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Interview with Fowler Bush

Bush, Fowler
Rieke, Robert
Date of Interview: 
University of North Carolina at Charlotte; chemistry; development; faculty; Erskine College; teaching; Charlotte; HDL
Fowler Bush, a chemistry professor at UNC Charlotte speaks with Dr. Robert Rieke in an interview designed to capture different versions and perceptions of the changes and the history of UNC Charlotte as an institution. Bush talks about coming to the university as an assistant professor with very negative first impressions of the institution. He talks about the growth of UNCC and the reasons why he decided to leave Erskine College to pursue and further his career at UNCC. As a chemist, Bush talks about the difficulties he has faced in the Chemistry department in relation to specializing in the field and finding funding to further personal research. Bush talks about restrictions his department has faced especially in their research endeavors, as funding is usually scarce for innovative ideas and experiments. Bush admits to seeing a lot of change and growth at UNCC but believes the university can only mature further as a larger variety of faculty members bring new innovative ideas to the institution.
Charlotte; 1965-1974
A Retrospective Vision (UNCC History)
Collection Description: 
Interviews with students, faculty and alumni of UNC Charlotte were collected by Robert Rieke during research for his book, "A Retrospective Vision" which explores the history of the university's first decade, 1965-1975.
Interview Audio: 
RR (Robert Rieke): This is April 18, 1974 . Robert Rieke talking to Fowler Bush . How are you this morning, Fowler ?
FB (Fowler Bush): [laughter] I'm fine, Bob . You're still not going to let me in on your--.
RR: Why we're here?
FB: Um-hum.
RR: Well this is a phase of a project that I'm working on this semester, Fowler . I'm doing an imaginative history of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte . ( ) Which would mean the, the time span approximately ten years, 1965 to the present. By the time I'm through it'll be pretty much 1974 will be taken care of, it may not be published until '75 so it'll--if it's published, so it will be a ten year segment. And I'm just looking around trying to get some atmosphere, and insights and some data. I've been talking to administrators, faculty members, staff members, people in the community, alumni, but I didn't mention students, ( ). And I've just decided this is one of the ways I can accomplish my project so here we are. And we're wide open to anything, because there's no format here. Maybe we better just get a little, put a little data into our tape. When did you come here, Fowler ?
FB: Summer '69 , mid summer.
RR: Mid summer '69 . And you came with the rank of Assistant Professor? You completed your degree?
FB: Yes.
RR: Where did you complete it?
FB: Completed at the University of South Carolina in August '67 , then I went to Erskine College to teach for two years. And then ( ).
RR: Um.
FB: Was in fact fortunate to get this job.
RR: Well, let's try to capture some of the feelings you had when you came here--as to your expectations and your evaluations of what you saw at that time. I think there's a bit of a perspective now, say five years which would allow you to see it a little different from how you see it now. Would you comment on any part of this question?
FB: And be perfectly candid?
RR: Yeah. Sure. I mean this is, this is, we're not trying
FB: ( )
RR: To hide anything here. This, this, just using this--.
FB: Well, first off, at Erskine I realized I was committing chemical suicide on myself because there was no opportunity for, to remain alive as a chemist, so I realized very shortly that I should get out of there. In fact six months after I was there I told them that I was leaving at the end of two years. Of course the job market, just the bottom fell out of it in the meantime, and I didn't realize that I'd walked out on a limb and sawed it off behind me. So things were very limited. I applied at three different places at the time, two of them, which were applying for, which were asking for a spectroscopists. One of them was at ( ) it fell through, the other was at the University of Virginia , and I never did even hear from them, I assume they hired so-hired a spectroscopist there. Yeah they did, in fact I know his name. But anyway, I, I did get this job here. I was among three to be considered and I think one of them took another job somewhere else and I finally got it, anyway, I was extremely fortunate to get the job. When I came on campus, I wondered if I had, for an interview, I wondered if I hadn't made a mistake, the place was absolutely abysmal. Walked on, it was mid-summer, there wasn't a blade of grass that was green anywhere. It was sitting on top of a sun-bleached plane with absolutely no aesthetics whatsoever around the place. Of course its improved tremendously since then, but--.
RR: It has so improved.
FB: [laughter] Yes, quite a bit. At least there's green grass around. And at the time they only, they had a skeleton crew to maintain the yards and all which maybe got to mow the grass twice a year or so, it was really a dismal place, almost depressing. In fact, it was depressing to me for some time. And anyway, then the next fright came along, I had been used to ten to, to anywhere from ten to thirty member classes I walked into a fifty member class in the summer, and then I walked into a 200 member class in the fall. After I got over that fright, I tended to stabilize and realize that there was really not any different except that I had less student contact. And was able to relate to the students less, but things have generally improved from the, from every standpoint. I think the one comment surely everybody makes is that when I first came, I was able to know just about everybody on the faculty and now I tend to become more and more reclusive and stay in my apartment and know fewer and fewer people outside because it's ( ) much of a hopeless task to try to learn all faculty members names.
