John Horner

"Will Hanover College Be Here in 1985?"

(Speech to the Faculty of Hanover College)


N.B.:  The typescript version of this speech is available at the Duggan Library Archives, Hanover College (Hanover, Ind.).  It includes marginal additions and corrections as well as interleaved passages for insertion.  Those changes have been incorporated into this text, minor typographical errors have been corrected, and paragraph numbers have been added.

[Words of Welcome]

{1}"The future is more important than the past or present," said Marcus Tullius Cicero.  If this quotation can be given any credence, it has particular relevance for liberal arts colleges in 1975.

{2}These brief comments today are not intended to be messages of gloom or doom for liberal arts colleges but, hopefully, they will be an indicator or guide for the future, particularly for Hanover College.  Any college or university president addressing a faculty in September, 1975 had best be talking about the uncertain future and not about the glorious past.  The magnitude of the task for the next decade must be our concern and to which we must dedicate our time and our energy.

{3}Perhaps these remarks might be regarded as presidential lamentations but I would reinforce these words of caution with a quotation from the report of the Carnegie Commission:  The nation faces the loss of at least 500 institutions by 1985.  The majority of these losses will be in the private sector.  All institutions must make necessary preparations so that they are not included in the list of expiring colleges and universities.

{4}Perhaps one of the latest alarms to be sounded concerning the enrollment and related problems in our colleges was stated in the August, 1975, issue of Changing Times that "within five years, one out of ten of the nation’s colleges and universities will face merger or closing."

{5}Need I issue any additional words of warning as to the survival of the liberal arts college to 1985?  In addition, how do these words of warning relate to the survival of Hanover College to 1985?  Will Hanover College be here in 1985?

{6}I have given remarks at opening faculty meetings at Hanover College for seventeen years.  I personally believe that this meeting, which will lead to my 18th commencement on May 30, 1976, is one of the most important of my tenure at Hanover.  I say this not to precipitate a feeling of fear or apprehension but to lay the foundation for a brief examination of what I think this college must do to negate the prognostication of the Carnegie Commission and to insure its existence in 1985.


{7}1985, We in this room must correct and we must do certain things. The first problem we have is one of recognition.  Recognition of what? Basically, the problem of each person in this room is to recognize the current and accurate status of higher education, the best he can, and to recognize the lack of support which higher education actually has in our time.  College professors and administrators are generally living in the past in their thinking when institutions of higher learning and their personnel occupied positions of strong acceptance and of great respect.  We, in higher education, have failed to recognize the dramatic change in the attitude of the body politic.  We formerly were respected for providing leadership and example for youth and enjoyed a lofty acceptance of position and role.  This acceptance, representative of a by-gone age, has now disappeared.  As one legislator in the Indiana General Assembly told me last winter: "College professors and college administrators have gone from professional riches to rags.  The high respect which they once had has diminished almost to ridicule.  Their ideas and attitudes are no longer taken as Biblical.  If they are to regain lost ground, they must regain the confidence of the people and only the people will determine whether this confidence has been regained."

{8}Dr. Richard Gibb, the commissioner of higher education in Indiana, stated on June 22, 1975, that the public has swung 180 degrees in its opinion of colleges and universities in the past 10 years.  "The fair-haired child has become the whipping boy.  Today the taxpayers insist on accountability."

{9}Somehow in our ivory tower of higher education the world has partially passed us by.  I find that I am constantly defending the valor and merit of colleges and universities as I talk to people from all walks of life.  Our problem, as professors and administrators, is not to complain, not to become defensive, or not to retaliate but to recognize the problems and to correct the problems which create those attitudes.

{10}I would submit this morning that those institutions which recognize their lot immediately and take appropriate action to correct the negativism and distrust which exist will be the institutions which will be on the scene in 1985.  Hanover College must recognize this condition and initiate immediate action to gain that moral support which is the primary element for continued existence in the world of higher education.  Correlatively, we must come to realize that our future does not depend totally upon ourselves but upon other people.

