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May 24, 1959 - Image 16

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1959-05-24
Note:
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.,a

Self-Portrait

of The

enior...

...and The Faculty

WHO IS the University senior? What is
he like? What has he gained from
four years of college experience? What
are his hopes and aspirations for the fu-
ture?
In an attempt to discover this,, The
Daily sent 22 reporters out who asked
165 seniors these questions: "What have
you gained from four years at Michigan"
and "What are your hopes and aspira-
tions for the future?"
The Daily makes no claims for any de-
gree of "scientific" accuracy. Reporters
used different techniques in their inter-
viewing and the sample was not random,
or at least part of it was not.
Some reporters when interviewing came
prepared with a total set of questions,
others let the interviewee free associate,
and still others attempted to probe the
interviewees to get below mere superficial
responses.
ABOUT TWO-THIRDS of the sample
was drawn somewhat at random. Re-
porters were asked to find seniors, es-
pecially those who were not their friends,
and make appointments for interviews.
The remaining third of the sample was
determined by selecting every tenth sen-
ior in the student directory through the
letter 'G'.
The data was then analyzed and com-
piled by The Daily Senior editors.
There is one other factor which should
be kept in mind. Since students seldom
were asked specific questions, responses
are in general uncoached. A student who
complains about "spoon-feeding," or "un-
satisfactory counseling," is complaining
from some degree of strong feeling. He
has not been asked, "Is school hard
enough?" or "Is counseling adequate?"
These responses were volunteered.
DESPITE THE LACK of science that
went into this study, we suspect that a

Graduating Students Reflect
On Their College Education,
Look Toward Future Years

'Seniors Conipare Favorably
With Previous Years' Classes'

more careful study, while perhaps leading
to more detailed analysis, would not lead
to significantly different results. In the
first- place, the trends are in many cases
far too pointed to be accidental. Appar-
ently a good many students felt the need
to say specific things, either because
they are things one is supposed to say,
or because they really felt them. In the
second place, although there seem to be
certain trends, the answers do cover a
great deal of ground and represent a wide
variety of opinion. A sample which in-
cludes one student who claims the Uni-
versity is trying to ram Republicanism
down the students' throats to the girl
who reported "I don't think very deeply,
I got married last year," and many di-
verse views might actually be a good
sample.
FROM THE information compiled, sev-
eral generalizations can safely be,
made.
First, students no matter what their
school placed great emphasis on increased
social adjustment. The phrases, "learn
how to live with people," "how to get
along with others," "how to understand
others" appeared again and again.
Closely related to this were a reported
increase in tolerance and something
loosely called "broadening." The story
of the student from the small town who