RR: Well these are some of your initial impressions, which as you say are very candid. But you've been hiding something from me. Which you know I think and haven't yet revealed. I want to see this ( ) come to Charlotte in more personal terms of what it meant to you as, for your career, for your person-hood, for your development as a human being, etcetera. We haven't touched on these things, but apparently the decision you made in the first six months at Erskine was a decision that was crucial to your whole entire future. Now to what extent was this opportunity here going to relate to that decision? I get the idea that you figured, you might have just jumped from the frying pan into the fire, but really, really, really was that true?
FB: No, I, even when I was considering Erskine , I fig--, again the idea that I would die as a chemist, cause I had no opportunity for research and, in fact I thought, I went to Erskine with grand notions about getting ACS accredited in the chemistry department and building up their library and the thing I overlooked in going there was that I had no opportunity to do that, because there were absolutely no funds available to do it. Regardless of how interested everyone was in doing it, there was no possibility for it. I came, I, I recognized in looking at this place that it probably had a, had a, a nice long future ahead of it in terms of expansion. I'm not all that crazy about expansion, but it looked as if it was a good opportunity. I obviously couldn't move up to a PhD ( ) school coming from Erskine , they would never accept it from the simple reason that I accepted at Erskine to begin with. So I had to move to someplace that was still small enough, but had a lot of potential for growth so that I could expand with the place and, and, and in terms of growth, I mean growth in terms of developing opportunities for, for remaining actively involved in research. I'm not a high-level research man, I'm, that's not, not really my bag. But I realize it isn't, its almost an absolute necessity if you're going to remain alive as a chemist, at least with my disposition its very easy to say, well I'll go to the library and read to keep up, but you can't do that. At least I can't do that. You almost have to be involved in research in order to keep up so I saw UNCC as a place that was going to develop research capability and capacity and that I would be able to grow into that. One thing was, see I'd just spent two years of absolute inactivity. Now that's hard, that's pretty hard to overcome, so I saw--.
RR: Well, inactivity, except you were developing yourself as a teacher.
FB: Yes. And research wise though, I was sliding backward steadily.
RR: Yeah. Yeah. Right. Right.
FB: So I saw UNCC as a place where I could come and, and, and take a couple of years to grow into research work again. And that's exactly what I did, it took me
RR: So that part of your expectation has been achieved
FB: Been fulfilled. Yeah.
RR: Very good.
FB: I hope, not really, I hope for it to expand even more, not, not in terms of numbers but in terms of research capability and that sort of thing. So that the department is steadily building up its equipment and its faculty and so on and that's all
RR: So assessing where you are now and where you were then you would say you made the right decision and that furthermore you feel kind of good about it and you feel optimistic about at least your own personal professional goal.
FB: That's right.
RR: Fine. Well now, there are a lot of factors that probably contributed to that, but lets start at the most minimal aspect besides your own opportunity as a researcher in the chemistry department and we could comment on that but we won't. Let's move out into your immediate environment of your department. Now talk about the department as being a part of you and what you see your mission is and what the department's mission is. Is that a, one in which you feel comfort or you see problems. I have a list here who are the--from somebody, ( ) gave it to me, what the various specialties are here. And I wrote you down as ( ). And where does this fit into the whole pattern of the chemistry department and how do you feel about it?
FB: Well, spectroscopy is of course an, a, a broad section of chemistry and I'm more specialized than to say I'm just a spectroscopist. My own inclinations are towards only one, there are about three of the individual units in spectroscopy. But I, I see, I'd like to see the chemistry department becoming, well, there's first off the basic departmental philosophy is to develop a sound, classical, well-based chemistry curriculum program. Which means at least initially, as long as the department is say less than ten faculty members, we're going to be hiring relatively straightforward classical chemists such as standard physical chemists, organic chemists, inorganic chemists, and so on. We're just now getting to the point where we'll branch out into the specialties, and I, I see more and more of that coming. I was, I, I was the first sort of, pseudo-specialist that they hired and I think partly because they got into a bind and had to hire somebody and I was the last man available. [laughter] So they hired a specialist in my behalf before they really intended to, but nevertheless, I see myself as, more or less, as one of the specialists in the, in the area of theoretical physical chemistry, and I suspect we will continue moving in that direction, for instance this year we're moving toward, we're trying to hire a bio-chemist in order to broaden our background and to get as many different sub-specialties into the department as possible, to give it a, not only a wide field of view, or scope in terms of the kinds of curriculum that we can offer, but also in order to make it a fairly cosmopolitan department we strive to hire people from all over the country so that we don't get people just from the southeast get a--
RR: Well in hiring a bio-chemist, you're doubling up now in at least one area, ( ) considers himself I think a bio-chemist of course you have a couple inorganic people here and the balls are rolling as far as I can figure out. What aspect of biochemistry are, is this person already hired or is he--.
