Part 1: Early Life and Education
Shaun Illingworth: This begins an interview with Professor Linda Stamato on July 18, 2011, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Shaun Illingworth ...
Attending: Professor Paul Clemens and Nicholas Molnar
SI: Thank you very much for having us here and agreeing to this interview series.
Linda Stamato: You're welcome.
SI: To begin, could you tell us where and when you were born?
LS: I was born in Newark, New Jersey, on July 30, 1940.
SI: What were your parents' names?
LS: Kathryn Tremel, actually Kathryn McDonough Tremel, so introduced to let you know that her mother, Mary McDonough, came from Ireland and has all that history. My father, Frederick John Lautenschlaeger--a name which guaranteed that I would never, ever have a building named after me [laughter] and that I would not hyphenate my name--so, he of German descent, but his relatives were here, well, long before, they fought in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, a fact I didn't learn until three or four years before he died, because he seemed to think that was of no interest to anybody. [laughter] Be that as it may, they met up--she was a nurse, he was an engineer--and they had six children and I'm in the middle. I have five brothers and sisters.
SI: Your father's family had been here for a very long time.
SI: Both sides?
LS: No, my father's father side, as best as I know. This is not a family that keeps close tabs on its heritage. [laughter]
SI: Was he also a Newark native?
LS: Yes, just for a time. He was an electrical engineer. He got his degree in New Jersey, at, the precursor NJIT, the Newark College of Engineering, I believe it was, and paid for by a person in the community who thought he was very bright and so he wished to pay for my father's education, with the expectation my father would do the same for someone else, who would, in turn, do the same for someone else. Evidently, that tradition continued. [Editor's Note: The Newark Technical School began awarding university-level engineering degrees in 1919 and was later renamed the Newark College of Technology and, in 1930, the Newark College of Engineering, which became part of the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 1975.] I gather my parents met because my father was in an automobile accident and my mother was the nurse who treated him in the hospital, a very sweet story. His injured leg, though, plagued him for the rest of his life. I don't know whether it had anything to do with the care he received or not, [laughter] but that was that.
Shortly after they were married, they moved to Nutley, New Jersey, where the family lived in one, two, three residences. I lived at home, except, of course, when I was a college student, living in New Brunswick, and, in Princeton, where I spent one summer doing research for Professor James Rosenau, a star of the Political Science Department at Douglass. I lived at home until I left to marry which was during the summer before my senior year. So, I kind of skipped the tough transition of going from a dormitory room to an apartment. [laughter]
SI: On your mother's side, they were Irish-American. Do you know if there was any kind of immigration history on that side or had they also been in this country for a while?
LS: I believe, as with many, many others, it was the potato famine in Ireland that drove emigration from the Emerald Isle. Mary McDonough, from County Cork, as best I know, was among them but I know very little else about that, only that all the relatives came at that time and all did reasonably well in America, that is, not easily, but, more than mere survival. Many of them married Germans. I have no knowledge of why that would be. Germans are typically more easily assimilated, I mean, in my father's case, very much so, but, from my understanding of immigration history, Germans assimilated rapidly. The Irish, less so, perhaps by force of will and memory and context (being constantly reminded of their heritage). In my family, I think the Irish spark continues, well, in most of us.
PC: I can tell you, as a historian, that the Irish were the one group of immigrants where more women than men came, which meant that a lot of the women ended up marrying outside of the Irish community. I do not know if that had anything to do with your family.
LS: Oh, so, it very well might have.
PC: Nationwide. That was an unusual immigration, because it was more heavily women, the only immigration in American history that has been more women than men.
LS: That's fascinating. I mean, knowing of the role of Irish labor in the building of the railways and having listened to Frank McCourt's book, "Angela's Ashes," one tends to think of the male Irish experience in America, but, obviously, that's a limited focus.
SI: I know that there were strong Irish and German communities in Newark. I was wondering if they were part of those communities.
LS: No. As far as I recall, when I talk to friends, they talk about stories passed down in their families, we really didn't have very much of that. I think it may well have been because, as I said, I think my father was so assimilated. Anything German just didn't seem to resonate particularly, although I do remember going to visit relatives in Bayonne, a woman called Tante Lizzy, and I guess "tante" because that's German for "aunt." She had a very large horn, that you had to yell into, the large end, so that she could hear on the other, narrow, end. My recollection is so vivid that every time I see the symbol for RCA Victor, of the dog with that listening device attached to the Victrola player, I think of Tante Lizzy. [laughter] I have little recollection of them except for images of 'arsenic and lace'--dark spaces, covered windows, quiet conversations. I think, after my parents were married and had so many children, so rapidly, life in the immediate kept us more narrowly focused, and so the contact was limited. The idea of stories passing on just doesn't seem to have happened, certainly not until very much later when, as adults, my brothers and sisters became more intrigued. Still I don't have many of them. I actually adopt a lot of other people's from the period, when I need them. [laughter]
SI: Did you know your grandparents? Were they still alive?
LS: Yes. My father's father was alive. In fact, he lived with us for a while and my mother's parents were alive, my mother's mother for a good deal longer than her husband. Actually, my grandmother outlived my mother, but her husband, my grandfather, died, I guess, when I was only about three or four years old. I don't remember him very well. I have an image of an austere man. He was German, after all. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a warm, warm, engaging woman, who was very much a part of our family and home life. She was a talented seamstress and made clothes for us. I remember one story, well, two actually, that suggest something of her indomitable spirit.
First, after my mother--she was a child then--saw a coat she admired and desperately wanted but the family couldn't afford, my grandmother bought it anyway, and, at home, took it apart, using the pieces as patterns, to cut fabric that she had also purchased to construct an identical coat for my mother. Second, many years later, when my grandmother's t.v. set was not functioning, she made a diagram of the innards of the set, noted the location of all the tubes--these were the vacuum tube days--and removed each and every one. She took them to a t.v. supply and maintenance shop, tested each one, identified the malfunctioning culprit, bought a replacement tube, and went home and re-assembled her t.v.. That was my grandmother!
SI: Did your parents ever talk about the impact of the Great Depression on them specifically or their families?
LS: Well, since I was born in 1940, that was a very young age to get any real sense of things. I mean, I remember marching in the streets to celebrate the end of the Second World War, and I remember blackouts that had occurred very frequently during the war days. I remember much talk about whether my father was going to be drafted or not and having him show up in a uniform from time to time, but, evidently, he was not called up for active service. Perhaps, as an engineer, he had a protected status. Oh, I had an uncle, Willy Scharsmith, on my father's side, who was a bandleader and, also, a self-declared physician. I don't know why anybody would go to this fellow, but he called himself a doctor: Dr. William Scharsmith. He dispensed all sorts of medicines, or, what he said were medicines. I hope he didn't harm anyone. He actually conducted an orchestra, performing, I recall, on a stage out in the middle of the gigantic pool at Olympic Park, which was an entertainment area in New Jersey. He made a fortune and he lost it all, in the stock market, so did two uncles; and but for one of their wives who had squirreled some money away, not letting her husband get near it, they were able to build a new life after losing everything. Yes, I think almost everybody in the family who had any money lost most of it. So, you kind of got the story that everybody was starting over and an appreciation of what little they had to start with again.
I also have vague recollections of Prohibition days. My Uncle Bill McCarron and his glamorous wife, May, my mother's sister, thrived in the speakeasy life, "hung" out with the infamous "Longie" Zwillman and other "notables." I loved hearing the stories. Bill was both a lawyer and a medical doctor. His father was the psychologist in the Lindbergh case and also, to make the connection with Douglass, he was the psychiatrist called to testify in the famous murder case that figured in the history of what was to become the Douglass dean's residence. The case remains unsolved.
SI: Did your mother ever talk about her education, particularly nursing school, why she became a nurse?
LS: A lot of women, at that time, a lot of what they did was sort of by default. I mean, I think she was a very empathetic person. She also was a highly-spirited, very moral person. When I think about influences on me, she's clearly a major one. I mean, I can still remember episodes, so, if I can jump ahead to make a point?
LS: When--oh, I can't imagine what age I was, pretty young--my sister and I--my sister was thirteen months older than I am--we decided that after we heard an appeal in church--I'm a Catholic--heard the appeal for altar boys, we said, "Oh, we'd like to be that." So, we went to the orientation session and, as we crossed the threshold, the priest was mortified and we saw all these little boys gathered together. What was up with us, anyway? Didn't we get altar boys? In any event, my mother announced that her two daughters were there to become altar boys and the priest said, "Well, you can't do that." So, that was that! Naturally, we turned around, humiliated, and left, and we said to our mother, "Why? Why in the world would you do this?" and she said, "Because the Church will change and the only way it'll change is if we do things like this to challenge it." So, that was one episode, and then, there were several others that have made a firm imprint on me. There was the occasion when we were sitting watching television in the kitchen, watching snarling German shepherd dogs attack students who were trying to cross the threshold to enter public school in Alabama or Louisiana. With tears flowing down her face, my mother said that she couldn't understand--this was not the America she thought she lived in.
These are these kinds of images that stay with you, because you see your parent in a way that you don't otherwise, a moment when your mother or father is not kind of constrained and focused and busy, but "interrupted," if you will, providing an insight into who they are. Periodically, we got that with my mother. I've ever forgotten these moments.
So, yes, I think the reason that she would become a nurse is because that would seem a suitable thing for her, caring for people, doing something that was worthwhile, and, of course, nursing was a career available to her, I'm sure that's true. I think, at the time, though, there weren't really nursing schools, but rather nursing training programs affiliated with hospitals and, to the best of my knowledge, that's how she trained. She also did physical therapy, but not for very long, because, after she was married, that was it, career-wise. Six children can be formidably demanding.
SI: Which hospital did she work at?
LS: I don't know, probably one of the hospitals in Newark, probably now closed. I know I was born at St. Barnabas Hospital, but I have no idea whether that's where she worked. At the time, the family lived in Nutley, so, most likely--well, I actually don't know. I don't know where she worked; sorry, I don't know.
SI: I was just wondering, because you mentioned your parents met because of this car accident.
LS: Yes. It had to be, obviously, in Essex County somewhere, but, no, they didn't much talk about these kinds of things. [laughter] You only knew that they met under those circumstances, not precisely where. I think we're so much more aware of location or sense of place these days than other people were.
SI: Talking about influences on you from your parents, your father was in the union.
SI: What did he tell you about his involvement with the union? Was that something that you were very conscious of growing up?
LS: Yes, well, maybe because I was rebellious, and so, anything my father said, I was likely to see the opposite. [laughter] He didn't like being in the union, because he could do faster and better than anybody, and so, consequently, the sort of least common denominator that set the pace for work productivity bothered him. It's not surprising, to me, that this kind of operating principle--in a lot of construction-related unions--existed. If somebody was handicapped in some way and couldn't set the brick as quickly as someone else, you tried to settle the rate for everybody somewhere around that, but my father thought, "No, if you can lay eighty-five thousand bricks in a day, you do it." So, I think he thought unions constrained individual initiative. So, there's a little chagrin later on, when I became a great labor activist. [laughter] He wound up, well, actually, he worked for, I believe, Westinghouse, and then, RCA, in the plant in Harrison for the most part. Then, he became the head of the plant in Harrison. He also spent stints in Japan and in Italy, although he didn't usually like to go further than his own home. So, these assignments, which other people might relish, he thought seemed like banishment. Actually, he introduced transistor tubes to Japan, thus making the Japanese capable of knocking us out of the competitive market, [laughter] but, in any event, I mean, I guess he had a global view at the time. He just preferred being home.
SI: He would be going overseas in the mid-1950s.
LS: Yes, that's right, and he spent some time in Cincinnati as well where RCA had a major presence. RCA had a lot of plants and engaged in a lot of cooperative work, and sent some of their most innovative folks around. Mostly, though, he was based in New Jersey and he stayed put.
I worked, one summer, at RCA in Harrison, and got to see what life was like "under my father." People were very scared. [laughter] That's what I remember, because, I mean, I don't like to say it this way, but he certainly had a very disciplined sense about him. It was interesting, because while he was firm and assertive at home, he also had high expectations for his children; it was my mother who always had such a good sense of humor. I remember one episode in which my father declared that, given the fact that he worked the long hours he worked, he needed to have a good, solid breakfast and he should have eggs and ham and bacon and toast, this, that and other things for breakfast. So, the next day, I got up a little early to see what was going on--my mother had cut out pictures of all these items from magazines and put them on his plate. [laughter] That subject didn't come up again. So, I think she was able to, I don't know, balance or mitigate or ameliorate some of the impact of his kind of rigidity. As he got older, he got a little bit more "soft."
I have to say that any time I received an honor or an award, he was the one with tears coming down his cheeks in the audience, but he was never a person who could say, "I'm proud of you," or, "You did a good thing," but you knew it. Actually, when I was in high school, I was inducted into the Honor Society and since he had fallen out of a tree the previous week, he was in a cast and this was the winter and it was snowing. He wrapped that cast in plastic, he did everything, so that he could be there for that ceremony. [laughter] You remember those things. It meant a lot and it did then, too.
SI: Do you know if he shared your mother's view on social issues, like segregation and women's rights?
LS: Let's just say she was probably two or three steps ahead of him. I don't think he was--he didn't seem to be--particularly discriminatory or biased or prejudiced, but he had that inclination, I'd say. We didn't. None of the kids would tolerate any of that. So, if there was any negative comment he would make about anybody, we'd lean all over him, but my mother just couldn't tolerate any kind of prejudice. When my brother, my oldest brother, Fred--he was the first to be married, he married a young woman from Worcester, Massachusetts, Carol Flynn, and her parents were born in Ireland, I think, and they were, well, the mother was all right, but her father was pretty nasty--my mother invited the family all for dinner. As we're sitting around the table, the father started into some diatribe about Italians and blacks. My mother just pushed her chair back from the table, got everyone's attention by the move, and she said, "In this house, we don't talk that way, we don't accept it," and this was the first time she had met him! But she always believed--and I agree with this--that if you're quiet, you're giving tacit consent. If you're starting out with a relationship and here was a person her son was going to marry, [laughter] so if she didn't say something then, when was she going to say it? I noticed it was she who did, not my father. So, Mr. Flynn didn't make too many more visits back to the house, but whenever we had to engage with him, he kept his tongue a little more restrained.
SI: How many siblings do you have?
LS: Five. There were three boys, three girls. My youngest brother, the youngest in the family, Paul, died just short of thirty, and he was of the generation that was affected by drugs, AIDS, all of it. It's really the serendipity of life--probably not the right word for this--but it's one of those things. My brother Paul, well, he'd had a very tough life. My mother died when he was a sophomore in high school--I think that had an impact--and he, some months later, was in a very serious motorcycle accident. Actually, he was trying to cross a ravine on a bridge that was no longer there. So, he landed in that ravine and had serious injuries, I think a couple of hundred stitches in various parts of his body, broke his hip and a couple of other things. So, he was unable to go upstairs in high school, where math and science were offered. For some reason or other, schools then didn't make it possible for you to learn unless the course was on the first floor of the school. That's hard to grasp, these days! Anyway, so, his grades suffered quite a bit and he wound up in a bit of a bind. My father said, "Well, if you can't go to a good college, you're not going to go to any." So, he went to Essex Community College at the time, where there was a big drug scene, but, because he was very smart, he would figure out things. Like, if my father said, "Well, you've got to mow the lawn," he'd hire two people, take the money my father paid him, divide it among those two people and wind up with a commission for himself. I remember him celebrating, at one point, what he called "the first comma in his bank account." Anyway, to make a long story short, he was constantly hassled by the law, because of his drug use, and he spent time in Essex County Jail and Passaic County Jail, but he rewired one jail, he painted the other. Then, in the case of Paterson, the judge thought, somehow or other, this blonde, blue-eyed, good-looking, smart kid shouldn't go into that prison. So, he put him up in the motel across the street, where, well, other more, I don't know how to put it, elegant people wound up. He shared space with a fellow by the name of Myron Farber. Myron Farber was The New York Times reporter who covered the infamous Jascalevich Case, "Dr. X," if you've ever heard about this curare poisoning episode. The reason why this reference has a certain relevance is that Ed Bloustein wrote the introduction to and an essay about the book that Myron Farber wrote. [Editor's Note: Dr. Edward J. Bloustein served as Rutgers University President from 1971 until his death in 1989.] When I was talking about it, Ed was quite pleased that he was given this chance to review the book, because, in addition to protecting sources, there were privacy issues and a variety of other issues in play. He was interested in the interplay between the lawyers, a very unseasoned female prosecutor, Sybil Moses, who became an accomplished judge, and Raymond Brown, the state's most impressive defense attorney, an African-American fellow who could hardly get a job starting from the days following the receipt of his law degree.
Anyway, so, we have Sybil Moses against Raymond Brown, and Myron Farber who refused to divulge his source, and serving time as a result, writing a book about the case. So, Ed put all this together, wrote his essay and he said, "There's something really curious in there, because Myron Farber kept talking about one of the highlights of all this was the time he spent--in jail--and about how he lost all his money to this kid." [laughter] That was my brother, Paul. There was never a situation in which Paul didn't, somehow or another, manage to manipulate into something that was good for him. Anyway, I miss him to this day. He was a talented, wonderful kid. If he had been born in another era, I think we would have seen different things happen for him. [Editor's Note: Dr. Mario Enrique Jascalevich, initially called "Dr. X" in Myron Farber's Times stories starting in January 1976, was tried and acquitted in 1978 of having killed patients while working as a surgeon at Riverdell Hospital in Oradell, New Jersey, in 1966.]
SI: Do you have any memories of growing up in Newark or is it all Nutley?
LS: All Nutley.
SI: Tell us about the neighborhood in Nutley, a little bit about the area you grew up in.
LS: The street was called Highfield Lane and it was a middle-class area. First, we lived in a small house at 126 Highfield Lane and what was kind of significant about that is the school district lines were drawn quite close to where that house was located. Initially, I was assigned to go to Yantacaw School, which was the "elegant school." Then, the lines were changed and I was assigned to Washington School, which was "the other side of town," where, allegedly, people didn't want to be. So, other people started fighting against the re-districting. My mother would have no part of that. The sub-text, of course, was that poor Italians and blacks were in the school population by significant numbers. My mother said, "You go to Washington School. It's a good school," and I did for all the time, until the lines were changed again before I entered sixth grade.
I still remember that time in Washington School. It's interesting, because it was very diverse, sometimes even violent, but the principal of the school, a woman by the name of Ann Troy, was very, very kind, but disciplined, rigid; she had high expectations--for every student. You worked really hard, but I remember--I don't know why I would remember this particularly--but some kids, as always, kids get bullied, hassled. I mean, it's the story of everybody's life, I guess, but I took it upon myself to be the protector of these people. [laughter] Now, I don't look like I would be, I guess, but, sometimes, I guess, just by standing up for someone, you can help, and I remember walking kids home, so that they wouldn't get beaten up by other people. The reason, perhaps, I remember that is that, fast forward, my middle daughter, Liz, I found, had been eating lunch by herself for something like four months, having been ostracized by everyone because she had stood up for a kid who had asthma and everybody was making fun of--nice. So, when she interceded on behalf of the asthmatic kid, they all turned against her, including the asthmatic kid. So, she sat by herself for four months, eating lunch, refusing to be any different than she had been. I thought to myself, "I don't know what elements there are in people that make you say, 'This matters.'" It's the "not giving tacit consent" point; it's the "standing up for someone who needs someone to stand up for them;" that strain goes through our family--unfortunately, not all in our family, but some of us, largely, the female side of the family. [laughter]
SI: You said the school was very diverse. Can you elaborate on that?
LS: Class, race, anything and everything, and what was kind of neat is, when we all finally wound up in high school, and all those schools fed in there, it was good to know everybody, all of the people. Some of them were real hellions. So, it was kind of cool to have been with them, seeing what life is like from their perspective, and then, some of the more straight-laced people from the Yantacaw District. It's interesting how, even at a young age, you recognize these differences and how they play out and you either see them as benefits or you get intimidated or worried by them, but I thought that this knowledge, this awareness, was a strength. So, now, when people make diversity arguments, I know what they're talking about, because I lived through that and I think the value of it all maybe can't be described in the best possible terms--at least I can't summon them up at the moment--but I guess it was, I don't know, Justice Potter Stewart, I think, who said, "Pornography, you can't really describe it, but you know it when you see it." I kind of feel that way about diversity, although I hardly would think this is the way one would see it described. [laughter] It's the value of knowing people who come from a variety of cultures and perspectives, what they bring, the dimensions, scope of relationships, all of that. If everybody's the same, why would we need so many? [laughter]
SI: There was a lot of interplay and a high level of comfort between all the different groups.
LS: Yes, yes. I brought a kid home from school, Frances Moore her name was, and she was my best friend. I remember my mother saying, "Your father nearly fell off his chair when he saw you come with Frances." I said, "Why was that?" She said, "Well, he's not ready for certain things," but he was ready pretty quickly, because he didn't say anything, do anything; no doubt my mother had a direct hand in that. My father had good instincts, though, and a good heart, despite his tough exterior, and he grew to embrace the world as my mother saw it, well, almost.
SI: What about the quality of education in Nutley?
LS: Very good, very good. Overall, I'd say, I mean, I think demanding, always had a certain amount of homework. I think the rate of people going to college was pretty high. I remember particularly my English teacher in high school, Maxine Hoffer, who had her PhD in English from Columbia. Of course, a lot of women couldn't get jobs in colleges, so, they were hired in primary and secondary schools. I think that I benefited from that period. We had some really outstanding people who obviously liked teaching and either for one reason or other didn't want or couldn't get other jobs. My civics teacher, I now know, was gay, I didn't realize that then--and he just loved, loved teaching history. Oh, I thought, "What a privilege to have had him." I think he couldn't get other jobs. Well, luckily, on both sides of that equation, there was definite benefit. I took years of Latin, physics, chemistry. I mean, I think so much was offered in this high school and I think that may have been true for other high schools in the state, but I don't have a clue. I know I didn't feel disadvantaged and, when I came to Douglass in my first year and thought, "This is easy," then, I knew high school had been demanding. Now, that wasn't true of all courses at Douglass--I want to be sure you understand that, Paul [laughter]--but I was surprised, that I thought it was going to be more difficult than it was. It got more demanding, but, on the other hand, the transition wasn't difficult, not for me, anyway, and I loved learning.
