MEMORIES OF A COLLEGE COMMUNITY
Prof. Barbara Lindemann
Eight years after my retirement from thirty four years of teaching History at SBCC, I’m setting down my memories of City College without reference to other sources. My training in the writing of history makes me uncomfortable with this endeavor. I’m fearful that others will give more credence to my memories than is warranted. Other memoirs will differ from mine and possibly be no more reliable. Perhaps, taken together, these accounts can give the reader some idea of what the college was like in the last decades of the twentieth century and beginnings of the twenty-first.
When I was about ready to enter the job market in 1970 the Women’s Liberation Movement was in full bloom. SBCC had been changed by the student activism of the later 1960’s: protests against the Vietnam War, demonstrations on behalf of racial justice, demands for changes in curriculum and hiring practices. I was completing my Ph.D. in History and had recently returned from 9 months in Europe where my husband was doing research for his first book and where I had written much of my dissertation. Time to look for a job and start a family.
For me, a graduate student at the University of California in Santa Barbara, the women’s movement gave form to sentiments and values long felt but not understood or expressed. That private shift in understanding profoundly shaped my professional life as it did for so many.
While a teaching assistant at UCSB, I participated in a pioneering course in the History of American Women. At that time the scholarly books on this subject were scarce, had appeared over a wide span of time, and mostly focused on the suffrage movement of the World War I era. There were no women faculty in the History Department at UCSB and no graduate department offered a specialty in the history of women. Mary Ryan, a graduate student studying with Professor Lynn Marshall, was working on a ground breaking dissertation on ideals of womanhood in 1830s United States. She proposed this new course.
I was writing a dissertation on the intellectual origins of the U.S. Constitution, and other female graduate students were working on a variety of other subjects. Mary Ryan suggested that the graduate students teach the course with Professor Marshall as the instructor of record (since, we were told, graduate students were not permitted to be in charge of a course). We divided the subject chronologically so that each of the eight instructors became responsible for one part of the course. We would study the limited historical research for our own particular period, prepare and deliver a lecture or two, and choose the primary documents to assign for student reading. Each week we met together with the “specialist” for that historical period, teaching the others in preparation to lead student discussion sections. In other words, we conducted our own graduate seminar while teaching an undergraduate course, and prepared ourselves to offer courses in the History of American Women.
I finished my dissertation and got pregnant in the spring of 1972, just when I was ready to enter the job market. While submitting applications to colleges and universities in the greater Los Angeles area, I proposed a course in the History of American Women to SBCC. The History Department was interested, submitted my course of study outline to the Curriculum Committee for approval, and then interviewed three of us to offer the course as adjunct faculty. I was happy to be chosen and presented a rather traditional lecture course for three hours on Wednesday nights for two semesters.
My first introduction to the campus had been earlier in the spring of 1972 when I was invited to join a panel about women’s liberation. I remember sitting before microphones at a table outside the cafeteria, in front of the Chicano mural, along with Barbara Crawford of what was then called the Speech Department, and Jinny Webber of the English Department. There may have been others, but these are the two I remember. Students stood, sat, ate lunch, and Social Science faculty appeared on the perimeter of the group to see what we were all about. Thus my reputation as an activist (“agitator” perhaps to some) was established before I interviewed for the new course as an adjunct instructor.
This was the same spring when UCSB was offering “our” course in the History of American Women, and when a small group of us from the community founded a Santa Barbara chapter of the National Organization for Women.
There had only ever been three women, I was told, in the Social Science division, and in 1972 there were none. The Division was already roiled over demands for Black Studies and Chicano Studies programs, and John Eggler (Chicano) and David Lawyer (Black) had recently joined the division, in History and Political Science, respectively. To add now, even as an adjunct, another activist, a feminist, was troubling to some in the division.
My son was born over the Christmas break in 1972, and I returned to my classroom the second week of the new semester in mid-January. That spring I proposed to offer an interdisciplinary course that would introduce students to the exciting new research on women in history, sociology, anthropology and psychology, as well as new works of fiction by women writers. Entitled “American Women and the Social Revolution,” the course was offered in the fall of 1973 and proved to be popular with women and always a small number of men.