{11}A second prescription for survival is for the personnel of liberal arts colleges to abandon their penchant for dealing with minutia and trivia. As one observer within higher education has stated: "The historic pattern of operation for American colleges has been to avoid the important and to be so engrossed with the unimportant that inertia and inactivity characterize the style and way of life in academe."

{12}More specifically, private higher education is not faced with a dilemma.  The choices for these institutions are not so fortunate.  Rather, survival is both the problem and the option. The basic issue for the private college is not whether it will exercise an option but more that it is willing to solve the immediate and extremely serious problem of survival which is faces.  The tragedy has been that some institutions have had more desire to fight minute, unimportant and insignificant internecine skirmishes than to face and address the major issues which affect the ultimate welfare and the future of the institution.  As Jacques Barzun has observed: "The future of private higher education, particularly for the liberal arts college, will be decided not on the splitting of infinitives but on the desire and ability to write a complete and coherent paragraph.  In effect, the eyes, minds, and energies of all should be on larger concerns and on the welfare of the total institution. These large problems cannot be solved by small minds!"

{13}It seems to me that the admonition which is presented to us is a strong and urgent warning that we should be concerned with the immediate and the important and not with the remote and the unimportant.  What are some of the immediate and important concerns?

{14}First, we must examine the curriculum in terms of the needs of contemporary students, the liberal arts tradition, and the national economy.  "Tinkering" with the curriculum has always been a characteristic of those who work with the curriculum and who coordinate the educational thrust of the institution.  Institutions have also constantly engaged in an "I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine" philosophy of curricular reform.  Instead, we should be stripping the curriculum of the unnecessary impedimenta and retaining and adding those elements and facets which are imperative for solid liberal arts education and for survival.  If we do not make the necessary reforms on a sane and orderly basis, the educational economics, which must be operative in higher education in this day and age, will take over and will make the decisions for us and it is very likely that we shall not be in existence in 1985.

{15}Second, our attitude toward students and more particularly our concern for an effective advisory or counseling system must be present not simply for economic survival but also for fulfilling our total mission as a small Christian college.  A recent professional report suggests that some faculties and administrations in 1975 are behaving as they did in the middle 60s in suggesting that there should be a completely non-directive approach toward students and a total absence of an in loco parentis philosophy.  If this report which concerns itself with problems of students, reflects anything, it reflects that the current generation of students which has emerged from the "silent generation" of the 50s and "lost generation" of the 60s, requires more direct assistance in counseling and considerably more in loco parentis than any generation of students since World War II, if personal problems (and in some cases, emotional problems) are valid indicators of the need for assistance.  Apparently, we have failed to grasp this change in students which has led to an over-abundance of drop-outs, a rash of student indecision, and rapid increase in student insecurity amidst a veiled appearance of infallible security and of sophisticated superiority.

{16}Third, from a very pragmatic point-of-view, we must come to realize that we are indeed in a war as far as student recruitment is concerned.  This war is subtle but it is sanguine.  It is courteous but it is cut-throat.  The battle in which we are engaged is twofold -- philosophical and practical.  First, we must overcome stigmas and concerns about the role and function of the liberal arts. Second, we are fighting for students who are in a pool which is shrinking in size day-by-day.  I am not interested today in presenting an overwhelming array of statistics but I do believe that it is best to base my comments on facts where possible and not solely on opinion or emotion.  For example:

∙    fewer students will enroll in higher education over the next three decades than had been expected, as many as 3.4 million fewer by year 2000.
∙    The Carnegie Commission now states that 1.5 million fewer students will be enrolled in 1980 than it estimated in 1971.  Rather than a 50% increase in enrollment between 1970 and 1980, the Commission now projects a 32% increase.
∙    The National Center for Educational Statistics has also revised its estimates downward.  It says 637,000 fewer students are likely to have enrolled this fall than previously estimated, and 578,000 fewer are expected next of fall.
∙    In 1971, the Carnegie Commission stated that 13,015,000 students would be enrolled by 1980.  Now, it projects and enrollment of 11,446,000.  For the year 2,000, it has dropped its figure from 16,559,000 to 13,209,000.

{17}Need I reiterate that there is and will be the "Battle for the shrinking pool of students"?

