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Chapter Seven: 1973—1974

“There are limits to everything; that's one of the big lessons of ecology, and from the flattening of its growth curve, it looks like UW-Green Bay has reached a limit.... UW-Green Bay was built at the end of a boom in higher education that's gone on since World War II. But it is over now. The war babies are out of school and birth rates are down, diminishing the number of 18-year-olds. The 2-S draft deferment no longer gives false incentive for marginal students to work toward a degree. Inflation, unemployment, the rising cost of living and the decline of the dollar mean there are fewer $1,660 chunks of money that can be spared to send a live-at-home college student to college for a year.”

-William Hurrle in the Brown County Chronicle, April 11, 1973

Hurrle's assessment of enrollment prospects at the University appeared in the first article of a series based on six weeks of research on and off the campus, including extensive interviews with faculty, staff and students. One might properly challenge other conclusions offered by Hurrle in the course of his four-part critique. But in the matter of enrollment expectations, his analysis was right on target.

“Head count” had, indeed, continued to grow; University officials in 1973 could quite legitimately report a 13.5 percent increase in registration for the January interim, a record summer enrollment of 1,300-plus, phenomenal growth in transfer students, and, for fall, another modest percentage gain over the previous year. But the bottom line for budget purposes—full-time-equivalent enrollment, or FTEs—had started on a downward spiral that would continue for the remainder of the decade.

The extravagantly optimistic forecasts of early planners—made primarily for political purposes—had projected a 15,000-student campus by 1985. The figure had long since been revised downward. But it was obvious by now that the University would also continue to fall short of more recent FTE projections that formed the basis for annual budget allocations.

A November 1973 report to the UW System told of the immediate predicament: with a deficit of 103 FTEs, the University would be liable for a budget “adjustment”—a giveback to the UW System—of $190,511, payable in equal installments immediately and in July 1974. Funds recovered from UW-Green Bay and other campuses not meeting their FTE estimates would be allocated among the five units where enrollment had exceeded budgeting goals. Beneficiaries would be Milwaukee, Madison, Stout, La Crosse and the Center System.

UW-Green Bay, obviously, was not alone. Nor was the UW System. College graduates, including many with advanced degrees, were joining unemployment lines nationwide. And public and private institutions alike were feeling the impact of a shift in attitude toward higher education.

Hurrle put it this way: “People are getting wise to the fact that a degree's worth has declined considerably on the job market. It no longer is a ticket to the middle class.”

An October 1972 editorial in the Appleton Post-Crescent laid some of the blame on higher education representatives who had “oversold their type of higher education” by defining its benefits to the student solely in economic terms:

“The inference (by the student) was that education alone raised him in the socio-economic sphere with no relation to his abilities, the facts of why he went to college, job opportunities or his background. As students have found out that they didn't get the whole story, they began looking at the reasons. More than that, the current youth generation does not always see college as the natural succession from high school. The new emphasis upon manual labor, organic living as well as food, and suspicion of the entire establishment, including most definitely the academic one, have cut the applicants’ ranks.”

Alternatives to traditional higher education were also promoted by no less an authority figure than Sidney Marland, U.S. commissioner of education. His decision to make the development of “career education” his first priority helped to swell the rolls—and the budgets—of vocational and technical schools.

Chancellor Weidner was among those who found Marland's campaign “disturbing” for two major reasons: the assumption that persons seek an education for purely economic motives and the implications for class structure.

“It is likely to create a new elitism in this country,” Weidner commented in a Milwaukee Journal op-ed piece appearing in April 1973. “Twenty years from now the pundits who write editorials against universities today are going to criticize those of us in higher education for allowing a new elitism to arise.”

College entrance statistics, comparing nationally the freshman class of 1971 with that of 1969, showed a marked decline of 10.1 percent in the enrollment of students from families with incomes of less than $10,000, Weidner said. All income categories below $10,000 showed declines, while all income categories above $10,000 showed increases. At UW-Green Bay, he pointed out, the 1972 freshman class showed a substantial decrease in enrollment of students who were in the 50th to 80th percentile in their graduating classes. “The conclusions are clear,” he added. “Many potential students with promise are not going to college.”

And many who did choose college were themselves embracing what some administrators called “the new vocationalism,” a shift toward the concrete in college studies, wrote New York Times reporter Iver Peterson. From coast to coast, according to Peterson's report of a survey by campus correspondents, students were swelling enrollments in pre-med, pre-law, business, nursing, agriculture and newly developed courses in health sciences and handicapped training.