SI: Both your teachers in school and your family were encouraging you to think about college.
LS: Yes. It didn't get talked about that much. I mean, when I hear people these days preparing their kids for college when they're in preschool, I mean, there was nothing, nothing like that at all. My older brother went to Uppsala College for, like, a year-and-a-half, and then, dropped out. My middle brother, David, never went. And, Paul, as I noted, attended Essex Community College. No, I don't ever remember a conversation where my parents said, "You'll do this, you'll do that," but it was really more that's what you did, at least, my sisters and I, did. I think we didn't probably spend as much time thinking about it and where to go and what our options were, college visits or anything of that sort. You had a certain number of options, that you found out once you had a guidance counselor--who was dealing with several hundred people--and then, you talked with your teachers: "Where did they go? What did they think about it?" It was pretty simple. So, when I think about the vagaries of that process, I think I landed pretty well. [laughter]
SI: During your high school years, and even before, were you interested in clubs and activities for young women at that time?
LS: Yes. Well, yes, I think they had clubs, presumably, or indirectly, aimed at women, Future Teachers of America, which I think had mostly women in it, something like that, and, of course, the Future Nurses of America. I was in a number of athletic things; I was in the chemistry club and physics club. I mean, I don't know why I was in all those things but I liked being part of things. I also, at that point, was carrying around my father's engineering books, because I thought I was going to be an engineer. I must have thought, by some kind of osmosis, the information would come in. [laughter] I played the cello when everyone else played the flutophone. I said, "I don't want that," so, cello was for me and I used to drag it back and forth to school, [laughter] I can't imagine how I did that. School was at least a mile from my house. In any event, I took piano lessons, I played the piano, yes. I mean, I think participating in clubs in high school was something you did, but, now, when I think back, not everybody was in clubs. I had my, I guess it was my fiftieth high school reunion just a year or two ago and, interesting, the people who come, a lot of them were people you knew in these clubs and other kinds of activities. So, when I try to think about, "What role do these extracurricular things play?" I don't know, but it seems as though you got a chance to deepen your friendships, beyond the classroom; walking home after club activities and all that kind of thing added certain value. There were not that many diversions or distractions.
I mean, we had a television. We had the first television on the block, because my father was building them, and then, at one point, I think we had thirteen televisions in the house, all in one degree of development or another. I got to a point that I hated television, because, even then, you could see that whatever conversations you were having, its presence crushed them; really, there were none or few distractions otherwise. Life was not cluttered or complicated by multiple tasks or diversions. The activities you had were things you created and, at the time, teachers, I think, liked the idea of extracurricular activities. I don't think there were additions to their salaries for doing the things they did, but you had to act in a play, orchestra, gosh, I mean, all kinds of things--and that mattered. I feel bad now to hear the discussions about cuts in budgets, because those are the things that seem like they're extraneous, that we can do without them, but I don't think so.
Those are the engaging activities that really cement people's interests and expand their horizons and, also, make for better friendships.
My middle daughter, Lizzie, she has three sons and they're all homeschooled, with the oldest just ready for college and it's sort of interesting to go through this process and to see how someone who is not in the traditional school setting copes. How, for example, do they manage socially? How do they advance? Well, one thing is, they haven't had any problem with bullying and, the other thing, they are all focused on and earnestly engaged in learning. And--this is a fortunate thing--they have a lot of activities. The oldest son plays the organ and the piano, sings, but he's going to be an engineer and he's tops in physics and did, I think, they said, 790 on his math SATs. So, perhaps it will be, I think, a challenge for him to go from no structure, basically, or the structure set by himself and his family, to a college. We'll see. My sense is, though, he'll do great!
SI: You mentioned you were involved in athletics; did they have women's sports then in high school?
LS: Yes. Not--what do we say?--varsity, I mean, not that level, but I played basketball and softball. Yes, we had them, but they were more intramural rather than inter-school. I mean, I think girls like those activities, and so, they flock to them, and the people who are on your team, I associated with them afterwards and all that kind of thing. So, I think that was useful, worthwhile, liked it, still do.
SI: In terms of education, you mentioned you had some interest in science, possibly engineering. Do you feel they gave adequate attention to women getting an education in those areas?
LS: I don't think I noticed. I wasn't aware to notice, but a physics teacher in high school, who just died three years ago, I don't ever remember there being a difference between the way he treated the men and the women in his class or the expectations he had. I think women were more serious anyway. So, I think the teachers wanted to see performance, they liked to see interest and, if you were interested and you wanted to join the chemistry club or the physics club, they wanted you there. So, I don't ever remember getting the feeling like, "This is not for you." I got it in other ways and in other times, for sure, but not there and not that. Actually, I don't even remember there being particularly a huge presence of boys in some science classes while there was a significant presence of girls. I mean, I know they segregated us for health, [laughter] because, of course, they had to. That was another thing; I remember some of these people as just so unbelievable. The school nurse, she had a variety of responsibilities, not the least of which was to give out late slips to people, and so, that was power, because if you could give out a permission for a late slip, that meant students didn't get demerits and all that kind of thing. She'd give them all to the football players, who could kind of come and go, but, when my sister and I were late, because we always went to school together, no, we never got a pass. Anyway, it came to pass that she was in health class one day teaching and said something along the following lines, "You'll never be as smart as your parents are." So, this woman by the name of Lynn McCaffrey, who, by the way, is now a lawyer--she was sitting next to me--raised her hand and she said, "Does that mean each generation is getting more stupid?" [laughter] to which, of course, I laughed out loud. I got sent to the principal's office, not Lynn, of course! She was and is terrific. We're still in touch. We finally beat this woman down at the end, but you think about some of these dumb things people say over time and what was up with them. Hard to forget, though.
SI: Good story. I think you mentioned your elementary school's name, but not your high school. Which high school was that?
LS: Nutley High School.
SI: You told the story earlier about the church and its role in your life. Can you elaborate on that more? What role did religion play in your life at this time?
LS: Oh, good question, given that I was recently "summoned" by the head of my church to discuss yet another "difference." I don't get along very well with the authority of the "mother church." In fact, I find it rather annoying that they actually use that term, "mother church," because it's certainly patriarchal. I think my mother was deeply religious, and so, I was moved along those lines, but it was more personal, not institutional. I mean, even from the start, I don't know what I was always doing wrong, but challenging authority, I suppose, or points of view--I mean, they have a lot of views that are hard for people to accept--but I remember one nun hitting me with a ruler, I think it was, saying, "How come you're not like your brother and sister?" Well, all right, I mean, that doesn't seem to be a particular fault. So, I mean, I went to church. It was a family thing. My father wasn't Catholic, but he went along, but he wasn't going to have anything to do with Catholic school, that just wasn't going to happen and that was a good thing. I steadily participated in Sunday school--that sort of thing--but, since, I have parted ways on so many issues and have raised so many concerns publicly--I don't mean to embarrass the Church publicly, but, on the other hand, it's, again, this "tacit consent" thing. I did a blog, for example--I blog for The Star-Ledger--and I was kind of annoyed, because it was women's history month and it occurred to me that I've never seen anything about women religious. If you know anything about nuns, they were, in this country, taking care of the wounded on both sides of the Civil War and they were opening schools and churches and, I mean, the influence of these women, they were, what I call them, the first feminists. So, I wrote about them, and then, I talked about current women nuns and what they do, which is absolutely phenomenal, but always it's work done quietly and effectively. Now, the Church, the "mother church," has launched an inquisition--love to know that word's back in vogue--against nuns because they have not been sufficiently "out there" against homosexuality; they have challenged certain things; they supported the healthcare plan, Obama's healthcare plan, for example, when the American Conference of Bishops opposed it. So, anyway, I write this blog, and then I attended a function that derives from my serving on the Board of Trustees of something called Assumption College for Sisters. (The reason I'm on there is that I was on the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association and the head of that just liked this institution. It's the only place in the world that gives degrees only to nuns and, as you can imagine, it's very small. [laughter] They have thirteen students and they have about twenty faculty. It's the only place where the faculty-student ratio goes the other way. Anyway, the Commission's head asked me to join the board, help these people out, and so, I said I would and I like them. They have almost all students from foreign countries and they send those nuns back to open orphanages and schools and hospitals and whatnot. So, this band of women probably have more impact on what's going on in human development in the world than any other subset of our society.) So, fast forward, I write this blog, the nuns are quite pleased with it. I go to the function, a gala in fact, which is kind of a joke, for the Assumption College. It has this one thing, once a year, and all the men of the clergy are there. So, one of the nuns says to the Bishop of Paterson Diocese, "Oh, this is Linda Stamato. She just wrote a blog on women religious," and he said, "Well, I hope it's about authentic women religious." I said, "I thought they were all authentic, Bishop," and walked off. So, it's those kinds of encounters that get to me. I have faith, I don't like the structure--but I keep saying to myself, "Can you spend this hour better this week than you would spent it there, trying to think about things that you're connected with?" and the answer usually is no. So, I'm there, at weekly Mass that is, but I wouldn't be one of the people they'd trot out as one of their notable Catholics, because I'm certainly not that. Whether it's the story of changing the Church or whether it's the things that the Church does which are really annoying to most people, there are a subset of Catholics who feel very strongly about the need for change in the Church and I hang out with them mostly.
SI: This is a bit out of order, but on the same topic. When Vatican II came along, what was your reaction to that change?
LS: Positive. I liked Pope John XXIII. He told the story about his mother. When he got the papal ring, he proudly showed it to his mother and she said, "Oh, yes, well, without this one (her wedding ring), you wouldn't have that one." Anyway, he was such a gentle human, good soul, and I think he breathed such fresh air into the Church and the rigid Conservatives in the Roman Curia and elsewhere have been trying to quell it ever since, and pretty much succeeding, I think. There are some people, I mean, a good friend of mine who is a theologian at Notre Dame, he and a band of brothers are trying to keep the Vatican II spirit alive, and so are a lot of other people who lived during that period. My first child was born when John became Pope and I have the headline noting his selection. I didn't know then what a difference he would make, but I think it has been significant. [Editor's Note: The Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) was opened by Pope John XXIII in October 1962 and closed by Pope Paul VI in December 1965. The Council focused on issues related to the Roman Catholic Church's role in the modern world.]
SI: Did you do any activities outside of school, like Girl Scouts or anything like that?
LS: Yes, I was in the Girl Scouts. My mother was also a Girl Scout leader. We were all so mortified when she'd march in the town parades. I took ceramic classes, piano lessons. That's pretty much it.
SI: Your mother stopped being a nurse when she started a family. Did she ever go back to work?
LS: Well, she tried. I remember telling this story--one of the things I did a number of years ago was, I taught at something called the National Judicial College. (For reasons that would be obscure unless I explain them, the National Judicial College, which trains sitting state judges, is located in Reno, Nevada. It's there because of a Congressional decision. Where does something go? Not necessarily where it makes sense, but because of what is "needed" or "wanted" in an influential Congressman's district.) I was teaching a course at one point and the judges were asking me how I could answer the question: "How does somebody who's a non-lawyer teach lawyers becoming judges?" So, I said, "Let me tell you a story about my mother. She was trying to get a job at a local clothing store and the interviewer asked her if she had had any experience selling and she said, 'No, but I have a lot of experience buying.'" So, I said, "So, I've done a lot of litigating. And I can draw from that experience, as, obviously, I have that, the other, perspective." But, I was primarily there, teaching at the Judicial College, to get judges aware of alternatives to litigation, because something like ninety-three percent of cases settle before trial. So, what happens? What's that settlement process all about? What is the judicial role in settlement? What can courts offer litigants beyond--or prior to--litigation? Judges needed to know about mediation, mini trials, etc. in order to serve justice, to be quite direct about it. If, for example, when parties to a dispute settle earlier, rather than later, when you're more in a litigative mood and more adversarial, they benefit. There is more to it, of course, but, on this point, it was using my mother's stories, about knowing how to buy being just as important as knowing how to sell, to explain what judges might learn from a non-lawyer. [laughter]
SI: Did she get involved in any community activities?
LS: Did I?
SI: No, your mother.
LS: She was involved a bit with the parent-teacher association, she was involved in something called the Rosary Club, which helped people when somebody died in their family, but, primarily, she was a good neighbor, organizing things when an issue would come up. I think she got somewhat involved in one of these campaigns for something to do with banning magazines--oh, well, I don't remember what it was called--but she kind of got involved in that. Mostly, it was family and neighborhood and, to a certain extent, church, but it was mostly because of some of the organizations that were at the church rather than the Church itself, yes.
SI: She did not have many outlets for this social justice spirit.
SI: You would just get these images every once in a while.
LS: Yes. I don't think there were a lot of organizations. I mean, now, the choice that you have, given the nonprofit movement and the creation of entitlement programs and public interest law, you can choose from so many things now, but I think, then, it was pretty narrow. So, you worked through existing organizations, which were few, and tried to improve them. Well, she wouldn't join a club that discriminated, for example, but I don't know that she tried to, but she wasn't into the garden club or that kind of stuff. She wouldn't be bothered with that. She read a lot.
SI: This was also the period of the Cold War. There was a lot of fear among Americans in their communities of the possibility of nuclear war, the Russian threat. Do you remember any of that having an impact on your life? Were these things you thought about?
LS: I remember being--what would I say?--almost paralyzed after watching the movie [released in 1959, based on the 1957 novel] Nevil Shute's On the Beach, because that was basically the end of the world. It was just getting to that point where those were the last people left and they were dispensing, basically, a drug to kill yourself. Then, you kind of had a sense as to, "This is where we are now, folks, and this is where we're heading." So, yes, I mean, I was in college then, but that was a cloud that I felt hung over everything. For The Caellian, actually, I wrote a review of that movie. I remember that distinctly. I think it was a way of trying to deal with it. So, yes, I mean, I wouldn't say that there were specific ways that you could see that this was playing out. Did anybody's behavior change, the way we sort of sense people's behavior changed somewhat after 9/11? I think the threat was kind of vague then, but no less genuine, but there hadn't been, of course, any of the nuclear power plant problems. So, I mean, you had to almost imagine what the crisis would be, and so forth. Obviously, we'd had atomic bombs, but not nuclear ones, not ones that would annihilate greater numbers of people, indeed, the entire human population, and leave buildings only behind, you know, the "clean bombs" and all that kind of stuff. So, I don't remember much except for that particular memory. It's an interesting question. In fact, I just finished reading Philip Roth' book, [2007's Exit] Ghost, and one of the people in there is trying to get out of New York City because she's sure, after 9/11, that the reelection of George Bush means the annihilation of America. So, she's going up to the Berkshires. [laughter] There's this palpable sense of fear and intimidation and a sense that institutions are changing and people's lives are being invaded and a sense that we're not a community, that we're being divided, but that's happening on so many fronts--class, greed, greed-ism.
Speaking of greed and its excesses, let me mention another blog that I did, which I mention because there's a certain resonance to it. I was mortified that GE was paying no taxes, and allowing other corporations and individual citizens to pick up the slack. I thought it was a pretty good column, with a lot of links, and all that kind of thing; the people who attacked it included people who I think must be shills for corporations, because I don't believe people this dumb exist. In any event, the representative from GE decided to respond and said that I obviously don't have a clue, that they're very good, they pay their tax obligations, (never mind their lobbying force that works to decrease those obligations) and I shouldn't challenge their citizenship. I said they weren't good citizens, said, "You can't be a good citizen if you want someone else to pay for your police force, someone else to pay for your fire department, and I'm sure, in all of their establishments around the world, if something happens to one of their employees, they're right there at the American embassy. Who's paying for that?" So, they said I obviously don't understand the concept. Well, that's fine. I said, "Okay, well, then, maybe everybody should stop paying taxes and just do whatever good they want to do with their money. Who would pay for the infrastructure? Who would pay for all of these things? No, you can't be a good corporate citizen if you change laws to benefit yourself at the expense of everybody else." Anyway, that went nowhere, but the whole point is, how I got here from there, I'm not precisely sure, something you said, I think, about greed. [laughter]
SI: That brings up an interesting point. In the 1950s, IBM may be the best example, in most cases, if the father worked there, then, you were an IBM family. With your father working for a big company, what was the view within the family about the company in general? It sounds like you have gone far away from that.
LS: Yes. Well, if you go to Lambertville, for example, you see all the factory housing and you recognize the way the Industrial Revolution took shape here in America. I read a lot about the era through the lens of the labor movement and I got radicalized by that. So, as a matter of fact, I was a trustee, here at Rutgers, taking my degree in labor studies at the Labor School (SMLR) and trying to keep a low profile, so that nobody would know because, as a trustee, I felt like I was part of the administrative side of things and I wanted to be on the labor side! Yes, I liked the Wobblies [the Industrial Workers of the World] and I admired Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Emma Goldman and a lot of the people who were, I thought, heroes, heroines, in this nation. I think, actually, my view of all that is that if we had not had the corporations basically co-opt labor, we probably might have a third party, we might have much more progressive labor policy, but that was not the way things came out. Actually, I hate to say it but we needed some capitalists like Henry Ford, resisting the organization of working people, to force the issue so it gained more traction, but, it was not to be. I mean, unions tended to be split ideologically. One of them, the more radical unions, the CIO, wanted to care for all workers, whether you were in the union or not, but the AFL wanted only to take care of "our own people," and so, their standard of living was going up, but not for the rest of the people. So, when that division--really, bifurcation--of workers into those two streams occurred, I think that was a time where the notion of sort of corporate largesse or generosity to its workers began to splinter. We wound up with a more cooperative relationship, ultimately. Not sure I think this was the best result.
Anyway, it was lovely to wind up consulting for the Ford Foundation, knowing that I'd spent part of my life trashing Henry Ford. [laughter] Anyhow, now, so, continuing, my father worked for RCA--he worked there for practically his entire life. I think, at that period of time, most people, whatever they did, if they worked for a company, they stayed with that company. As we all know, you're more likely to have seven to ten jobs now, instead of one. I worked at Johnson & Johnson for a very short period of time. I remember the General's [Robert Wood Johnson II] credo was on the wall there, enunciating ethical principles, and everybody paying attention to it, or so it seemed, but Johnson was mortified when anybody in any of his plants unionized. For "his" workers to attempt to unionize, somehow or another, was seen as an offense against him, personally. Quite a paternalistic approach.
It's really an interesting question that unionization poses but we see it more readily in public sector unions, particularly teachers' unions and those representing social workers: if you're arguing for your own wages and working conditions at the same time that you're trying to get the money to operate the schools and deliver the social services, it puts you at odds, personally, with the interests of your professional practice. It's not a happy place to be in and I think a lot of those tensions, they're not playing out well these days, but in those earlier days of the company community, people often looked at work with a lot of pink on their glasses. I'm not sure it was so great, not when people were, at least before that, working seven days a week and forced to buy at the company store.
SI: We can always come back to this period, but, getting into your time at Douglass, first, how did you find out about Douglass and why did you choose Douglass?
LS: Oh, it wasn't the most considered opinion, I don't think. I think I didn't go because it was a woman's college; I think I went because it had a very good reputation and because a number of people I knew went there. I had run for office a lot in high school. I refused to run for secretary at Nutley High School, so, I never won anything. That's where this none-too-subtle discrimination would come in, because, well, "The president of the class, a woman?" Well, no, that wouldn't happen. The thing is, I could never come up with any slogan rhyming with my last name. [laughter] I mean, what could you do with that? The best I could do is have fifteen kids, they could stand up with one letter of the alphabet.
It was a sort of curious connection, because one of the leaders in high school, a woman named Louise Cucinello, went to Douglass and I thought, "Oh, I admire her. If that's where she's going, that may be a good choice," and I applied. Everywhere I applied, I was accepted, but I don't think there was anything particularly motivating me. One was a Catholic college, Misericordia, in Pennsylvania, I think it was--I think a teacher I liked had gone there--and then, a couple of other places, but I decided on Douglass because I came down to visit and I was impressed. It looked pretty good, I thought it'd be fine and, basically, that's what I did. The thing is, you get the immediate impact that, all of a sudden, "Oh, now, all of these opportunities are for us, for us folks, us women," because, after all, that is the population of the place! So, I was nominated for president of my class, but, of course, there's no reason--you can't feel particularly smart as a result of that, because nobody knows anybody. How do you get nominated when you've just arrived on campus? I think the connection was none other than Louise Cucinello, the woman I admired, in whose footsteps I was following. I believe she saw my name on a list, saw that I was "a Nutley person," and chose me as one of the contenders for the office of president of the class.
Now, there were a couple of other people nominated, but I won--I have no idea why. I could tell a funny story, because somebody told me this. She said that she overheard a conversation at the poster where the names, photographs and offices sought appeared, and the person she overheard said something along the following lines: "Well, nobody knows who to vote for and we're standing here looking at the cardboard there with the candidates' pictures on it, and someone said, 'Oh, there's Linda Lautenschlaeger. I think we'll vote for her. I know she's dating a married man, so, she must have experience.'" [laughter] Well, that's curious, isn't it? A, I wasn't; B, what connection would this experience have with the office I was nominated for? Anyway, I guess that seemed to mean sophistication or something--who knows?--but, from that point on, then, I was very active in governance, but I never forgot the vagaries of winning!
I served on the honor board as well. That was also an interesting episode in my life, because I clashed with the Dean of Students, in one of those moments that you don't ever expect to happen, which is maybe why you act appropriately, because you haven't built up all your defenses. Douglass had this very, very elaborate honor code and one of the precepts was, "You cannot bring discredit on the name of the college," oh, man, when you think about that now, what you can do with that. So, it came to pass, we're sitting there in a meeting of the honor board and a young woman who had spent the night with her Rutgers College boyfriend, or it was alleged that she did, appeared before the board. Someone had reported her, and, I don't recall all the facts, because some of it sounds a little strange to me now, but, it seemed that she had refused to get a letter from him for someone to say where she was, because she didn't think it was anybody's business. The honor board was going to suspend her. So, I said, "Why are we going to do that, on what grounds?" The response was, "For bringing discredit on the name of the college." I said, "Well, how does that work?" "Well, if people find out about that, that Douglass girls are staying out nights..." I said, "Well, I thought maybe that might attract more of them here." [laughter] The Dean of Students was my enemy from that point on. I guess anybody that kind of tried to make light of something someone else took very seriously, at the expense of another, I might add, didn't receive kudos, that's for sure. In any event, the board did not elect to suspend this kid. It was outrageous, even then. Folks even got to the point of making arguments like, "Well, if you take a towel from a hotel room and that's theft and they find out if you're a Douglass student, [laughter] that the college will be affected by that." I mean, it was a college for women, but it had an awfully odd mindset.
