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April 20, 1980 - Image 17

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-04-20
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Page 4-Sunday, April 20, 1980-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily-Su

Robert Honigman' s crusade:
acking selishness a e '
By Steve Hook briefcase is uncluttered. His face appears I really feel like I might change things, and While he believes tha
pale, untanned. His eyes reflect an ongoing it's enormously exciting. inherent in people, H
OBERT HONIGMAN has a press- weariness. "I have fantasies," he adds, "the fan- being encouraged by
ing task: to save the world. But Honigman is not married; he never tasies of a frustrated, obscure person. I certain point the in
ing ask tosav th word, ut onimanis nt mrrid; e nver would hope that my book would make society and is a producl
According to him, our society is has been. At 41, he has lived alone for most people change the way they think about in- he says. "At a certa
being exploited by forces seemingly of the last two and a half decades, shifting stons h ghe ea tink ant to sa t crti
beyond our control: large institutions, from various universities and professions persuade them (readers) that it's in their against their own self-i
public and private. He is convinced that on his own. esd h

0

at this self-interest is
onigman sees it as
institutions. "At a
stitution exists in
t of society as it is,"
n point, when they
ety they are acting
nterest."

I

I

the leaders of most institutions, con-
sciously or unconsciously, attempt to
manipulate the policies of their
organizations to complement their private
self-interest. He has a handy term to
describe this phenomenon: institutional
self-interest. For the past five years, he
has divided his time between his private
law practice and preparing a book about
the phenomenon, which zeroes in on one
large establishment which he feels can
serve as a microcosm for all. That
establishment is the University of
Michigan.
His efforts to expose institutional self-
interest" seem to wear on him like a bad
marriage. On the most springlike day of
the year so far, a cloudless Saturday af-
ternoon in mid-April, he wears to our in-
terview a dark suitcoat, grey slacks,
freshly polished shoes. His hair is neatly
combed, his tie is tightly in place, his
Steve Hook is a Daily Night Editor

Before becoming an instructor in
business law at Wayne State University
and establishing his private law practice,
he worked as a closing agent and landlord
attorney for a Detroit-based real estate
development firm. Before that, he taught
business law at Michigan State, served for
the National Air Reserve, and was a Per-
sonnel Examiner for the Detroit Civil Ser-
vice Commission. His educational
background includes a Bachelor of
Business Administration degree here at
Michigan, where he entered at the age of
16 and finished a semester early. He
received his law degree at Wayne State
University ("I was extremely upset with U
of M," he says, "I hated the place."), and
worked towards a masters in business at
MSU while instructing there.
He admits that his war against in-
stitutional self-interest is an obsession.
"Sure its obsessive," he says calmly, "I
feel that it is a mammoth project, and I
have to do it as well as I can. But I enjoy it;

best interest to change the way we govern
our universities. I'd love to see change."
Honigman's complaints against large
educational establishments are too many to
list, and he acknowledges this. In fact,
what he really seems to be opposed to is
basic human behavior. "It's human
nature. It's just that we humans-I don't
think we can separate our self-interest
from any decisions we make. There have
been a few people, like Jesus, who can
make a decision that goes against their
self-interest, but the natural end result is
that they end up on the cross." He
describes his reasons for going after ed-
ucational institutions: "The importance of
what I've done is to take the most idealistic
institution in your society, namely your
university, which has enormously high
standards and ideals, and has people who
are far above average in personal
morality and decency. If you find that that
institution is corrupt, then my God, it just
means that that has to be characteristic of
institutions in general."

As a lawyer, it would seem that the
logical avenue for Honigman in his efforts
for reform would be through the courts.
But he dismisses this option. "Legal
avenues are not viable now; I am one lone
voice speaking in the wilderness. I don't
have time to do the legal research, to do
the background work, to appear at the
hearings ... I would much rather see the
climate of opinions change to where people
arp receptive to these ideas, and then a
lawsuit might be the last step, but not the
first step. People aren't going to accept
wholesale changes in their institutions un-
til a non-legal argument has persuaded
them.
"I have to admit a tremendous amount
of anger within me, because the situation
today is far worse than it was when I was
going to college here. A tremendous swin-
dle is being pulled on everybody, and God
the hypocrisy involved. It just drips, and it
is infecting every phase of our national
life."

