What the universities face today is what we are all facing. Not so much a new revolution as a new revulsion. Although there is a hard core of hostile, nation-hating violent youth who want to destroy all the systems, a far greater and a growing number of the young are revolted. Not by the ideals we preach, but the acts we perform.
You preach peace and practice war.
You preach honesty and practice evasion.
You preach morality and Practice infidelity.
You preach equality and practice discrimination.
And they are right. We have no excuse for our failure to practice our own ideals.
All of us have studied the anti-clerical revolution in European history. I thought it was a revolt against religion, against clergymen. But, in France, the home of the anti-clerical revolution, I realized it was not so much a fight against religion, but against a system in which clergymen had become clerks, gate-keepers of accreditation for entrance into heaven or the university.
Today's new revulsion is directed against the same clerkishness, the clerical mind bent upon supporting the system rather than sustaining the individual. Labor unions, corporations, churches, professional societies, all of our structures are guilty. But government today is the segment of society most perilously close to the position of the church 300 or 400 years ago. Through grants and contracts government influences admissions, curriculum, building programs, research, faculty advancement. Our universities often look like agencies of government-- executing its mandates-- just as they once looked like agencies of the church. No longer pursuers of truth wherever the pursuit may lead, but protectors of the system wherever it stands.
The students outside the gates of our society look at us within the citadel--arguing about cost-benefit ratios, guidelines and bureaucratic jurisdictions. While we're trying to program the ordered life in our computers, they have a vision of the good life in their heads. Even though it includes many of the material benefits for which we strive, this vision is one whose aims and practices are scaled to human needs. A life built not on competition and coercion but on compassion and communion.
Students know that professors could teach if they were free to be teachers, not driven by economic necessity or artificial academic criteria into antiseptic, remote research cubicles. They know that food could be delivered to the hungry. They watched us feed the entire city of Berlin by air without waiting for new legislation or even for Congressional approval.
And they know that any society capable of delivering 100 billion dollars worth of food, medicine, arms, factories, and men to Viet Nam in three years can achieve anything material we want to achieve at home.
But they are frustrated by the evasions of a million lilliputian clerks, who say "no." "Government doesn't work that way." "The law is not on the books." "The college charter won't permit it." "It's in committee." No wonder the young are revolted.
Nietzsche described the conflicting impulses which have spurred man to his destiny. The Dionysian and the Apollonian. The one creative, poetic, passionate. The other critical, scientific, rational. These two impulses were never symbolized better than this summer when, simultaneously, our Apollonian self established a moon base on the Sea of Tranquility while our Dionysian self established, near Woodstock, New York, an earth base on a sea of ecstasy.
Each in its own way represents a unique achievement of these two parts of our being. Through technology, system, intelligence, reason directed towards a goal, we can touch the stars. Through passion, creativity, love and communion, we can renew the earth.
The university should be the place in which these two human impulses are welded together through a process called education. But it is clear that even in the university our technology has outpaced our humanity.
John Hersey says, “We must invent new, fluid, and more open ways of living together." The old with the young, the black with the white, the Apollonian with the Dionysian. But, "living together" is not enough. There must be a sharing of values and power, and to accomplish this is not to invent a new science, but to revive an ancient art which the Greeks called "politics." If the universities are to forge a new humanity for a new generation, they must become a part of the political process. How this can be brought about and financed is not easy. There are hard questions to be faced, studied and answered.
Could a national endowment--similar to the old land grant--be established for every university, which would provide for education a permanent source of funds removed from annual legislative struggles or genteel begging?
Could not college entrance for all who qualify be underwritten and guaranteed by the total financing of permanent programs like the National Merit Scholarships?
If free and unfettered funding took place what structural changes would the universities consider and accept? Would they alter their charters to include representation from all segments of the community? How many presidents would follow Kingman Brewster’s example and offer to lay their sacred tenure on the line?
How many Professors?
Shouldn't every university become a university of the streets-- destroying the elitist barriers between town and gown--between students and citizens.
Could universities become the centers of new cities, contributing to--even becoming part of the direct political process?
Could universities now in our cities become the political centers of their neighborhoods? What excuse is there for Columbia and Harlem, N.Y.U. and the Village--separated and hostile. United both would be better.
Could a criminologist in the Sociology Department become the Police Commissioner? Or better yet, could the Chairman of the Philosophy Department fill that job?
Could the head of the Medical School direct the community health activities?
Could the Dean of the Law School be the chief public legal officer?
These are only some of the questions which need to be examined if we are to remake the university into the flux which joins knowledge with power, youth with age, the Apollonian with the Dionysian.
Perhaps we will only know we have succeeded when some future astronaut--trained in our universities--sets foot on a distant planet, and takes out a guitar. And before sending back the flow of technical data he sings for all the universe to hear: "This is the Age of Aquarius. The Age of Aquarius."
And that giant leap for mankind which spans science and our soul, but touches both, will make us whole and set us free.