Address by Governor Ronald Reagan

Installation of President Robert Hill, Chico State College

 

May 20, 1967

 

Chancellor Dumke, thank you.  President Hill, my distinguished colleagues up here on the top shelf, I am glad that I am backed here today by two of your very able representatives in Sacramento, Senator Marler and Assemblyman Johnson.  I feel greatly honored to be present at the investiture of a new president of Chico State College.  I have been on a number of campuses lately in effigy; it is nice to be here in the flesh.  This is not my first visit to Chico but it is to the State College campus.  As a matter of fact, I remember during the campaign I saw a great deal of Chico – running around town trying to find where they had taken my rented car that had been towed away.

 

I was amused also in some of the remarks made here to discover how much we have in common.  When the Chancellor spoke of the peaks and the valleys I was wondering just how many of the audience had me in the valley at the moment and whether anyone had me at a peak.  I was also interested to note that the term “honeymoon” had been used, and I didn’t realize that the president and I had so much in common.  If his honeymoon has been like mine, I am sure both of us have a suspicion that romance is dead in California.  It is interesting also to note that the last swearing-in that I participated took place at midnight, and now I have moved up to mid-day in the case of the president of the college; evidently outgoing presidents don’t appoint judges.

 

But I am sure that the president and I have more than this in common.  You know, I have learned that there is a little bit of protocol in my office.  I didn’t know that this was true, but it seems that everyone who enters my office must enter reciting a certain phrase – “we have a problem.”  And I discover that the “we” is all inclusive; I am in that “we,” and involved in the problem.  One day when things looked pretty dark up there, very dark as a matter of fact, some one of the staff said to me “well cheer up, things could be worse” and so I cheered up and sure enough they got worse.

 

But you know, I think we do have more in common than just misery.  Both of us have a responsibility for a great educational system and the part it plays in our State of California.  The people of this state have made it abundantly clear that they are aware of the importance of education.  As a matter of fact, in just these last few years from the beginning of this decade, while our State budget for general fund spending has doubled, the budget for our state college system has tripled.

 

The original purpose of public educational systems was to provide an education for those who were unable to finance one in the existing independent colleges and universities.  California has gone farther.  We have a three-phase program – three sections to our higher educational system.

 

A junior college system carries out the original concept of providing education for all.  The University accepts the responsibility for extended graduate training and research, and a truly great college system, of which this beautiful campus is a part, offers a premium type education to exceptionally qualified undergraduates.  Now, both the University and Colleges emphasize individual scholastic ability rather than lack of ability to pay.  I doubt that anyone would ever suggest that we return, in all three phases of this system, to the original concept of simply basing qualifications for the University on inability to provide an education for one’s self.  At the same time I doubt if anyone should say that we would stand still and make no effort to chart new paths.

 

Now, while it would be extravagant and foolish to let the colleges and universities duplicate each other’s functions (for the colleges for example to usurp the functions of the university system), I see no reason why, when a State College does become in fact a university, that the State College should be denied the right to take the title of university instead of college.

 

Reference was made to an area to which Glenn Dumke and I are in great agreement.  The colleges are bound down by a budget system which will give the new president no flexibility whatsoever in the use of funds provided for the running of his school – a line-item budget in which every dollar itemized must be spent for that item with no opportunity to change courses in the middle of the year, or if an emergency arises, or to use the dollars more advantageously if one can see a way to do that.  While it would require legislation, I, as the Governor, will support every effort to provide the State Colleges with a program-type budget so that this flexibility will be there, so that those entrusted with administering the college are able to use their judgment, within, of course, those reasonable limits imposed by the Trustees.  This is especially important when the funds fall short and we are unable to do all that we would like to do, which I think is all the time.

 

The problem of financing this educational program grows greater, and it grows greater nationwide.  A number of foundations have announced studies into the future financing of higher education; without exception those studies have indicated that our traditional method of financing through general tax funds is now, or soon will be, inadequate if the quality of education is to be maintained.  In California our situation is already at the emergency red point.  We have a fiscal crisis brought on by years of faulty tailoring.  Someone left a hole in the pocket.  Now our citizens are paying the highest tax rate of any people anywhere in the United States, and they are going to be forced to accept an even additional burden in the coming year because of this faulty tailoring.  The alternative of reducing the quality of education is unthinkable.  It leaves us with no other choice but to sew up the hole in the pocket and to explore every possibility for other sources of revenue.

 

It was in this frame of reference that a suggestion was made to ask those receiving education to share at least in a portion of its cost; and let me point out that any such move, I have always insisted, must be accompanied by a plan that insures that no qualified student should be denied an education because of his inability to pay his share.  I have asked the educational community to join in exploring a variety of methods to implement this, ranging from scholarships to “learn now – pay later” scheme or a combination of both or whatever we come up with; and none of this was new with us.  Instead our own Coordinating Council for Higher Education has studied this problem and my predecessor made it known that he held the belief that the imposition of such a sharing of the cost was inevitable.  It just happened to be my luck that “inevitable,” like the present summer weather, came a little early.

 

But aside from the fiscal need, I would like to touch on this subject from the philosophical view point.  Cries have been raised that we always have had free education in California.  Well I challenge that.  Our students have always paid a portion of their education through fees, student fees.  What has been suggested is not so much a drastic departure as an increase in what has already been going on.

 

To those who base their argument on the 99-year tradition of “free education,” may I say that perhaps we have a greater tradition, on of self-reliance, of personal strength and integrity, and the tradition that those who can pay more, do so, to make it possible for those less fortunate to share in our bounty.  And I think it is time to switch to that greater tradition.