was exposed to many newv and different
viewpoints and backgrounds and learned
to understand them was a common one.
And no matter where they were from,
students were exposed to new possibilities
of behavior and new attitudes. While
this did not prompt themn to change their
own, it did make them more aware of
the world.
DESPITE THE great concern for social
adjustment, the students interviewed
appear to be highly self-centered. Men-
tion of the desire to do things for others,
participation in community, political or
church activities was conspicuous by its
absence. Even the choice of professions
which have a tradition of servie such as
medicine, social work, and teaching was
made because "I'm interested in making
psychological studies," "it is a secure pro-
fession," or something most similar. With
the exception of a missionary and one
social worker there were remarkably
few students who wanted to give some-
thing.
Students did report an increased inter-
est in cultural activities, such as fine arts
and music.
Reports of classroom experiences and
stimulation from teachers were also no-
ticeable by their absence. It would seem
that whatever. the student receives from
the University, he receives far more from
living in a large active cosmopolitan com-
munity, than he does from either the cur-
riculum or the efforts of the individual
teachers.
The following is a specific breakdown
of the responses of several undergraduate
segments of the campus.
Literary College Senior Man
CHIEF GAINS of the literary college
student from the University seem to
be a broader, more intellectual outlook--
with a goodly number of exceptions. Cul-
tural appreciation of fields such as mu-
sic and art was also stressed-
The broader outlook was expressed in
a wide variety of ways, often coupled
with a statement that the student was
more interested in people and better able
to get along with them. While some felt
the University was too big, the size may
have helped others find increased oppor-
tunities to meet people. The broader out-
look statement was usually not expanded
upon, although it was related in some
cases to fraternity living and in others to
dorm living. Occasionally an apartment
dweller commented he would have en-
joyed greater contact with other students.
Broader outlook manifested itself also
in a concern with (and in some cases an
understanding of) world problems, poli-
tically speaking, and with "the problems
of life." Expressions all seeming to show
the same tendency, varied widely-a few
commented on being able to understand
their fellow-manl, others mentioned in-
creased knowledge of one's self. Intellec-
tual interests also seem to fit in here.
Students mentioned they were now "less
sure of things," equating (or relating)
this to being more intellectual.
EXTRA-CURRICULAR activities appar-
ently played a small part in develop-
ment-a few mentioned them as being
good. On the other hand one student said
they showed that he should spend his
time studying. However, very few even
mentioned them at all.
Fraternities were most often mentioned
as a source of social development. Us-
ing that term in a broad sense-students
learned to get along with and develop an
interest in other people; others spoke in
broad terms of "social maturity," per-
haps meaning social graces and still oth-
ers mentioned picking up drinking and
sex. Very few laid great stress on the fra-
ternity as the agent of the process; how-

"HE UNIVERSITY Senior 1959" may
be a many-sided, paradoxical crea-
ture, but faculty members generally indi-
cated that they are pleased with those
who are about to leave their classrooms
for th'e last time.
Those departing for the 'outside world'
compare favorably with their counter-
parts of previous years, are serious-
minded and conscientious. But the
changes since the freshman year have not
all been for the best said the comparative
handful of teachers who replied to The
Daily's letter requesting faculty observa-
tions about the senior students who've
been exposed to them at least once during
the past four years.
The senior "stacks up pretty well"
against his predecessors, one faculty
member said in generally summing up
the attitudes expressed by his colleagues
who reflected about the past few years.
"In fact, when I look back at my own
generation and my own senior year, I
feel tlhat many of my contemporaries
would have found the scholastic competi-
tion much stiffer if they had to compete
with today's seniors," mused a member
of the history department.
TWO ENGINEERING school professors,
however, pointed to the World War II
"veteran bulge" of the late 1940's as a
high point in the caliber of the university
senior.
"Perhaps we had the greatest number
of students doing considerably more than
the requirements, anxious to learn all
they can, right after World War II when
the average age was somewhat higher and
a greater number had some definite ob-
jective, than is the case today," wrote a
member of the engineering faculty.
Amplifying the comparison, an an-
thropology professor said, "in general,
the present seniors are quite serious, per-
haps more so than twenty years ago. Stu-
dents today are better prepared for col-
lege than they were before World War II.
"The influx of veterans and older men
after the war changed the complexion of
the University community greatly, and
the result has been a greater degree of
seriousness and scholarship. The former
campus 'hurrah' and what is referred to
as 'spirit' has been lessened, and generally
there is much less social emphasis than
before the war. I would say that the stu-
dent today is in no way more intelligent,
but that the better preparation and the
higher entrance standards of the Uni-
versity make for a more intellectual insti-
tution than maybe 20 years ago."
ANOTHER faculty member in discussing
the current lbvel of seriousness wrote
"In the classroom, -the present senior is
every bit as serious as his predecessors.