FB: No he hasn't been hired yet.
RR: But you're still looking?
FB: I think the main philosophy is that Sherman has, by nature of his university wide activities his can't.
RR: Just can't.
FB: He can't keep up with the teaching end of it. And so.
RR: ( ) research? Is he doing some research?
FB: Not that I know of. So its almost a move to keep the bio-chemical part.
RR: Aspect.
FB: Aspect of the department alive. Mainly as a service function to
RR: Right.
FB: To, offer to biologists. And people who are in medical technology and that sort of thing.
RR: Um-hum. Well, let me have the array of quote "specialties" unquote within chemistry. Nationally, internationally, as a discipline. Give me a kind of a spectrum as to a right and left hand, or a curve, or where they, how you would rank, put them in order, some sort of order and then after you do that try to tell me where the, where the excitement is or where the cutting edge is or where the articulation with another field is. It sort of lets me know where chemistry is now. I'm asking you a big question, you might think that every particular specialty is, fits that definition, but maybe there's a, maybe you sense a certain--.
FB: Well each specialty has the research, which is pretty much at the forefront. But by and large there seems to me to be a move away from ultra narrow specialization towards more generalistic ( ). For instance, Marcus Cooke who's in the department now was hired primarily because he was a general analytical chemist. For instance, Gibson, I think, would recognize that his, he is highly specialized in analytical chemistry. Mainly electro-analytical chemistry. Whereas Marcus Cooke has a wide variety of backgrounds in the general field of analytical chemistry, he can apply himself to industrial problems, he can apply himself to problems on campus. Given almost any analytical technique where you need quantitative or qualitative testing, Cooke could apply himself, because he's got such a wide background. And I think we're moving towards hiring more of that sort of person with a, with a extremely wide background rather than a narrow one, mainly because we've got to interface with the communities to some extent and we've got to be prepared to branch out on our own and offer more and more courses as they're demanded. I see bio-chemistry, bio-physics, [pause] as two areas right at the forefront meaning that they're of national importance, they get a lot of money, for instance NIH any, all, most anything you mention doing with the DNA molecule or something that deals with bio-physics or bio-chemistry, its very, very easy to get money in those areas which is the--in itself establishes them as national priorities as far as researching those areas. Another area is, is the environmental research. We don't have anybody that's, that's in that area right now. And, and another area is the broad based analytical chemistry as it applies to ecology. Air pollution, water pollution, ( ) control and measurement. So, so those, I would identify those, in the general field of chemistry I would identify those at the forefront of course--.
RR: Sort of a ( ) now where the attention is and where--does this mean that breakthroughs are anticipated or is it look as though the research has accelerated the perspective is opening up. Is that what these things mean too, or is this, is this really a simply a closing in of a, or a narrowing and a specialization.
FB: Well, the old philosophy for, as I take it, for many years up through, say, the middle third of the, I mean the first third of the twentieth century was essentially any research you want to do, do is fine so long as you're interested, you want to do it. That, that was good and sufficient justification for doing research. With the advent of sort of nationalization of research, through say, national, not national but NSF , National Science Foundation , they tended to channel research in two areas. And that's still what they're doing in terms of channeling it into bio-chemical research and ecological research and energy research. What they're doing is giving grant funds with the chemical world, at least academically, has depended--learned to become very, very dependent upon national grants, grants from national agencies. And so through that, with that mechanism they tend to channel research into areas so that they will give grants only to research that applies to things that are of a national interest. So it's only from the standpoint of channeling research into these highly, well, into these areas, which are, which meet national needs. That's the only reason we have any channeling of research whatsoever. I don't know if that interest--.
RR: A beautiful way of saying what I wanted you to say and now let's speak about that from a moral, intellectual standpoint. Do you see any--it's obvious that we see the advantage of this in terms of material backing, and so forth, but now do you see any disadvantage or danger in this sort of thing in that it might restrict some off-beat, or heretical, or different kind of thinking and research that might open some things up that.
FB: It has that.
RR: That we don't even know are there.
