"Negotiating the Master Plan"
An excerpt from John Aubrey Douglass, The California Idea and American Higher Education (Stanford University Press, 2000), pp. 265-275

If they don't come up with something, we will do it ourselves . . . we have to move ahead on this Master Plan.
Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown, 1959

As California struggled to find a common vision for its higher education system in the late 1950s, other states were engaged in a similar debate. Commenting on the lack of state coordination within rapidly growing state systems of higher education, James Conant, the former president at Harvard, described his "sense of horror at the disarray [he] found in a number of large and important states." After touring the nation to assess and future of the America's education system, he urged states to "plan more carefully for the development of education beyond the high school." Throughout the nation, lawmakers were concerned with not only expanding access to postsecondary education, but with controlling rising costs and correcting what appeared to be gross inefficiencies in their network of colleges and universities. The popular solution among state policymakers was to centralize governing authority under one board and to establish more stringent regulatory mechanisms for budget allocations and personnel management.

The post-World War II era was a significant period of reorganization in American higher education. Of the approximately seventeen states during the late 1950s and early 1960s that modified their public and private systems to promote coordination and control costs, most looked toward reducing the autonomy of their public higher education institutions -- a general trend that continues today, much to the consternation of educational leaders. As Lyman Glenny observed in 1959, state governments found it imperative to develop formal coordinating mechanisms. "Legislatures, in response to the competition for funds," explained Glenny, "have increasingly turned to superboards or commissions of lay persons with a professional staff for information and recommendations on public higher education. They expect such a board to make the higher educational system more productive, efficient, and economical." As a result, in some states a lay board appointed by the governor and the legislature suddenly had purview over numerous state institutions that had been independent for decades, and in some instances more than a century. Statewide consolidation or unification, notes Hugh Graham in a more recent analysis of trends in higher education that includes North Carolina, "frequently resembled shotgun weddings sponsored by impatient governors and legislators."

With the trend toward greater state control of higher education and the increased Cold War-era scrutiny of universities and colleges and the activities of faculty, historians Richard Hofstadter and Walter Metzger called the apparent erosion in institutional autonomy and attacks on academic freedom as "one of the central issues of our time." Was autonomy, a major feature of American higher education and an ideal cherished by university and college presidents and faculty, to whither under the pressures of ideological shifts, unprecedented enrollment expansion, and budgetary constraints?

Marritt M. Chambers, a professor at Indiana University, voiced his alarm at what he called the "meat cleaver" approach of legislators seeking increased budgetary controls, and new influence on the goals, policies, and programs of institutions: "Higher education is a unique function of the state, not to be confused with road-paving or police work or the custodial care of the mentally or physically handicapped, not to be drawn into a tight fiscal strait-jacket whose key is held by statehouse fiscal clerks . . . . The detailed central fiscal controls regarded as suitable for a chain of supermarkets or filling-stations," he continued, "are not appropriate for a state system of public higher education." Getting the maximum educational value for every tax dollar spent for higher education, concluded Chambers, "is accomplished by allowing competent and civic-minded governing boards to select superior presidents and faculties for their institutions, and then providing them with resources and reasonable freedom in making the most of those resources." In an often-repeated aphorism among university officials, Washington State University President C. Clement French proclaimed before his anxious legislators determined to bring order to the perceived chaos in the state's growing network of public universities and colleges, "You may gain another state department, but you will certainly lose a great state University."

Conscious of the national trend toward centralization of state systems of higher education, and the predilections of powerful political leaders such as State Senator George Miller, Clark Kerr and other in California's education community recognized that the Master Plan negotiations might be their last chance to influence reform. A failure to create a politically palatable plan would almost certainly guarantee significant if not radical reform of the tripartite system. For University of California officials, there was a fear that lawmakers might elevate the programs and role of the state colleges; more worrisome, legislators and Governor Brown might attempt a constitutional amendment that would erode the university's autonomy and provide greater regulatory control by both the legislature and state agencies. State college officials such as San Diego's Malcolm Love imagined another scenario: Kerr might successfully revive the idea of university control of the state colleges, winning the support of the new Democratic leadership in Sacramento who wanted to control the spiraling costs of public higher education. Pressure was building to come to some resolution. An editorial in the Los Angeles Times noted that "The Patchy development of the State Colleges may reflect regional necessities, but it has become clear that the state must have a master plan for higher education, not only for the state colleges, but for the branching University of California."

