Interview of Arthur E. Adams by Jean Elizabeth Girves
Creators:Adams, Arthur E.
Contributors:Girves, Jean Elizabeth, 1948-
Subjects (LCSH):Adams, Arthur E. -- Interviews
Ohio State University. Dept. of Black Studies -- History
Ohio State University. Dept. of Slavic Languages and Literatures -- History
Ohio State University. Office of Continuing Education -- History
Ohio State University -- History -- Sources
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Ohio State University Archives
Series/Report no.:Ohio State University. University Archives Oral History Program. Ohio State University Oral History Project
Arthur Adams, Professor of Russian and East European History, and Dean of the College of Humanities, was inspired by his four years of military service during World War II to do “something important” with his life, and he concluded that the growing impact of Russia in world affairs would justify what became a lifetime study of Russian history. Before joining the faculty of Ohio State as Professor of Russian History and Dean, he had earlier been Professor of Russian History for nineteen years at Michigan State University. His successful advocacy, however, of an African-American candidate for President of Michigan State, Dr. Wharton, caused hard feelings with certain colleagues, and he was anxious to leave Michigan State. Adams arrived at Ohio State in 1970 at a difficult moment for the university. The widespread student protests of the Vietnam War had several months earlier led to the brief closing of the university, and simultaneously, black students, inspired by the activist atmosphere of the times, organized to demand various concessions and changes, including a new Black Studies Department. Adams was sympathetic, indeed enthusiastic, for the creation of such a Department; he had, after all, commanded black troops in World War II. But he was “appalled” by the performance of Charles Ross as Head of the new Black Studies Division (although initially Adams had supported his appointment). Ross had few scholarly credentials, and, according to Adams, seemed to have little understanding that the proper role of a university, especially a land grant one, was to further service, teaching, and research. Among other things Ross hired “a man with no qualifications” to teach “black education.” Adams believed that Ross displayed “a contempt for learning, [and] a contempt for discipline and established organizations.” After one contentious year Ross was dismissed and replaced by Dr. William “Nick” Nelson, a well qualified scholar. Various faculty, including Woody Hayes, and blacks from the community, offered considerable support to Adams in this difficult confrontation with Charles Ross. The controversial “Speaker’s Rule,” implemented earlier by President Howard Bevis, which required official approval of the Board of Trustees before any outside speaker could be invited to Ohio State, was essentially ignored by Dean Adams and the College of Humanities. Adams believed such a restrictive rule contravened the essential purpose of a university as “a place where minds meet in search of the truth, where anybody had a right to speak, short of trying to organize immediate violent revolution.” Such distractions aside Adams said that his primary goal as Dean “was to maintain and improve the work of the College in everything that it did.” This meant hiring better professors, getting better salaries, enlarging libraries, and building decent work facilities. He took an active role in planning the design of the new University Hall. Although he did not play a central role, Adams supported replacing the Faculty Council with the University Senate. This change led to increased influence of both faculty and students in the governance of the university. In 1977 Adams resigned as Dean of the College of Humanities and became the Associate Provost in Academic Affairs. Here he had responsibility for the Continuing Education and Evening programs, heretofore separate areas that he combined into a single unit. He quickly discovered that Continuing Education had been a “mess,” since some of its credit courses “weren’t worthy of a university campus,” and noncredit continuing education needed “cleaning up.” The Evening Program, the only place where working adults could reasonably pursue a degree, had few courses, and almost none taught by regular faculty. Departments were persuaded to encourage even their full professors to teach occasional evening courses, and so both core sequences and advanced courses became available at night. For the first time it was possible to earn a degree completely at night. Weekend courses were also increased and diversified. Enrollments swelled in both areas. Adams felt that because of these changes Ohio State had become much better equipped to serve the needs of a large urban community. For a time Dean Jules Lapidus of the Graduate School refused to sanction graduate-level credit courses taught at night, but ultimately this obstacle was overcome. Another major innovation of Adams’ was establishing a one-stop registration office in Sullivant Hall. Registration forms