“In most cases, students were frank to point out that the jobs and security beckoning at the end of a long and arduous professional training were a prime reason for their choices,” Peterson wrote in December 1973. The reporter found further confirmation of the trend at the University of Minnesota. A survey of enrollments at the various campuses found “significant increases at the professionally oriented colleges and campuses,” while the liberal arts-oriented Morris campus seemed to be “undergoing a larger enrollment decline than expected,” the University reported.

UW-Green Bay did not escape the trend, according to Ronald Dhuey, who served as registrar for almost 20 years before taking the post of associate vice chancellor for institutional research. The innovative nature of the program was probably another drawback, Dhuey said in a 1990 interview.

“We tried to institute a radically new curriculum across the board before we were really ready to do it,” Dhuey observed. Other factors in the sagging enrollment picture of the early 1970s ranged from the advent of merger to the location of the campus, in Dhuey's view.

“At the very beginning, when you went out to recruit students at a high school, it was a real plus to be part of the University of Wisconsin,” Dhuey said. “There was the appeal of prestige. With merger, when every university became a UW campus, we lost that recruiting edge.

“Then there was the physical detachment from the community. We were out in the country without city bus service, so every student had to have a car. There was the freeze on campus housing construction that came after the merged board of regents took a look at their indebtedness for dormitories and the plunging occupancy rate at other campuses. It was a period when students had deserted the dorms. We weren't allowed to build dormitories with state funds. We had the apartments, but because they were a private enterprise, the rents had to be high enough to turn a profit. Many students couldn't afford to live there.”

The incomplete campus was also a liability in attracting students, Dhuey recalled. As admissions counselors recruited prospects for Year Five, the 1973-74 academic year, the University still lacked a student union and a physical education building.

Academic facilities, however, were developing with dramatic speed, and the University staff was coming together, finally, at a single location.

While construction continued on College of Community Sciences buildings, Dhuey and others in administrative posts took up residence in the new Student Services Building. The personnel office moved in from its farmhouse, and the purchasing office from the golf course pro shop. With the opening of the Studio Arts and Creative Communication buildings, the Deckner Avenue building was vacated except for physical education activities. Classes and practice sessions for sports teams would be held in the small UW Center gymnasium, five miles from the campus, for three more years.

Writing in the new alumni magazine, Inside UWGB, Weidner declared that the basic academic plant would be “75 percent complete” during the 1973-74 academic year. Of the four projected complexes planned around the library hub, three were now finished or under construction. Across Highway 54-57, building crews were finishing work on a $5 million heating and chilling plant. The campus road system was nearly complete, and a new dock on the bay shore awaited the return of the sailing season. But it would be late December before a sports center won final approval for construction, under a budget slashed by 30 percent. The result, Weidner said, would be a facility falling short of the state's own space guidelines for a physical education and recreation facility serving up to 5,000 students.

Studio Arts and Creative Communications buildings, 1973

Studio Arts and Creative Communications buildings, 1973

A press review of campus developments during the calendar year characterized 1973 as a time of “pushing out dimensions and pulling in belts.” It was an apt description.

Fiscal belt tightening, ordered by Gov. Lucey to improve “productivity,” cut faculty and staff from the payroll. Hardest hit were courses in foreign languages and mathematics, on the academic side, and maintenance of the physical plant. Slim-down efforts on fuel consumption that started in January, when thermostats were lowered to 68 degrees, escalated through the year to a major tug at the power fat in response to President Richard Nixon's declaration in December of an energy crisis. Among the results: cold-water-only in the washrooms, additional cutbacks on exterior lighting, restriction of out-of-state travel and a 50 mph speed limit for state-owned vehicles.

The measure of expanding dimensions at UW-Green Bay included new buildings valued at $12.5 million. Campus acreage increased during the year with a gift from Inland Steel Corporation, the housing developer, of two acres of land near the student apartment complex and an $80,000 state grant for purchase of a six-acre parcel along the bay. But growth was proceeding simultaneously at many other levels: in community awareness and participation; in program quality; in breadth of opportunity for students and faculty; in new arenas of outreach; and in faculty achievement.

The year had begun with a “communiversity” effort which would set a pattern for the future: a joint production in January of a ballet, Peter and the Wolf, by University students and staff and the Northeast Wisconsin Dance Organization. Also in January, a record 200 collegians spent the month studying and traveling in Europe. The largest delegation accompanied Professor Halvor Kolshus to Norway.