Anyway, I think most of us--I formed a lot of different group friendships--we were cut from a different cloth. I mean, I had the kids that I kind of liked hanging out with, but there were also the malcontents, the people on the fringe, the people who wore black and hung out and wrote in The Horn Book. I loved them, so, I kind of hung there, too. At one point, I guess I can't remember that clearly, but I got sick and I was in the infirmary and they wouldn't let me out for a rally to get the French out of Algeria and I was mortified. [laughter] So, I went on a hunger strike. So, that was a big deal and I was getting lower and lower in weight. Finally, my father walked into the room, in the infirmary--whoops, that was the end of that hunger strike. [laughter] Luckily, Algeria made it, but, anyway, so, yes, I was very active in various clubs and everything in college. That made a lot of difference, I think, to the rest of my life.
SI: Who was this Dean of Students that you clashed with?
LS: "Buddy" Trayes [Marjorie Trayes].
SI: Trayes Hall?
LS: Yes, yes, every time I walk in there [laughter]--a good woman, but she obviously had her way of looking at things. There was this, I mean, I don't know, kind of, when I think about it now, a bit of an odd atmosphere, but I think everybody kind of worked around it. You just kind of [said], "That's the way they are. We can deal with that," but we had great deans of the college, Mary Bunting, who was phenomenal, and Ruth Adams. [Editor's Note: Dr. Ruth M. Adams served as Dean of Douglass College from 1960 to 1966.] It came to pass, many years later, that Ruth Adams and I sat on an accreditation visitation team looking at Barnard College. It was one of those kismet, one of those great moments, remarkable, Ruth Adams sitting there. So, she told the team, "Don't talk to me until I've had a cup of coffee. I don't care where you see me, where we are, whatever else--I need to have my space and do my thing." She was this kind of grim person and, all of a sudden, a cup of coffee, she was a whole new person. We took subways together and all that kind of thing. We were on this visit when Reagan was shot [in March 1981] and I remember Ruth Adams distinctly saying, she said, "Oh, that David Stockman [then Director of the Office of Management and Budget], he'll go to any length." [laughter] Anyway, it's sort of an inside joke. Anyway, a lot of those connections that I made when I was at Douglass wound up being connected--I guess because it's higher education and I've stayed in it. I sort of felt I was born here.
I pursued so many graduate degrees, and then, stayed active in higher education; when I graduated, from Douglass, I was looking, essentially, to replace the student center in my life, which is where you hung out and you dealt with politics and you campaigned for this, that and the other thing. What do you do when you graduate? Where is your place? So, I joined the League of Women Voters, which was a pretty close approximation. (I should interject here that a year after graduating, my daughter, Nina, was born, and then, in 1964, my daughter, Elizabeth, was born. So, I was at home with them, by choice, but, at the same time, filling my time with activities that seemed to be "calling" me, extensions, really, of my college days, my concern for the quality of public life, of equity, fairness, and, I guess I'd call it, a need for engagement in a life having a public purpose. And, as it seems, a pursuit of learning.)
As it came to pass, the League got very involved in higher education and I wound up working very closely with getting the bond issue passed, one of the major bond issues in New Jersey. The state Department of Higher Education was created in 1965 and I was part of that development. (I became a member of its Graduate Council shortly thereafter, looking at graduate education.) I worked closely with the Douglass Alumnae Association that was, in turn, working closely with the Rutgers Alumni Association, because Rutgers needed that money if we were going to come anywhere near being the public university that was envisioned by the '56 Act. [Editor's Note: Founded in 1766 as Queen's College, Rutgers University was governed by its Board of Trustees until the 1956 "Rutgers, The State University Law (NJSA 18A:65-1 et seq)" named Rutgers as the State University of New Jersey and created the eleven-member Rutgers University Board of Governors.] I guess because of all my work on the bond issue, I was nominated and was elected as a Trustee in 1971. I was pretty young and that's when Ed Bloustein became President. So, I keep thinking I had several stages of life, but they're all around higher education initiatives or institutions. I'm sorry, I jumped a little ahead.
SI: No, this is good. Since it was such a formative period, we want to spend a lot of time on your undergraduate days in this session particularly. Where did you first live when you got here? What was the living situation like?
LS: Corwin D--we always remember where we lived--very small house on the Corwin Horseshoe, which are now offices. I had a roommate who was dating someone from West Point. She was from Virginia. We got along okay, but we were two different people for sure. In my house were two women, Ann Friedman, who went on to get her PhD and be a successful scholar, and Sylvia Finkelstein, both of whom I began to look up to and both were Phi Beta Kappa and this, that and the other thing. So, that was my crowd, political science, oh, and, also, I had the privilege, and I'm sure it was just a random thing, but Douglass was experimenting with interdisciplinary work and had created a course called "An Introduction to Social Science." Social science was--no one taught social science in high school--so, this was the early '60s, late '50s, and Neil McDonald, who was Chair of the Political Science Department, Jay Schulman, who looked like the beginning of man, bearded and whatnot, anyway, he was the sociologist and a guy by the name of Hopkins was the economist. The three taught this course to first-year students. You can imagine. [laughter] It was really eye-opening. I loved it. So, I knew I'd be pursuing some form, something in the social sciences, but I've always been kind of interdisciplinary, I think, as a result of that, but liked political science, decided to major in it. Then, I minored in sociology, so, I sort of stayed close to that, but Chinese studies, took a minor in that, and then, I actually went to learn Chinese, subsequently. I have never stopped being in communication with Jessie Lutz, who was Professor of History and her specialty was Chinese. She now lives in North Carolina and, every year, three times or so, we still communicate.
So, it's wonderful, that kind of connection. I think it means as much to her as it means to me.
PC: She hired me.
LS: Did she? [laughter] Well, there we are.
PC: I was hired at Douglass, although I never actually taught there. I was hired at Douglass and they moved me during the summer. I got here and was told, "No, you are at Rutgers College," but Jessie hired me.
LS: How about that? I like that. I'll have to tell her that.
PS: She might remember.
LS: She's still writing, she's still giving papers on China, particularly on the missionaries who were very much an influence in China. Yes, yes, and now with even more of a feminist slant, which I think that's something for Jessie. It's because I think that the Douglass experience was significant, but all college is significant for a lot of people. I think the statistic is, something like eighty-five percent of students are happy with their college choice and they make it work for them, they make themselves thrive. It's a formative period and it works, but, for me, it was particularly painful to wind up, all these years after, being on the President's task force for reorganizing the colleges and being seen as a heretic. [Editor's Note: In April 2004, Dr. Richard L. McCormick created the Task Force on Undergraduate Education to conduct a comprehensive examination of all aspects of the undergraduate experience on the Rutgers' campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway. In July 2005, the Task Force issued a report entitled, "Transforming Undergraduate Education." The report recommended merging Rutgers College, Douglass College, University College and Livingston College into what became the School of Arts and Sciences and turning Cook College into what became the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. On March 10, 2006, President McCormick submitted recommendations based on the Task Force report, but also shaped by the ensuing public debate within the Rutgers community, to the Board of Governors, which approved the reorganization.] One of my nun friends said, "Well, some heretics become prophets." [laughter] I said, "Well, not for me, I don't think, not in my lifetime." Anyway, the thing was that I tried to make the point--it seems to me to be indefensible--that each group of people to go through Douglass, or any other college, had a set of experiences as they became educated people. The environment at Douglass was rich. It was wonderful, in many different ways, for different generations of students, and I wouldn't deny any of that, but to say, as we looked to see what the current situation was, and discovered that we had students having to contend with four different honor codes, some honor codes, no honor codes--we had one case in which four kids cheated on a test and they were subject to four different types of sanctions, one harsh and one nothing, same violation, same classroom. There were all these weird things, but the fact of the matter is, the worst thing I found, because I was Dean for a year, was that the colleges were trying so hard to maintain a reason for being that they were hurting students. "Oh, you can't major in this if you're here. You can only major in that if you're over there." Each college had its own majors. Why is that a good idea? It was depriving students of options and, so far as I could see, for no good reason at all but to create separate identities. It's interesting to me, because, in the early '80s, when the first reorganization came along and the faculties were consolidated, I served on the board--in fact, I was chair of Educational Planning and Policy--but I voted against the consolidation of the faculties. [Editor's Note: In an effort to transform Rutgers into a leading public research institution, in 1981, the University merged the faculties of the independent colleges into a single centralized unit, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). Despite the reorganization and the increasing power of the central administration, Rutgers College, Douglass College, University College, Livingston College and Cook College continued to exist until 2006.]
As I told people later, I said, "Well, I made the wrong decision for the right reasons." [laughter] I thought that move would destroy the colleges. In fact, it did, in some respects, ending the identity that attaches to faculties, and so the colleges had no reason for being anymore, but they were convinced that they did and tried to develop unique programs that distinguished them, including, as I say, offering only certain majors.
Shifts were occurring nationally as well that had impacts locally. Since women now had opportunities they didn't have before, obviously, they weren't restricted to women's colleges. Women's colleges were created because women didn't have opportunities. So, now, they had opportunities and they were going to exercise those choices, but the Douglass alums had become so institutionalized, they had to keep the college alive for their own purposes. I understand that and they still could have things to do, internships, scholarships, traditions, and so forth, but they didn't see it that way at all. It had to be a fight and you were either an enemy or you were a friend, and so, clearly, I was the enemy for refusing to take their side. [Professor of Mathematics] Michael Beals and I chaired the structure subcommittee--thank you, Dick McCormick. [laughter] [Editor's Note: Dr. Richard L. McCormick served as Rutgers University President from 2002 to 2012.]
So, there I was, but, again, I had to do what I thought was right and I thought, once the report was done, he, McCormick, would take it from there. I remember having a conversation with him, saying, "I did what I thought was right, but, now, the battle is yours," and he said, "Oh, no, I need you to help make the case." I said, "Oh, for--I don't want to do that. I feel like I've done what I needed to do." "No, you have to do this," and I think--he didn't articulate this--but I think the feeling was, "If you're a woman and you're making the case for getting rid of the women's college that you can make a more effective case." That may well be. I wasn't the only one and I wasn't the only woman, but I was the rare Douglass graduate. So, that was pretty difficult, but the most painful thing was when there was a hearing on the Douglass Campus and the President asked me to go. So, I went and I thought, "Well, I'll listen," and there were hordes of people there, basically a real rally, "Save Douglass, save Douglass," and so forth. I actually felt threatened. It was pretty grim and some members of the Board of Governors were there and the President was there and a number of other people, but this was a pro-Douglass crowd. They had a whole bunch of legislators that they'd gotten there and whatnot. So, this thing went on and everybody was up there, yelling, carrying on. The Dean at that time, Carmen Ambar, turned to me--she saw me--she said, "Did you want to say something?" [Editor's Note: Carmen Twillie Ambar served as Dean of Douglass College from 2002 to 2008.] So, I just couldn't say, "No, I'm not going to say anything," that just seemed too, I don't know, not weird, but all so weak or lacking in any kind of courage. So, I said okay. Now, many people in the audience who were testifying and carrying on talked about taking all their money and taking it away, no longer giving to Douglass or Rutgers for that matter. They're not going to give any money to Douglass and they'll take away their endowment and they're not going to give any money and the hell with scholarships, and this, that and the other thing. So, when I got up, I said, "I think that Mabel Smith Douglass, when she created this college, was looking to create opportunities for women and scholarships create opportunities for women. [Editor's Note: In 1918, Mabel Smith Douglass (1874-1933) became the founding Dean of the New Jersey College for Women (NJC). Douglass remained at the post until 1932. In 1955, NJC was renamed Douglass College.] I think it's pretty sad to hear people saying they're going to take that away." I said, "I think if she were to cross the threshold today, Mabel Smith Douglass wouldn't care whether it said Douglass College or what it said, but, if you cross the threshold here and you have an opportunity and somebody helps you financially, that's a good thing and that's what we ought to be talking about." Well, boo, hiss, all this business. So, sitting behind me when I sat down was Jeanne Fox, who now is on the Public Utilities Commission and she was an activist. Actually, she was the student representative to the Board of Governors when I was on the Board, and so, she was a student activist even then. So, I sat down and she leaned over and she said, "Don't you get up again." I thought, "Good grief." I can't believe, I mean, in a collegial environment, where views are tolerated, this is what its graduates think is the right way to do things? It was a miserable night, I can tell you, but it helps, frankly, to think, to know, you're right. If I didn't believe I was, I think I'd have had a hard time doing that, but I am right and I think it's been borne out. Still, the antipathy toward me is so great, if I walk into a room and there are Douglass alumnae, they stand up and turn their backs. They just had a convocation for a new dean and they invited every living dean, acting deans as well as "real" ones, except for me. I thought, well, that's fine. I guess it must be that I'm right, because it's difficult to maintain a fiction. And blaming someone for uncovering that--like the emperor's new clothes--carries risks. Still, a residential college can, and this one does, offer a lot of extras, not only a living/learning environment, but programs and activities that enrich the college experience.
I like the new dean and I think she's trying desperately to put something together that means--the residential college, that is--means something. I think she can probably do that, but that's probably for two hundred, three hundred young women, because she'll have internships for them, she'll have things maybe that the alumnae will pay for. Living in global village housing with programming to match, that sort of thing. Prior to that, in the last days of Douglass College, here was the situation: A proposal by the dean, Carmen Ambar, was, that to be a student living at Douglass--and to get a degree from Douglass, although the degree is really Rutgers, because the faculty awards it and the faculty is Rutgers, and you could major in anything you wanted, all was open to you--you had to minor in women's and gender studies. I said, that does it. You mean to tell me that I want to major in chemistry and minor in physics and I can't if I'm part of this community? How can that be expanding opportunities for women? I couldn't believe it. I absolutely think that was probably an effort--this I would excise, I'm sure--but I think Women's and Gender Studies were probably losing enrollment and figured requiring a minor of the Douglass women, is a way to get the numbers up, but, as I think about it, I'm sure it was more than that. They're committed to what they do, but the fact of the matter is, we created one college of arts and sciences to open opportunities for everybody, not to close them off. So, I thought that about did it for me, anyhow, a lot of my friends, colleagues, people I had associated with for years were not to be seen, not taking a position. Mary Hartman, who was a very important dean of Douglass, and I had been chair of the Douglass Trustees' Committee for a time, aligned with Carmen. I said to her, "Mary," I said, "we have never been on the same side of any issue. I mean, we're on different sides here, we were on different sides when Ed Bloustein wanted to reorganize the colleges." I said, "You were dean then and you gave up the faculty and, still, everybody loves you." "They just don't see it." [Editor's Note: Dr. Mary Hartman served as Dean of Douglass College from 1982 to 1994.]
I was on the state Board of Higher Education when Christine Whitman, the first woman Governor of New Jersey, decided to get rid of the state Board of Higher Education and I opposed that move, vigorously. I got a call from the governor's office, "Would I chair the new structure that was to take its place?" I said I absolutely would not. I opposed what the governor was doing. It's wrong for the state; it's wrong for higher education. So, then, Mary took the position! Well, that thing is no longer in existence and nobody would even know what it was, but everybody wants to know why we don't have an advocate for higher education. I'll tell you why. [laughter] [Editor's Note: In 1994, Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman (in office from 1994 to 2001) abolished the Department and Chancellor of Higher Education, which had provided governance for the state's colleges and universities since 1967. In their place, the Whitman Administration created the Commission on Higher Education and the New Jersey Presidents' Council.] So, on all those three things, she and I parted ways, but we're still friends and I think she's sophisticated enough to recognize that there's more to a friendship and an association than being on the same side all the time, although I don't know that, if she were a Republican, whether I could keep it up. [laughter] Anyway, so, it's very difficult, because I think so well of my Douglass experience, I think so many other people do, but my way of thinking about it and dealing with it is different from others and that means I'm anathema in that small community. I don't like that, but what can I do?
PC: I would like to take you back to Douglass again. That is where we started. You get there in 1958, something like that.
LS: Yes, '58.
PC: You lived in Corwin.
PC: That was an apartment.
LS: They're the little houses, yes. They were built because they thought, if the college didn't succeed, then, they could be sold as housing.
PC: How many women lived in one house?
LS: About fourteen to sixteen.
PC: They were in suites of four.
LS: Well, suite is too elegant a word. [laughter] There was a little living room, a kitchen and two bedrooms on one floor, and then, three or four bedrooms upstairs. I think some of them were a little smaller than others. It was kind of a suite arrangement. Actually, when I became Dean, one of those units we used for women with children, because, at the time, you couldn't be a student and have a child, oh, no, but that was one of the things I thought, "Well, if Douglass is to create an opportunity for people, how about women with children?" We ran amuck of the New Brunswick School Board. They didn't want children living [there]. Anyway, it was nice to see that those buildings kept being used for various things, but, now, they don't pass a lot of the inspections. To rewire them and to do everything else, it couldn't be done for living purposes. So, they're now offices, but at least they're still there.
PC: You got to know all the fifteen or sixteen women who lived there.
LS: Oh, very well, yes, and then, also, because there was a big dwelling called the Lodge--there were two horseshoes and the Lodge was between the two of them-- there were a lot of gatherings there. So, you got to know a lot of people who lived on Corwin and there were tennis courts there and it was quite nice. Then, you could walk down the hill to Cooper Dining Hall, where everybody ate. Since you had to have a skirt to eat in the dining hall, we all kept old, ratty skirts hanging on hooks. [laughter] So, we'd come in in our jeans and shorts and put on our ratty skirts. "Everybody thinks we look better this way, fine." So, yes, the thing is, you had one meal on offer, and, if you didn't like that meal, you could get three slices of cheese. That was your thing. I remember, distinctly, do you remember Jim Rosenau? [Editor's Note: Dr. James Rosenau taught at Rutgers, Ohio State and USC before becoming University Professor of International Relations at George Washington University.]
LS: He was in the Political Science Department. Well, we had a practice--we'd invite faculty members for dinner. They would come to Cooper and sit there for dinner. I don't think I ever really remembered this until he reminded me of it, that there was a bell before dinner and you're supposed to say a prayer. So, when the bell rang, [laughter] Jim's looking all over, like, "What's this about?" thinking, um, public college. Anyway, yes, so, there was a routine and whatnot and it was a lot of camaraderie, a lot of political activism. Douglass felt itself better than Rutgers, that kind of thing. Many of us, we looked at the SAT scores and said, "Oh, we're better than those people that went to Princeton," and that kind of thing. So, there was kind of a heady atmosphere about the place and these students were serious. I mean, you didn't go there because you wanted to be frivolous, no sororities. We sort of held fraternities in disdain and we sort of thought we were the elect of some sort. [laughter]
PC: How often did you go across New Brunswick to Rutgers?
LS: Oh, often enough, for the library, primarily, but to mixers and this sort of thing. When I was just--I guess the first mixer I went to as a freshman--I was leaving because I didn't like it. Down the stairs coming was this horde of Rutgers students, including somebody by the name of Billy Austin, who was one of the big football players for Rutgers. He took my hand, we went down to the dance floor and we started dancing. So, I started dating him for, like, that first week in college. Then, he broke his leg in some game and that was that. Yes, you did that kind of thing. That was fun. I went to a few and never liked fraternity parties. There, people were at their worst behavior. That's one of my failures on the Board of Governors. I said, "We have to get rid of fraternities," and we ended up regulating them and regulating them, but not forbidding them. I don't like the eating clubs at Princeton, either.
PC: You could not actually take a course at that time at Rutgers College, could you?
LS: You might have been able to, for the most arcane thing, but, basically, no. Certainly, it would've been grossly discouraged. Even the faculty at the time thought themselves very privileged to be at Douglass. It was Ed Bloustein's wife, Ruth Ellen Steinman, her father was a Professor of Philosophy in the Philosophy Department, and so, any time anyone talked about Rutgers, "This is not Rutgers--this is Douglass." So, I mean, when Ed thought, "Oh, everybody keeps themselves separated, all the students," it's not just the students, faculty are happy about the way it is, too. They, as you know, many resisted the coming together; at least initially.
PC: You said you came over to Rutgers College for social events. Presumably, Douglass ran its own set of social events, like big dances.
LS: Yes, it did, yes. I will tell you another story about that, if you like. I actually told this story to students when I was Dean and they liked it--most of the staff thought it was inappropriate--but there was a rule, this thing--Douglass has all these traditions--and you could not wear red as a freshman. Well, I never read the book about any of that, so, I brought red clothes to campus and I could never wear them. So, at one of those mixers, I met a fellow from Princeton and he invited me down to one of the parties at Princeton. I had understood that everybody at Princeton lived in suites, and so, if you were staying in a suite, you were staying with a number of women and the men were staying somewhere else, or however those things worked out. I took the bus down to Princeton and, lo and behold, I went to--I don't remember a couple of the steps of this--but, anyway, I wound up in my red dress to find out, as I was ready to leave for the party, that what I thought was a suite was a single. On the wall--I couldn't make this up--was a moose head and hanging from the antler of the moose was a little sign that said, "You think you're horny?" I thought, "Uh-oh." So, I packed my bag, or I had maybe not unpacked it, went down the back stairs and out through the back of this party and this kind of scene and got out to the main road only to find out I had missed the last bus back to New Brunswick. I didn't know how to get back, and so, I went into a gas station. The gas station attendant took pity on me. He said he would drive me back to New Brunswick, but he couldn't do that until--now, see, these days, you'd say you did the more dangerous thing, [laughter] but, in any event that's what I did. But, then, it was after curfew. So, I would be coming back late, which was verboten, without permission, and, in a red dress. [laughter] The man lent me his raincoat, so that I could get on the campus with the red dress. We made arrangements for him to pick it up. So, when we were talking at Douglass about tradition, I said, "So, here's the story of the red dress."
