Clark Kerr's University of California: Leadership, Diversity, and Planning in Higher Education
by Cristina Gonzalez
Transaction Publishers 2011
The University of California's Clark Kerr cast a long shadow across post-World War II higher education. As architect of California's 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, he made clear the interlocking missions of the state's community colleges, comprehensive universities, and research university tier. As a laser-sharp observer of American trends, he defined the memorable term "multiversity" to characterize how American research universities were evolving toward an increasingly corporate structure dependent on both federal and private research dollars. Reading the lectures in his 1963 The Uses of the University (Kerr 1963) today is to be astonished once again by the clarity with which he saw what the future would bring. As he revisited his forecasts in four subsequent editions, he continued to be one of America's best observers of higher education.
Thus, it is a surprise to read in Cristina Gonzalez's richly layered new book that "no comprehensive biographical study or systematic analysis of [Kerr's] work has been published to date" (p. 1). Clark Kerr's University of California is an important step in remedying this lacuna. Gonzalez is particularly interested in the light that Kerr's career and thinking sheds on contemporary leadership and succession planning in higher education. As a former dean of graduate studies at University of California, Davis and in a continuing role as professor of Spanish and education, she has led multiethnic seminars that have probed the experiences of Kerr and his successors in the University of California (UC) presidency. From this perspective, she explores in depth one of the sea changes that Kerr missed in his earliest forecasts: the affirmative movement to diversify higher education at all levels through greater participation of women and minorities not solely as students, but also as university leaders in both faculty and administration.
Gonzalez builds her interlocking analysis of access for minorities and women and the evolution of university leadership around the ancient metaphor of the fox ("knows many things") and the hedgehog ("knows one big thing"). As her extensive research into the literature of both university and corporate leadership demonstrates, the metaphor has been a popular way of contrasting the transactional strategist with the transformative visionary. She focuses on post- World War II leadership at UC, analyzing Kerr (UC president from 1958 to 1967) as the model hedgehog and David Gardner (UC president from 1983 to 1992) as the model fox, making use of the insightful memoirs that each has written about his presidency.
To understand Kerr's vision of higher education as it evolved, Gonzalez analyzes the social thinkers from whom he distilled the ideas that would later make up The Uses of the University. From that starting point, she tracks how Kerr's idea of the multiversity--she cites his characterization of it as the "the city of infinite variety" (p. 69)--has been confirmed by the increasing dependence of the federal government and industry on universities to serve the nation's research and development needs. The dilemma that this has created for keeping public higher education's promise open to underrepresented and low-income students is at the heart of Gonzalez's analysis.
To set the stage for understanding this dilemma and UC's efforts to resolve it, Gonzalez offers a brief look at the establishment of higher education in the Americas. She contrasts Spain's short-lived period of colonial schools for indigenous and mixed-ethnicity students with North American development of private higher education in the English, then German, tradition. She then offers a brief history of UC leading up to the post-World War II period, which brings her to the Clark Kerr presidency. …