FB: I think it has that definite disadvantage. Velikovsky is a perfect example. He couldn't have gotten funding if his name had been Einstein . For his ideas, at least. And it had the disadvantage in that it sort of disenfranchises the guy who has quote unquote far out ideas. There is, there are some foundations that give small amounts of money to people who have ideas, which are completely new and different to investigate this. But they are, they are very few and far between, and by and large even though they say they're granting people who have new and different ideas, they still have to come pretty close to what's traditional, because ( ) if nobody understands something if it's really different from existing thought. And I think it has that disadvantage, but it's no more disadvantage than, than, than they always had when there was no funding of any kind, so it just means that the person that's going to attack something entirely new and different, unless it's soundly, soundly theoretically based on something that's already known, he's going to have to do it independently. But that was always the case before we had funding, it's just that he can't get funding, now.
RR: Are you familiar with Kuhn's work? K-U-H-N.
FB: I know the name, but I'm not familiar with--.
RR: The idea of the paradigm and the paradigm shift and the history of science. You, you said you wanted to do something on the history of science, perhaps this summer, and I, I might suggest that book to you, because it uses science as an example and what you know about Velikovsky would relate to this. I've not read the book. I've just heard about it.
FB: What's the name of it?
RR: K-U-H-N, I believe he's at Princeton .
FB: I've heard the name, but I just don't remember--.
RR: I'm not sure of his first name anymore, but it's got--I can't give you the title of it right now [pause] unless there's a reference to it in this book here and there might be. No. Let me try another book quickly. OK. Not mentioned here either, that's strange. [pause] ( ) the person transcribing will have a lot of fun waiting to ( ) pick up again. Well, I thought it would have been in one of these books, but it isn't. Well, maybe Elizabeth has something to say about it. [pause] No.
FB: Well, back to that thing on, on the channeling of research, I don't see that. It may have some pseudo-disadvantages, for those who are, those people that are on the forefront of new knowledge, where the new knowledge is not, its a theoretical approach, not based on something we already know, are always disadvantaged, always have been and always will be, just by the nature of humanity.
RR: Um. Yeah.
FB: I do see a distinct advantage to channeling research from the standpoint that if we--there are so many--the diversity's growing every day, and there are so many areas that you can diversify in that if everybody went--you know, if you sort of, people branched out at random the effects would be, well, there would be hardly any effect for the simple reason that things would be so diversified there would be so little interlocking relationship that it would all be maybe worthwhile knowledge but there would be no relationship between them so you could use it to produce anything of value. So channeling the research tends to make it possible to, to, although a lot of it is on the fringe and a lot of is--doesn't really turn up anything of value, it tends to develop a body of knowledge all centered around some particular subject, so that real breakthroughs can be made in a fairly rapid period of time, whereas, it would take maybe centuries to develop enough information to go on with a particular subject, were everybody spread out. There's not enough manpower to attack all fronts of science.
RR: I heard somewhere that there are one million scientific papers published a year in the world. Is that--?
FB: I'm surprised it's that low.
RR: Well, that was give you some idea of where science is now. It's dependent upon this kind of public dissemination, but at the very same time, it's impossible for a person even to keep up in his own ( ),
FB: Oh yeah.
RR: And that so that the, something is happening here, we've got a quantitative increase which has brought about a qualitative change, which means we're moving into the edge of something of which we know not.
FB: Yes. I'd hate, I'd hate to be the person who decided on what, how we should channel the research, because you know, that, that sets yourself up as a judge and you're, and more often than not you're deciding on things that you have no knowledge of, but somebody has to make the decision, because its, it would be absolute scientific chaos if you get the meaning--.
RR: You've sat on the research committee of the university, haven't you? You haven't been on that. OK. Well let's move out from the college, from the department to the college and see if we can't put yourself and your department in the perspective of the CSollege of Science and Mathematics and see if you have a certain reaction there. Where does chemistry fit into the College of Science and Mathematics? As a ( )--
FB: Well, I, in one sense I guess as every department is, we are an island unto ourselves, and we have our own specialized degree program that, where we cater to our, to our own students, but we certainly, in view--that's the departmental view. In relation to the college, we see ourselves as having a very serious and important service function to perform. Just to look at the general, the general chemistry level alone, we have, let's, let's see, this year we had upwards of 350, probably 400 students in the upper level freshman chemistry course. We had about twenty or thirty of those who declared themselves as majors, and half of those, at least, put down "chemistry major" just because it sounded impressive [break in recording] service function. We're serving biology, in fact all science majors, are required to take general chemistry, so we see ourselves as a service function and we're quite agreeable to offering, to trying to tailor our courses to whatever the various departments, engineering, biology, mathematics, physics, to whatever they want. So far, they haven't made too much input, and so which means to me that they must be at least reasonably satisfied with what we are offering in general chemistry. We see ourselves offering, acting as a service function to medical technology people, to the pre-medical people, many of whom transfer, to the pre-dental people, many of whom transfer, so we--that's all a very significant part of our departmental offerings. In fact, we have higher level courses geared to them, too the instrumental analysis RECORDING INTERRUPTED. RECORDING RESUMED. [Inaudible speech]
RR: I suspect that judging from just that response that the faculty is locked in and will not permit anybody to vary very far from the traditional university type education. The second thing is, and one of the problems I see with HDL's [Heuristic Diagnostic Learning] course of action, is that we get many, many students who are not geared to that way of thinking. They've grown up through the age of seventeen--sixteen or seventeen years old locked in a system that told them what they will learn and what is important and what is not important, and, and looks to me like, in a program like HDL'S proposing, where presumably the idea would be to create independent thinkers, people who learn for the sake of learning. People who learn what they want to because they want to and not because somebody told them to, looks to me like in a program like that you're going to have to spend at least the first two years reeducating people. Reeducating people as to how they--how to learn, which is a drawback in itself, and I see maybe something ultimately coming out by feeding teachers from HDL back into the school system, that maybe things will develop along the lines of independent learning, but I see that a long, a long way down the road, and I think right now, for the immediate--let's say for the next five to ten years, l see both faculty and students resisting anything this new and different. Central Piedmont , I think, is the only thing that is really innovative around here.