PC: When you were living in this independent thing at Corwin, how did they maintain control?
LS: You had a house chairman and the house chairmen were especially selected by the Dean of Students, my least favorite person. So, these people were monitors and they were there to hold every one accountable, to the honor code, to the rules, bound to report anything.
PC: If she did not report, she got in trouble.
LS: That's right. Frankly, I don't remember all that happened. I can't even remember whether we had keys or not or you had to be let in. I can't remember that. It was pretty restrictive and I honestly don't even know if you could have men in the living room, but maybe you could, maybe you could, because that was kind of quasi-public anyway. Of course, nobody would want to do it, because everybody else would come in there and stare at you [laughter] and that was the only space everybody else had. So, when I wound up in one of the new dormitories at Woodbury Hall, I thought that was quite an improvement.
PC: You actually wanted to leave Corwin.
LS: Well, I didn't really want to, but I think when it came down to the kinds of amenities that it had--I don't know, maybe it had to do with the selection process. Oh, I think, you know what the thing is, I'd decided I wanted a single room, that study habits and all kinds of things made it better, for me, anyway. Then, I was a junior. So, I spent my first two years in the one kind of housing, and then, my junior year in that one. I think, at that point, I actually thought I was leaving school, because I was going to go on a ship and go across the sea, that kind of thing, but my father thought better of that idea. I think I preferred the Corwin housing and the thing is because I was so fortunate to have two women in that house, Sylvia Finkelstein and Anne Friedman. Anne was doing her honors paper with McDonald, who was the Political Science Professor, and she was very interested in this three social science course that I was in, because the faculty kept talking about it. So, you felt you were part of an experiment that was a very fortunate one and that you were privileged being in it. I could talk with her about it, which made me feel very important, because freshmen never feel very important.
SI: Can you give us an idea of the student body at that time, in terms of class, etc.? Were there African-Americans as part of the class?
LS: Yes, there were, not very many. There were Africans--actually, one of these women became my goddaughter--Joy Smythe-McCauley, from Sierra Leone. Douglass had a program, a well-connected international organization, that would attract and support a handful of students. Joy was very elegant. I think her father was a tribal chieftain or something, but he had been educated at Oxford and Joy was already a well-educated person, but this was an opportunity to spend, I guess, some time at an American college. I guess her parents thought a women's college was best for her. Through this Dean, Edna Newby, we wound up having Joy at Douglass and she became my best friend, loved her, and then, she decided to become Catholic and I became her godmother. She was, I think, older than I. Then, she subsequently married a fellow who was the Ambassador to the UN from Dahomey--I forget what it's called now [Benin]--and we hung out, the three of us, with Adlai Stevenson. [laughter] So, that was a very nice part of my life; anyway, so, not much diversity, but some and I don't think, no sense of any kind of discrimination. It just may have been, I mean, I guess Douglass had primarily New Jersey students, not many of them African-Americans.
One though, in my class, who became a good friend, an African-American, Bernice Proctor Venable, subsequently became superintendent of schools in Trenton; she is an overseer of the Rutgers Foundation.
PC: You mentioned earlier your roommate.
LS: From Virginia.
PC: That is unusual, because Douglass was more restrictive than Rutgers College, very few out-of-state students.
LS: Yes, that's right, and I think, though, that the one thing that's different now is, we stayed. I mean, we didn't go home on weekends. This campus was lively. I mean, now, when I was Dean, I couldn't believe it--everybody disappeared. I mean, it was really weird and that affects the local economy and everything else, but I think everybody liked being there. These were your friends, this was your new home, this was your life. So, it was a genuine, fully-felt community.
PC: Did you have any sense that there was a significant number of Jewish students on campus?
LS: Yes, significant, significant.
PC: Did protests arise when you were there about keeping kosher? I know, at some point in the 1960s, there were protests on Douglass because they had no facilities. Everybody had to eat together and you had to eat in the dining hall.
LS: Yes, that's right. I don't remember that. I mean, I would say that a good portion of my friends were Jewish and I don't remember that being an issue. I mean, I know it's an issue now, sort of going the other way now. It becomes more exclusivity rather than options. No, I had worked the summer before my freshman year at a hotel in Asbury Park and it turned out that one of the other waitresses there--her name was Anastasia Karumpalus, so, Greek--she was working there because her uncle, also Greek, owned the hotel, and she was coming to Douglass. So, she was from New Jersey, but, in a way, she wasn't. So, I think there was that kind of phenomenon, that you had a lot of recent immigrants. Almost all were first in their families to go to college, which is pretty much still true. Interestingly enough, all those Douglass alums who think Douglass is the greatest thing, when I asked them, "How many of your daughters did you encourage to come here?" not too many could answer in the affirmative. Yet, that was one of the clubs on campus, Mothers-Daughters, because there were a few whose mothers had gone to Douglass and they were coming, too. So, yes, I can't think of the [names]--if I looked at my yearbook, I guess I'd probably have a better feel for it--but I think that the government association, the DGA, and The Caellian and The Horn Book and the activities that were part of the college setting, pretty much across the board, they weren't segregated organizations, not in any way, as I can recall.
SI: Can you tell us a little bit about The Horn Book? I have never heard of that before.
LS: It was a literary magazine, a fine, fine one. There were a number of students who were gifted writers. I still have some of my old Horn Books. Of course, I still have a lot of a lot of things from college days. I was able to appear in my decades old college blazer at a DGA meeting when I was dean of the college!
I don't know when it ceased to exist, but it was for art, it was for poetry, it was for essays and it was for reviews. People vied to get their work published there. It had an editorial board of very, very serious people. If you look at the yearbook picture, The Horn Book editors are all sitting there with dark glasses and dark hair, no smiles, because they had to fit a certain image. One of them, Joan Allen, was a magnificent human being. I was in such awe of her and she just disdained everything except learning and scholarship. She would sit in the student center and hold court and, when I was part of that court, I just thought I had finally made it in the world. Years after graduation, I got a note from her. I couldn't believe it. She was living in Toms River and she had noticed that I was doing something--I forget what it was, something had been in the press--and would I like to have lunch? What a lift! So, we met in Princeton, we had a lovely lunch and we kept in touch after that. She died a few years ago. She turned out to be "a very normal" person in the end, but, when I knew her and I saw her there, she was really quite on the fringes, I'd say.
PC: Did you work for the student newspaper? You mentioned writing for The Caellian.
LS: Yes, I didn't have an official position, I just did freelance. I learned the origin of freelance; do you know what it is? During the knighthood, period of the knights, people with lances, knights would belong to a certain leader, but, then, there were a few people who were "free lances." You could get them if you needed extra lances. So, they were called "free lance" and that's why we have freelance journalists and others. I learned that in the kiddy column three weeks ago in The Star-Ledger. I read everything. [laughter]
PC: Do you remember what you wrote about for The Caellian?
LS: Yes, I covered a lot of speeches, a lot of political speeches that were given by people. I covered C. P. Snow, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Robert Frost. I wrote that review I told you about. I think I held forth on various issues that were of contemporary significance to the college at the time. We always thought we were dealing with some major issue. It's amazing how those fade. [laughter]
SI: Were they major issues on campus or in the world?
LS: Yes, I mean, for example, there was an orientation committee that was to design a program for incoming freshmen. So, The Horn Book crowd wanted to control that, because they thought if they created the programs for the incoming freshmen, they would be able to influence their minds as they cross the threshold. Lo and behold, I became chairman of the orientation committee. So, then, I had to deal with all these people who were trying to control it and the deans and whatnot that wanted this like a little fairy tale thing, that everybody's going to come in and be warm and happy and fuzzy and all that. So, there must have been eighteen meetings about that. Then, just trying to think, yes, I and one of my classmates, I guess we were on this search committee for something--I can't remember what it was--but we were invited to the Dean's house, which was really quite something. We were all sitting at the dining room table, leaning on it, and it broke on our end. So, we were holding it up the whole night, [laughter] because we didn't want to be the ones accused of breaking the Dean's table. Actually, when I came to occupy that house, having spent the time there as an undergraduate--the same thing to be up in the chapel giving talks to people--I always expected to be down there and never up here, but that's what an institution does to you, I think, when you're young.
SI: Did you still have to go to services or would they just have periodic convocations at the chapel?
LS: Yes, they weren't religious in nature particularly. I mean, good grief, we had Roy Lichtenstein and others in the Art Department, Reginald Neal and, oh, yes, Geoff Hendricks, a leader in the Fluxus movement. It was that time and the chapel was taken over by "those people," who were seen to be the certainly marginalized people, but it was a genuine art movement.
SI: The Happenings?
SI: Allan Kaprow? [Editor's Note: Allan Kaprow, a professor in the Douglass College Art Department from 1963 to 1973, created the "Happening" concept in art at an event at the Reuben Gallery in New York in October 1959.]
LS: Something like that. I'll think of it, because Geoff Hendricks was a face of the movement. He just retired a few years ago from Mason Gross and he still stands on his head and he was a major force in this movement, but it was to get access to the chapel, that was the thing. It wasn't so much what happened in it, I mean, in terms of religious services, but what they wouldn't let happen there. How they ever got the Fluxus movement and its manifest art--it was celebrated just last year, its fortieth-some-odd year and in the Voorhees Chapel! So, there were a lot of kind of radical things going on and, I think you know, much to the chagrin of some of the powers-that-be. I mentioned about the honor board; that was an issue. Then, there were other things.
SI: How long did you serve on the honor board?
LS: A year. I was just trying to remember. When Margery Somers Foster was Dean, I was no longer a student. That's probably why, because Michael Rockland was then the Associate Dean and there was much to do about use of the chapel and threats to free speech and whatnot having to do with the use of the chapel, but, while I was a student, I don't recall much of that. I'll wake up at three o'clock this morning and remember his last name. [Editor's Note: Dr. Margery Somers Foster served as Dean of Douglass College from 1967 to 1975.]
SI: Actually, we have interviewed Professor Rockland. He talked a lot about the struggles over the Voorhees Chapel board.
LS: Oh, did he?
SI: One thing that keeps coming up is the black mass.
LS: Yes, that's right. You know what, I was moving that back into my undergraduate time instead of the graduate period, because that's when that was. Yes, that's right, that's right. I was a Trustee. I'm sorry, I got those two things mixed up. Yes, he'll talk about Geoff, too, because he was part of the Fluxus movement. Actually, Michael and I went to the celebration of that event together last year, or the year before, and they handed out the masks that had the face behind you and all that kind of business. It's a wild, wild movement. [Editor's Note: In 1970, Rutgers University Professor of Art Geoffrey Hendricks brought Austrian Actionist artist Hermann Nitsch's Orgies-Mysteries Theater and avant-garde Fluxus art movement founder George Maciunus' Flux-Mass to Rutgers University. The Flux-Mass, a parody of the Roman Catholic Mass, was held at Voorhees Chapel on the Douglass Campus on February 17, 1970.]
SI: The campus was not as radical when you were an undergrad.
LS: No, I don't think so, I don't think so. I mean, we thought we were radical; the things we thought were serious were probably not so serious. I think the students at the time were very involved in what was going on in the world and the colonial influences and occupation of countries and freeing them and all of that. I mean, more that, I think.
SI: You mentioned this rally for Algeria. Was that on campus?
LS: Oh, yes, and we had a lot of speeches and rallies I think because of the proximity of the campus to New York and to Princeton. Then, people could go there, and then, talk there. Douglass was always receptive to the folks who had something interesting to say.
PC: In my research, one of the things that struck me was that for about a year-and-a-half, maybe even two years of a run of The Targum, the Algeria issue popped up all over the place, in a way I would never have anticipated. Do you have any sense as to why it was so important to students?
LS: I wish I could come up with something that would sound like I'd be convinced of it, but I think a lot of these things reflect the vagaries of the moment. The first person to refuse to sit down in the back of the bus is not the one that starts the movement. Other people preceded that. Why that particular time? It may have been what people were studying at the time, it may have been the availability of the people, it may have been the press coverage and the ease of access to what was going on. I think there were a lot of young people affected by this, so, there was that sense of it. I don't think there was so much an anti-French attitude, particularly. I have so many things I've saved, I may well find a story and I'll be able to elucidate. I do know that I was moved by the plight of the Algerians.
SI: While you were an undergraduate, Kennedy was elected. How was that campaign perceived on campus and was there a lot of student support?
LS: Oh, yes, much support for Kennedy. Also, my "little sister," her name is Judi Egolf, her mother ran for Congress and also actively campaigned for Kennedy. So, we had an even more direct "in" on that. Judi is still a friend. She is one of eight of us who continue to get together, at least once a year. Perhaps one of the most enduring aspects of life at a woman's college is the opportunity to form lasting friendships. I have not seen any research on this but anecdotally, I think there is something to it. In any event, I treasure these relationships, none quite like them.
SI: The big sister/little sister program.
LS: Yes, yes, and I mean everybody. I don't recall anybody who didn't think Kennedy wasn't the next coming. Given what we've had since--anyway, so, yes, that was a big deal. I mean, I don't think there'd be any question that people were [pro-Kennedy]. We were all ready to vote, that even more than the drinking. I mean, I can't even remember what the drinking age was. I guess it must have been younger, because, then, it changed. That's how little I pay attention to the drinking aspect of things, not that I don't drink wine.
SI: I hear a lot of students, I think it was twenty-one here and eighteen in New York, they would always go to New York.
LS: Yes, but, then, I think it was lowered here for a while, then, raised again, but I don't know why I think that. I remember that we had some issues here because we had students who are of age and those that weren't. When it was twenty-one, it was less of a problem, but, when it was younger--oh, well, neither here nor there. There was always too much drinking on the campus, period, regardless of what the age was. [laughter]
SI: Was there any drug use, particularly with the kind of Beat influence on campus?
LS: There was probably more talking about it than was actually done. I mean, I never saw anybody, but I think there was much talking about marijuana, "Let's do weed," but I have a feeling that was more acting out than it was actuality. I think one of the things that was so prominent was cigarette smoking and there were people dispensing free cigarettes all the time. You were vying to get to be the cigarette dispenser on campus, because, then, you got more free cigarettes. You could smoke everywhere. So, if anything, kids in high school were probably restricted by their parents from smoking, so that when they got to college and, they could smoke freely and so that's what they did--with the active encouragement of Big Tobacco! So, you sort of lost your belief in God and you started smoking. [laughter] Then, the rest of it started.
PC: I do remember reading about and being shocked that the Dean--it would have been Foster, I think--at some point along the line in the 1960s, bans smoking in the dorms. There was massive student protest. You look at this from our perspective today, that seems so crazy. It reinforces what you said, that it really mattered to the kids to be able to smoke.
LS: Yes, and then, they would make it another kind of issue, if it was one thing, "But, she's trying to tell us what to do," that kind of thing. When you look at the history of the successful banning of cigarette smoking, you think of what we had to go through as a nation to change that behavior and what we'll be trying to do with cellphone use, while driving in cars and that kind of thing, it is really quite remarkable. Some of these things are just bizarre, what students will kind of fight for. I remember, when I was Dean, I got wind of the fact that one of my associate deans had gone down and taken away all the copies of The Caellian from display. I don't know who told me, but I said, "Well, why?" Well, because a group of Douglass students had taken photographs of themselves bare-breasted, but without their heads, to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So, I said, "Put them back, put them back. First of all, that's outrageous that you would do that. Secondly, what's the matter with what they did?" Unfortunately my action opened up a can of worms, because the students got wind of the fact that they had been temporarily "silenced." So, their big issue was not that they got put back, but who took them away? I didn't want to sort of "out" this dean, so, I thought, "I'll take the heat a little bit for it." Then, I found myself in this curious situation with The Caellian people, saying to them, "You have all of these photographs of women in various stages of undress and whatnot--where do you get those pictures?" "Well, we get them on the Internet." "Well, who are these women? Where did they come from? How did they get paid? Don't you think they're being exploited somewhere? Why do you want to continue that?" They'd never thought about it. They thought printing these photographs reflected their strengths, exercised their freedom--they can use whatever they want. I said, "Freedom is one of those things, just because you can doesn't mean you should. In fact, you should be helping those women out, not adding to their exploitation," but, for the students, at this point, they wanted it to be all about the front page story, not about whatever else was inside, and who had took their newspapers away. Who tried to silence them? Anyway, we've had a number of those press issues and the students get really worked up, whether it's The Caellian or The Medium. I think The Medium had Christ and Mary in some kind of, I don't know what, sexual embrace. That got people all worked up, but, usually, it's dealt with pretty effectively.
On Douglass, unfortunately, I found that the previous Deans had looked the other way when the Alumnae Association would take a first look at The Caellian. If they didn't like it, they'd come and take it away and nobody did anything about it, because they didn't want people coming to the campus and seeing this "outrage" or having anybody read it. Well, part of being on a college campus is outrage. [laughter] It's how you deal with it that matters, not that it's ever easy. The year that I was Dean, 2001-2002, included the horror that we refer to as "9/11" and campus reaction included some "iffy" happenings. At one point, a number of people were holding prayer services in the dorms. You can't do that. But, then again, forbidding it seemed unnecessarily heartless. So, because people are very upset and they want to get together and they're religious, let's find a space where you can engage in prayer, where we're not running amuck of things. Actually, when you think about it, there would be no Douglass College, because you can't have a public college for women. So, in a way, when Rutgers embraced New Jersey College for Women and took it on, it actually secured its status as a place for women which, independently, it would no longer have. So, it's interesting the way that whole story unwinds, even to the death of, I guess, Dean Corwin. I think she drowned or killed herself, I guess is what it was. We don't want to end on that note, though. [Editor's Note: Margaret Trumbull Corwin served as Dean of Douglass College from 1934 to 1955.]
SI: You talked about this great interdisciplinary course and how it shaped your education. Can you tell us about deciding on a major, any other professors that may stand out in your memory, your work in the classroom?
LS: Well, that's where I always wanted to be, and then, I did honors papers, and then, I had a special relationship with Jim Rosenau. There was a program, that the Dean funded. You could do research for a professor and the college would pay, would give you a summer salary. So, a faculty member from Princeton was going to India, I got his apartment and lived in Princeton for the summer, spending all my time in the library doing research for Jim Rosenau's book, An International Relations Reader. I thought that I was living the most privileged life doing that and, in fact, I probably was. So, there was that kind of opportunity.
In a way, it's sad, in a sense, I got married in the summer before my senior year. It was almost as if, in some quarters, that meant my life had ended. I think some faculty thought I wasn't serious anymore. I just don't know why I had that sense, but it was almost like, "Well, if you did this, then, you can't do that." They probably knew more than I did, because I had applied to Columbia to do graduate work and I won't bore you, but I had straight "A"s and I had all good scores and all that sort of stuff. Everybody from Douglass who applied in political science at Columbia got accepted except for me and the only thing that I stood out for is that I was married. I didn't know this until I looked into it. I found it outrageous. I kept saying, "What do you mean I'm not admitted?" and it was the notion that, somehow or another, if you're married, you're not serious anymore, instead of, which was my argument: "Well, I've taken care of all that side. [laughter] Now, I'm free. I can study, because I don't have to [socialize]. I wasn't pregnant, I wasn't intending to be pregnant, so, why can't I study?" Fascinating. When I was Dean, we had a relationship with Ewha Women's University in Korea. It just shows you, when you look through a cultural lens, how you can see the same thing differently. Ewha is the largest women's university, I think, in the world, certainly in Korea, and we decided we'd offer a joint course. We worked on this. It came to my attention that the university had decided on a new policy, that if any of their students got married, they were thrown out of Ewha. I got in touch with the president and I said, "I have to object to that happening. We're doing this joint course, and I feel compelled to comment on your new policy at Ewha." She explained to me, she said, "Well, it's not that we want to discriminate. We're trying to prevent families from marrying off their daughters before their daughters want to make their own choices. We felt that if we said, 'You can't be here and be married,' we would save a lot of young women from being forced into marriage." Now, so, you think you have the correct read on something, and then, you realize there might be another reason for something. So, I learned, don't pass judgment until you get a clue as to the rationale for an action.
Anyway, so, I was kind of bitter about that, my rejection by Columbia, because I thought that's just where I was going. I was sort of, "What should I do?" So, I decided, "Well, my other love is China, so, I'll do Chinese," but I couldn't go to Cornell, where they had very intensive programs. It wasn't close enough to what was home for me. So, the only choice I had was Seton Hall and, there, I was the only non-Chinese person in the Chinese language course. [laughter] I certainly felt a little challenged, but I did international studies and I did a lot of things as I progressed.
[Note made by Linda Stamato during editing: The tape was paused because I recounted an instance of significant sexual harassment that led me to direct my interests elsewhere. One didn't destroy peoples' lives, it seemed to me, by reporting their misbehavior. As I think about it now, of course, I may well have, but perhaps not. My sense of it, now, and probably without articulating it just this way, then, my hesitation had less to do with any sense of a power imbalance--that makes sexual harassment so destructive--or fear of consequences but had more to do with my own sense of the experience (and not only just that one). I felt more powerful in the situation than I thought he did. Absent a need myself, or a lack of confidence in my own ability, I was in control.]
LS: So, I stopped the Chinese studies and I switched to American studies, because, being the good interdisciplinary person I am, I thought, "Well, why don't I try that?" and encountered some of the outstanding faculty Seton Hall had at the time, because they got a lot of young people who were on their way to other places. I had a mentor, John Duff, who became Chancellor of the University of Massachusetts, and he mentored me on my thesis on the Ramapo Mountain People, which took me three years to complete. [Editor's Note: Dr. John B. Duff served as the first President of the University of Lowell in 1976, which became the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 1991.] In the meantime, I got my pilot's permit, so that I could fly over the Ramapo Mountains to see where the enclaves of people were. It was really a fascinating period of my life and I enjoyed that immensely.