Kerr later claimed that the path to the Master Plan was not the end result of a clearly constructed strategic plan either by university officials or other members of the higher education community in California. "We were not on the Acropolis looking back on events," weighing theoretical alternatives, Kerr reflected in 1990, "but down in the Agora, the marketplace, making deals under the discipline of time and deadlines." Yet the ultimate approval of the plan by the two boards and lawmakers was clearly the result of Kerr's efforts, and the outcome of a clear if at times risky strategy. At the opening of the negotiation process, it was understood that the stakes were extremely high, for the University of California and the state colleges, and for the people of California.

The Love Plan

A week after the California Legislature passed Dorothy Donahoe's resolution calling for a Master Plan, Kerr and Simpson agreed that the plan be completed by a nine member Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) to the Liaison Committee. The JAC had been established in the early 1950s to help the Liaison Committee on key issues and consisted of state college presidents, university chancellors, and representatives from the junior colleges. Staff for the JAC included Thomas C. Holy for the university and Arthur Brown for the department of education. Kerr and Simpson asked the JAC to immediately negotiate one of the most contested questions facing California public higher education: what was the appropriate function of each segment of the public system? Kerr and Simpson agreed that two other key issues, governance and enrollment expansion, would follow the resolution of segmental functions. But placing the burden of negotiating the Master Plan before on JAC would prove problematic for the university.

In preparing for the first JAC meeting, Dean McHenry suggested a strategy for Kerr and university officials. Kerr had known McHenry since their days in graduate school at Berkeley where they roomed together. McHenry was born in Lompoc, California and received his B.A. from UCLA in 1932. Four years later he had a Ph.D. from Berkeley. McHenry then accepted a faculty position at UCLA in the department of political science. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to UCLA and between 1947 and 1950 served as the dean of the social sciences. McHenry scholarly passion around California politics and the workings of state and local government -- a passion that he then converted into an attempt at a political career. He was an active member of the California Democratic Council, and ran unsuccessfully for the State Assembly in the early 1950s. When Kerr became president in 1958, he asked his politically astute and good friend to become an "academic assistant." McHenry accepted, while still retaining his faculty position at UCLA.

McHenry became Kerr's primary strategist and confidant in the difficult days that lay ahead. He told Kerr that the university needed to assess those "areas most vital . . . to the university system, the loss of which would be disastrous, and the sharing of which would lead to the depletion of quality and/or the slow starvation of the portion of functions left with UC." At all costs, argued McHenry, the university must prevent the state colleges from being called universities, and never relinquish doctoral degrees to the state college system -- although the university might yield the Ed.D. and honorary degrees, he explained). He was also adamant, as Sproul was, that the university obstruct any attempt to enlarge the state colleges' research function. Any change in name or new degrees, noted McHenry, should require legislative action to amend the Education Code or, possibly, the state constitution. Among legislators, he told Kerr, "we must build up such strength that they will fear to propose lest they fail." To do so, the university must "tell them frankly what our vital interests are." In short, he claimed, if a joint agreement fails, "we will fight them in the first house, second house, the governor's office, etc. If they get a bill through we hold it up in referendum." McHenry hoped that the university might "score regular six-to-three victories," in JAC meetings.

The state college presidents had other ideas. They had already circulated their three-point plan for higher education in Sacramento. Now they brought it to the negotiation table with some interesting twists. At the next meeting of the JAC in late March, Malcolm Love offered a radical "redefinition" of state college and university functions. Under the "Love Plan" the state colleges would become universities offering undergraduate liberal education and occupational and professional curricula, with "specialization continued at the graduate level and culminating in an advanced degree." This would include the Ph.D., a research function with state support for buildings, and a reduction in the teaching loads of faculty. At the same time, the University of California would reduce its admission of undergraduate and focus on the training of advanced research scholars. Terminal master's degrees would cease to be given, and the university would admit students from the top tenth of the high school graduating class -- down from approximately the top fifteen per cent it had accepted since the Progressive Era.