RR: Well, I think they're influencing. Remember, some of their students come to us. Now there's just one little, I tend to be optimistic about this, I'll be frank. I, I think there is a chance, and I'll tell you one of the reasons that makes me feel that way. If we can just keep these innovative programs alive for four or five years, I think the age level of the faculty and the maturity will move to a point where the preponderance of the faculty will get over the kind of hang-ups it's got now, the maturing factor will be there so that a, a more open view toward these programs will emerge. You have to know that a very young faculty, the reason why it's traditional is because they've been conditioned by the graduate schools they came out of, and they're hot for research along the lines they just were trained in, and that's the most precious thing they have, and they get here to the university and that's what they want to perpetuate. But you reach a point where you're reaching right now, Fowler , where you want to spend the summer not just following your narrow research interest, but you want to do a little reading on the history of chemistry, and that says something. And this may happen in enough other places on the faculty, so that these ideas that are a little wild and threatening at this point could within a period of time, if they're allowed to exist, have a fertilization or dissolving effect. Am I, am I just too blue sky?
FB: I don't know. I relate to two experiences. Well, I'll only relate one. I don't think its--I don't know what, the BCA program, as it stands, I'm opposed to. I think their idea is grand, but when they go to the extent as I see it, they have cut themselves off from the rest off the university, and from the standpoint that I can't take a chemistry student who wants an elective and say, look, get out of chemistry, go do something else, go over to the BCA Department and take a course in music, if music turns you on. Do whatever, but get out of chemistry. Broaden your base. When I can't do that, then that pisses me off. I'm mad.
RR: I know, I know.
FB: Then the other area, the other thing, comment I would make, even though, I, you know I think innovation is the word to be used over there, even though it's a trite word, at least doesn't ( ) [laughter], the other area is, for instance, in engineering. I don't know, I'm not sure what you mean when you say they're doing something new and different--.
RR: Liberal engineering. That aspect of being a service. Engineering doesn't have a service function except insofar as it could bring in the--what's engineering trying to do? Where does technology been to our society? That aspect.
FB: I heard some locker room talk the other day, for instance, and of course locker room talk is the most reliable of all. [laughter] It said, Environmental Engineering is one of their departments over there.
RR: Right.
FB: That sounds great. The guy was asked what was his field. He says, "I'm a civil engineer". And we said, "well why do they call it environmental engineering?" He says, "it's a new catchy name". So [laughter]
RR: Well--.
FB: I think it was--I won't mention any names. START OF TAPE 1 SIDE B
FB: I think they were being a little bit facetious.
RR: Of course they were. But even so, let's kid ourselves, Fowler , a name is significant. When you change your name, and when you're allowed to be called by a different name or when someone names you, now the name has a bit of magic. It does, it does change your perspective.
FB: Well he did--it does, from the standpoint he said, we're the only one in the country. [laughter]
RR: Well, maybe that'll make him different.
FB: Yeah, well, maybe it'll draw in the kind of students will demand that they offer real environmental engineering, and they may already be doing it, as from what I can tell they are offering a good measure of that. Another thing in regard to engineering that sort of astounds me is that I sat on the committee to, to investigate the idea of having an environmental studies program at UNCC , interdepartmental, stretching over the whole university, including, well, not english, of course, and probably not anyway, but it would include business, the, the, the economics of ecological research and change and so on, it included a large measure from engineering, environmental engineering, it would have included chemistry, biology, physics, whatever might.
RR: Geography?