So, I had, at Douglass and Rutgers, basically, it was political science and sociology, strong points, loved Chinese history and Jessie Lutz, and American history, labor studies, and just the scope of American culture led me to sort of explore that further at Seton Hall. Then, I went for a PhD in American studies at NYU, which I virtually finished, but didn't write a thesis, because, basically, I got a job at the Ford Foundation. I thought, "Well, I'll do that instead." I mean, a lot of my life, I think, is, "If an avenue opens, follow it." My husband was never very happy with my saying that when we decided to get married, I had three choices. One was Jay Schulman, the sociologist at Douglass, had said he'd get me a great opportunity to do some social science research in New York or I could go through the economics thing to the International Labor Fund and do some work there in Europe or, my third choice, get married. It took me quite a while to decide which thing to do. [laughter] Unfortunately, I think I made a mistake, I married too young, something my daughters avoided doing. What is that Robert Frost line, something like 'know yourself before you go out into the world.'
So, that was that and, from that point on, I kept going to school and I did more graduate work in labor studies here at Rutgers. I know, at one point, I was going to go to law school and I said to Ed Bloustein, I said, "What do you think? Do you think I have to pay tuition or what?" He said, "Well, you're a child of the University. Why not? You should be able to go." I sat in a couple of classes and I said, "No, I don't know, this is not for me." I prefer alternatives to litigation.
SI: We are at the end of our time. I just have a quick question. Your thesis on the Ramapo Mountain People, how did you settle on that topic and what were your findings?
LS: It was funny, that my professor, John Duff, had written a short entry on the Ramapo, the so-called "Jackson Whites," in the Encyclopedia Britannica and the entry was wrong. So, that got me interested in why it was wrong and where all these theories came from, and then, because I was living in the area--I was living in Wayne at the time, and then in Oakland in the Ramapo Mountains. Albert Payson Terhune, of Lassie fame, had lived there and he wrote some of the most horrible polemics about the Ramapo Mountain People. [Editor's Note: Albert Payson Terhune, author of numerous canine-based stories and books, including 1919's Lad: A Dog, maligned the Ramapo in his 1926 work, Treasure.] The book reflected the beliefs, the myths, the incorrect history of the time. The fact of the matter is, these people had polydactylism and syndactylism, which is webbed fingers and toes and extra fingers and toes, and they had a lot of albinism and there was a lot of inbreeding, but, basically, their heritage, where they came from, nobody had the straight story. So, I was determined to get the straight story. I think I came pretty close, but all these years have passed, and then, this year I kept getting requests for the thesis. So, Seton Hall, finally, reproduced it, so that people could have copies of it. Otherwise, it was just in its original typed form. I guess, the Mountain People became more "interesting" to the public partly due to a push for recognition as a tribe and when one of the Ramapo Mountain People was shot in the park.
Unfortunately, a lot of the patterns of behavior were problematic. For example, just before hunting season, the Mountain People often started fires to drive the animals to a point where they could kill them, because they needed to eat and to save up for the winter, but you can't start fires in National Parks. So, it was a constant culture clash and, even sadly now, less than one percent go to college, even finish high school. So, I mean, they're really very isolated. I saw in today's Star-Ledger that there's a lawsuit, Mann v. the Ford Motor Company, because Ford Motor Company basically despoiled much of their land and the kids were eating a lot of the sludge, because the sludge from the paint smelled and tasted sweet. Oh, it's just really grim. The people who are the have-nots in society, really, they have a tough time and these are the most have-nots.
There's a story about an encampment of Ramapo Mountain people on the grounds of Darlington Seminary in Mahwah [Immaculate Conception Seminary] and, because they had been there for over a hundred years, they basically had recognized squatter's rights. While the Seminary wanted to move them, they didn't move them. Their huts and tents burned down, however, and so, they moved to the other side of the river, but remained on the campus of the Seminary. With that move, though, their rights, basically, were relinquished, as I understand it, and the Seminary felt free to expel them. In any event, they were taken away, removed. Well, wasn't that a nice, Christian thing to do! Anyway, so, yes, they're a fascinating people with a lot of Indian blood, so, a lot of matriarchy in their traditions, and I'm still interested in them. That's one of those things, I thought, "Well, maybe I'll get back to that." Fortunately, I knew a fellow who was a physician and he was a physician for a lot of these people. So, that kind of gave me some access, but, also, there was a priest and there was a preacher and they were also interested in helping the mountain people. They gave talks and I got to meet some of them through there, but, mostly, they didn't want to talk to anybody and I didn't blame them.
PC: I am just curious, as a historian, did they go through any period where they were being forced into sterilization programs in the early twentieth century, which is what happened to a lot of Native American groups?
LS: I know. No, I don't think so. Oddly enough, they were left alone for the most part, because they didn't bother anybody. I mean, they weren't threatening anybody's school district or anyone's livelihood, anything of the sort. They were thought to be so different, people would drive in there for a day's outing, to look at the "weird people." That's mostly what they had trouble with. They started to be forced to go to school, but that didn't go anywhere, because nobody really tried to force them, because nobody wanted them. African-Americans in Paterson were not happy with them. I mean, they were discriminated against by everybody; they didn't belong to anybody and, yet, they were everybody. So, I don't know how long they'll hold out, but you just feel pretty grim for people who just can't seem to--I mean they don't want to make it in America--but they're not allowed to be left alone to do what they need to do to survive either. Yet, as far as I know, unless their own culture carriers are writing up a tradition, I don't know that there is one.
The Mountain People live in New Jersey, in the Ramapo area, and in New York State, in the Nyack area. They live in both areas at points where the Underground Railway exited, so, there's a belief that some of the African-American blood that's part of their make-up came through mixing with slaves who came to the areas via the railway. Joining the Mountain People would certainly seem like a safe option for runaway slaves who were pursued by bounty hunters, hired by their "owners," even into free states.
SI: Thank you very much for your time.
LS: Thank you.
-----------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW-----------------------------------------
Reviewed by Kathryn Rizzi 9/2/2012
Reviewed by Saskia Kusnekov 3/1/2016
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 8/3/2016
Part 2: Forging a Career in Public Service and Education
Shaun Illingworth: This begins our second interview session with Linda Stamato on August 8, 2011, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Shaun Illingworth and Paul Clemens. Thank you very much for having us back.
Linda Stamato: You're welcome.
SI: When we left off last time, we had talked a little bit about your graduate career, your time at Seton Hall. After you earned your master's in American studies at Seton Hall, did you go immediately into the program at NYU?
LS: No. Actually, in-between those two, I got a master's degree in labor studies at Rutgers. I'm not sure I remember precisely the sequence of things, but it may well have been the reverse of that. I might have gone to NYU to pursue American studies, and then, picked up labor studies at Rutgers, but I think I can correct that when I get to looking at it, yes, because it would have been in the '70s that I was doing that labor studies degree, because it was a bit problematic, since I was a Trustee at the time and most Trustees are not students. [laughter]
SI: Before we move on from Seton Hall, you were there during the period of the riots in Newark. Do you remember that affecting your life or seeing the changes wrought by that in the city?
LS: Well, the campus is in South Orange, so, it's a bit removed. I know so much about the riots from the people who were on the Riot Commission, so, I don't think I could easily separate what I remember myself. I remember a little bit living in Nutley, which was not very far from Newark, and that my sister and I used to take the 112 Broad Street bus to Newark. That was something you didn't do during the riots, but, other than that, we were obviously worried and upset and all the kinds of things one would expect. Again, my recollections often come from the conversations I've had with those who conducted the hearings and did all the work and, also, Clem Price, as you know, revisited the Riot Commission report just a little over a year ago in Newark. So, so much of that re-lived tends to influence what I think I may remember from the time.
SI: You received your master' in 1968. What was your next move in your career?
LS: You know what? Why don't I take a look at that résumé?
SI: You entered the program at NYU. Can you tell us a little bit about your work there, what you focused on?
LS: Well, it's a curious thing. I think I mentioned I had started in Chinese studies at Seton Hall, and then, sort of segued in some fashion to American studies, mostly because I tend to think in an interdisciplinary fashion anyway. So, American studies was appealing because the faculty was very strong and I had a lot of interest in a number of aspects that I hadn't had a chance, except for "An Introduction to American History," as an undergraduate, to explore. So, I took it as a privilege and an opportunity and pursued it. At the same time, I got to develop a great appreciation for literature, again; I had not studied much of American literature. So, a number of things at Seton Hall drove me to want to pursue that more vigorously at NYU, which I did. One of the things that happened at the time is the broadening of experience and perspective. In many respects, this is probably true of a lot of Rutgers students, undergraduate students--I wouldn't say we're parochial, but we're mostly New Jersey citizens with not the broadest perspective. So, to all of a sudden start going to NYU and taking the subways and the PATH and, basically, I mean, I remember a couple of times driving across the bridge and feeling this sense of vibrancy in life which comes, at least in my sense of it, from the city. So, I had the privilege of engaging with Thomas Bender, now the University Professor of Humanities there, and through him, Richard Sennett, who did a lot of work on public life--one of his principal books was The Rise of Public Man (1974)--and the sense of life that you get from a city is what I started feeling when I was at NYU. So, I was just happy to take anything and do anything. I liked being there.
PC: He was one of your teachers.
LS: Yes, he was instrumental; he held a view about urban life and its impact on culture and identity that was profound. He was a great student of what urban life can mean for the intellectual and even the emotional growth and satisfaction of a human being. I was blown away, as they say, by understanding that what I was experiencing was not unique by any means. Bender was a superb teacher and adviser. I just came from all this Presidential Search Committee stuff, so, all these names keep going through my head ...
PC: What was Bender like?
LS: Interesting, aloof, and yet very engaged with students; he is the urban animal that he projects in his books, I guess I'd say, but very cosmopolitan. I am thrilled to keep finding his profoundly provocative essays in the Chronicle of Higher Education Review. The faculty at NYU at the time was really wonderful. As was the enormously talented faculty at Seton Hall, many up-and-comers, fresh out of graduate schools and eager and enthusiastic. Their attitudes were infectious!
As it turned out, at the same time that I was doing my work at NYU--it was hardly work as I enjoyed it so much--I was also doing consulting work for the Ford Foundation and I managed to secure a grant for one of my faculty members because of my work at NYU. So, I was constantly one foot in one camp, and then, in the other. In any event, I decided that I was developing a lot of interest in labor, in American labor, and took a course. It was a terrific one. NYU had a lot of adjuncts, but they were people who actually added value to the experience of the students; I got the impression that they were not substitutes for full-time faculty because they were less expensive but chosen because of their direct and ongoing experiences. An example was the teacher in this labor studies course. He was an active organizer in one of the city's trade unions. So, at the end of this really engaging course, we had a full-day negotiation session and we were given a role play, sets of facts, etc., and had to determine what should be in the final hypothetical contract by negotiating. We, class members, were assigned to be either members of "management" or "labor." I was "labor." After the full day bargaining session, he took me aside and offered me a job, which was lovely, not only the offer but to be in the side of the union, of course. So, I thought a lot about that and what direction I should take, but, at the same time, I was beginning to get a little bit more engaged at the Ford Foundation. So, I was sort of trying to keep my options open; each choice, of course, would take me down a different path. As it was, and this is a reflection back, I got married before my senior year at college and I remember saying, I think, now, rather arrogantly, "Well, let's see, should I go to Europe and pursue this opportunity in an international labor organization? Or, should I study with Professor Jay Schulman (who was an outstanding sociologist with some good connections and opportunities in New York City), or should I get married?" In some respects, I'm sorry I didn't choose differently, but for my wonderful children. That international labor organization opportunity was one I probably should have seized, but, in any event, well, there are these themes that keep coming back.
So, I did marry, in 1961. Nonetheless, I pursued graduate study in the ways I've been describing, sort of eclectic, moving from here to there, to capture opportunities that my life and its demands allowed me to. My daughter, Eve, was born in 1971, and she wound up being very directly involved with a lot of what I was doing. Actually, I tried to bring my daughters into "my other life" as much as I could, so, for example, Nina and Liz came with me when I testified on legislation on behalf of the League of Women Voters in Trenton or to rallies for one thing or another, and, later to lectures and programs. Eve was born the year I became a trustee, and she got to be involved with Rutgers, even spending time at the president's house while I negotiated with the union leadership-with Ed Bloustein, of course--over a pressing Union matter. She presented Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands with flowers when the Queen came to Old Queens. Eve often came to Douglass, too, when I deaned to be part of the place, attend lectures, dine with speakers.... And then, of course, every year, all three daughters, and then with their children, the Folk Festival and Cook Field Day.
So, returning to my academic involvements, clearly, American labor was something I was extremely interested in. I thought, "Well, I'll focus on this intensely and do my PhD work at NYU on it." Well, then, I came up against some of the rigidity of academic institutions. There was, I think, less acceptance of the idea of an American studies degree. The economists wanted you to be an economist, the historians wanted you to be a historian, and so forth, and so on, and so, I refused to choose. I wanted American studies and it was early in the development of that program, but I liked it. In any event, while all those individual programs had one foreign language requirement, the American studies program had two, which was rather curious. Well, anyway, so, I kind of had to figure out how I was going to deal with that. Then, the thing is, they wanted me to have advisers for my thesis from the Management School, saying that NYU had no, quote-unquote, "labor" people per se. So, I said, "Well, I thought, 'managers are workers, everyone who works is a worker, so, why would I need to have this sort of business perspective present on my work on labor?'" So, one thing led to another and there was a bit of a standoff. I thought, "Well, okay, I'm just about done. I don't really need to write a thesis anyway." So, I decided I'll go work for the Ford Foundation and give up on the PhD. So, that's why when you see on my resume "all but thesis," it's because we had a bit of a difference of opinion. [laughter] This has happened to me from time to time. In a way, sometimes, I think about going back and getting that credential, but I think I've passed that point.
I think that doing consulting work on areas at the Ford Foundation interested me greatly and they also aligned with the themes that come through with the labor interest. "How do you get people who are on opposite sides of an equation, but are in permanent relationship with one another, to reach agreements that satisfy their interests?" So, sure, that's what labor unions and management do, but it's also what communities do and a lot of non-profits not to mention policy and planning. So, I decided, "Well, I'll pursue a degree in labor studies at Rutgers and I'll also try to encourage the Ford Foundation to do much more funding in the area of conflict resolution," as it's superficially labeled. My colleague on the Rutgers Board of Governors, Sandy Jaffe, at the time, was the program officer at the Ford Foundation responsible for the Foundation's program in law and justice. He was thinking much the way I was: the nation's increasing reliance on litigation wasn't such a good idea. Winning doesn't necessarily solve problems or end conflict.
So, while Sandy was creating and funding NRDC and Native American Women's Rights and environmental and other public interest law firms, and, also, the nation was creating laws that created even more entitlements, and so forth, but that we're stirring up a lot of social turmoil, we decided that we would do some significant grants in the area of conflict resolution. Sandy had made some grants to the community boards program in San Francisco, for example, an organization that was providing training in and opening programs that provided mediation for community disputes, some referred to the boards by police departments. But there wasn't a major push in the direction, just some minor trial grants. After a paper that made the case for a broader and deeper investment was done--written for McGeorge Bundy and members of the Ford Foundation board and staff--the Foundation decided to take conflict resolution to a higher level. So, I got more involved in that, writing a lot of papers on what it ought to be doing. Later on, we actually wrote the document that created something called the National Institute for Dispute Resolution, that was based in Washington, which was a major institution funded by Ford, by the Hewlett Foundation, by the MacArthur Foundation and the Prudential Foundation, basically to advance, well, an understanding of peaceful means to resolve disputes. As an aside, so many efforts are on the other side, if you will, i.e., the study of war, why people disagree, but, after all, only, say, three percent of labor negotiations wind up in strikes, few cases are actually tried in court, so, by what means are resolutions achieved? By what processes and mechanisms? We needed to know, we thought, more about how peace was achieved.
So, that's what this field was all about, then, in my view. That particular institution, NIDR, unfortunately, no longer exists and, in my view, didn't do the job it was created to do. Leadership lacking was responsible, for the most part anyway. You see, I have this view that boards can make or break an organization. If you put all kinds of corporate folks on a board, the person they'll choose to lead that organization will look very much like them. In this case, the NIDR board found somebody who really, I guess, wasn't too interested, shall we say, in looking deeply and broadly at this issue and wound up putting most of the assets of this well-funded institution into arbitration, which is really, basically, just another form of litigation, it's just that it's private and less formal.
The way I and other colleagues looked at the growing field was like this: If you crossed the threshold of a court, you should be able to choose mediation or arbitration or some hybrid or you could litigate, but, basically, and this is true now, too, because well over ninety-six percent of cases that are filed in court are settled, why not provide means to settle earlier and perhaps better instead of what was happening? Settlement usually came at the end of a long, drawn-out and expensive discovery process, and, when positions have hardened, thus making negotiations more difficult. (Settlement occurs because people don't want to go to trial or, having learned more about the case, they are more realistic about their prospects.)
So, the idea was, get people together earlier and try to see if they can't resolve their own differences and that will be good for society, for families, for businesses, for a whole range of people. Most of the early research was suggesting, yes, this is a very good way to go, and, with the aid of new or revised third-part processes, better, more lasting outcomes would follow. I think the one institution that was created to do that fell considerably short and I think it was because of the vision, or lack of vision, of its the board.
So, subsequently, the Ford Foundation decided not to fund that institution and cut back on its grants but did create something called the Fund for Dispute Resolution Research that did some significant grant-making with the assistance of a very, very dynamic group of scholars who made the decision on which grants to fund. I have a lot of those research reports and the scholarship that was done and most of them have been published. So, that was a good contribution to the field.
The next step, basically, in all of this, was the creation of what are called conflict resolution centers. They have various names and there are about, I think, around twenty-three of them around the country. Ours here at Rutgers, the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, is one, and was one of the first to be created. Some of them are headed by people who are full-time faculty members and it's part of also what they do. Some of them are freestanding, not associated with universities, and they all have different levels and focus of work. Some are focused on social action; some are focused on labor-related stuff; some are focused on public disputes and others are very much court-related or court complementary, providing direct services. So, that's where the field sort of stands, in a nutshell, now. I was involved from the beginning, and, fairly active at various stages. It's a well-established field in some respects but there are tensions between the part that emphasizes social justice and the part that emphasizes technical, expeditious (and often financially lucrative) practice. Now, most law schools and business schools have negotiation and mediation courses. It's part of the language. I think, unfortunately, there has been, what I'll call, a certain co-opting of the field. One of the charges against the early dispute resolution movement was that it was going to be second-class justice, that only the people who were important and well-financed would get into courts and the rest would be schlepped aside to these less formal, dispute resolution processes. Initially, sometimes, you'd say, "Well, maybe they've got a point," because the mediation centers were in court building basements much like the offices for Women's and Gender Studies, in the early days, were relegated to the basement of chapels on university campuses, which is sort of an interesting aside. What importance do you accord something is reflected in the space you provide to it.
Anyway, with respect to the issue in the conflict resolution movement, instead of second-class justice, what happened was, I'll just say, for the sake of a better word, the corporate intervention. Something like this: "Wait a minute, this sounds like a pretty good idea for us. So, we'll go private. This way, we can hire our own judges. We can even, and, in some cases in California, they actually did, send busses to the jury sitting areas in public courts and took the jurors who were not selected for public juries, to serve their private judging institutions. What happened was that the second-class justice that people feared was going to happen to poor people wound up being the domain of privilege, the privileged process of the wealthy, of those who could afford it. So, they basically, I wouldn't want to say bought their judges, because that has a connotation from, say, Jersey City, where you actually paid bribes, and so forth, to get the outcomes you wanted. It gave birth to something called the "rent-a-judge" movement in California, and then, Endispute, CPR, and other high-end private providers, that basically use retired judges, most of whom have had no training in mediation whatsoever, and, basically, replicate what they would do in a courtroom, but, being a private process, doesn't have a lot of the safeguards that public courts do.
What's troubling to some of us is, the agreements that are reached or decided by private third parties and private judges are enforceable in court as if they were arrived at in court. Sometimes, that's a little difficult to accept. As an aside, just to make this point more clear, private settlements, everybody and anybody can decide to settle anything they want, but, when you have a case that you file in a court and there might be even a criminal dimension to it, as a society, do we really want to support a set of systems that allow you to go outside, reach an agreement, sign off, make your payments and have courts enforce the terms? Even if matters of public safety or public health issues remain unresolved? What has happened with medical malpractice, for example, is this: you are harmed; you collect compensation from the doctor who harmed you, or the hospital, and you all agree to confidentiality, and you go on as if nothing happened, but, a menace may be "out there" as a result because the public is unaware. Same thing has been happening with this fracking, it's called, this new way of getting natural gas by forcing water into the ground. The industry keeps saying, "Well, there's no reported case of ground pollution and drinking water being affected." Well, there's no reported case because they've all been privately settled. The facts remain hidden; same with defects in automobiles. So, is private settlement, a good thing? Yes and no. So, if you're in this field, Shaun, in some respects, you believe in it and care about it, nurture it, but, then, worry about the underside.
As is often the case, these movements have very, very positive dimensions. Many people who are involved in mediation, genuine mediation, I'd put it, come to hear and understand how the other side feels, believes, even to the point where people who have been routinely killing one another may get to understand what was behind the killing, and, move to reconcile, determine redress and negotiate how to form a working polity. There is a movement for something called restorative justice, which takes place on small, interpersonal levels and can be nation or region wide. An example in the first instance: If you've been robbed, and you want to go talk to that burglar, because you can't get over that robbery until you've had some kind of engagement with the perpetrator, in order to try to understand. On a grander scale, it's the reconciliation commissions in South Africa. So, the kind of motivation that looks to answer the question, how do you bring people together, is something that's so compelling that I'm interested in it and interested in the negotiation process that gets people from here to there.
At the same time, I'm concerned about the sustainability of our public institutions. We need them and the more you create private ones, where people can go out and pay, you undercut the public system, whether it's public schools or public courts. Anyway, that was a long-winded response to your stimulating questions.
SI: You have seen that whole field develop. I just finished watching the documentary Hot Coffee [(2011)] on that issue. The filmmakers have their own perspectives, but I think they said something like only five percent of those privately-mediated cases go in the favor of the non-corporate side of the case.