Kerr asked McHenry to attend all the JAC meetings and report to him their activities. He was traumatized by the acquiescence of the university's representatives. Chancellors Glenn Seaborg (Berkeley), Verne Knudsen (UCLA) and Stan Freeborn (Davis) had been appointed to uphold the university's interests. Despite Kerr's instructions, the Love Plan entranced them. The three chancellors -- each highly respected scientists, with Seaborg a Nobel prize winner -- listen intently as Love and his politically savvy colleagues, San Francisco State President Glenn Dumke and San Jose State President Wahlquist, explained the advantages of the plan. As McHenry silently watched, deferring to his superiors, the three chancellor's immediately noted their general agreement, indeed enthusiasm for the proposal. They were attracted to the graduate and research emphasis that appeared to them the true calling of the University of California -- an image that had captured the imagination of Benjamin Ide Wheeler and David Starr Jordan fifty years before. McHenry reported back to Kerr with alarm. "Having failed to do their homework, these boys have practically given on a silver platter what we have kept from them by force of logic and by power of the legislature," complained McHenry to Kerr. "Deliver us from naive scientists!"

The Love Plan would fulfill the major objectives of the state college presidents. McHenry analyzed President Love's opening move, noting to Kerr that "tactically, it appears that we were outmaneuvered . . . . the state colleges are to take over nearly everything." What remained was a university "pricing itself out of the undergraduate market and living in the stratosphere with Ravel and the Deity . . . shooting [UC] into space. Sad thing is that there is little in the way of refueling up there and some solid BTU's and dollars are required to keep such an expensive mechanism operating." Vernon Cheadle, a professor of botany at Davis and chair of that campus' Education Policy Committee, noted that "the University has been beaten to the punch, consciously or unconsciously, and has been thrown into a defensive position." An academic senate committee called Love's proposal "unacceptable." It would create "a second University system in California," and mark the beginning of the end of the university's dominant position in the state's hierarchy of public higher education.

Several days after the Love Plan was unveiled, Chancellor Knudsen innocently sent Kerr an outline of segmental functions that reflected Love's proposal, noting its advantages and conceding doctorate programs to the state colleges as inevitable. Why "give away our heritage," exclaimed an upset McHenry. He urged Kerr to immediately replace Seaborg, Knudsen, and Freeborn on the JAC, or insist that their views represent those of the university president and the Regents. Otherwise, McHenry warned, the legacy of Kerr's presidency would be a black-mark in the history of the University of California. "During the Kerr era, the Empire becomes Commonwealth," eulogized McHenry. "Another 'babes in the woods' act like that and Kerr may preside over the liquidation of the new Commonwealth. Or its twilight?"

President Kerr responded by sending a letter addressed to Vice President Harry Wellman and routed to Freeborn, Knudsen, and Seaborg. Kerr noted that he was "disturbed" by the discussion at the JAC, and that the "University must have a unified position at this time of great crises in its external relations . . . . The Love proposals on the functions of the University would make it such an elitist institution that it might no longer endure." Under no circumstances, noted Kerr, should the university accept such a broad definition of the state college mission. Less than a month later, Kerr replaced Knudsen and a retiring Freeborn with two new Kerr appointees: the new chancellor at Davis, Emil Mrak, and the new chancellor at Riverside, Herman Spieth. By the end of July, Seaborg had also been replaced by the new chancellor at Santa Barbara, Samuel B. Gould. All three replacements were viewed by Kerr and McHenry as more politically adept for the challenges ahead.

Kerr then forcefully told superintendent Simpson that the Love Plan was unacceptable. At a meeting of the state college presidents, an angry Malcolm Love retorted that Kerr had "prematurely rejected the statement . . . without full study and consideration by everyone concerned." Love and the others presidents also noted their worry that Kerr and the university were attempting to forge a consensus among lawmakers in Sacramento toward absorption of the state colleges under the Regents -- a fate that would presumably end all hope of new graduate programs and make their institutions "second rate citizens" within the university system. It was also reported by Glenn Dumke that Governor Brown now seemed to be in favor of this change or a similar reform, joining Senator Miller.