February had brought together members of the University community, local citizens and state legislators in a campaign to convince Gov. Lucey and the State Building Commission to include a physical education building in the 1973-75 budget. Students signed petitions for delivery to Lucey; business leaders met with area legislators to seek their support. And the Press-Gazette argued for equity for the local campus, now the only four-year unit of the UW System lacking indoor physical education and recreation facilities. To the state's contention that students should pay for such a building through user fees, a February editorial pointed out that in 10 years, no such fee policy had been applied to any similar building constructed with state funds at nine other universities:

“During that period and before,” the writer stated, “the policy governing has been that physical education buildings designed for widespread student use ... were an integral and important part of total education and therefore should be built by the state.”

As some members of the community joined the fight for a gymnasium facility, far more discovered that there was life—and sports action—after the Packer season. A record 5,800 fans showed up to see the men's basketball team defeat UW-Eau Claire at the Brown County arena. Then, after a victory over UW-Whitewater in the NAIA District 14 championship game, the Phoenix took a 15-game winning streak and a 26-3 record to the national NAIA tournament in March. After two victories, they were stopped in the quarterfinals by Slippery Rock State, but they had begun to make their mark with hometown rooters as well as in big-city newspapers.

The successes on the court under Coach David Buss “have generated a new unity of school spirit,” commented Professor Bruce Grimes, newly appointed UW-Green Bay athletic director. After several winning seasons before usually sparse crowds, Grimes saw for the first time, he said, “the potential for community support of top-notch intercollegiate competition.”

External groups, recognizing the quality of the academic program, expanded dimensions of opportunity for students and faculty during the year.

A $180,000 Venture Fund grant from the Ford Foundation provided research and development money over a three-year period for innovative programs to enrich undergraduate education. An invitation from the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland took the UW-Green Bay Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble and their leaders, 100 strong, to eight weeks of generously subsidized summer study and performance in Europe. Before they left, the musicians presented a concert on the green at the Deckner building; after they returned, they shared “echoes from the Alps” in a Packer halftime show at Milwaukee County Stadium.

The University Year for Action program, which in two years had provided 70,000 volunteer hours to local and state agencies, received $121,000 to support its third year on the campus. Applications for federal funds for Indian education and Upward Bound programs yielded $100,000 in grants from HEW. Members of the science faculty raised $143,000 in grants for Sea Grant projects and won a $115,000 award from the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation to study the ecological effects of Pulliam plant discharges.

Student needs were addressed with services as diverse as a downtown-to-campus bus, operating hourly, and seminars for women exploring career options and the job market. Tuned in to the potential of a new “market” of returning adults, the academic affairs staff established the state's first University Without Walls unit. A grant from the Union of Experimenting Colleges and Universities supported planning for the program, which offered an individualized course of study as an alternative to pursuing a degree in regular college classes. The adult education office also focused much of its attention on the over-25 population: helping adults to register, sponsoring get-acquainted meetings with prospective students in Door County and elsewhere, offering brush-up sessions on study skills, and promoting enrollment in evening courses.

Faculty and staff achievements during 1973 ranged from regional television awards to a new textbook.

Downtown-to-campus bus service begins, September 1973

Downtown-to-campus bus service begins, September 1973

Top honors from the Central Educational Television Network went to a 16-part series on the contributions of Wisconsin's ethnic groups, produced for 9- to 11-year-olds, and a local follow-up to a national program on venereal disease. Both productions were the work of Brian Schmidlin and Robert Sink of the campus teleproduction unit. Joseph Moran, Michael Morgan and James Wiersma collaborated in writing Introduction to Environmental Sciences. Published by Little, Brown, it was the first textbook produced by a faculty team. Jack Frisch of the theater faculty had a playscript accepted for publication, and Weidner was named to the editorial board of the International Journal of Environmental Education.

On the state scene, merger was not yet complete. But as 1973 ended, an implementation study committee had taken some preliminary steps. Two central administrations were consolidated under the leadership of John Weaver, president, and Leonard Haas, executive vice president. Lines of authority had been clarified for the 27 UW units, and University officials had prepared a first budget for the merged system under austerity conditions imposed by Gov. Lucey. And representatives of the newly merged board of regents were winding up a series of 26 public hearings statewide on campus mission statements.

At UW-Green Bay, Weidner and his aides welcomed the proposed designation of the campus as one of two “special mission” institutions. Weidner called it “an outstanding honor for the campus and a tribute to the quality of our faculty and staff” as well as “fulfillment of the dreams and plans of the last seven years.”

More significantly for the future, the mission statement opened the door for master's degree studies linked to the undergraduate curriculum. A UW-Green Bay proposal was already in the making. If the regents approved it, Weidner predicted, a 30-credit program of basic graduate education would be in place by fall 1974. And 40 to 50 graduate students would be ready to enroll.