LS: Yes, I haven't seen the recent figures, but is that Hot Coffee about the woman pouring coffee on her lap from McDonald's or something?
SI: Yes, that is the first part of it, the ability of private citizens to bring these cases against the corporations.
LS: Yes. Mostly, the reports on those are really misleading, because the initial findings or initial jury verdicts get changed by a judge, but what happens is those who want tort reform cheer for change (to benefit the big players): "Let's lead with that, because all the dummies in the country will say, 'Well, if you can't hold a hot cup of coffee on your lap, why are you holding a hot cup of coffee on your lap?' instead of, 'Why is somebody giving you such scalding coffee that you could have second or third degree burns as a result?'" So, at the end of the day, the collection for that person who was actually damaged is much lower than what you see and hear in the news releases. I don't remember the figures, but, basically, all these efforts at, quote-unquote, "tort reform" raise my eyebrows, because the question must always be asked: Who benefits and who doesn't? Usually, most of the researchers will tell you to look at a pyramid and you have down here, at the wide bottom, all people that have been harmed and only up at the tippy-top are those who actually collect for any genuine harm that they've experienced. A lot of the people who bring the lawsuits are not the ones that have a lot of the legitimate claims, either. So, it's sort of interesting, because there's a lot of complementary research about this. I was particularly taken by some of the work in the Netherlands that showed that there was a very low incidence of lawsuits filed against certain medical practitioners in areas where there are usually high rates of litigation, child birth and one or two others. It turns out that in the Netherlands, a lot of female doctors don't get sued. The researchers controlled for all the things you'd have to control for, but it turned out it wasn't so much female, it was style of practice. These doctors tended to involve their patients in determining the course of treatment. So, when you basically have been involved in negotiating with someone and working with them side-by-side, it's a little hard to turn around at the end and say, "Well, I'm going to sue you." Some of that and related research has begun to filter into medical schools, so that doctors are being taught, or prospective doctors, are being taught, "You've got to involve your patient as much as you can. You've got to make this almost, not quite a team effort, but instead of almost the slave and the owner, it's, 'Here's your options. Here's how we ought to think about them. What do you want to do? I'll work with you on it,'" this kind of thing. So, I mean, it may seem kind of far-fetched from dispute resolution, but it isn't so much, because, when you learn why there's litigation in some contexts and not in others when people are doing basically the same thing--they are the same professionals--and yet there are different patterns of litigation, then, you look at why you are getting result X here and not getting X there? A lot of it has to do with the way you communicate, the way you involve others and the way all parties feel about that relationship.
SI: To jump back, when did you first start working for the Ford Foundation?
LS: Oh, it must have been in the mid '70s, anyway, because I met my colleague, Sandy Jaffe, who was appointed by Governor Byrne to the Board of Governors of Rutgers just shortly after I had been elected to the board by the Trustees and that was in 1971. It was our discussions about alternatives to litigation that got us interested in working together. He said he was looking at conflict resolution in communities and, at the same time, I was studying ways in which you could get communities to accept airports and other unwanted land uses, that kind of thing--public policy disputes in planning domains. So, he said, "Well, let's try to develop the idea more." So, I got hired as a consultant to work at Ford and that's how that started.
SI: Around this time, the environmental law movement was getting started. It had been started in the early 1960s, but was coming to its maturity then. Were you following that at that time?
SI: Obviously, there must have been quite a bit of overlap.
LS: Yes, well, the Ford Foundation had created much of, well, the early efforts to create public interest law, and mostly because there was a perception that, as a society, we were a little bit out of balance. Even though people like the President of DuPont, who was on the Ford Board along with Henry Ford II, were not terribly happy about some of these directions, the idea was, well, look, all these laws have been passed and there's concern about despoiling the environment.
Rachel Carson had written her book and we know about the roots of that aspect of environmental awareness, but it was also the case that young lawyers graduating from law school were thinking, "How do we practice law the way we want to practice it?" Some of those groups came to my colleague at the Ford Foundation, and said, "Okay, here's what we want to do." A group of them, Yale graduates, as I recall, became the backbone for the NRDC, a well-funded environmental advocacy group. And, there were a number of others. So, what's sort of intriguing about that, how do you get an institution like the Ford Foundation, that has members having vested interests in the society as it is sitting on the board, to make a major investment, millions and millions and millions of dollars, into institutions that are going to challenge your interest in that society? They anticipated the problem, and I think McGeorge Bundy, president of Ford, who, of course, has been trashed by a lot of people because of his role in the Vietnam War, was a very, very smart man with a set of values that became manifest in ways that led the Ford Foundation to one of its greatest periods, one, I think, of major environmental, socio-economic change, but set that aside for the moment.
Ford staff figured, "We need to have some kind of insulation between the Board and our program officers, who want to do all this creative stuff." So, they created a group of former presidents of the American Bar Association, the most elite of the elite, to be advisers to their grant-making process in public interest law. So, when you could turn and say, "Well, our elders have said this is a good grant," and these were the same type of people who were serving on the Ford Board, it was very hard for them to challenge that. Bob McNamara, for example, was on the Ford Board at the time, and he, along with his colleagues, I'd say, for one reason or another, tried to figure out how they could "give back" to society. It's only my theory that you found them supporting these kinds of moves because of things they did, acts of omission or commission in their past.
In any event, because of what the Ford Foundation did, I think a lot of other foundations followed. Foundations tend not to want to get into the work of other foundations, but, in this case, I think the drive in society was so powerful that they probably couldn't stay out. So, I was very happy to be part of that on even a minor scale. One of the things, I learned right away, that you could do when you're at the Ford Foundation, is make a call, and no matter who you called, they took your call. [laughter] The other thing is, you could gather people almost at a moment's notice from all over the world to come to a meeting to talk about something and to generate ideas. So, one of the things we were thinking of doing was to create an institute to, essentially, promote conflict resolution in a number of domains.
"Should this National Institute for Dispute Resolution, for example, have a major presence in the health field?" It looked like this was an area of major disputes, generating a high cost to society, "How about we look at it?" Well, Joe Califano, who was the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, came to talk with us and when we asked, "Who are the number one thinkers on this?" He told us. We asked them to come and talk. So, there was the opportunity to create something that would be really useful. [Editor's Note: Joseph Califano, Jr., served as Special Assistant to President Johnson from July 1965 to the end of his term and later served as US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Carter.]
SI: You mentioned some of these projects you worked on, for example, land use and airports. Did you work on, say, the Newburg Jet Port?
LS: No. The Kettering Foundation was an early leader in this field, having created something called "the negotiated investment strategy." The idea was that you bring in all the major players in an area to think about such questions as, "What should growth, in a given area, be for the next decade?" Or, conversations might start as a result of active opposition to an airport or it might start because there was opposition to something else, some kind of housing complex, but, in sum, you bring everybody together. Kettering would basically take a proposal for a certain area--and a couple books have been written on this negotiating strategy, it's fascinating--they would invest, pay for a mediator to be present, constantly, through the course of the negotiation; they would insist on good faith efforts on the part of everyone, to try to see if they couldn't get from here to there, maybe over a year period, and they did an unusual thing, they stayed around after agreements were reached. So, usually, when you negotiate an agreement, there's such euphoria over the fact that not a lot of attention is paid to implementing the agreement. For example, "What are we going to do when disputes arise, in the event that they do?" and, more likely than not, they do.
Actually, to digress for a moment, the focus on implementation has led to an entire sub-field called post-settlement negotiations, which is really reinterpreting and applying the contracts or agreements. Anyway, Kettering would support the cost of that mediator on site for a long period of time, throughout the negotiations, and during the implementation phase, to be there to keep people on track, because a focus and commitment/enforcement needs oversight. In any event, an agreement is only as good as the goodwill of the people who reached it.
So, Kettering's involvement ensured that all their targets were met, and things accomplished, and, further, if additional resources were needed, Kettering would put them in there. So, that model, I've actually suggested it to the new head of the Dodge Foundation as something its staff ought to be thinking about for New Jersey, actually bringing a number of foundations together and thinking about how they can use the concept of "place" as a central focus for the grant-making efforts, instead of throwing a lot of money, in little pieces, all over the place and really accomplishing nothing substantial in any one place.
So, I think for disputes like the Newburg Airport, the negotiating investment strategy was probably the best thing developed for managing it, but, generally speaking, the idea is, and we've got a lot of problems like that in New Jersey, little airports, little planes flying in, airports wanting to expand it, have jets and whatnot, and residents of the areas objecting. So, in short, the idea is to bring people together, let them talk about it and see what you can accomplish. Sometimes, you can't get agreement, but, usually, when people object to something, it's because they have a fear or lack information. They resist change or they want something else to happen. Sometimes, that something else can happen if you, so-to-speak, enlarge the pie. Some will say, "Well, I was hoping that we'd have a park there." "Well, all right, we could have park land over here," looking at it at larger picture. Actually, it's pretty fascinating. There's a story about--I don't actually even know, I have to find out how true it is, but I gather it is--there's always resistance to certain land uses, nuclear plants and whatnot. People will sometimes accept these unwanted land uses if their tax rates are mitigated and that kind of thing. So, it turns out that somewhere in D.C., there's an area that was owned by a fellow by the name of, believe it or not, Andrew T. God. [laughter] So, God owned this piece of property that he wanted to turn into a dump, basically because it would be profitable; of course, the community objected. So, as can happen in negotiations focused on an unwanted land use, critical elements in the agreement reflected the concerns of the residents: the terms of operation, the landscaping around the facility, the hours trucks come and go, all the things that might lead people to object, even monitoring of odors, all the kinds of things that might lead you to fear, and resist the given project. Including, the thing that most people fear is, "our property values are going to be affected." So, put that concern into the mix of discussion. With respect to God's dump, it became possible to incorporate taxes as incentives. So, no property tax needed to be paid on the houses that are in the closest perimeter to the dump, and then, a little bit of a reduction in the next perimeter, and so on. The result? Dwellings closest to the dump have gained in value because they pay no property tax, because, in the general area, in the meantime, property taxes escalated. So, this notion of, "I don't want to be near something because of the downsides," can turn into positive results, even opportunities. It's important too, though, to integrate responsible monitoring so that agreements are honored. Nothing puts people off more than governmental promises that are not honored or promised actions going undone.
SI: I just wanted to get into, more specifically, what you were doing in that period.
LS: Yes, my primary area, at Ford, and at the center it created, The Center for Dispute Resolution in Higher Education, for which I was the primary consultant, was regulation. In the 1930s or so, I mean, there was a lot of concern about corporations getting together and altering the landscape to their own interests. So, there was an absolute prohibition against regulators getting together with the industries they regulated. And with one another. Doing so was seen as collusion. In some cases, those concerns, while appropriate, were increasingly problematic. If you wanted to, for example, develop the best tire for a vehicle, maybe the scientists at three or four different companies working together to come up with that tire might make a whole lot of sense, but they were basically prohibited from doing that. There were countless examples of where regulation was getting in the way and, yet, most of us also understood that regulation is the salvation of the citizen.
So, how do we get to allow some cooperation among companies, in order to be able to have society progress, while, at the same time, not leading down that road again to where it could be harmful to society's interests? So, we brought a number of people into the Ford Foundation to talk about the problems and promises of new approaches to regulation and I did a couple of papers on it.
The one thing that came out of the work I did, and I guess a number of other people too, was the idea of something called regulatory negotiation. The idea here was that you wouldn't supplant any of the formal regulatory requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act. You have to notice, you have to invite comment, you have to do all of these things to be sure the public's interest is met, but, up front of the process, in carefully selected cases where it seems to make sense to try to have a negotiation among all the parties, you could try to negotiate a regulation, bring in the industry, public interest groups, others around the table and say, "Okay, here's the challenge--Congress has passed a law that requires X. The agency has to write the regulations, engage in notice and comment--let's see if we can negotiate a rule first." Then, that proposed rule would go through all the same notice and comment requirements that the Administrative Procedure Act requires. So, it wouldn't, as I say, supplant the law. But it might produce a regulation that would generate less opposition, meet the needs of the law and satisfy all affected without a lot of delay and litigation. It's worked in a significant number of situations and has gotten people very excited. I'm happy that it's an option. I think, in many cases, from what I see, the government can't hire the kinds of researchers and policy people we need in some arcane areas--nanotechnology and microbiology--areas where they have to regulate, and so, having the best minds, even if they're employed by industry, up front talking to you might give you insights you can't otherwise get yourself. Typically, too, there's such a delay between when a law is passed and the regulations are put in place, that "reg neg" becomes a way to expedite. So, presumably, if Congress decides that, "We've got to strengthen air quality standards, because we are convinced that people are getting sick from coal stacks and whatnot," it's usually about ten years from the time the law is passed that regulations are finally in place, so that if you can actually do something sooner, there may be a lot of value in that. It was, I think, seven years before the tire regulation finally passed muster; a negotiated rule might have been in place years earlier.
I noticed, recently--I've written a couple of blogs on for-profit colleges, because I think they are highly questionable--that most of them, if you look at the statistics, the students pay a lot, they get substantial federal aid and they don't graduate in high numbers and those that graduate can't get jobs. So, why are we giving so much federal support to these for-profits and why are they in business in the first place? They're in business because they leverage all the federal money for student loans. They have an interesting crowd of apologists. I noticed yesterday, I think it was in The Star-Ledger, an Associated Press byline article that talked about the fact that the for-profit colleges have a great advocate in Donald Graham of The Washington Post, leaving out the critical point that Donald Graham's Washington Post owns Kaplan University and several other for-profit colleges. Washington Post profits are way up, not because of the newspaper, but because of its for-profit college holdings. So, anyway, it's a curious thing that you now have the Department of Education trying to regulate these groups. They have the power of their advocates and the lobbyists that they hire to get where they need to go. What we really need are stricter standards both to protect students and to protect the public in terms of the aid that is given to students. Congressional staff and departmental staff have been working on this for six years and finally, finally, produce a regulation that they're all celebrating, but, when I noticed that the for- profit colleges' stock value went way high, I thought, "Uh-oh, I guess this doesn't go far enough, because, obviously, the for-profits are happy with it."
Anyway, I see areas where regulations could be improved and earlier applied if they're negotiated, and then the process moves faster. One of the things the research suggests is that where you have had a negotiated rule-making, it's far less likely to be litigated by the people who are affected by it. They've had something to say about it, they've shared information they generally don't voluntarily disclose. Regulatory negotiation is an idea that seemed worth trying. I haven't followed it as closely as I probably should have, but I feel that I had some impact early on in advancing the concept as a promising area for negotiation.
I remember looking at some of the research concerning the environmental justice movement. The law is better in protecting poor communities from becoming the places for unwanted land uses. The argument always is, "Well, the land is cheap, that's why we want to put this dump there. Without a political constituency to create a lot of uproar, we're safe in siting it there." Now, federal law provides some protection, some recourse for poor communities to seek environmental justice. They have a chance to have more of a voice. What has happened, in many cases, aided and abetted by litigation teams of environmental lawyers, is that the cases are being lost. The lawyers are refusing to negotiate them, because they're saying, "Well, a negotiation shows too much weakness." I'm saying to myself, "Why not pick a couple of cases where you think you might have a good chance of negotiating a better deal for the people who live in these communities, rather than losing after spending so much money and winding up with the dump anyway?" Use the threat of law to engage in serious negotiations. We did some work in Puerto Rico, for example. There was, I don't know whether I mentioned this before, a woman by the name of Rosa Hidalgo who was a very forceful and effective advocate. She filed a number of actions against Puerto Rico's water authority and its power authority. To make a very, very long story short, she basically got the federal government and the EPA to progress far enough that a settlement agreement was reached, a consent decree, it's called, that required the utility that was despoiling the air and the water to cease and desist. Rather than go the formal route, the judge said, "Okay, I'm going to issue a consent decree. I'm going to say, 'Parties, try to come up with a solution to improve the air quality and the water quality and I want the community involved in the decision making,'" and that's all it said, it didn't say how, why or whatever. So, Rutgers scientists and NJIT scientists, involved in some of the science of this, came and talked to us and said, "Well, how about doing something on this communication part? How do we get the community involved?" So, we said we would--we would train this group of community activists--but we wanted the representatives of the industry and the EPA and the island's DEP to be present and be engaged in the negotiations. They all came. These people don't talk to one another otherwise as the hostility has, let's say, deep roots, but, at the end of the day, well, three days later, all the participants had agreed to a number of things, not least of which was that the community activists would not go to the newspapers the first time they had something to say. They would actually come and talk with the industry about what they were noticing. They agreed to hire monitors and to arrange periodic meetings, all designed to foster a more transparent environment. It's too complicated an example to go into it in great detail, but, essentially, what I learned from it was that even in cases, and especially in cases, where you actually have gotten somebody's attention through some means--you file a lawsuit not necessarily because you want to take it all the way to a litigated end, where you're going to win or lose, but maybe to say to the person or the agency you're suing, "I've got your attention now. Let's sit down and see if we can't solve the problem that we have brought to the attention of the court." Those agreements, when they're then entered into court, have the binding force of law. So, it's an option that should be considered in some of these cases. I think you don't want to be losing all the time when there might be a chance of at least winning something.
SI: To get back to Rutgers and Douglass, in the ten years between your graduation and when you were elected to the Board of Trustees, what was your relationship with the school? Did you remain involved in some way?
LS: I was actually indirectly involved with the school. One of the things I did right after I graduated when I felt like, "Oh, my God, what am I going to do? I don't have the Douglass Student Center Café anymore. Who do I sit and talk with about the issues of the world?" So, I joined the League of Women Voters, a very smart move, I think, in this state and in the nation, because it's probably one of the best non-partisan, deep-information-providing institutions we have in America or certainly it was in the 1960s and '70s. Anyway, I joined the League and became very active in it. The League was doing a number of studies and one, in particular, was on higher education. In 1956, Rutgers had become a public university, but there basically hadn't been much of an infusion of funds. [Editor's Note: Founded in 1766 as Queen's College, Rutgers University was governed by its Board of Trustees until the 1956 "Rutgers, The State University Law (NJSA 18A:65-1 et seq)" named Rutgers as the State University of New Jersey and created the eleven-member Rutgers University Board of Governors.] I think the Department of Higher Education might have been created in the late '60s. Again, institutional presence was there, but not too much activity. So, the League did a study and said that higher education needs far more attention from the state. At the same time, I think, the Goheen Commission--Robert Goheen was a former President of Princeton--had reached, basically, the same conclusion. [Editor's Note: In 1963, Governor Richard Hughes appointed Dr. Robert F. Goheen as Chair of the Citizens Committee for Higher Education in New Jersey, which published A Call to Action in 1966, calling for reform in the state's public higher education system.] I got very active in supporting that move, but also the bond issue, the first bond issue that was issued and passed, I think, in 1968. [Editor's Note: In 1968, New Jersey's voters approved a $990-million-dollar bond issue, generating over $200 million in new funds for educational institutions, including $68.2 million for Rutgers University.]
Because I was so active in that effort, I started working with the Rutgers Alumni Association and the Douglas Alumnae Association and I guess a couple of other higher education groups who had coalesced around getting that bond issue passed. Once it was successful, I think the Board of Higher Education then became much more active. Ralph Dungan, who had been Ambassador to Chile, was a good friend of Dick Hughes, the Governor at the time, became Chancellor. He made as many friends as he made enemies but he did a good deal to advance the cause of higher education and attract the active interest of the governor. [Editor's Note: Ralph Dungan served as Special Assistant to the President from 1961 to 1964, as Ambassador to Chile from 1964 to 1967, and as Chancellor of Higher Education in the State of New Jersey from 1967 to 1977.] I found him rather engaging.
In any event, I got appointed to something called the Graduate Council and the Graduate Council was one of the most unappreciated progeny of the era. The higher education institutions in the state want to be seen as important and they want attention, they want funding, but they don't want anybody telling them what to do. The Graduate Council had the audacity to sit there and say, "You've got to limit these graduate programs," and, if you wanted to offer a new graduate program in New Jersey, you had to have it pass through the Graduate Council. I remember the representative from Princeton, Aaron Lemonick--he was a vice president at Princeton--he would sit there at Council meetings and make everybody understand that he was only there because he chose to be there, not because Princeton had to have a presence there. The act that created the Board of Higher Education, the Department and the Board of Higher Education, was curious, because it included every institution, public and private, under its purview in New Jersey, but for those preceding a certain date. Only Princeton then, basically, and parts of Rutgers, the original Rutgers College, were excluded, formally, but the rest of them had to be governed by, regulated by, the state Department of Higher Education.
Anyway, so, I got involved in that venture, and then, in 1971, was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Rutgers. I was nominated by the Douglass Alumnae Association and, at that time, the Trustee body, I think, Paul, numbered about fifty-six Trustees, something like that. They, the Trustees, were the original body that governed Rutgers College and, when the 1956 Act was passed, Joseph Weintraub, who was the author of the act, former Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, probably the best chief justice in the nation, I'd say, who, by the way, was subsequently appointed to the Rutgers Board. I had the opportunity to work with him; he was an outstanding guy. So, anyway, that act, in 1956, created the Board of Governors, five appointed by the Governor and six elected by the Trustees. So, the Trustees' roles and responsibilities became somewhat less important, because the Governors had the primary responsibility, but the Trustees kept the endowment and the lands and the Trustees also served on a lot of the
Board of Governors' committees. I should mention, as an aside, that, as a feminist, I must say I was quite put out when I was elected to the Trustee Board and immediately asked to serve on the Nursing Committee. [laughter] I knew nothing about nursing committees, so, I said, "No, thank you very much, but I'd like to be on the Educational Planning and Policy Committee of the Board of Governors," and I think I requested the Graduate School of Education and one other. The Chairman of the Board, I think his name was Bill Gaskill at the time, thought that that was so outrageous, he said fine.
So, for me, and, I trust, for Rutgers, I served on the Educational Planning and Policy Committee which was the major committee for the Board of Governors. There's Buildings and Grounds and Budget and Finance, but Educational Planning and Policy basically was the committee through which the President and the Vice President, various faculty, articulated their vision for the University and dealt with many of the major issues, including promotion and tenure and such policy issues as where tenure resides. It was a great experience for me. At the time--Paul will find this hard to believe--but that committee actually read every single appointment and promotion packet. We would sit there laboriously going through all those packets and, actually, while it only made a difference, I think, in a few cases, where there was dispute, by and large, it was a singular role for that committee and a critical one. Faculty understood that the board was playing a direct and active role. I think it doesn't do that any longer.
