year, due in large part to college expansion and to the demands for faculty housing.

On the plus side for students, a new counseling program got under way last year with the establishment of the College Counseling Center, which has made an important contribution in helping students to meet some of their needs,

Turning now to the faculty, the addition of nineteen new members this fall raises the instructional complement of the college to 242 full-time positions. Vigorous efforts have been made in recent years to recruit new faculty members with terminal degrees in the disciplines and to provide inducements for other faculty members to pursue the same goal. Efforts have been made a~ to bring a cosmopolitan air to the faculty by bringing in persons from a wide variety of educational institutions and geographical origins. New faculty members this year, for example. come to us from British West Indies, England, Germany, Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and Turkey. They have taken their graduate work at such institutions as: Ohio State University, Michigan State, Harvard, Yale. Illinois, Alaska, Ohio University, Purdue, Buffalo, Pennsylvania, Duquesne, Pittsburgh, Penn State. Columbia, University of Michigan, and from foreign universities such as the Universities of Leeds, London, and Oxford in England: Gutenberg, Heidelberg. and Munich Universities in Germany: Punjab University in Pakistan; and the University of Tehran in Iran.

Let us turn now to the lifeblood of the institution-its academic programs. Here I called on the deans for assistance. asking them to highlight the most significant developments in their areas of responsibility. Their reports made fascinating reading for me, as they would for you too. Consequently I have elected to do no more at this time than to hit the high spots and will request the deans to rework the summaries into a series of informative reports on the academic divisions of the college that will be made available to you for study at a later date.

Professional studies 

Our Teacher Education program, by far the oldest division of the college, has undergone extensive revision during the last six years. I think that it is not too much to say that it begins the 1967-68 academic year from a position of strength. For example, all but five of our twenty-four fields of educational specialization have been approved by the Department of Public Instruction for automatic certification. Three of the remaining five will be evaluated for this status in October and the other two within a reasonable time thereafter. Automatic certification approval places in the hands of the college itself full and complete responsibility for certifying candidates for teaching positions.

The Office of Student Teaching and Placement reports 475 students registered for student teaching this year compared with 308 just four years ago. This October the Office will host the Annual Meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Association for Student Teaching. The placement record for the past year was nearly 100 with the number of on-campus interviews tripling over the previous year. During the present year, the Office anticipates an expanded placement program which will include additional recruitment opportunities for liberal arts graduates and placement services for the graduate division.

Our Special Education program, which began with two faculty members in 1962 with a modest program to extend the elementary or secondary teaching certificates to include approval for speech corrections work or teaching the mentally retarded, has through the efforts of the Special Education staff developed two degree programs leading to the Bachelor of Science in Teaching the Mentally Retarded and the Bachelor of Science in Speech Pathology and Audiology. The staff has also developed a traineeship program which provides attractive scholarships for a dozen students annually, funded by federal grants. In addition, the staff has carried forward successfully two Headstart grants for handicapped children.

The Music Department, which only a short time ago moved from a major service area in general education to a department offering a liberal arts major, last spring presented a proposal leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Music Education. The program has been approved and the college this fall will initiate the curriculum leading to certification to teach public school music in grades from kindergarten through twelve.

For the Library Science Department 1966-67 was a "high rise" year. A significant milestone was reached when Clarion was approved as the first of the thirteen state colleges to offer a Master of Science in Library Science degree. Adding to this, the 22nd Annual Conference for Librarians, sponsored this year by Clarion State College, attracted 800 registrants. The Library Science Department has experienced a most rewarding year for its faculty and has contributed significantly to the educational goals of the college.

To keep pace with the continuous growth and development of the college, last fall a new Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation was established. During its first year of operation, the department developed a new curriculum for specialization in elementary physical education for elementary education majors to help offset the tremendous shortage of supply in that field. Beginning with the second semester of the present academic year, a vast change will occur in the physical education and recreational program of the college. At that time the new gymnasium and natatorium will be ready for use and will permit our student body, as well as our faculty, to participate in a wide array of activities. The natatorium will be one of the finest in the nation. The swimming pool will be 75 feet by 42 feet and have a depth of 4 feet to 6 feet. The 12-foot diving well will be 42 feet by 45 feet and will have two one-meter and two three-meter diving boards. The building will also house three handball courts, a squash court, a five-point rifle range, a corrective gym, a wrestling gym, a modern dance studio, a large gymnasium with a seating capacity of 4000, two auxiliary rooms, four lecture rooms, and faculty offices. The intramural program for both male and female students will expand greatly, and free time recreation will be possible both facu1tv and students during the afternoons and evenings.