The course offered the opportunity for learning at its best. A new student clientele added a new dimension to the classroom, while new trends in pedagogy were moving instruction away from lecturing. Many women who had married early and worked to support husbands through school in the 1950s and 1960s were now returning to school. They were evaluating their options as their children left home. My prior training at the Harvard School of Education, now reinforced by SBCC instructors like Merv Lane in the SBCC English department, persuaded me that carefully structured small group discussions were an effective method to nurture critical thinking. Similarly, many instructors and counselors trained in Confluent Education at the UCSB School of Education were influencing the rest of us to be aware that true learning engages the whole person, emotions as well as intellect.
These two courses, American Women and the Social Revolution, and the History of American Women, included students in a range of ages, studying material that deepened their understanding of themselves and of social changes that profoundly affected them. New research that challenged conventional wisdom stimulated intellectual growth along with some deep emotional reactions. It was an exciting time to teach such subjects in a Community College. I remember fondly students from those years, a number of whom still keep in touch.
In the spring of my first year at SBCC, 1973, Desmond O’Neill took a leave of absence from the History Department to pursue legal studies. Another adjunct instructor, Dan Sisson, and I were offered partial contracts for the following year, 3/5 and 2/5 time respectively, an important step for the department and for the two of us. We both became applicants a year later, in the spring of 1974, when Desmond decided on a law career, opening a full time position in the History Department.
This was THE opportunity for me. UCSB did not hire its own PhDs, and as well, it had an anti-nepotism policy which ruled out any possibility that I could be employed in the UCSB History Department at the same time as my husband, whose appointment had brought us to Santa Barbara in the first place. Community College teaching was the perfect fit for me, as I had excellent training in History through the PhD program and experience in college teaching as a Teaching Assistant in my graduate years. At the same time, the teaching techniques designed for high school teachers that I learned in the M.A.T. program proved useful in reaching City College students who had not been in a high school college preparatory program. I had a year of high school teaching at the Crystal Springs School for Girls in Hillsborough (where I was to be the head of the History Department the following year, just when my husband was offered an acting Assistant Professorship in History at UCSB). Most importantly, I found great satisfaction working with City College students. I was bent on a full time college teaching career and knew that commuting to LA would be a huge strain on my husband and me now that we had a one-year old baby. Indeed, as it turned out, this position was the only full-time opening in the History Department for the next twenty years.
Competition for the position was tough. Dan Sisson withdrew his application as the spring progressed. At least one other adjunct instructor, David Morris, and I were serious contenders, and faculty members visited our classes in the course of normal evaluations, but of course as well with an eye to making the important decision before them. David and I, and I think a third candidate, were asked to lecture to one of the U.S. History classes. My topic was the Progressive Era, given in what was at that time one of the largest lecture halls (80 students), A-160, to Curtis Solberg’s class, an instructor famous for his dramatic lecturing style.
It was a daunting prospect and I prepared meticulously, both content and presentation, using the full white board to sketch the outline and key names, and roaming the full space in front of the class. At least that is my memory! Also memorable was that the latch of my necklace caught in my hair bun at the back of my neck before the lecture began, and a student helped me undo it. Very embarrassing for one who was quite aware of the gender issues involved in this appointment.
Affirmative Action in employment was a hotly charged issue in 1973, as it continued to be for many years. As I explained to my students, the policy was designed to implement the 1964 Civil Rights Act forbidding discrimination in employment on the basis of race, sex, or religion. It set forth steps that employers had to use in actively seeking out applicants from underrepresented groups. Positions had to be advertised widely and screening of applicants had to be methodical, open, and fair. In the final decision preference was to be given to men and women of color and to white women only when the qualifications were equal (in itself a slippery concept). Affirmative Action policy also required institutions to file detailed reports about the gender and ethnic composition of their work force to show evidence of compliance with the law.
Understandably there was a great deal of resentment about the requirements as white male applicants saw their job opportunities reduced and as professionals already in the field had to adjust to colleagues from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Administrators resented the new pressures and reporting requirements. I, however, was happy that I now had a fair shot at the position that I desperately wanted, and was confident that my qualifications compared favorably to the other applicants. Consequently, when selected for the position, I happily said that I was the beneficiary of Affirmative Action, even as others more sourly said the same (with the imputation that on my qualifications alone I would not have gotten the job).