FB: Yes, definitely. And we sat on the program, and it was the engineers that scuttled any proposal that we had developed a general program for that, of that nature for the university, because they say, we can offer it all right here. We're already prepared to do so. Why shouldn't we take--in other words, they were threatened because they were offering an environmental engineering program, and they were afraid that someone else was going to steal their thunder, and that's the ways it was.
RR: Oh, is that the way it ended up?
FB: That's the way it ended up. They completely scuttled the whole thing.
RR: You mean they looked at it, and then they decided they better not look at it because they would be, they'd lose out.
FB: They agitated in every meeting we had and continually confused issues. They filed-, constantly went in to file minority reports, and consequently a report that thick went to the chancellor or the vice chancellor, I don't know which, and was properly filed in the circular file, because there was no consensus, there was just constant pulling and tug-of-war, and they, they wouldn't allow us to get together on what the central issue was. Do we want an environmental studies program, which is interdisciplinary--. [RECORDING INTERRUPTED AND RESUMED]
RR: Well, I think you 're right. I think there is this political aspect of all of university development of the threat to any given discipline or area when they feel that opening up something new, unless it's of advantage to them in a material way, they won't let it go, and Engineering has, demonstrates that, but I'm not quite sure that this--.
FB: ( )
RR: Part of the same hang-up that I mentioned earlier about the youth of the faculty. You know the older you get, Fowler , the more the biblical truth comes through that the man who throws his life away is the man who gains it, and the man who tries to hold on to what he's got is the man who loses it. And it's that giving outward, you know, of I don't give a damn, because I just want to see the thing work, I'll give up myself completely. That attitude is more fulfilling of what you have to offer than any other thing, and you feel good about it. And I think that's a part of human growth and development. And I think that--the chancellor has said, and it's on tape and he's said it before, that we may have made, one of the big risks that we've made in building a new institution was to place our money on young people. He said that may have been a mistake, but it may not have been a mistake. We don't know yet. And, and watching young faculty members that have come through my department, now Dan Morrill is in his eleventh year, he's a different Dan Morrill . He was the campus wild man. And nothing was right. Everything had to be narrowly professional.
FB: Now George is the campus wild man. [laughter]
RR: Well, yeah, but the point is, the older you get the more you see bigger things, and I can't help but feel, this may be true only in the humanities, but I'd like to feel it could happen somewhere else. You're an example of it happening here. Why can't we see that in engineers, why can't we see that in mathematicians, in geographers, even in people in the business school, that'll only take a miracle. But it could happen, and
FB: Yeah. I hope so. I wonder how much is based, is predetermined by an individual's own predilection towards protecting himself, allowing his paranoia to get away with him, this sort of thing. I look at people in our own department and I see people that, that have grown and personally to accept compromise, to accept change, to accept different ideas, and I see others that are turning inward more every.
RR: Well, that's the question, and I think that's where our annual review and our questions of faculty development have to--, you really have to take it for real, and those that aren't growing, maybe they've been pulling their weight professionally and all that, but if it, it looks as though the longer they're around the more selfish and narrow they'll become, I'm not sure that that's what a university is all about, and maybe that's--
FB: That's true.
RR: That kind of thing that's hard to document in an annual review.
FB: Well the reason, the reason I pick on the word paranoia in terms of everybody, I guess I'm measuring by my own yardstick. I feel very paranoid about some things that are going on, on campus, and I have to fight continually to overcome those paranoid feelings and to, and to at least seem to be objective about it. Because you can't be objective when you're paranoid.
RR: Um-hum.
FB: And so I have to constantly fight those feelings myself, and I'm sure many, many people do. I will sometimes lose the battle and sometimes I win the battle and keep the paranoia in the background. I think a lot of times people don't even think about it they just react. They're paranoid, they don't, they don't, maybe don't feel like, they don't realize they are paranoid, or whatever.
RR: Yeah. Yeah. Insecure is another word for it.
FB: Yeah. Yeah. It's very hard for me, for instance, just a trite example, when the Counseling Center talks about, or HDL, talks about helping us to become better teachers. That means they've got to come in my class and sit down and listen to what I say. Now that, that makes you feel a little bit insecure, but I, I don't
RR: I'm not even sure that's what they mean. They might mean, you come over to our classes and maybe we'll change you as an individual, and that will have an effect in your class. They may never have to interfere with what you're doing at all.
FB: But I've talked with Dumont Schmidt at some length about it, because the Counseling Center's thoughts, had thoughts about getting into that, they don't have the staff to do it now, but they had thoughts along those lines possibly, and I talked to Harvey Sadoff in HDL about it, and as effectively what I've, what I've done is said, look, anytime you can help me become a more effective teacher, you're welcome to come into my class, even though I might be insecure the first day you walked in there, you'll just have to overlook it. Come on. None of them have come yet, but I hope one day that they will. I would like very much to get, to learn, if that's possible, I think it depends so much on personality traits that are not that easily changed, but I would like to learn to be a more effective teacher.