In the wake of the Love Plan, Kerr considered abandoning the Master Plan negotiations. Valuable time had been lost, and the bold and populist demands of Malcolm Love and his compatriots posed a serious challenge to the university. Kerr asked key faculty for their advice. William S. Briscoe, a professor of education at UCLA, advocated the swift absorption by the Regents of the state colleges. "I feel we are facing a crisis," he exclaimed. Tom Holy agreed. He had been the university representative on the JAC since its creation in 1953, and now warned that the system of voluntary coordination was collapsing. In his opinion, it probably could not be resurrected. Holy concluded that it was perhaps time for the university to launch a hostile take-over of the state colleges. "Statements of public officials, legislators and others," he explained, "leave the impression that chaos reigns and that millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money is being wasted in the struggle between the University and the state colleges." This, combined with "the fact the president Kerr is in his `honeymoon period'" with lawmakers and the public, Holy argued, "offered an opportune time for the University taking control of the colleges."

But McHenry thought differently. Reflecting the concerns of former university president Robert Sproul in the 1930s and 1940s, McHenry warned that such a bold move would raise substantial political opposition, and result in legislation abhorrent to the university. Even if the university was successful in its conquest, the Regents would then face the difficult task of managing two competing groups of institutions. The resolve of the lay board to protect the university's teaching and research mission might fade over time. There would be building pressure on the board for the state colleges to reach some form of parity with the campuses of the university -- pressure that might eventually come from within the board as new governors chose new Regents with allegiances to the state colleges. He urged Kerr not to abandon the negotiations. Kerr's legal council also advised against absorption of the state colleges: it was bound to raise question's regarding the proper level of autonomy for the university, and possibly a movement to end the university's status as a constitutionally protected public trust. Kerr decided to keep with the negotiations, but would attempt to abandon the JAC as a forum to complete the planning study. Chancellors within the UC system appeared consumed by the interests of their own campuses. At the same time, the formidable state college presidents on the committee had a clear agenda that promised little if any compromise. A new forum for negotiating the plan was needed, with new players. At the same time, and as a contingency plan, Kerr would keep open the option of a constitutional amendment to place the state college under the Regents.

Organizing the Plan

In late May of 1959, a little over a month after Love's gambit and with eight months until the plan was to be submitted to the California Legislature, Kerr gained Superintendent Roy Simpson's agreement to create a "Master Plan Survey Team." The team would include representatives from the university, the state colleges, the junior colleges, and private institutions who had been lobbying in Sacramento for a role in the negotiations. Most importantly, it would include as chair an arbitrator without ties to either the university or the state colleges. Simpson agreed. Though he remained a reluctant supporter of the Master Plan, he was cognizant of the need to complete the plan to maintain, indeed rebuild, his reputation with lawmakers and the public. Members of the Board of Regents and the California State Board of Education also agreed to the survey team. The two boards, under the weight of a schedule set by lawmakers, had already lost nearly two-months of precious time to complete the plan.

The state college presidents were angry over the abandonment of the JAC, and Simpson's capitulation to a new forum for the negotiations. University officials, they believed, had created a survey team with another university ally: representatives from the private institutions. However, the key to the negotiations, the state college presidents realized, lay perhaps in the selection of the chair of survey team. Here they found some comfort with the naming of Arthur G. Coons to act as an arbitrator between the warring factions, and the university and the state colleges in particular.

Kerr and Simpson considered several people before agreeing to Coons as the survey team chair. Because of his ties with the legislature as the chief budget analyst and his good reputation, Alan Post was one candidate; so was Wilson E. Lyon, president of Pomona College. Finally in early June they agreed on Coons, the long-time president of Occidental College. "It was clear I would be under the necessity of trying to get the 'warring' factions into sufficient agreement fast enough to fulfill the Legislature's demands," reflected Coons in 1968. He agreed to chair the survey team, even though two Occidental trustees strongly opposed his decision. It would take him away from his duties at the small liberal arts college. Friends and trustees at the college told him that any attempt to resolve the infighting within the higher education community on the one side and the reckless abandon of legislators on the other would certainly "ruin his health." Coons had already experience a heart attack in early 1957.

A Californian who grew up in the Los Angeles area, Coons began his academic career as a teacher at Fullerton junior college before becoming a faculty member at the Claremont Graduate School. In 1950 he was named president of Occidental. Glenn Dumke, the president of San Francisco State, had spent most of his academic and administrative career at Occidental, and had served under Coons as a dean. Dumke reported to his fellow state college presidents that Coons could be counted on to provide a fair hearing for their interests.