Certainly the competition was stiff. David Morris subsequently had a distinguished career in the History Department at Laguna Blanca School while teaching Environmental History as an adjunct instructor at SBCC. A few years before I retired, when there was finally another opening in American History, David joined the faculty as an excellent full time instructor. Once again he faced the competition of a female Ph.D. in History, but this time the position was his, a dynamic teacher and steady, experienced leader for the department.
Meanwhile in other departments across campus the women’s movement was having an effect. The counseling department (the names Margaret McGillan, Margo Handelsman and Margaret Kearns come to mind, but doubtless there were others involved as well) persuaded the administration to open a Women’s Center in one of the “temporary” buildings near the campus main entrance and Administration Building. Dr. Lois Phillips was hired as the director of the center, where women students, especially those returning to school after years of work and motherhood, found counsel and support. Regrettably it was closed after only two years.
The English Department already had a good percentage of women faculty and now offered a course on Women Writers, taught in the early years by Eleanor Flewellen, Jinny Webber, and Joan Grumman. The Sociology Department hired Marcy Moore as an adjunct instructor to teach a new course on the sociology of gender roles. Although a Women’s Studies Program was never established, these courses along with the ones that I had initiated, did provide a women’s studies curriculum to students.
My first year of full-time teaching was all absorbing as I added 3 U.S. survey courses to my schedule. I shared an office in the Social Science “temporary” building with the delightful Jack Halloran of the Business Department, moving into my own spacious office a couple of years later adjacent to Social Science instructors where I enjoyed a view over the city to the mountains. Much college business took place in lively, even heated, discussions in these hallways and in the centrally located “kitchen” and duplicating room. I was happy to be in the thick of this activity.
The Social Science Division consisted of 7 departments with about 14 men and (now)1 woman in their 30s and 40s as contract, full-time faculty, and about the same number of adjunct faculty. The faculty were proudly protective of the authority they wielded in the college. However much Divisions within the college competed for resources—faculty positions, classroom space, tutors and teacher aides, etc.— the faculty were united in the traditional concept that all academic decisions should be made by faculty while the job of administrators was to ensure smooth functioning. Hiring committees for administrators favored candidates who had started out as instructors, and faculty jealously guarded their own prerogatives. These ideals gradually eroded over time as enrollments increased, the West Campus buildings were constructed, new layers of administrators were added, and ever more regulations and funding emanated from the state and federal governments.
One enduring responsibility of faculty members was to establish academic standards: to develop and approve course of study outlines, evaluate their peers with the aim of improving instruction, and deal with complaints and accusations against their peers (the latter task in fact often fell to the deans). In the Social Science Division “maintaining standards” especially meant preventing grade inflation, a subject heatedly discussed. The Economics professor, Stan Sofas, was committed to grading on the curve. For those of us who rejected that method, it was expected that our grades would form a bell curve, and the grade distribution in our classes was scrutinized to see how far we were diverging from this ideal.
SBCC was, and I hope remains, a wonderfully supportive environment for teachers. I learned as much from my colleagues in my first five years of teaching as I did in the M.A.T. program at Harvard, and certainly far more than I ever did as a UCSB teaching assistant. The most valuable help came from my colleagues in History, Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, and English who served on my teaching evaluation committees.
A new faculty member was evaluated each semester for two years, then once a year, and, after tenure, every two years. Even as they wrote very positive evaluations, my new colleagues offered suggestions about lecturing style, ways to stimulate class participation, grading techniques, effective small group work, and syllabus writing that shaped my teaching for the rest of my career. The college wide “instructional improvement” workshops held at the beginning of each semester introduced me to new pedagogical trends and encouraged experimentation, which kept my classroom experience ever interesting.
Meanwhile, at the university level, new scholars were beginning to publish essays and monographs in the developing fields of women’s history and women’s studies. One of these young scholars, an assistant professor at UCLA, Katherine Kish Sklar, under a grant from the National Council for the Humanities, convened a workshop for college teachers of Women’s History. I was at the tri-annual Berkshire Conference on Women’s History in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and missed the first workshop in the summer of 1975. Those present found it so valuable that they called a second one for the following summer that I was invited to attend. The group, held to no more than 35 participants, has continued to meet ever since. Until my retirement I attended every year, discussing new work on the History of Women with the scholars who were doing ground-breaking work in the field. Only a few of us taught at Community Colleges and were not engaged in primary research. All the attendees, however, focused on how most effectively to structure courses and which of the new materials—secondary and primary print sources, film documentaries and fictional pieces—worked with students.
