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Interview of Harold L. Enarson by William J. Studer

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Title: Interview of Harold L. Enarson by William J. Studer
Creators: Enarson, Harold L., 1919-2006
Contributors: Studer, William J., 1936-
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: Ohio State University Archives
Series/Report no.: Ohio State University. University Archives Oral History Program. Ohio State University Oral History Project
Abstract: Dr. Enarson recounts how despite growing up poor in New Mexico during the Depression he persevered in getting a college education. He graduated from the University of New Mexico, later worked in the Bureau of the Budget in Washington, D.C. and, after Pearl Harbor, enlisted in the army. After the war he served for six years as Executive Director of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). His academic career began when he was named Administrative Vice President at the University of New Mexico. There he created a four-year medical school, and developed one of the nation’s largest Peace Corps training programs for Latin America. In 1965 he accepted the Presidency of the newly established Cleveland State University. When he arrived Cleveland State had ten acres, some dilapidated buildings, a faculty made up of about 100 people, and 4,000 students. By the time he left six years later he had seen the construction of major buildings, the creation of several major new academic programs, and a jump in enrollment to 12,000. The greatest challenge Enarson faced in Cleveland was the student riots of 1970 which followed the killing of four students by the Ohio National Guard at nearby Kent State University. Unlike all other state universities in Ohio, Enarson kept Cleveland State open during the turmoil, a fact which brought his name to the attention of Ohio State. He was named President of OSU in 1972. His immediate challenge was to restore confidence in the university leadership. Both students and faculty had questioned the role of central administration during the riots. Enarson sought to be widely visible on campus, and interacted frequently with students. Nor did he neglect the faculty. Fortunately he had several very capable assistants, particularly Provost Albert J. Kuhn, and his legislative liaison, Bill Napier. The roles of the President’s cabinet, and that of the Secretary of the Board of Trustees, Ned Moulton, were redefined. Academically, he resisted suggestions that certain “weak” programs be eliminated; indeed he continued virtually all existing programs. The Board of Trustees purchased a new presidential residence in north Columbus, and so he was the first president to live off-campus. One of the most persistent “issues” at OSU was the connection between academic quality and big-time football. Some faculty believed that the “specter of a football factory” diminished the academic quality of the university. Although opinions varied widely they were so strongly held that all “talk of reform was pointless”. The sad reality was that for the public at large football and basketball loomed much larger than the academic program. Despite certain reservations Enarson sought to be supportive of athletics. Enarson worked hard to raise public appreciation for OSU, which he considered “Ohio’s single greatest asset”. He learned much from John Millett, the brilliant and powerful Chancellor of the Board of Regents. Millett helped Enarson understand that given Ohio’s history and demography that Ohio State would never dominate Ohio the way the University of Michigan has dominated Michigan. A separate and potentially embarrassing issue came when the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) censured Ohio State from 1973 to 1980 for abrupt dismissal of an untenured history professor who had burned his draft card in class as an act of protest against the unpopular war in Vietnam. Enarson believed that the professor was treated unfairly, but said so the incident had no real consequence for O.S.U including faculty recruitment. Chronic budget crises were a constant of the Enarson years. He felt that such under funding did enormous damage, but his best efforts to increase funding, however “yielded a great yawn” from the Board of Trustees. The sad political reality was that the capital improvement budget was the “plaything of the Legislature”. Although relations with the Governor and the Board of Trustees were sometimes contentious, Enarson had a good relationship with Vern Riffe, the powerful Speaker of the House. Enarson saw low-cost tuition as a bedrock principle for widened opportunity for all Americans, but it was an “uphill battle” that he “never won”. Resident undergraduate tuition jumped seven-fold from \$250.00 per quarter in 1972 to \$1732.00 per quarter by 2002. Typically 25% of each incoming class needed remedial math and English. Enarson argued that part of the solution would be improved salaries and working conditions for teaching and research assistants -- the very people students rely on for help. Enarson also worked hard to improve the four regional campuses, and he introduced the successful “Program 60”, which allowed persons over 60 to attend classes free of charge on a non-credit basis. The reality of burgeoning external interference, by both state and federal government -- via imposition of endless rules, regulations, and reports “ was a significant problem”. Sadly such “interference” drained much time and money from other areas. In his dealings with the Ohio Legislature, Enarson relied heavily on The Inter-University Council (IUC), an association composed of all of the presidents of state universities in Ohio. While the IUC was useful, it also produced its share of animosity, hostility, and squabbling as each president defended his own turf. As President, Enarson had to deal with several distinct and powerful