Excerpts from Honigman's book in progress

(The following is a condensed
version of Robert Honigman's 115-
page study on the University of
Michigan, "A Case History of In-
stitutional Self-Interest. " The selec-
ted passages are meant to illustrate
Honigman's primary themes; much
of his findings and supporting in-
formation has been excluded due to
spacial limitations. The entire report
can be found in the library of the
Student Publications during working
hours).
F OR THE past two and a half years,
I've been studying the University
of Michigan at Ann Arbor for the pur-
pose of writing a book on the University
as a human environment for its stu-
dents.
The problems of students at the
University of Michigan are essentially
similar to those of students at most
other American colleges and univer-
sities. On a deeper level, it may be said
that student problems arise because of
the way large bureaucratic
organizations function, for students ap-
pear to be victims of the same kind of
institutional and bureaucratic malaise
that affects so many of our large in-
stitutions, including government.
The problem of institutional
malaise-or as I call it, institutional
self-interest or corruption-arises from
the normal self-interest of those who
run institutions..
... In the thousands of judgmental
decisions made annually in large,
organizations (including the refusal to

self-interest begins to accumulate into
policies and procedures (red tape) and
over decades even the most idealistic
institution is gradually reshaped to
reflect the personal values and goals of
its decision makers.
Accompanying this evolution are
elaborate rationalizationsandcliches
or platitudes to plaster over the self-
interest of institutional personnel and
conceal them from the conscious
thoughts of institutional personnel and
public view ... The institution at this
stage is extremely concernedto project
to its own personnel and to the public an
image reminiscent of the face of Dorian
Gray, that is, a noble and handsome
appearance in order to conceal the
venality and self-interest of in-
stitutional personnel beneath. ,
... In the case of the University of
Michigan (and most other American
colleges and universities) my in-
vestigation discloses that the university
is being run primarily for the benefit of
its senior faculty and administrative of-
ficers. All the symptoms of institutional
corruption are present in the university
environment ...
"Frankness should be an integral
part of our education system. Edu-
cation, supposedly the most
idealistic and unselfish of all
professions, should surely be wed-
ded to a fearless search for the
truth.'
!Thiis being the case it is amazing
and disappointing to find how large
a role selfishness plays in tire
motivation of many people, who are

influential in our educational in-
stitutions.''
Clarence Cook Little
Former University
President (1925-29)
The Awakening College,
1930
Our means of investigating the
University of Michigan is to look for
coincidences between the self-interest
of institutional personnel and the public
goals and policies of the institution.
THE IMPORTANCE OF
GRADUATE STUDENTS
T he personal values of faculty mem-
bers in the academic environment
are widely known-they prefer to teach
on the graduate level.
. . . Graduate students are highly
motivated, they help with research,
their classes are smaller. Un-
dergraduates are often less motivated,
basic materials must be drilled over
and over, and teaching them has low
prestige. No one blames faculty mem-
bers for preferring to teach on the
graduate level. But of course, personal
preference should have 'no influence
over institutional policies.
Nevertheless, by coincidence the of-
ficial policies of the University of
Michigan and most other lar, univer-
sities strongly favr6 graduate
education . . . (noing Governor's
Department of Management 1979-80
Executive Budget Funding Model). We
may generalize that for each dollar
spent on Freshmen or .sophomores up
to $2 is spent on Juniors and Seniors,
from $3 to $7 on masters candidates and
from $11 to $22 on Pn.D. candidates.

... Prior to 1976 and for most of its
history the University has had a finan-
cial motive for packing its Ann Arbor
campus with as many undergraduates
as possible in order to support its ex-
panding graduate program.
we ought to be reducing the
number of teaching assistants, that
is the biggest single criticism we get
for our whole program " . . .I get"-
back the absolutely uniform answer.
"We can't do that because, if we do
that, it will hurt our graduate
program because that is what we use
to support our graduate students
when they come in, and that's how
you attract students into those
disciplines. So if you reduce the
teaching assistants, you reduct the
opportunities for graduate students
to come in. "
Robben Fleming
Former University
President
GEO Certification hearing
June 14, 1978
.Similar to the emphasis on
graduate instruction has been the
growth of the research function of
universities and a flight from teaching
which coincides-again with the personal
values and goals of faculty members.
... It is strongly maintained by most
University administrative and faculty
personnel that research enhances the
teaching function of the university by
continuously deepening and expanding
course materials .. Thus,
Administration to S

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