The women’s movement was multi-faceted, internally divided, dynamic, controversial and responsible for major and unpredictable changes throughout society. In education, as could be seen at SBCC, the movement resulted in significant new curricula. In business circles the talk was about how women could achieve success in fields previously dominated by men, a subject relevant also to higher education, where women like me were being hired in greater numbers. “Mentoring” and “role models” were terms entering into mainstream conversation. My role models had been a high school History teacher, Claire Walker, and a few professors at Wellesley College, a women’s college with a strong history of women administrators and faculty. What served me at City College were not role models, but excellent mentors within the Social Science Division, all males in my first years there.
Henry Bagish, John Kay, Bob Casier, and George Frakes stand out in my memory as ones who encouraged me to become active in college governance, and gave wise counsel about influential committees. I think it was Hank Bagish who gave me the excellent advice to sign up for the Curriculum Committee, at that time headed by a professor (all females at that time) in the Nursing Division. By serving on that committee a newcomer quickly learns not just the obvious—the course offerings and requirement for majors of all the departments—but also the personality quirks, rivalries and power plays that exist on this (as on every) campus. In addition, I learned about the statewide educational system, requirements for transfer to the University of California and the California State University campuses, and the importance of the California State Education Code. The chair of the committee was the first woman I saw in a leadership position. I was told about Marie Lantagne and Winifred Lancaster, earlier deans no longer at the college, but in my early years at SBCC I worked with male administrators.
If my immediate mentors were male, women colleagues were my great support. Fortunately there was both a tacit and an active sisterhood on campus among the women faculty, much aware of being a minority in a community just beginning to recognize sexism in its many forms. Many of us were teaching full time and raising children, and we wanted to be part of the mainstream, not marginalized. During its brief life the Women’s Center gave us a locus, and we met to discuss curriculum as well as personal issues.
Affirmative Action regulations required that men of color and women of all races be included in hiring committees. Since we were still few in numbers, we had the opportunity to shape hiring decisions. Usually with the full support of deans and President, hiring committees were able to increase the numbers of women (few black candidates, but significant numbers of hispanic and non-hispanic white women) on the faculty. By the time I retired there were four women in the Social Science Division (which was no larger than when I started), with more to be hired in the years after I left.
I became active in the Instructors’ Association and the Academic Senate, serving as president of the IA in 1979-1980, and of the Academic Senate (1981-1983). Without the encouragement and confidence shown by my colleagues in the Social Sciences and the support of the women faculty members, I never would have become the “woman first” in the latter position. In later years women served in that capacity for many successive years as a matter of course, a consequence of the women’s movement, of the hiring of critical numbers of women in many departments.
During the 1950s and 1960s successive college presidents served relatively few years. One of the longer terms was held by Dr. Glenn Gooder, the President who signed my employment papers and presided over the growing campus for the next several years. He was succeeded by Dr. David Mertes, who had to deal with the crisis of Proposition 13 of 1978, which limited the growth of property taxes and had a dramatic impact on the funding for community colleges. Those of us with low seniority prepared for possible lay-offs, even to the point where a lottery system was established. Those hired in a given year drew “straws” to see which one would be laid off first. Fortunately the administration managed to avoid faculty firings. Departments dealt with reduced budgets by paring down course offerings to those essential for majors and for transfer, and reduced the number of sections offered of those basic courses. Many interesting and valuable courses remained in the catalogue, but were rarely if ever offered in the following years.
David Mertes, having handled the financial crisis capably during his two year term, accepted a position as superintendent at a larger community college in the Sacramento area, and eventually into an administrative position with the California Community college system.
Consequently, in my first year as Academic Senate President, I was part of the Screening/Interviewing Committee that recommended the appointment of Dr. Peter MacDougall, who proved to be the longest serving, popular, and most influential president in the college’s history.
Peter MacDougall established cordial relations with the faculty from the beginning. He quickly learned the names of faculty and staff, listened to faculty concerns, ate in the school cafeteria, and engaged students in conversation. His first year he encouraged the Board of Trustees to approve a higher salary increase than during previous negotiations. He proved, however, to be much tougher in negotiations of later years.
At the same time, even in his first year, he did not hesitate to make decisions contrary to faculty recommendations. In my weekly meetings as Academic Senate President with him we had frank exchanges of views, sometimes coming to agreement, at other times each one sticking with the original position. In these meetings there was always mutual respect, and Peter demonstrated great integrity.