So, that was my entrée into governance at Rutgers, through the Trustees and through the Educational Planning and Policy Committee of the Board of Governors. At the same time, also, in the few years following, I served on various college committees, the Livingston College Committee, the Graduate School of Education, and, of course, Douglass. Livingston's was really interesting, because, of course, it was a new college and it was a very turbulent time. The students were none too pleased with Ernest Lynton, who was the founding Dean, but he was okay, but his successor, Emmanuel Mesthene, was not. Emmanuel Mesthene was seen as "a tool of the Rand Corporation," and so, they didn't like him at all. [Editor's Note: Dr. Ernest Lynton served as Livingston's Dean from 1965 until 1973. Emmanuel Mesthene served as Dean of Livingston College from 1974 to 1977.] So, we would go through various things that were embarrassing and challenging. At commencements, for example, students would come up and shake my hand, pass by him, do odd things like that. It was lovely to be able to be in on the ground floor--well, not exactly the ground floor, because I wasn't there when Ernest Lynton was Dean--but to be so heavily involved in such an extremely important innovation in education. Livingston was great!!
PC: These committees, such as the Livingston Committee, these were committees of the Board of Trustees.
LS: Of the Trustees, yes, and, often, the Dean of the college usually chaired it and would bring in various faculty and students to talk about what was going on at the college and hope that the Trustees would be the college's voice on the Trustees board, and, to the extent that it was reached there, the Board of Governors. I imagine they still have one, Paul, I don't know.
SI: You came in 1971, not 1972.
LS: That's right, I'm quite sure.
SI: One of the major issues early on in your tenure there would be Rutgers College going co-ed.
LS: Yes, that's right, that's right, and the requirement that I defend the proposition that it should go co-ed and Douglass should stay "all women." Not the ideal position to be in, let me tell you! The men of Rutgers College were not altogether happy about it. If you're unhappy with what's happening, you want the pain to be spread. So, I think, in many respects, that was probably one of the challenges that Douglass had to meet, "How do you remain attractive and, indeed, competitive, when women are gaining more and more opportunities to go wherever they want, including Rutgers College?" Douglass' numbers would stay pretty good, but, over the years, Rutgers College kept expanding and expanding and expanding, and so, it was larger than any of the other colleges. Disproportionate size differentials can create problems.
Yes, there was resistance to going coeducational, but I think Rutgers College, just like many other institutions were saying, "Why don't we educate the best and the brightest and not segregate by gender?" Princeton and Harvard and Brown, I guess, and the rest of them, went coeducational at the time. I think there are very few all-male institutions now, in fact, I can't think of one offhand, even the military academies, mostly, I guess, because of the threat of loss of federal money, had to become coeducational. You can't have a public women's college, either, and receive federal aid. So, in some respects, having Douglass remain a women's college, but under the umbrella of the public university, which is co-educational, was a great option, and, as far as we know, was never challenged, although I know of a couple of potential lawsuits on that score, but they never went anywhere.
SI: You were nominated to serve as a trustee by the Douglass Alumnae. How much responsibility did you feel to represent their needs or point of view or did you feel like you could just act as you felt was right?
LS: Fortunately, I think, it must come with my sense of interdisciplinary focus or something, I have an Edmund Burke type of approach to these things. I think you don't get elected or appointed to a board that governs an entire institution and then simply serve as the voice of some subset of it--maybe I might articulate its needs persuasively, or understand them better, or explain them more clearly, but I would not put its interest first over the "good of the whole." So, I think, overall, sure, I looked to the interests of Douglass but not at the expense of Rutgers, not as I saw them.
I do remember, at one point, Ed Bloustein had the good idea, he thought, that he would alter the living arrangements of the Douglass dean. Here was the situation: There was going to be an acting dean of Douglass, Paula Brownlee, and she was not going to live in the Dean's Residence. [Editor's Note: Dr. Edward J. Bloustein served as Rutgers University President from 1971 until his death in 1989. Dr. Paula P. Brownlee served as Acting Dean of Douglass College from 1975 to 1976.] Now, mind you, at this point, no other dean at Rutgers had a residence and this particular residence is a magnificent place and a very attractive place to live. It's central to the campus and serves as a venue for many college events and gatherings. The Douglass alums loved to use it and feature it, and so forth. So, anyway, the acting dean did not want to live in the house. So, Ed thought, "Well, the University will find good use for the house," and it was hard to make the argument that the house should be left vacant. So, I decided that we would make living in the house a condition of the Douglass dean's employment and that secured the house for the campus and, basically, made it accepted that any dean of Douglass, under the structure that was currently in place, would live on campus and live in that house. It was very much a part of the rhythm and scope of life and had been for as long as that house was the dean's house, which was quite a long time. So, I'd do something like that, run interference, essentially, but I didn't think that action harmed the whole.
By and large, I could usually see other arguments. I mean, Douglass had its own faculty and it was its own unit. So, in some respects, all the colleges sort of functioned independently, but, as you'll see in your interviews with everyone else, there was one plan or another to try to get a concept of the whole in place. There was a plan for a "federation," another for a consolidation, yet another for a variation on a decentralized theme, and so on, but, fundamentally, no matter what the structure, when faculties were divided and schools were vying for resources--and, in fact, in some cases, competing for the very same students--the flaws were increasingly obvious. You'd have recruiters from colleges going out, trying to get the same people, and here's Ed Bloustein, at the time, saying, "Don't we have one university?" He blew up at one point when the students were coming through in the orientation line and they kept introducing themselves, "I'm so-and-so, I'm at Rutgers College. I'm so-and-so, I'm at Douglass," at Livingston, and so on. At one point, he said, "You're at Rutgers."
However, it wasn't so much to get a common Rutgers' identity, it was, "How do we operate more effectively and efficiently?" I think, at the end of the day, after all of these various stages, Ken Wheeler, the New Brunswick campus provost, having tried so hard with the federated plan, and others having tried other approaches, the Board of Governors, in a mixed vote, aligned with Bloustein's recommendation and moved to consolidate the faculties of all the undergraduate colleges. Once they were consolidated, I think it was just a question of time before the college's lacked a significant presence in the New Brunswick scheme of things, primarily because, at least in my judgment, absent a faculty and absent a sense of coherence that comes from that, the dynamic of life at the, quote-unquote, "college" shifted. Then, the question became, "How do we save ourselves so that we can make differences among us legitimate? How do we make differences among us, so that you choose one over another?" Douglass had the easier time with this question, relying as it did on gender separateness as its distinction. Still, the focus became the major, meaning making distinctions by limiting certain majors to certain colleges. So, there was, at Livingston, for example, a major in social work but not at Douglass. So, if a student entered Douglass, then, decided when you were a sophomore, "Gee, I really want to do social work," you had to transfer from Douglass to become a Livingston student. These kinds of things drove people nuts, not least the students. Some of that was eased after a while, but, still, they had their own majors, honor codes, disciplinary and advising systems, admissions, and so forth. Basically, when you looked at it from the perspective of the student, all these things were harming students. They were limited in their choices. They were leading to crazy things happening, because they're all in classes together, but they have different standards, codes of ethics, requirements for graduation and all this kind of stuff.
So, finally, of course, what President McCormick [Rutgers University President from 2002 to 2012] set in motion and we're living with now, eliminated the college structures, once and for all, some would say, he recognized and codified what was reality. [Editor's Note: In April 2004, Dr. Richard L. McCormick created the Task Force on Undergraduate Education to conduct a comprehensive examination of all aspects of the undergraduate experience on the Rutgers' campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway. In July 2005, the Task Force issued a report entitled, "Transforming Undergraduate Education." The report recommended merging Rutgers College, Douglass College, University College and Livingston College into what became the School of Arts and Sciences and turning Cook College into what became the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. On March 10, 2006, President McCormick submitted recommendations based on the Task Force report, but also shaped by the ensuing public debate within the Rutgers community, to the Board of Governors, which approved the reorganization.] I served on that committee, known affectionately, as the TUE.
I know that we've had some difficulties in implementation, but, by and large, I think it's a better deal, certainly a better deal for students. I think they're handling it well. I also think that you can major in what you want and you can minor in what you want and you're open to all the opportunities that all the students have at the University. So, the choice is yours--there's no notion that you can't cross these borders and get those things. I think it's a no-brainer. There are ways in which we have co-curricular programs on the campuses, some very attractive for students, that help students choose where they want to live but programs are not restricted to where one lives.
Douglass is the only, quote-unquote, "residential" college. It has four to five hundred students--six hundred now--and I think they basically commit to living on campus for a certain while. They have one course that they take in common, that has to do with, I think, women and gender studies, but, by and large, they get some other benefits, internships, and so forth, through the Douglass Alumnae Association. I don't know fully what special programs are offered to those students who live at Livingston Campus or Rutgers Campus. Princeton, for example, has housing-based program offerings as does, say, Yale; they call them colleges and they have masters or scholars who live there and they have programs that relate to the students that are part of the housing arrangement or "college." I think we could probably do better studying more of what's going on here at Rutgers as the implementation continues and adjustments are made.
When I was working on the implementation of the task force recommendations, I was a great proponent of living and learning communities. I think it makes sense to have more intensive experiences, but I don't know that the resources are there to do what I had in mind, which was physicists and philosophers living together and having meaningful exchanges, as one example.
PC: Let me take you back; there were two major decisions made at Douglass. One was the decision that was made independently of Douglass, but with Douglass participating in it, about Rutgers admitting women. The second one was the one that came in 1980, when they reorganized and, as you said, put the faculty together. That, in some ways, was the point at which there was no return.
PC: Go back to that first decision. The Dean back then was Marjory Somers Foster and she fought tooth-and-nail against women going into Rutgers.
LS: She did, yes.
PC: She had a lot of what I would call traditional reasons for doing so, but, obviously, she also understood that it would be taking, at least initially, very good women away from Douglass. Did you get signals from the Alumnae that they were concerned about this issue, too, or was it a singular fight on the Dean's part?
LS: She was a presence, to say the least, a former military person, and I would say she was the paramount voice. The Alumnae Association, I believe the Director at the time was Adelaide Zagoren, who figures large in Alumnae history. She and her twin sister were prominent people in New Brunswick. I think Adelaide had headed the Girl Scouts at one point and she was a person with a broad perspective. I think she probably would've been able to--I don't remember conversations with her, frankly--but I think, knowing her, she probably would've had a capacity to understand that this is what Rutgers College had to do. I can't imagine her rallying the alums the way the latest group did. In fact, even going back to 1981, Mary Hartman was fully behind the proposal to take the faculty away from Douglass and I was against it. So, I was more voicing the Alumnae's concerns, but it wasn't so much the Alumnae's concern, it was my own, because--I don't know, I think I reflected a little bit about this the last time--but I think Marjory Foster just knew that what's going to happen is what Paul observes. Plus, she had an antipathy to Rutgers. She wasn't alone by any means. Many have this "we" against "them" thing going on between Rutgers and Douglass. The rivalry might have started when there were two relatively equal-in-size colleges, but as Rutgers College grew, its influence increased and its needs more readily met. Douglass folks often felt left out or, perhaps, saw themselves as secondary players. The co-chair of the Presidential Search Committee (I was the other) told me repeatedly that he thought Rutgers didn't have the ambitions it should have for itself. I'd say, "Well, you hear that a lot around here, but the other thing you often hear is that we turn against one another in weird, unconstructive, quasi-competitive ways." There is this, particularly at Douglass, anti-Rutgers attitude, "They take our things, they take our good ideas and take them away and they don't give us what we should have," and all of this kind of thing.
So, on this score, I think Foster was a force to be reckoned with; she fought with Ken Wheeler tooth-and-nail all the time. I think Ed didn't get along with her at all and they were going to go ahead with the Rutgers College co-educational thing no matter what she said. Whether she indirectly negotiated anything, I don't know that, but I would suspect that she tried to keep a lid on the enrollment growth for as long as she could, because at least that one factor would help. I don't know whether this is accurate or not, but it was understood by us, or maybe we just wanted to believe it, that the SAT scores of the Douglass students were equal to, if not greater than, those at Princeton and much higher than those at Rutgers. So, this notion that we were this privileged few and we wanted to keep our exalted place, I think, was threatened by Rutgers going co-educational, along with other developments. Whether it was a reality, I don't know--no one probably ever checked, they just preferred to believe it. [laughter]
I think that when it came to the next round of challenges, the, shall we say, "first reorganization," the consolidation of the faculties, with Mary Hartman, the Douglass dean, basically saying, "It's okay," then, the issues, took on a different significance. I mean, as you'll see in the minutes from some of the meetings, my position on the governing board at that time, was not as harsh as one other person who was against this and, frankly, not as adamant as the University Senate Chair,
- Ashby Foote, who was against it. The key faculty were divided, too. It wasn't an easy decision. I once looked at the highest ranking professors, and they were in both columns. So, sure, people don't like change and, sure, people don't want to move, all that kind of thing, but I think, fundamentally, some worried about the impact of the consolidation; some were more attached to their students than to their departments, writ large. But, I think it's fair to say that most faculty thought being together with colleagues from all campuses, physically, was going to strengthen the departments and help research and teaching, but worried about how to get there and what sacrifices had to be made. So, to give you one example. One of the things I worried about was the impact on Douglass students with respect to the sciences. I was struck by the number of chemistry majors at Douglass, chemistry majors, in significant numbers, were young women who never intended to become chemists when they came to Douglass. So, something was happening on campus and I wanted to be sure that what they were exposed to that was causing them to say, "I can be a chemist and a doctor," and so forth, was going to be preserved in the consolidation. What is the impact when the sciences are physically located elsewhere? Stanley Mandeles, I think, was the chair of the department at Douglass, and he was concerned too about that, but the thing was, you couldn't major and you couldn't minor in physics at Douglass, because it was over at Rutgers. So, he could see you needed to change. Well, I was concerned sufficiently that I said, "Well, how are we going to monitor this? How are we going to see how it's working? How are we going to ensure that the women who are at Douglass who believe they can do and be anything, because everything that's there is for them, how can we try to be sure it is preserved?" I was never happy with the answer, and so, I voted against the plan. I was very conflicted; it wasn't easy for me.
Fast forward, not too many chemistry majors anymore at Douglass and the number declined almost immediately. I'm not sure why but I can speculate. Some of these things may have just been flukes. I doubt it. I've talked to some of the young women who said, "I didn't know what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be." One of them went on from her chemistry major to go to Harvard Medical School and I found her because someone recommended her as a doctor and I discovered her history.
So, anyway, by this change at Rutgers, some things were lost, but a lot was gained. I tried to do some conciliation at the Board meeting when the decision was made and I think it was effective, because I think the University community, particularly the faculty, felt that their views had been genuinely heard--and heeded--because the board vote was not unanimous. You can lose and still feel like you've been heard. It also, I think, helped Ed Bloustein and the University's leadership, because the board was not seen as a rubber stamp, that there was genuine engagement over the proposal and there were concerns and that the board would watch closely during the implementation.
I think, getting by that, that major threshold, at least we thought, made it possible for Ed to kind of reinvigorate himself. It led to the--I wouldn't call it the evaluation of the President--it was really a sense that the BOG felt, "Ed's been here a while. He was hired basically by a prior board and given no contract. We ought to be doing something about not only his performance, but, really, where do we want the University to be going?" There had been a couple of no-confidence votes--one was over something about the vending machines or something. [laughter] Some of it was absurd. Ed was bothered by a lot of it, but he was almost, in a way, kind of losing interest, I thought. Anyway, he took a sabbatical and, when he returned, he decided to work with us even while he resisted the BOG's initiative in this regard.
Ed had had a couple of encounters with some members of the Board. We had a very interesting crowd. Bobby Torricelli, he was a member of the Board, and a guy by the name of Ed Kramer, who was the head of the ILGWU, and Don MacNaughton, who was the head of Prudential, and a couple of bankers. I mean, so, this was an interesting crowd, but it was fundamentally a good dynamic. Meetings lasted for several hours, usually, the committees were strong, they made solid, thoughtful, recommendations and, by and large, I think, we worked well.
Alec Pond wrote a letter about the quality of the Board, which I have made a copy for you (see Appendix). Basically, I think what happened was that the Board's discontent with what was happening in the University community, taken with the no-confidence votes, and concerns about how the implementation of the reorganization was going, led us to say, "We've got to take a firm hand here and take a look." So, we launched this, let's call it, the "What should Rutgers be?" effort, and hired two consultants, Homer Babbage and Matthew Cullen, two higher education and governance professionals, to help us think through how to go about it and assist us along the way. Ed initially resisted and, in fact, in his own appraisal of his presidency, Paul, you'll note that he says, "I resisted this initially, but, then, I came to embrace it." We turned that initial enquiry, which involved a couple of interviews of major state players--asking them what did they want from Rutgers?--into a broader effort. Those state players, legislators, and others, said they wanted to see Nobel Prize winners at Rutgers, among a variety of things, hardly any emphasis on athletics by the way.
In the end, following a comprehensive effort and a lot of campus and state-wide engagement, we produced, basically, a mission statement for the University, which was, as many mission statements are, reasonably vague, but well-grounded, and we determined to use that as our means to go forward.
One of the things that I think was probably the most critical and I think probably needs to be done, or something similar, again, was the effort to really get a handle on what we had at Rutgers. Believe it or not, Ed did not know how many graduate programs we had, didn't even know how many graduate students we had. There were a lot of centers and institutes, a lot of growth within this extended universe that is Rutgers, but we didn't have a handle on it. So, we said, "We want to take a look at that and see what we ought to do about it," and, fortunately, managed to secure the active leadership of Danny Gorenstein, who was instrumental in giving credibility to this enterprise. As a result of his work and the work of his committee, we identified programs to be upgraded to PhD level, some that had to be downgraded, and we decided, basically, on a plan of investment in these programs that would strengthen Rutgers.
I think it, in a way, this effort and its many parts, led to a golden age for Rutgers.
At the same time, we said we need to look at our financing and we got state actors. Harold Sonn, who was then head of PSE&G, agreed to chair this effort, "What should Rutgers have? Where should it get its funding? How should it go about it? How do we do public-private partnerships?" A whole range of things. The third leg of this tri-partite undertaking, public service, or simply, the focus on the university's third mission, service, often seen as engagement, didn't get the attention it should have. I regret that, because I think that was a major point, but, somehow or another, Ed saw it as something like extension, rather than the broader scope of what public service ought to be, but I'll leave that for another day.
What happened then, I think, was that the perception of Rutgers and the perception within Rutgers of Rutgers significantly improved, leading to an invitation to join the Association of American Universities, a big, big thing for Rutgers. [Editor's Note: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, was invited to join the Association of American Universities, an organization for the nation's leading research universities, in 1989.] Ed referred to this in my honorary degree citation.
I'd say that was kind of a golden period for Rutgers. I left the Board in '83. It was a twelve-year term, so, if I started in '71, had to be '83. I felt pretty good about my years on the Board and I think Ed had a thing about, whenever he gave an award to anyone or on the part of the University, whether it was an honorary degree or something, he wrote it himself and the notion that he would sit down there and try to figure out how to say these things just right, but you knew it. I remember, every honorary degree candidate would be so impressed with what was said about them. When I received an honorary degree--as my daughter said, "Well, that's not really the real thing," thank you very much [laughter]--it's written so beautifully, I treasure it still.
At the same time, I was also on the state Board of Higher Education, because, by law, Rutgers had a representative on the Board of Higher Education and the Chairman of the Board of Governors would appoint that person. I should back up and tell you how I became chairman, but just since we're on this point, so, I appointed myself to sit on the Board of Higher Education, I think as my predecessors had done, too. In that case, in that situation, I was a voice for Rutgers on the Board, but I was also a voice for higher education in the state and I think I worked well with my colleagues there gaining respect for Rutgers. At one point, I voted against the state budget, state higher education budget, that we were preparing for the Governor and did so much to the chagrin of everybody there, and Ed Bloustein as well. He said, "Why are you doing that?" I said, "Well, since we, at Rutgers, don't think it's adequate, and other institutional players believe it to be inadequate, how can I, in good faith, pretend otherwise?" He said, "Yes, but you're not supposed to do that." I said, "Well, you get to a point where you say the Governor has to make the call on what the priorities are, but we don't have to make it easy for him. We say what we need, and then, he decides."
PC: I actually remember seeing the report, either in the Rutgers newsletter or in The Targum, I cannot remember which, about you voting against it. I kept seeing your name.
PC: A renegade vote against this.
LS: Well, at some level, some of these things are so simple, you say, "Wait a minute, you say it's inadequate--so, why are you saying okay?" but the notion was that the higher education community should put together its own budget, and then, the Governor won't alter it. That's fine, up to a point, but you can't, as a Board of Higher Education, say, "Here's an adequate budget, Governor," and make the Governor believe you think it's adequate when you know that it is not. So, that's really what that all came down to. Anyhow, let me just say something about my ascension to the Chair, because it was kind of funny.
PC: Before you do that, you were on the Board of Trustees, but, then, you go to the Board of Governors. How did that happen?
LS: Not easily. There's a Nominating Committee and I don't remember who was the chair of the Nominating Committee. Ed supported my appointment and there was a woman from the State Federation of Women's Clubs that was in contention, Marijane Singer, and two or three other people. Trying to be even objective about myself, I thought to myself, "Well, this is like a no-brainer," but it turned out that the Nominating Committee was going to go forward with the woman from the Federated Women's Clubs, because, quote, unquote, "It was her turn." So, this is one of the things about governance and board membership and everything else that drives me crazy--anything that's automatic, I just can't see it. I think that when you only have so many slots and you have to have people to do the kind of thing that needs to be done, you don't do it by default, you do it by active engagement and assessment of a person.