constituencies. Once he said that OSU was really four separate Universities: Intercollegiate Athletics, Agriculture, Medical Affairs, and “All the Rest”. The latter was the only one actually run by the President, while the other three were all semi-autonomous imperial domains. The College of Agriculture was a very special case. Its very powerful Dean, Roy Kottman, was known for his autocratic ways, and his incessant and effective lobbying of the Legislature. Provost Ann Reynolds engaged in largely futile “royal battle” with Kottman to give the Central Administration some real authority over the budgeting process in Agriculture. The intercollegiate athletics “empire” was also huge and powerful. Enarson expressed disgust over the “overemphasis” on intercollegiate athletics. Arenas have gone from “outsize” to “monumental”. Current coaches salaries in the millions are “obscene”. Woody Hayes earned no more than \$50,000 a year and had no supplemental income. Nearly all athletic programs lose money. Yet little is done to rein in the enormous cost of arenas, salaries, and even ticket prices. It “broke his heart” when he heard of the recent huge, costly additions to athletic facilities at OSU. He noticed that all of the ushers at football games, as well as all members of the OSU Marching Band, were men. Soon women were included in both programs; this was one of the few changes he was able to make to Athletics. The issue of possible faculty unionization at Ohio State surfaced in the mid-1970s. Enarson was skeptical of the possible benefits, but saw the call for faculty bargaining as a clear symptom of neglect of the faculty. He felt the Teaching and Graduate assistants had “disgracefully low” salaries, and the senior, tenured faculty seem not to care. But the “greatest failure” of the university was its inability to define the basic core of a liberal education. At the time OSU offered 7,500 undergraduate courses, and this left students with impossibly difficult choices. “New programs, such as Black Studies and Women’s Studies, were added with little regard for how they might fit in with established programs. Where is the core curriculum?” A third issue was the effectiveness of the University Senate, reorganized in 1972 to include for the first time students, faculty, and administrators in one often chaotic body. Many faculty resented the presence of student Senators. Enarson commented on the effectiveness of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), a consortium of all Big Ten Schools plus the University of Chicago. It accomplished little other than publishing an annual report. Perhaps the most bitter confrontation of Enarson’s presidency was his conflict with the powerful medical establishment over implementation of a Medical Practice plan. It had been decided during the Fawcett presidency that the many medical faculty who conducted private practice in University facilities should return a portion of their income to support overhead costs and fund research. But the specifics had yet to be agreed upon. What ensured may have been “the most brutal and costly power struggle in university history”. The position of the medical faculty was “we earned this money, it’s ours”. Led by their Dean, Richard Meiling, a “classic autocrat”, the doctors denied there should be any outside accounting of their earnings, an attitude that Enarson considered “outrageous”. Once it was clear that the doctors would never propose their own plan, Central Administration announced on its own a new Medical Practice plan. This was immediately challenged in federal district court. Furthermore, the physicians had excellent rapport with the governor, the state legislature, alumni, and the local newspaper, and so they won the battle of public opinion. Next came an implied threat from the medical faculty to close down the College of Medicine starting with the Department of Anesthesiology. Ultimately the judge’s ruling led to a “messy compromise”, a weak Practice Plan with no real accountability, but one that has survived almost unchanged until the present day. Enarson’s firing of legendary football coach, Woody Hayes, ranks as a major event. Enarson indicates this was not a difficult decision given that Hayes had struck a Clemson football player in full public view including that of Hugh Hindman, the Athletic Director. That same evening both Enarson and Hindman agreed “He’s got to go”, and he was so informed. Coach Hayes refused to apologize for his behavior, and so he was given no opportunity to resign in lieu of being fired. In retrospect Enarson believes that he should have spent more time on fund raising. Although he raised the endowment of the Development Fund from \$47 to \$85 million, he said he was not very good at fund raising. The President’s Club was helpful. Enarson strongly advocated increased opportunities for women, minorities, and the disabled. He created a Commission on Women, an Office of Women’s Services, the Center for Women’s Studies, the Office of Disability Services, the Black Cultural Center (today the Frank W. Hale, Jr. Black Cultural Center), and appointed the first female Provost, Ann Reynolds. Enrollments of women and Black students increased dramatically, as did the number of women faculty. Enarson received only a modest salary in comparison to the inflated salaries today for university presidents. Initially he was paid \$50,000, received no raise in some years, and left the job at \$65,000. This final salary was still well below those being paid at comparable universities. “My compensation was a troubling matter.” Yet given his deep love of Ohio State, he made no effort to put himself on the market elsewhere. The perennial contentious issues of a proper balance among teaching, research/publication and service, especially as these relate to promotion and tenure, provoked an ongoing debate. Enarson concluded that “it’s an enduring disgrace the way