Peter replaced an administrative system of favoritism with clearly understood and open procedures and rules where merit counted more than the amount of pressure one was able to exert. In concert with faculty screening and interviewing committees, Peter over time built a fine team of administrators (whom he tended to work to exhaustion, so we heard) and new faculty members. His interviewing technique was legendary, as he asked probing questions that revealed the true quality of a candidate.
Gradually women entered the ranks of administrators, with Lynda Fairly promoted from the Counseling Department to Dean of Students, and then Vice-President for Student Affairs and later Vice-President of Continuing Education. Elaine Cohen was promoted from English as a Second Language Professor to Dean of Instruction. Their success in these positions no doubt created a favorable response to subsequent women applicants. Many women, both promotions from within and new hires from other campuses, subsequently took administrative positions. (Dr. Elaine Cohen after a few years accepted a Vice Presidency at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, CA. Faculty members were sad to see her leave.)
President MacDougall was frequently criticized by faculty for putting buildings before salaries. Indeed the West Campus was developed through his foresight and good fiscal management, as well as his understanding of how to get state funding for new buildings.
At the same time, faculty initiatives for new programs found enthusiastic support from the President and deans. Two of these from the 1980s stand out, the Education Abroad program, and the Honors Program. Other faculty members initiated the Education Abroad program in which I participated only much later, but I was part of the planning committee and an instructor in the Honors program. Since the Honors courses were established as small seminars they were more costly than large lecture classes, yet the program had full support from the Administration.
A small faculty committee planned the curriculum. As I recall it included Janice Peterson, Communications, Royce Adams, English, Larry Friesen, Life Sciences, Bob Casier, Political Science, and myself. For me this was another opportunity to offer an interdisciplinary course, this time on the Methods of Social Scientists. A colleague from each of the seven disciplines that were part of the Social Science Division lectured about the distinctive methods in his/her field. (Yes, now there was a woman professor of Economics, Collette Barr.) The students read an impressive number of books and essays, and had frequent writing assignments. They were as motivated and bright as those in top universities, and many went on to succeed at excellent four year colleges and universities.
The Honors courses in the other disciplines were equally demanding (and expensive to offer), so that after a few years the Honors program changed. The specialized courses remained in the catalogue, but most were no longer taught. (One exception was the course on Revolution still taught as I write by the Political Science faculty.) Instead I taught the U.S. History (Honors) survey class offered by the History Department, in which honors students met for an additional seminar with added reading and a research paper, while also enrolled in the lecture class. SBCC offers many supports for under prepared students; the Honors Program was and is designed to meet the needs of students well-prepared for college, hungry for challenges, and motivated to go on for higher degrees.
When Peter MacDougall retired after 21 years in the college presidency, I found myself once again on the screening and interviewing committee for his successor. The process this time was much more difficult. The Committee recommended three candidates to the Board, with some reservations about their first choice, as they knew that the candidate had experienced a vote of no-confidence from the faculty of the college where he was president. Contrary to the expectations of the faculty members on the committee, the Board of Trustees did not visit the campus and, apparently, did not investigate closely the candidate’s disputes with the faculty.
SBCCs Academic Senate objected strongly and publicly to the Board’s decision to offer the position to this candidate; they were outraged that the Board would select someone who would likely not respect the collegial traditions of the campus. Facing such strong opposition from a faculty that the long serving Board members knew well, the employment offer was withdrawn, or perhaps the candidate withdrew for related reasons, I don’t remember which. The Screening and Interviewing committee was reconvened and recommended the appointment of John Romo, who served capably for five years.
My 34 years of teaching at SBCC was a fully satisfying career. It took me many years to relinquish the idea instilled by my professors in the PhD program that original research and writing were necessary accomplishments for a professor and scholar. Teaching and all the related committee work fully absorbed my time. Aside from a few essays published in the 1970s, one scholarly article in 1984, and a few book reviews, I postponed other writing projects. Only nearing retirement did I realize that the work with students was quite accomplishment enough, and the world would be no better by any scholarly work I might write. Like teachers everywhere, I feel enriched by the many years with students, many of whom greet me warmly in casual encounters around town. I am appreciative of the opportunities I found as part of the Santa Barbara City College community.