{18}Not only is the competition for college-age youth coming from sister institutions but from many other sources, including the United States Army.  Observe, if you will, the sign on highway #107 which reads, "start college with the Army this fall."  This suggestion becomes still another drain on the "shrinking pool of students."

{19}More closely related to the state of Indiana is the article contained in the August 18, 1975, issue of the Indianapolis News, in which the reader is told that "business is booming at Ivy Tech" which is a major competitor for the existent pool of students.  Vice-president L. Richard Gorman said that enrollments have increased from 4,600 in 1970 to an estimated 14,000 in 1975.

{20}Ernest L. Boyer has made this pertinent comment about the current status of higher education:  "But now the glory days are gone.  Higher education now faces a painful reappraisal.  The bulging postwar budgets are behind us:  The baby boom has fizzled down to a capgun pop; college-going among high school graduates has dropped from 50% to 43%; and all across the land higher learning institutions are cutting costs, trimming staff, and, in some instances, fighting for survival."

{21}Every person in this room has a responsibility for assisting in the recruitment process and for aiding in counseling students to remain at this college, and I mean those students who should remain here.  We must also study and revise our thinking about the approach and procedures which we employ in admitting students, particularly transfer students.  In this statement, I am not talking about "watering down" standards but suggest that we employ more flexibility and judgment in these matters rather than an outdated approach of another era.  If we do not assume these responsibilities, we certainly will not be here in 1985.

{22}Fourth, Hanover College will not be here in 1985 if it does not identify, articulate, and stress its strengths effectively.  Every institution has weaknesses (Hanover has weaknesses!) which it must recognize and make every effort to correct them.  However, it must capitalize on its strength if it is to survive.  For example, the "Alma College Study" shows that Hanover’s Library rates 5th in a survey which includes such institutions as Albion, Beloit, Birmingham-Southern, Carleton, Carroll, Coe, Davidson, Earlham, Kalamazoo, Lake Forrest, MacMurray, Wabash, Whitman, and Alma.  This strength should be stressed with students, prospective students, and with other constituencies.  We have a fine library!  (The 100,000th volume was added on December 15, 1969) 200,000 doubled the size of the library holdings by spring term 1974.

{23} Likewise, the low student-faculty ratio is a great strength.  When student-faculty ratios are almost doubling in many institutions of our type, we should be proud that our student-faculty ratio is 14.7/1 (Winter Term, 1975).  Although this dimension is not the only indicator of quality, it is certainly one of the indicators, and it is quality which will aid in the survival of this college.

{24} Certainly, a parallel strength to low student-faculty ratio is the high percentage of doctorates on the faculty.  When the doctorate average in the North Central Accrediting Area is less than an estimated 40%, we believe that a strong suggestion of strength and quality is the fact that Hanover has 77% with the doctorate on its faculty.

{25} Similarly, survival relates to stability and more particularly to economic stability.  It is un-nerving to note by way of example that Brown University, one of our fine "Ivy League" institutions, is suffering from a $4,000,000.00 deficit which has led to the recent resignation of its excellent president.  Columbia University has an accumulated indebtedness of $38,000,000.00.  An outstanding institution such as Beloit College had a deficit in 1974 of $403,000.00 and $450,000.00 in 1975 with an accumulated borrowing debt from banks of $2,400,00.00.  Antioch College is carrying the burden of a debt in excess of $500,000.00.  In fact, the ancient and venerable Oxford University in England has not escaped this problem because its deficit totals more than $800,000.00.

{26} Hanover College has no current or capital indebtedness.  This is indeed a strength!  If we are to be here in 1985, this condition and, I hope, tradition must continue.  Whether we like it or not, our future will depend on our ability to cultivate the confidence of friends and their willingness to invest in the College.  We have said constantly that people will not invest one dime in the College unless they believe in what the College is doing as an educational institution, and what it is doing to provide sound and solid examples for the youth of America.  It is totally naive to envision the continuing existence of a college in 1985 without fiscal solvency.