The other eight members of the survey team where also chosen by Kerr and Simpson and included Glenn Dumke for the state colleges and Dean McHenry for the university. Henry T. Tyler was selected to represent the junior colleges. Tyler was the Executive Secretary for the California Junior College Association. The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities appointed Robert J. Wert, vice provost at Stanford University. Thomas C. Holy for the university, Arthur Browne for the State Department of Education, and retired superintendent of the Los Angeles Public Schools Howard A. Campion were appointed to act as staff to the team.

Coons and the survey team were to consider six major questions. None assumed any major shift in California's commitment to expanding access to higher education; rather they focused on ways to make modifications in the tripartite system that had emerged largely in the Progressive Era. The first concerned enrollment: What was their projection of student enrollment demand from 1960 to 1975, and how might they be distributed among the three public segments. The second issue related to segmental functions -- a source of heated debate. "In light of new and changing circumstances," explained the survey team's mandate, "what modifications should be made in the existing agreements on the differentiation of functions among the junior colleges, state colleges and the University of California?" After addressing these two questions, the team needed to provide a priority list and schedule for establishing new campuses; estimate the cost of capital and annual operations to the state; and assess California government's ability to pay for the expansion plan. The sixth and final challenge of the survey team was to recommend the appropriate model for the governance and coordination of the system.

To assist the work of the survey team, six "technical committees" were established, each focusing on one of the six planning issues stated in the charge for the survey team. These committees were chaired by faculty and administrators from the public tripartite system, and were largely fact-finding groups with representatives from all the public and private segments.

Organization of Master Plan Study: 1959

Arthur Coons initially favored a single governing board for all public higher education in California. In his view, it needed to have "inclusive and extensive authority and power" over the tripartite system. In no small part, this position reflected his experience as a president of Occidental College. "Coons was one of the old line college presidents," later reflected Glenn Dumke, "who operated very autocratically and with insistence that there be central control . . . he ran a very tight ship." Coons desired order and saw in California public higher education a level of disarray that needed to be forcefully addressed. This was a viewpoint he brought openly to the first meeting of the survey team on June 16, 1959. Coons' predilection was reinforced by a comparative study of other state higher education governance system that had been conducted by Tom Holy and Arthur Browne two months earlier. Holy and Browne reported that three general organizational structures could be found in state systems of public higher education in the United States. The first model offered no central governance mechanism, and reflected a laissez faire approach: each institution, or campus, had its own board that would then report directly to the legislature. Approximately ten states, they noted, functioned in this manner.

The second model, that of a single board with authority over all public higher education, could be found in twenty states. In most of these states, a single board governed all public colleges and universities. In Oklahoma, New York, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, a "superboard" was imposed over existing boards for the teachers colleges and the other public colleges and universities in the state. These local boards were subservient to the superboard whose responsibilities included approving all academic programs, establishing all new campuses, and the preparation of a single budget for all state supported higher education. According to Lyman A. Glenny, a former staff member for the Restudy Report and a Sacramento State faculty member, seven other states were in the process of shifting to a single board model (sometimes called a "coordinating agency") with various levels of authority, including Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Tennessee, Utah, Michigan, and Illinois.

The third model, with two separate boards for the state land-grant university and for the state colleges, could be found in approximately eighteen states, including California. Within this model, only three states had a voluntary coordinating mechanism, California, Ohio, and Indiana. And in Ohio and Indiana, voluntary boards were formed in the face of a legislative threat to establish a single board. In Coons' opinion, there was little if any chance to resurrect a workable voluntary mechanism, like the Liaison Committee, in California. In the face of a rising tide of enrollment demand and the often bitter feuds between the university and the state colleges, a single board seemed the most effective and responsible course. But he knew that finding an agreement among the survey team was going to be extremely difficult. He hoped to first settle the issue of the function of the various public segments of the public tripartite system before focusing on governance. This would also prove a contentious issue, Coons believed. But he hoped there was enough room for attaining concessions from both the university and the state colleges. In turn, this might then provide an opening for gaining mutual trust and a shared vision on how the system would be governed.