were simplified down from eight pages to one double-sided page. None of these major changes in Evening and Continuing Education programs came easily, and ultimately they required changes in the Registrar’s Office, the Bursar’s Office, and other administrative offices. Among the faculty who significantly aided Adams were Elaine Hairston, Martha Garland, Joe Oshins, Tony Basil, and Provost Ann Reynolds. The creation of the Research Park on West Campus was an important initiative under President Edward Jennings, and Adams was intimately involved. Various other major universities, such as North Carolina and Princeton, had already created such facilities. One early success was obtaining for Ohio State one of the prototypes of the first nuclear magnetic resonance systems (MRI), for which a separate building had to be constructed that could control dangerous radioactive emissions. Adams also played a major role in creating a new Science Technical Center, the first Small Business Center at OSU, Women’s Studies, the Computer Center, and the Welding Center. The Welding Center, headed by Karl Graff, Chairman of Welding Engineering, was an especially important creation. It is now one of the three or four best in the world. How did Adams accomplish so much? “You push and push. You create resentment. But as long as you’re winning you don’t care.” In 1982 Adams left Continuing Education and worked full-time on the Research Park that was evolving slowly. Potential tenants were turned down whose needs did not coincide with those of the university. There were many obstacles. Ohio State was, after all, a state institution whose freedom of action was limited by various laws. Private schools, for example, could sign commercial agreements with outside companies to market products developed in part on research done at their institutions, and “pocket big profits.” State institutions could not. Adams negotiated with several different Colleges at OSU to solicit clients for the Research Park. He singles out as a particular obstacle “the Dean of the Graduate School [who] was more trouble than he was worth.” According to Adams, Dean Jules Lapidus saw himself as “the high protector” who needed to keep the university “pure,” i.e. limiting the influence of the business and commercial world. On one occasion Adams met at the Research Foundation with Dean Lapidus, Dean Donald Glower of the College of Engineering, and others. Glower, along with Adams, opposed the “Lapidus Doctrine” of academic purity, and Glower, effective and outspoken, said the College of Engineering “would work with anyone with money or research interests that fitted the interests of the College.” Work on the Research Park continues to this day, but “in my judgment we don’t have one yet.” The major disappointment of Adams as an administrator came from what he saw as an inadequate emphasis on the Liberal Arts at Ohio State. A liberal education, he strongly believed, ought to provide an understanding of the fundamental values that will help students to be effective in living as well as making money. But the professional schools are here to make medical students into doctors, agricultural students to be farmers, engineers to be engineers, etc., i.e. to train them to go out and make a living. But so many of these professional students never learn how to read with understanding or to write effectively. Liberal arts people must defend the idea that universities are here to educate as well as to train. “When we become interested only in our fields of specialization, then we’re betraying a huge responsibility.” Looking back on his long career at Ohio State, Adams offered some brief comparisons of Presidents Fawcett, Enarson, and Jennings. Fawcett was “a very great man” whom I “admired immensely.” Enarson was pleasant and friendly, and unified the university after the turmoil springing from the Vietnam protests. Jennings made “sound and bold decisions” who worked most effectively with the governor and the legislature. Finally Ohio State has succeeded in raising quality in various different areas. Examples would include hiring top-level faculty, diversifying sources of financial support, reducing expensive Remedial programs. It can be said “We’re running a university now.”
Charles Ross: First Director of the Black Studies Division (pp. 6-11, 38) -- Dr. William Nelson: replaced Charles Ross after one year as Director of Black Studies (p. 11) -- Woody Hayes: football coach (p. 11) -- Luvern Cunningham: Dean of the College of Education (p. 9) -- Edward “Ned” Moulton: Vice President for Executive Affairs (p. 7) -- Edward Jennings: President of OSU (pp. 25, 28, 38) -- Harold Enarson: President of OSU (p. 38) -- Novice Fawcett: President of OSU (p. 38) -- Jules Lapidus: Dean of the Graduate School (pp. 15, 20, 22, 30-31) -- Martha Garland, Vice Provost (pp. 23, 25, 34, 43) -- Tony Basil: mathematician and administrator (p. 23) -- Ann Reynolds: Provost (p. 24) -- Donald Glower: Dean of the College of Engineering (p. 31) -- Karl Graff: Chairman of Department of Welding Engineering (pp. 36-37)
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