{27} The very sobering fact in the identification of strengths is the realization that too many small liberal arts colleges across this land are finding it difficult to identify any strength at all.  If, on the eve of 1985, the strengths which I have just mentioned and others are not in evidence, we cannot expect to survive.

[strikeout: Not only must we continue our efforts to maintain quality at every level as we look to the future but we must also seek to accomplish additional aims which will enhance and improve that quality.  Of course, such tasks will be difficult in the current economic climate but, nevertheless, we must extend ourselves in these directions.  For example, I would urge and support a follow-up application to Phi Beta Kappa.  It seems to me that if Hanover is to have an important stamp of academic approval in the years ahead, it should have a chapter of this fraternity on the campus prior to 1985.]

{28} To be sure, numerous tangible circumstances will permit us to be in existence in 1985 but the intangibles will be of great importance.  I hesitate to refer to April 3, 1974, because most of us wish to forget this date, but the indomitable spirit demonstrated by all constituencies of the college during that natural disaster is what will be needed if a different kind of adversity strikes the college in the days ahead.  I still recall vividly and with pride the excellent cooperation and warm working relationship of students, faculty, and administrative officers in overcoming the difficult odds imposed upon us by Mother Nature when our very existence was challenged.  Likewise, the positive and definitive response of trustees that the College would continue, as they sat I the living room of my home wrapped in blankets and in borrowed coats and sweaters in a state of shock and despair.  The generous and often sacrificial giving by friends and former students to our monetary needs as the campus was rejuvenated from a condition of twisted copper, fallen trees, and broken glass was a source of great encouragement and inspiration to us.

{29} I recount the above not to engender and relive a fading memory but to indicate as strongly as I can that an unstinting dedication and devotion to the cause of this college will be necessary for the survival of the institution in 1985.  These intangibles are not options for us but imperatives.

{30} Of great importance is the need for institutions to gear themselves for future developments.  Colleges must be organized to obtain maximal benefits from time, energy, and people.  Institutions must be resourceful as they now face problems and situations hitherto unknown.  New circumstances demand new approaches.

{31}Our conversion to a vice-presidential pattern of administration last spring relates directly to the opportunities, challenges, and problems which we believe we face prior to 1985.  This change was not developed for ceremonial reasons.  It is our judgment that our new administrative structure will permit us to address better these opportunities, challenges, and problems.  I would add that other structures and other changes will be effected in the months ahead.  Although I shall continue to practice an "open door" policy in my office, [strikeout: as I always have] it should be understood that initial contacts should be made with the appropriate vice-president or administrative official on a given subject or problem.  This procedure should permit everyone involved to utilize time and energy more effectively and more creatively.

{32}As I have read and re-read these remarks, I became aware that they were not as positive as they should be for an address to the faculty at the opening of an academic year.  However, I examined the options, as I discerned and interpreted them, and felt that a direct and open commentary on the subject at hand would be more desirable. Every institution of higher learning in the United States is a potential subject for expiration by 1985.  At this point in time, some of the more prestigious colleges and universities are on the brink and wavering.  At an earlier date, it would never have been a potential consideration that such institutions would possibly die.  The conditions in our day and age strongly suggest that such eventualities are not only possible but, in some cases, probable.

{33}Any president of a college or university speaking on the condition of higher education in 1975 must reflect a negative condition if he is honest with his listeners.  However, as I speak about Hanover College, I am proud that I can speak more positively than the observations which could be made about institutions in general.  I do not foresee in the immediate future some of the same problems which are plaguing sister institutions.  On almost every count, I see strength or developing strength at Hanover College, and we propose to protect that strength with vigilance and determination.  It is possible that some of the decisions which must be made in the future to protect this strength will not always be met with enthusiasm and with total acceptance but such decisions will nevertheless be made and they will be made with sensitivity and concern for the welfare of the total institution.  Hanover College is indeed fortunate to be as sound as it is.  We hope and pray that all of us will be resolute in protecting and preserving the soundness of the college.  Without projecting an unreal and fanciful impression, I look forward to the future with confidence and I would answer affirmatively and with conviction the question which I posed at the beginning of these remarks:  Will Hanover College be here in 1985?


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