faculty is structured today” since increasingly students are taught by underpaid, exploited, teaching assistants. He is not surprised by the recent burst of unionism at places like Yale. Tenure is necessary, he said, but even so a university needs a mix of new blood in the faculty. Enarson’s responses to the multiple challenges of his presidency fortunately were made easier because of his strong supporting staff. Preeminent among them was Albert J. Kuhn, a “superb Provost”, a man who “brought to the job character, integrity, human force, compassion, and tolerance”. He delegated to Kuhn, and to Kuhn’s successor, Ann Reynolds, the final say on all tenure and promotion cases other than the Vice Presidents and department chairmen. On rare occasions when he suspected an injustice, Enarson would personally intervene. Another man on his staff “whom I came to greatly love and admire was John Mount”, the Dean of University College and Vice President for Regional Campuses. In particular, Enarson was pleased with the success of the regional campuses. Upgrading faculty quality was a challenge Enarson accepted enthusiastically since “faculty quality is the single most important gauge of institutional quality”. In his annual review of faculty salary and promotion policies Enarson relied heavily on Al Kuhn, Bill Vandament, Ann Reynolds, and George Baughman. Overall Enarson believed that OSU had a “good” faculty, but with “pockets of excellence”. But he lamented the fact that Ohio State has won relatively so few prestigious awards, such as Guggenheims, Rhodes Scholars, and membership in the National Academy of Sciences. Michigan always gets more such honors than Ohio State. When Enarson tendered his resignation on December 11, 1980, many persons were taken by surprise. Speculation regarding the reason(s) centered on personal fatigue; the Medical Practice Plan; the firing of Woody Hayes; the closing of the central campus to parking; the struggle over faculty collective bargaining; and his constant attacks on low budget support. The endemic budget crisis tore at him year after year. The bitter aftermath from the Medical Practice Plan did a lot of damage. There were chronic problems with the Board of Trustees. The fact that Enarson insisted on being his “own person”, and never learned to play golf, bridge, or poker might have lessened opportunities for potential useful contacts, especially with the “rich and powerful and the well-to-do” whom he was sometimes accused of neglecting. He denies, however, that he ever neglected the Legislature. As he reflected on the overall, cumulative pressures of his job, he concluded that he would never wish to be president of another university, and he declined potential opportunities. “It’s an exhilarating job, a hard job, a fulfilling job, but it’s nothing you should do year in and year out.” He wished to be remembered as a problem solver, not a miracle man, who dealt with issues in a straight-forward, forthright fashion; who never backed off from a battle he thought was important. He spoke favorably of Paul Underwood’s book The Enarson Years, although in general he found the various histories of presidencies at OSU suffered from “a fear of candor”, and that they generally fell short of good interpretive history. After leaving the presidency of Ohio State Enarson returned to Boulder, Colorado, and served for 15 years as a senior adviser to WICHE, served on several national committees, finished some articles and gave speeches. A serious bout with colon cancer slowed him down temporarily. He agreed to co-chair a Commission on the Future of SUNY (State University of New York), wrote a study of higher education in the state of Nebraska, and served as an evaluator of the University of South Alabama in Mobile, a “bizarre” and “deeply disquieting experience”. At the University of Minnesota following the sudden resignation of the president after a scandal over undue costs spent on upgrades to the president’s residence, Enarson chaired a successful committee which explored the relationships between the Board of Regents, the community, the Legislature, and the Governor. Another of Enarson’s major post-presidential assignments was to serve on a powerful, four-person, committee to respond to a federal district court case in Alabama on alleged racial discrimination in Alabama universities. All in all Enarson has had a productive and busy post-presidential career. He has given over 500 speeches, addresses, articles, book reviews, studies, plans and reports, 13 commencement addresses, and consulted on higher education matters around the globe. Reflecting on his academic career Enarson said the academic enterprise is now overloaded with inertia and tradition. An example was the 7,500 courses in the Ohio State catalog. Few persons seem to worry much today about curriculum issues, but most worry about the “so-called amateur sports of a university”. There has also been a loss of community on campuses; skeptics might say that universities today are just a loose assortment of colleges and pressure groups and some mutual interests. Its conventional wisdom that the president ought to be a leader, but the whole enterprise of a university is a conspiracy to defeat any president who tries. The bottom line of the academic enterprise is the hope that “students going to American universities will be imbued with some of the values of the university. That is, with skepticism, with contempt for arbitrary action, with an eve-deepening curiosity, with a willingness to look at both sides of a question and to reconsider”. Enarson closes his reflections with great praise for his wife, Audrey, his helpmate, soul mate, and best friend for 60 years. [See the separate abstract of her own oral interview dated May 6, 2002.]
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1811/482
Other Identifiers: SPEC.RG.3.J
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