Reflections on the University of California: From the Free Speech Movement to the Global University

Reflections on the University of California: From the Free Speech Movement to the Global University

Reflections on the University of California: From the Free Speech Movement to the Global University

Reflections on the University of California: From the Free Speech Movement to the Global University

Synopsis

These invaluable essays offer an insider's perspective on three decades at a major American university during a time of political turmoil. Neil J. Smelser, who spent thirty-six years as a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, sheds new light on a full range of the issues that dominated virtually all institutions of higher learning during the second half of the twentieth century. Smelser considers student activism--in particular the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley--political surprises, affirmative action, multiculturalism and the culture wars, and much more. As one of the leading sociologists of his generation, Smelser is uniquely qualified to convey and analyze the complexities of administrating a first-rate and very large university as it encounters a highly politicized environment.

Excerpt

Unlike most academics at major research universities in the United States, I spent most of my professional career at one institution. I joined the Berkeley faculty as an assistant professor of sociology in Fall 1958 at the age of twenty-eight, just after receiving my PhD from Harvard. I remained at Berkeley for thirty-six years, retiring formally in 1994 at the age of sixty-four, at the time of the third VERIP—the incentive scheme put forward by the University of California in the early 1990s to induce high-salaried senior faculty to retire early. At that time, however, I assumed another position, director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, where I served until 2001. I then returned to Berkeley; I have taught a course almost every year in the School of Public Health, taught at other universities on several occasions, taken on miscellaneous assignments as a Berkeley emeritus, continued my research and writing, and maintained contacts in the university community.

In my eventful years at the University of California, I had occasion to touch many parts of that special elephant, thereby gaining perspectives and knowledge from different points of view. My involvements were the following:

The academic faculty. I not only taught in my department, but in my capacity as University Professor of Sociology (1972–94) I also gave . . .

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