RR: Well, at least you're listening to them. Maybe what they're really saying is, Fowler , we don't really want to come into your class and change you there you just come over and see what were doing and maybe that'll change you.
FB: Yeah.
RR: Maybe that message will come through. Maybe they don't even know they're saying that.
FB: I think most of them, in regard to Harvey and Dumont , they were talking about actual teacher counseling, in which case they would come in and watch your class and say, you're good in this area, you're good in this area, you need to have, you need some work in this area, and then counsel you.
RR: That's not what they're doing now. They're taking faculty and students on retreats.
FB: Yeah. Those are mostly counseling retreats where you, what they're learning you towards is not the effect they have. Their goal it seems to me, the ones I've been on, the goal, the one that I've been on, the goal was to make you a more effective student counselor.
RR: I don't know about that. I thought the goal was to open you up as a person, in which is the magic to everything.
FB: Well, that maybe that was their unspoken goal.
RR: That was.
FB: That was the goal that they achieved, I think.
RR: Well.
FB: In which case, I think it's far more valuable than what I thought the goal was, but--.
RR: There's a lot of magic lying around all over the place, but most--I'm going to review this book tonight at the book chat, William Irwin Thompson's At the Edge of History -- this was a seminal book from my own personal library, one of three books in the last three years that has spoken to me rather profoundly. But the thing that hit me most in this book was a single statement that I paraphrased. It happened right in the first chapter. I won't give you what he says. I'll give you my paraphrase of it. But the point he makes is this. Who you are, is what you are when you subtract your job from your personhood. And boy, that hit me right down the middle. When you get to where--.
FB: I think I'll write that down and put it on my desk.
RR: I've put it on my door. I think that's the paranoia and the insecurity that we all feel. Now it's doing the job and thinking that that is everything. Well, that is, institutionally it may appear to be everything, but that, if that is what everyone tries to do, we just will not have an institution we'll have a bunch of paranoid individuals. It's beyond that; it's, it's, it seems that there's something bigger than that, and it's this throwing yourself away, this abandonment of self which is really the salvation of self.
FB: I think that stretches beyond the bounds of the university, too.
RR: Of course it does.
FB: One of my favorite little cliches is that I like to work for a living instead of living for my work.
RR: Very good.
FB: And I generally try to do that. I'm maybe halfway in between doing those two things. But, for instance, when I first came here, I, I really did get quite a bit of criticism from my own department about not spending long, long, long hours in here like the rest of them were doing at the time. And I really got angry with a couple of them one day and I said, look, damn it, you go through life one time, and I owe something to my wife and my family, and I don't owe everything to this university, and you can take it and shove it if you expect me to spend my every hour out. Now there are people in our department who do, and I say more power to you if that's the way you want to leave live your life, you know, you're doing a lot of good for the department, but I say there's more to life than living for your work.
RR: Let me, let me quote another statement from this book, which hits that right in the, down the middle. Here it is. He's talking about lip service to the education of the whole man, and with the reality being this, this kind of conditioning that behavioral science, and the social behavioralists are, think they've got all the answers, they've just dealt with the problems to arrange the conditioning so that everyone will feel right and corporate society will go on, big government, big industry, big education, big church. In other words, it's training and conditioning rather than education. "Operating," I'm reading now from William I. Thompson's At the Edge of History "Operating with a strictly logical and mechanistic knowledge of the self, MIT training reduces the self's truly complex nature to a few relatively standard industrial functions. Such intense specialization enables men to become highly successful within their own corporate structures, for those who collectively suppress what they individually lack, or for these also to collectively suppress what they individually lack, and so no one notices as they all limp along with half an organism. But once these men marry their inability to deal with a larger nature of consciousness incapacitates them in the demanding relationship with wives and children. To be a success in our industrial culture means almost the necessity that a man must be a bad husband and father."
FB: I agree with that.
RR: That's what you were talking about. And this is also part of that thing I was talking about of making your job your identity and not going beyond that. And I think that's what HDL is speaking to. I think that's what Black Studies is speaking to. The very way in which the BCA is conceived and structured is not to turn out the professional artist but to let you see a human dimension within that activity. Now what architecture will do along that line, I don't know, but they're a little different. But these are the, these are the hopeful signs I see on this campus, and maybe I'm just being too darned optimistic, but I'd like to have my chance to see them have a chance to grow a little bit before we crush them.
FB: I would too.
RR: Well, anything else on your mind? I haven't asked you as your role as a Senator or as a member of AAUP or any other special committee or special function you've had around campus that you think you'd be willing to record just for the sake of information might reveal.