The college has just completed one of the finest years in the history of its intercollegiate varsity athletic program. Three of our varsity teams were State College Champions. Football, Golf, and Base-hall. We are very proud of these outstanding records and attribute the success of our program to excellent coaching and our fine performances to the outstanding athletes whom we have been able no attract to Clarion. We believe our coaches and athletes are second to none in our state conference.

We are anticipating another fine year in our athletic program with many experienced lettermen returning. I hope that the faculty will take advantage of the opportunity to attend our games and matches. The college anticipates the addition of varsity swimming and gymnastics programs upon completion of our new facilities. The 1968 Pennsylvania State College Wrestling Tournament will be held in our new gymnasium on March 1 and 2, if the construction schedule will permit. The State College Track Meet will be held on our new all-weather track on May 10 and 11. All in all it adds up to an exciting year.

With the start of this semester, the Audio-Visual Instructional Services Center changes its status to a special division serving the entire college. It has three major tasks to perform.

  • Course instruction.
  • Service commitments to support the requirements of faculty.
  • Consulting, designing, and otherwise assisting in the development of instructional media and their utilization and maintenance.

During the coming year Davis Hall will be converted in its entirety to the work of this division. When the renovation is complete, the building will contain instructional classrooms and laboratories, instructional photographic facilities, instructional equipment, closed circuit TV, a radio and recording studio, and servicing and maintenance shops. Six professional staff members together with three technically trained people will be responsible for the mission of this important division of the college. I confidently expect it to become the best division of its kind in the nation. I realize that is a large order, but I know, too, that the personnel we have assembled are capable of such an achievement.

One of the most interesting developments at the college has been the establishment of the Center for Educational Research and Regional Curriculum Development within the Division of Professional Studies. Its work is distributed between field services and college services.

The field services include assisting in the administration of various federal programs for schools in a five-county region; assisting them in planning in-service education, evaluation, and self-study; providing in-service training for headstart teachers; and conducting training programs for community action workers, school boards, borough councils, county commissioners, and others to help community leaders understand the social and economic problems of the region as well as action which may help solve the problems. The Center staff welcomes the assistance of any interested member of the college faculty in discharging these heavy responsibilities.

The Center has established a resource file of over two hundred sources of federal funds for school and college activities. We plan to keep each college department informed about federal programs that may be of interest. The Center will assist any faculty member seeking sources of funds for research activities and will assist in preparing proposals to the extent possible.

In order to keep our faculty as well as public school and community leaders informed about the new developments in federal and other programs. The Center publishes a monthly newsletter called IDEAS. Copies will be mailed to your office as the issues appear.

This is a most important year for the Division of Professional Studies and for the college as a whole. On March 25-27, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education will send a team here, under the Chairmanship of Dr. Stanton B. Langworthy of Glassboro State College. to conduct the ten-year re-evaluation of our teacher education program. A college committee was organized early last year and is currently preparing preliminary aspects of the report. The entire faculty will be called upon to share in the self-evaluation of the institution during this semester with the report to be completed and submitted to NCATE by January 1.

Liberal Arts

The Liberal Arts Division, which began in the fall of 1962, has developed encouragingly. Approximately 30 percent of the incoming freshmen will enroll in this division. By area of concentration, 45 percent of these freshmen will major in one of the natural sciences, 33 percent in the social sciences, and 22 percent in the humanities. During the past 5 years all departments in arts and science nave strengthened their programs. In some cases entirely new programs have been created~the liberal arts curriculum in music, for example; in others, departmental offerings have been thoroughly overhauled and brought into the mainstream of modern undergraduate curricular practices-the mathematics program is a shining case in point; in still others, where certain gaps in the offerings have been apparent, efforts have been made to close them-in the English Department a three semester sequence of American literature courses has been added to enable the English major to develop a depth in this important area which was previously not possible. Elsewhere, efforts have been made to add courses in keeping with scientific and academic developments. Recently developed courses in bioanthropology, environmental biology. and urban sociology are good illustrations.