Intellectual Curiosity

ever, most said that they had benefited
socially in the house, but felt theywould
have picked up about the same things
outside. A few students attacked fraterni-
ties as lacking academic environment,
and no one mentioned a fraternity as
academically helpful; one said fraterni-
ties were wholly separate society from the
rest of the University.
Intellectual attainments occasionally
were spoken of in terms purely of the
knowledge gained here in itself-a few
mentioned the vocational training, chiefly
in science, while a few history majors
mentioned their knowledge of that field
as especially beneficial. One or two stu-
dents mentioned fields outside their ma-
jor-completely unrelated-as their chief
academic gains.
MORE GENERALLY, students spoke of
being merely "more intellectual,"
learning to think critically, to examine
all sides of a question. This was men-
tioned in a negative light-two students
mentioned the University as a "breeding-
ground of confusion."
The traditional idea that a university
fosters idealism was brought up. More
students mentioned the University was -
too impractical and gave a distorted pic-
ture of life than those who said the Uni-
versity fosters idealism. One student said
he had lost his idealism, another that it
had become, a more knowing idealism.
Very few mentioned specific changes in
values. Most of those cited religion for
example, and said they had retained their
faith after careful examination, one in-
dicated he had suspended all religious
problems while in college, one said he
had lost'his religion, altogether.
A NUMBER of students indicated that
self-knowledge and a sense of respon-
sibility had come from attending the Uni-
versity. This may also be involved in
maturation, but a sizeable portion men-
tioned it specifically, without elaboration
.::-perhaps merely as a catchall to cover
expressions they didn't think they could
phrase.
One or two students said they had
gained only a degree at University; oth-
ers, in a different sense entirely, said the
degree was the most important since it
helped them into law school, or a job.
The academic atmosphere was termed
weak by two students and one criticized
the University for trying to force Repub-
licanism down everyone's throat.
(Continued on Page 10)

Concerned with the problems of life

He is aware that the intellectual world
is changing rapidly and appears to be
impatient if University courses are- al-
lowed to remain stagnant."
However, a professor of English com-
mented: "A great many seniors appear
to gravitate towards courses which 'they
can handle' rather than courses which
challenge them. In other words, at the
risk of making too gross a generalization,
the really good seniors appear regularly
in the really tough courses in their own
departments, while the run-of-the-mill
fellows mark time filling requirements
in those courses which offer less of a
workout or are taught by teachers who
are less exacting than others."
And still another member of the English
department faculty described seniors as
"sincere and interested students, often
somewhat sleepless and behind in as-
signments, but believing in the value of
literature and having enough maturity
and education to enjoy it pretty fully."
LITERARY COLLEGE faculty members
however questioned students' choice of
courses along other lines.

"People may be job-centered, trying to
pick up a saleable competence," specu-
lated one language teacher.
A member of the mathematics depart-
ment noted that "the past few years have
indicated an apathy to idealistic causes
and much concern with materialistic per-
sonal goals. During this past year there
seems to be a return to idealism, at least,
in a small way."
One of the formerly quoted English
professors said, "If the public has the
conception that a college is an institution
serving it in a practical way, then most
of its progeny carry on the idea. When
they reach the school's hallowed halls
they think that the end result of their
studies ought to be practical, in the sense
that it should 'fit one for particular jobs
and professions.' There is- not enough
evidence here of the adventurous senior,
the man who is open to the attractions
of knowledge in whatever area it may
be. Too many would like to take that
'exotic' or 'esoteric' course, but not enough
really do."
ANOTHER faculty member wrote: "the
men are personable but I don't think
their backgrounds are well - rounded
enough. There is so much to be crammed
in the space of four years, that they
don't bear the marks of liberally educated
individuals - a broad liberal arts and
science background."
Other engineering faculty members
generally indicated satisfaction, one say-
ing that seniors are "seriously trying to
learn for the sake of knowing and using
and a second adding "they are genuinely
interested in obtaining a good educational
background for their chosen professions."
But a third noted "he is apparently
confused about' the value of things he
learns. and does not have the apprecia-
tion (as the senior of 10 or 15 years ago)
did of the beauty and good quality of
things in life."
Discussing the problem in more general
terms, a member of the medical school
faculty said "the basic desire for academic
excellence must begin long before college
entrance, and our society, with its rather
anti-intellectual values, is possibly the
real source of this problem."

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After four years , . a broader outlook

Getting along with others

THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE SUNDAY, MAY 24, 1959

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