FB: Well, I'm, I'm enthusiastically in favor of the Senate. I hope it will be, I hope it will--I think it's labored under some serious handicaps in the past. I hope we'll overcome those, and it will become what it was, what it was hoped to be when it was conceived. And I hope the constitution revision will help to effect. I don't think it will be the last constitution revision. I think there will still be new problems created there, as well as eliminating some old ones and anyway, I'm in favor of the Senate idea. I think it's a good forum, and I think it's just now beginning to become really effective. And with regard to AAUP , I don't know, I consider that, generally when I work with AAUP I'm not worried about--I you don't usually have an ax to grind. For instance, with Committee Z or the salary matters, as we saw yesterday, I had a large measure to do with those figures that we came up with in trying to make them sound and reasonable and acceptable to the administration and so on, and that's one reason I objected so violently to George Abernathy's statement when he got up and said, "The Chancellor's here, the Vice Chancellor's here, there are deans here, and there are department chairmen here and they get the point." Well, I wasn't trying to stab them in the back with a point. I was trying to give them something reasonable to work with that would be beneficial to the whole university community. So I don't see activities in the AAUP as any ax to grind. I see it
RR: Simply providing the information and points of view, and so that other people can--.
FB: I see it as providing a valuable function that's to the good that will improve the welfare of the entire university community.
RR: Well, there have been a number of things, which we as a chapter have done that are probably forgotten, but really we have done some real service to this institution, in clarifying cloudy points and getting things straight and it's going to be on this campus. We've pioneered a few places, which I think ought to be remembered. Is there anything we've done--you've been active the last two years with the chapter, have you not--is there anything that's been done that you'd like to remember as being significant. Well, one thing was the salary thing, getting that out in the open.
FB: I think so. In fact, at the time that that was such a hot issue, I really was serious about, well I think the first thing that set me off was when Dan Morrill , and I forget who it was with him, went to Robert Morgan to try to get salary figures when they couldn't get them on this campus. And right then and there, even though it was a matter of law that those figures were open to public scrutiny, when we found out we couldn't get them, I really wanted to go right into the Mecklenburg delegation and try to get a bill through the legislature which would require that they print those things and put them on, on file in every library in the state.
RR: Yeah. Yeah.
FB: Or every public library. And I would still like to see that done--.
RR: Did Morrill actually talk to Morgan ?
FB: As I understood it. I never talked to Dan about it.
RR: Did he get past the secretary? Because there's another story
FB: Maybe not
RR: There's another story about Margaret Bryan calling down there and getting somebody and, I don't know who it was, and getting sort of the run-around, and Robert Morgan walked in the office and he took the phone and he said, you got no problems. Those figures are public figures. As a result of that, that's when Committee W broke, broke the thing. So I am wondering if it is Morgan , or whether he is adjusting his political sail, or whatever it was.
FB: Yeah, I apparently, the way I got it was that Dan and those actually got, got with, or met with Morgan and, and he said that essentially, passed the buck to--
RR: Back to the Chancellor?
FB: Well, to no one. He said we will have to have a written statement that, you know, we'll have to satisfy certain criteria before we can hand these out to you, which means that they're not really public information, and they were criteria that Dan couldn't have hoped to achieve at the time. And so that, that, that my information on my history, facts and history, are not--probably fuzzy on that, but I understood that Dan had actually talked to Morgan , he and someone else. I don't know who the other one else was--so I see, that is probably one of the most significant things in terms, not of really publishing salaries, which were so significant, because I think the controversy has by and large died since then, people don't really care that much, as long as they see they're somewhere in the spectrum and you justify them with their position, their the major effect is the AAUP acting to break down the barriers for secrecy around here.
RR: Um-hum. I think those that had the most paranoia were not the faculty members, but the people above them.
FB: And after doing it that way for so many years, it is rather threatening to realize that all of a sudden that your every move is going to be open to scrutiny by the community's. [laughter]
RR: Well, we don't have to stay here much longer. We've been here almost an hour, and maybe that's too precious for you on a day when you want to do something else. Just however you feel?
FB: Well, I don't know. I think it sums lot of my feelings about the university. I don't really have anything else I'd like to add. I wouldn't have added all that had you not prodded me. I wouldn't have thought of it.
RR: Alright. Well, this is not a confidential tape in one sense. It will be preserved. It's confidential in another sense in that nothing in here will be directly quoted, that is of a sensitive nature unless you give us permission to use it, but I hope you feel that this has been a comfortable hour and you weren't any, under any pressure to come out with deep, dark skeletons. I think that being frank is the only way to get at ( )
FB: I haven't said anything that I wouldn't say to anybody around, outside of maybe using a name or two. [laughter]
RR: OK. Well, thanks a lot. You've helped me, and we'll shut the tape off now.