 

Today there is great concern among me generation that an era of permissiveness has resulted in unrest among our young people.  But just to keep things in balance there is a wide-spread feeling among our young people that no one over 30 understands them.  I would like to point out that understanding is a two-way street.  I would like to think that for our young people intellectual curiosity alone would prompt the students to do a little research in that older generation.  After all there is one attractive thing we have to look at; we are the only ones in this confrontation who have been both ages.

 

Now it might be reassuring to the young to know as they start to catch up with us, that growing old isn’t bad when you consider the alternative.  You know, I have no apology to make for our generation.  Mistakes we’ve made to be sure.  We haven’t achieved all that would like to have achieved.  But still we are a generation that has lived through three world wars and a cataclysmic depression that shook the very foundation of our nation.  I believe basically our generation has remained true to our belief in simple justice.  We have remained compassionate to those less fortunate.  We have stood firm in our duties to those who would come after us.  At the same time, let me say, on behalf of you’re here in this younger generation, I think all of us are frank to admit you have more knowledge than we had at your age, are far better informed, and you are far more aware of the winds that are swirling about and bringing changes in this world of ours.  So I think with good will on both sides there are plenty of areas where we can get together.

 

There are those who employ academic freedom as justification for a license to go their way without interference, and under this high-sounding term the idea has been advanced that students and faculty should determine all educational policy without restraint.  It is an interesting note that this is advanced as something new, as progress toward the future.  In truth it is a return to something we knew in medieval times.  Back in the 11th century the University of Bologna had given so much authority in this way to students that they could punish professors for being tardy, for not teaching as the students decreed they should teach.  The students had the right to mark off the pages of the text books and to insist that the professors keep up and teach day by day as they had marked off the book.  They even granted vacations, set pay scales, and hired and fired.

 

Now the teachers have understandably interpreted academic freedom to be their right to teach without political interference.  In a sense of using education to promote partisan political viewpoints there can be no quarrel with this.  Contrary to some of the charges that have been leveled in a kind of emotional atmosphere in the last few months, I want to assure you that my administration will resist any attempt to inject policies into our higher educational system and indeed we will work to remove any customs that have been inherited from the past which have allowed a political foot in the door in this partisan sense in higher education.

 

But I think there is a third element in academic freedom.  In addition to the rights of the students to learn, and the teachers to teach, there is the right of society to insist the educational system it supports will further the goals and the aspirations and the moral principles and precepts of that society.  There is no question that the publicity-supported colleges and universities contributed to the emerging greatness not only of California but also of our nation, and that is good; but we have a right to insure that they do not, in some far-out interpretation of “freedom,” weaken the social structure essential to the nation’s strength and to the perpetuation of these very educational institutions.

 

In short, our great educational institutions exist, not for the teacher or for the student alone, but for all of society.

 

We have in California a piece of legislation born of the people’s right to know, and I would like to quote to you the preamble because it is so much more than just an introduction to a piece of legislation.  It says “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them.  The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servant the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.  The people insist on remaining informed so they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”

 

In contrast to the permissiveness I have mentioned and which concerns so many of us today, I would like to point out a statement made by the late Winston Churchill.  He said “When great forces are on the move in the world we learn we are spirits, not animals.”  There is something going on in time and space and beyond time and space which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.  It is adherence to this sense of duty that has made us of another generation provide these educational institutions.  And we have a right to hope that the young people taking advantage of them will pick up, when their time comes, that sense of duty and perpetuate them, perpetuate them in a spirit of learning and research and not in furthering propaganda or partisan viewpoints.

 

Reference was made earlier to the television broadcast I participated in the other night.  I don’t know how many of you saw it; it was shocking, at least to one of us on that program, to hear these educated young people from universities all over the world in their diatribes against this country and the great outburst of anti-Americanism.  My first reaction was they had been brainwashed.  Then my second reaction was we had failed somehow to sell our image; but I think perhaps if either of those views is true, there is another (that could be of more concern to us) – that perhaps we ourselves in recent years have blurred our image.

 

We tried to buy love in the world when we should have been earning respect.  We have been so obsessed with mass movements, we have forgotten the sanctity of the individual, and have forgotten that this country unlike almost every country in the world was founded on the belief – not the common man – but founded on the belief that each one of us is an individual.

 

They talk common man.  Yes we are common men, common in our determination to provide justice, a common viewpoint with regard to compassion for our fellow men, our willingness to lend a helping hand, and a common determination in the preservation of individual freedom, and that leads us to the fact that actually we are uncommon people.

 

We, or those who came here in our families ahead of us, had only in common a great desire for individual freedom and the courage to go abroad in the world seeking it.  When we are sick we want an uncommon doctor, when we are at war we want uncommon generals and admirals, when we pick a college president we want an uncommon educator and administrator for that job.

 

I think what I would say, if I could to the young people present, that all we ask of you is to weigh carefully all of the ideas that are being advanced for your consideration and your well being.  Weigh them and if at any time they offer something that seems to spell out some kind of freedom from disaster, some freedom or security, but in return you must give up some of your right to choose as an individual then you make your mind up that the price is too high.  We are a compassionate people.  I believe we should keep forever our tradition of building a floor beneath which no human being should live in degredation [sic].  But I think that if you are true to the heritage we are trying to pass on to you, you will insist at all times that you have a sacred right to fly as high and as far as your own strength and ability will take you, and that is the national purpose of this country, and that national purpose should be upheld at all times by the educational institutions of this country.

 

Again my congratulations to and to your new president.  My thanks for being here.