Anyway, in the final analysis, the Nominating Committee did nominate me and I agreed to go on the Board. So, there was no contested vote or anything of that sort, but, since I was already on the major BOG committee, the Educational Planning and Policy Committee, it kind of felt like I was there, on the board, that is, already. I don't even have much recollection of the first year, I guess probably trying to get grounded and not making a pain of myself, but, as I grew in the job, as it were, and then, obviously, became Chairman of the Board, then, a lot of this started to change. The chairmanship was an interesting (ad)venture for me, and it was one I took very seriously and devoted a lot of time to.
But becoming chair did not come easily. Because I had voted against the reorganization, I wouldn't say I was persona non grata, but, on the other hand, people like it when you agree with them and I hadn't, so there was resentment of a sort and resistance. I had made a spirited speech at that time of the big vote, saying that you need disagreement in order to get good outcomes, you know, underscoring the value of dissent. I was happy to provide that spirit, but that from this point on, I pledged, we're going to do everything we can to make it successful. I think that
made a difference and there were really no hard feelings. Nonetheless, Norman Reitman was Chairman and it was thought that he should be replaced. But, the board's Nominating Committee decided that he would stand for Board Chair again and he was elected, but I think, I can't remember whether I voted against that, saying that I thought there was need for change, can't remember, maybe just did that in the Nominating Committee. So, I didn't make it that time.
And, then, there was some degree of turmoil at the board level. I think it had something to do with Ed wanting to go on the board of a private company, which was not one of the more elegant companies. It was a filmmaking operation of some sort, as I remember, and it was basically making a film of one of these sort of Neanderthal types in Newark, whose name escapes me at the moment--oh, yes, Anthony Imperiale. I said, "Ed, I don't think that's very seemly," and he didn't like the use of the word unseemly. Anyway, there were some other issues as well. So, anyway, we were in the throes of talk of new leadership for the board and the Chairman of the Nominating Committee, I'll never forget this, Bob Kaplan, who had been Chair of the Audit Committee and had been a Trustee, kind of an old-timer at Rutgers, was Chair of the Nominating Committee and asked me if we could have dinner. He wanted to discuss the nomination. So, I thought that he was going to tell me that I was nominated. Instead, he said, "This is in a really important time for the University. We need really great leadership. You're the smartest person on the Board, you've been here the longest, you understand the University best, you get along with most people--so, we've decided to ask So-and-So to be the Chairman." I said, "Wait a minute, it didn't sound like you were laying the preface for the conclusion you reached." He said, "Well, this is an important time for the University, so, we really need to have him there." So, I kind of took that as the "him-her" thing, and I figured, "Well, some of these things you live with." Being a member of the Board was a privilege and a responsibility to begin with and I was more than happy to do that and, if I didn't become Chairman, so what? It wasn't that big a deal. I didn't like the way it took place, but some things you do accept because of the good of the whole, but the following year, I was nominated. So, to secure my succession, [laughter] I appointed someone I could trust to be Chair of the Nominating Committee from that point on, and so, I served the three years and that was the limit.
Initially, after I voted the way I did in the reorganization, I thought it might be tough going for at least six or eight months with my colleagues who had differed in this significant direction for Rutgers. It turned out, though, that the board, basically, moved on--the majority had prevailed--and we were on a solid path.
There's a statutory limit for the Board of Governors at twelve years and, I guess by its own rule, three years to be Chairman of the Board. So, twelve years is a good period. I think it's long enough; maybe it could be fourteen, but I think twelve is a good number. You get a chance to learn on the job, you get an opportunity to give, to understand and have some effect on policy and growth decisions, and then, it's time for someone else. Some people have kind of outwitted that system by going off for a month, and then, getting reappointed again, so that the twelve-year period starts more than once! I wasn't going to do that, although here's a little interesting twist; this is how the politics sometimes gets involved in things. I'm not sure these people are living or not, so, I just won't use names, but it was toward the end of my term. I received a call from the Chairman of the Republican Party, somebody I did not know, and would I have dinner with him or come to his office for a chat? So, I thought, "Well, that's rather peculiar, never had one of these calls before." So, I mentioned it to Ed and Ed said, "Oh, well, I'll come with you." I said, "Oh, no, no, I'll go on my own. Let's just see what it's all about." So, what it was about was that this fellow had a proposition for me. I remember it as if it happened yesterday. He said, "I understand you'll be leaving the Board. You've served your statutory term." I said, "Yes, that's right." He said, "Would you like to stay on?" I thought, "Oh, this is great." I said, "So, why would I want to stay on?" I said, "I'm done. I've done my last vote on tuition." [laughter] He said, "Well, here's the thing. We're concerned that you have too many, oh, let's put it, just too many Democratic law firms and Democrats doing business with the University and we'd like to see that expand." We can see that your term in the board continues. So, I said, "Well, that's rather interesting. As far as I know, our decisions regarding who we choose for vendors is done in an objective, reasonable fashion, but I'll tell you what. I will look into the policies that we follow in making these decisions and assure you that neither political party is getting any benefit. As far as I'm concerned, I've done my job on the Board of Governors and I'm done. I'm not interested in your proposal."
I never heard from him again and neither did anybody else, but, I mean, Rutgers is a big business, and so, when somebody sits there and says, "Oh, let's see, where can we place some of the people who have contributed to the party," or to this, that or the other thing, they look at Rutgers. Now, this fellow was a colleague of Tom Kean's and, if I had called Tom Kean on the phone and said, "You know what's being done on behalf of your party?" he'd probably have had a fit, but this fellow, on his own, decided that he was going to, I guess, have some opportunities to give promising contracts to vendors. [Editor's Note: Republican Thomas H. Kean served as Governor of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990.]
So, I mean, these kinds of things are going to happen, so, obviously, you need to have some integrity at the top. I did look into it and it was pretty clear that we were up front in all the decisions we made and could defend them, but, once you fool around with any of that stuff, once you open the door, you've had it.
It was the same thing that Trustees and Governors were always being hit on by people that wanted their kids to get into Rutgers. We said that we would absolutely not do that. The one thing that we would do, we would inquire. So, you could call the Office of the Secretary and say, "How is this student? Is he missing any records?" this, that or the other thing, and you could at least report back to the family, "Oh, he's in consideration," or needs this or that, but, if you ever said, "I'll do what I can to get him in," you'd open the flood gates. It would be a dumb thing to do and it's bad enough that there are legacy kinds of admissions and that kind of thing, but we resisted any role for board members in any of that. As far as I know, everybody resisted it, and not only for student admissions but for any kind of appointment or position. I hope that still obtains. I do remember--this is kind of a humorous aside--the Assistant Secretary of the University, a fellow by the name of Norman McNatt, a very elegant, decent guy--Jean Sidar was then Secretary of the University--and I was still Chair of the Board--Norman called and said, "I have a rather awkward situation to discuss with you." I said, "Well, go ahead." He said, "There's a gentleman in the outer office who says that you would be interested in having his son admitted to Rutgers." So, I said, "Well, what's his name?" "Johnny Blank." "Johnny Blank?" I said, "That's Chemical Waste/Garbage Collection Johnny Blank?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Well, I don't know him, I know of his name, but," I said, "I have nothing to do with that. The guy's crazy." He said, "Well, the thing is, he is, as we say in the trade, packing heat." [laughter] He said, "It's really quite awkward." I said, "Well, you just tell him, 'Thank you very much,' that you've talked with me and we'll look into it," and we never heard from Johnny Blank again, but I thought to myself, "Oh, who knows what you get, what the cat will drag in?" [laughter] So, that's that story.
SI: We only have a few more minutes. Next time, if we can have another session, we can get into some more issues that were covered during your time on the Board of Governors. Just briefly, do you have any memories you would like to share? You started on the Board of Trustees at the end of the Vietnam War. How did the Trustees deal with the antiwar movement and how did that affect the Board?
LS: Yes, the Vietnam War movement, the movement to divest investments in South Africa and there were a number of other issues that galvanized the student body and the faculty and staff and some members of the Board so much so that it reached the Board level. I do remember that Katherine White, Katherine Elkis White, actually, she was a member of the Board of Governors, she had been former head of the Turnpike Authority, I think it was, or Parkway Authority, and Ambassador to Denmark. She was one of these elegant women who's kind of patrician, sort of an Eleanor Roosevelt type. So, Katherine was Chair of EP&P and she was chairing a committee meeting--no, it couldn't have been a committee meeting, because students wouldn't have been there. She must have been, for some reason or other, chairing some portion of the Board of Governors' meeting and students brought in a bleeding body--a body with fake blood, of course--and laid the body on the table. Katherine continued conducting the meeting all around that poor kid, who had to try to stay motionless the entire time. [laughter] So, there were those kinds of things, silly in a way, but there were sit-ins and there was much serious protest as well. Some of us, I did anyway, go around and attend student meetings. I know some of us attended hearings on the divestiture question. There was an effort to try to be aware and conscious of what was going on on the campus. And to let the community know that the board was listening. Ed even-- oh, I wish I could remember this clearly--I remember he went down to Washington. He participated in a demonstration supporting divestment in South Africa. It was a courageous move. Ed was a very engaged president.
PC: One thing, I know he participated in the moratorium about nuclear weapons, which got him a lot of bad flack in the papers about, "Why would a university president do this?" Yes, I vaguely remember him going down to Washington, DC, too.
LS: Yes, a person of great conscience, and just because you're a university president doesn't mean you don't have a conscience anymore. I think there's certain issues, like gun control, that could easily be one that university presidents get together on today, but they don't seem to do that anymore. I think that's part of the corporate university we hear so much about these days. It's always an interesting question, "Can you speak for yourself when you're holding such a public position?" It's pretty difficult to decide, but, on the other hand, to deny yourself an opportunity to say something, which, I guess, I think Ed tried to say, "Well, I'll participate. I'll make a statement. I won't take a leadership role." He thought he could make a contribution without sacrificing the support he needed for his presidency.
PC: I remember he marched in, I think, New York City; I think it was that he went in for a demonstration about South Africa. That was it. I think he went into New York City and demonstrated, he said, as a private person. Maybe that is what I am confusing, because that is the one that got a lot of criticism.
LS: Yes, it did. The Board, too, anguished over this. We spent hours on that question, as to what kind of position to take and, ultimately, it decided on a kind of modified divestiture. I don't know whether Ed was satisfied with that outcome or not--I recall that I thought the vote didn't go far enough but I didn't want to vote "no" and suggest I didn't support divestiture and so I abstained, not a vote I was pleased with but I saw no acceptable option for me. The board also discussed the implications for college campuses of what was happening, what were the implications for private support in the case of divestiture, and so forth, and so on. So, I think it was a very engaged board and, certainly, a very engaged president. I would not begin to know--I don't know whether this board or the previous boards have had anything similar to what we had, to what we did. I think mostly the contemporary issues have been the abuse of workers in factories abroad that are producing items for sale with Rutgers' logos on them and that kind of thing; an important issue, obviously. As is divestiture in fossil fuel holdings but this issue, important as it is, has not yet reached the level of involvement or intensity that South African divestiture did in earlier days.
PC: I think it is fair to say, in the last twenty years, the thing that the Board has heard from students mostly on is tuition. Most of the protests have been over tuition.
LS: Yes, understandably. We keep saying we don't have inflation, but anything you have to buy these days seems higher to me, including tuition.
SI: Thank you very much.
LS: Thank you very much.
-------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW---------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Kathryn Rizzi 9/13/2012
Reviewed by Saskia Kusnekov 3/6/2016
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 8/3/2016
Part 3: Stateswoman of Higher Education and Conflict Resolution
Shaun Illingworth: This begins our third interview session with Linda Stamato on November 14, 2011, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, with Shaun Illingworth. Professor Stamato, thank you very much for having me here.
Linda Stamato: Thank you, Shaun.
SI: To begin, I wanted to get your impressions of the various Rutgers presidencies that you have been involved in, from your days as a student up to the present.
LS: Sure, Shaun. It's a bit daunting and, in some ways, kind of an eye-opening question for me as I think about it. Why? Because of the long and varied nature of my involvements, I guess I'd say. I was a student for four undergraduate years, from 1958 through 1962, and then, as noted, I was involved through the League and the AADC and Douglass in various higher education developments, and, then, I became a trustee in 1971 and shortly after moved up to the Board of Governors, and chairing that board, until, by statutory requirement, I left. That was in 1983.
During the latter years, though, I was also a graduate student, at Rutgers, and also at Seton Hall and at NYU.... And so, my perspective on the presidents of Rutgers is probably unique.
So, to start, Mason Gross was the first and most prominent president in my realm of experience. [Editor's Note: Dr. Mason W. Gross served as Rutgers University President from 1959 to 1971.] Although he was a distant figure, he was a revered figure, I'd say. I graduated from Douglass in 1962; Rutgers became a public university only 1956, so, in some respects, that was quite a period of turmoil, of adjustment. I think Mason was very much an intellectual, a leader of the faculty.
He most enjoyed hanging out at the Rutgers Club at the end of the day talking with faculty, having a couple of drinks with them. He saw higher education, I think, as a privilege, but, also, one that should be accessible to a broad range of people. But, I think he saw Rutgers more in the private college tradition. After all, he became President, basically, as I recall, when it was still a private college and it didn't even become seriously a public university until 1965, when the state Board and Department of Higher Education was created--a fairly distinguished board, a chancellor and staff--and, in a short period of time, a huge infusion of funds to higher education; with the 1968 bond issue, and so forth, there was a growing awareness and appreciation of public higher education and Rutgers was a major presence. So, I sort of see Mason as the head of an emerging private college, pretty much in the private college tradition. Then, Ed Bloustein, well, what a difference, I mean, here, coming from Bennington, a small college in Vermont, with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm but probably not a great understanding of a public university. [Editor's Note: Dr. Edward J. Bloustein served as Rutgers University President from 1971 until his death in 1989.] He'd gone to NYU Law School and he'd gone to Cornell--no, actually, he got his degree in law at Cornell, I believe, and then, taught at NYU for a while--he also had his PhD in Philosophy--and then, became President of Bennington. So, what he expected at Rutgers, what he hoped for, it's really not too easy to get a handle on that. I think he sort of figured, "Well, let me see what this is all about."
Interestingly enough, I think that when we think about presidential searches, because we're obviously in the midst of one right now, I'm not sure how sophisticated an effort took place. I don't know how much this is scuttlebutt or how much it's accurate--I'm sure there was a search committee, but, evidently, a board member of Bennington College was also associated with a board member at Rutgers--and he is alleged to have said, to his colleague: "You know you couldn't do better than Ed Bloustein," and that's basically how that connection was made. In many respects, maybe on a more elaborate basis, that's what we do now. You actively recruit, you reach out, "Who knows who?" A lot of people don't put their names forward--they expect to be asked. Well, you're not going to be asked unless somebody knows to ask you.
Ed came with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, was reasonably well received, I think, and set about leading the University. He started in the same year, 1971, that I became a trustee. I think that he had--it emerged, I would say--a confrontational style. After all, he was a lawyer, trained, but he also was a philosopher. So, Ed had a solid background, he was a great thinker, but he was also trained in argument. It's interesting how many philosophers we've had in a short period of time, as both Mason Gross and Ed Bloustein were philosophers. Ed worked very closely with the boards, but had his various run-ins with the state as had Mason before him. There was a time when a serious budget cut loomed, and the universities and the colleges of the state were asked to voluntarily agree to reducing the amount of their requests for the Governor's budget. At the time, the Chancellor and the state Board of Higher Education would submit one higher education budget for all the institutions in the state; requests didn't go directly from each college to the state. I remember having this very intensive meeting with my colleagues on the Board of Governors and the President and it was all focused on how this budget cut was going to hurt us, significantly. They said, "But, you should vote for it." I remember saying, "How can I do that? How can I actually sit there, knowing all I know, and basically say that's okay?" So, I refused to do it.
The whole plan, I guess, had been set up that so that everybody on the State Board (and I sat on that board for Rutgers) was going to sit there at the Board of Higher Education meeting, and vote yes.
I told them, early on, because I don't like to surprise people, that I wasn't going to support it and I was going to say why. I think I basically said something to the effect that, "It's the Board of Higher Education's job to tell the Governor what we need and, if he has to reduce the amount, then, we'll figure out how to apportion it, but, basically, to lie and say everything is just fine, I can't do that." Among other things, I think that action set off my relationship with Ed. We developed a very good one, respectful, reasonably close, but certainly a little--how can you be close and somewhat standoffish but that's how it was--but there was a sense that he had his vision of how things were going to go and I didn't always see it his way. I said to him at one point, I said, "Ed, you want everybody around you to be smart, to understand what's going on, to be analytical, to be "with it," and, to agree with you." Sometimes, that simply wasn't possible. So, we did have our disagreements from time to time, but, in any event, I would say that while Mason was kind of removed and distant, but almost a father figure to the University and a leader of faculty, I think Ed was much more accessible--he sat on the floor with the students--he was engaged in almost every aspect of life at the University. He made major speeches all over the country. He made a significant speech endorsing labor relations, public sector labor negotiations, and particularly supported the idea of forming a faculty union, much to the chagrin of a number of people around him, but I supported that. He tried to form a good relationship with the state, but it was always contentious. Ralph Dungan, who was chancellor at the time, was tough, because he was trying to build the system--he was the first chancellor. It was a difficult period of time, where you're attempting to define who you are, what you are, what was needed to happen and, basically, to try to regulate a system of higher education that had never seen anything like it before in the state and, in the case of Rutgers, basically a private college and now a public university, all of a sudden, it seemed, coming together in a "system." And, resistance was felt all around, not just from Rutgers. Now, you've got a regulatory body--what's up with that? So, Rutgers had a seat on the board, that's true, but the idea was that while you were there because of Rutgers, that didn't mean that you were there only to articulate Rutgers' needs, but rather to recognize the importance of the entire system of higher education and advance it. Anyway, I think, during Ed's tenure, he sort of had two lives, one in which he was building a university, one in which he was kind of overseeing that growth, and then, he took a sabbatical and he came back totally recommitted. I mean, I think, in that period, if somebody had offered him another job, he might've seriously taken it, but, when he came back from that sabbatical, he was reinvigorated, along with, as I had mentioned earlier, embraced the Board of Governors' commitment to take a look at Rutgers. "Who are we as a university? How do people see us? What do we need to do to understand ourselves better? To put it simply, where do we go from here?" So, the BOG commissioned, did its own study, basically, and we interviewed a number of people, the Governor, a number of Legislators, people from all sectors around the state, in an effort to try to understand where Rutgers fit in their view of things. One thing led to another--I don't want to drag this out--but one of the things we decided to do was to take a look at our programs, at all levels, and take an honest assessment of our student body. In fact, it's almost embarrassing to say, but nobody had a clue how many graduate students we had, I mean, so much was focused on undergraduate education, and graduate education was fully half the student body! So, how could we know so much about one half and very little about the other?
So, it was a time to take a look at departments, professional programs and degrees, downgrade some degree programs, upgrade others, and you needed a respectable, responsible group of faculty to basically do that, because that's a tough task. Nobody really wants to be in a position of assessing the value of colleagues in other departments, but Dan Gorenstein, who was an outstanding mathematician and a gorgeous, great man, he agreed to do it, because he felt the Board and the President were going to take the work that he did seriously. That led to significant changes in Rutgers. [Editor's Note: Dr. Daniel Gorenstein joined the Rutgers Department of Mathematics in New Brunswick in 1969 and was the Jacqueline B. Lewis Professor of Mathematics at Rutgers University and the founding director of the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science, a National Science Foundation at Rutgers, at the time of his death in 1992. In the 1980s, Dr. Gorenstein chaired a faculty task force that dealt with the issue of evaluating graduate and professional programs, a committee that evolved into CSPAD and, today, CAPR.]
Some programs that had been here forever disappeared, others were elevated, leading us to a certain focus on the sciences that we hadn't had before, for example. At the same time, Ed recognized, as the Board did, that you couldn't move in the direction of the sciences if you didn't also recognize the value of the humanities, and so, we created the Center for Historical Analysis, the Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture, both of which survive to this day. So, there was an effort to kind of keep things in balance.
Also, Ed tried to consolidate the undergraduate colleges and that led to a major contretemps with me and one other member of the Board. Basically, Ed prevailed, but what we did, really, was to retain colleges that were shells without faculty and, from that point on, the organization of undergraduate education remained a kind thorn in the side of the University. We weren't organized well. Prior to the reorganization, faculty in various departments would have students from four different colleges, five different colleges in their classes, responsible for adhering to different honor codes, having different requirements for degrees. It was very, very difficult, particularly for faculty, to get a handle on what was going on. So, with the reorganization, the faculties were consolidated. They had to move locations, etc. We had money, because, then, Tom Kean was Governor and had put higher education very high on his list of priorities and Rutgers was a beneficiary of that. Money helped to smooth this difficult transition.
By the way, Ed had a very good relationship with Tom Kean, not so much with the Chancellor, but you know what I mean, a good relationship with the Governor, that helps.
SI: Was Ralph Dungan still the Chancellor?
LS: No, Ted Hollander had come in. [Editor's Note: Ralph Dungan served as Chancellor of Higher Education in the State of New Jersey from 1967 to 1977. T. Edward Hollander served as Chancellor from 1977 to 1990.] Ralph was there for a while, and then, during the earlier period, having been appointed by Governor Richard Hughes, as the inaugural chancellor of the newly-created State Department of Higher Education. It was during the middle period of Ed's presidency that Ted Hollander arrived on the scene. He had been at the State University of New York and he's now on the Rutgers faculty, the business school faculty, although he may have retired by now. That relationship was a pretty good one, although Ed really believed that Rutgers should be running itself, with, essentially, no interference.
So, almost any effort to see it otherwise didn't go over well, but, I think, in the end, Ed saw the value of having a State Board of Higher Education. I think the recognition that duplicating programs all over the state or competition with other colleges would hurt Rutgers and probably not be very good for higher education in the state. Rutgers, after all, was the public flagship university. After Ed's tenure, though, when Fran Lawrence was President, or the transition to Fran Lawrence, the Governor, Christine Whitman, decided 'in her wisdom' to get rid of the state Board and Department of Higher Education. [Editor's Note: In 1994, Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman (in office from 1994 to 2001) abolished the Department and Chancellor of Higher Education, which had provided governance for the state's colleges and universities since 1967. In their place, the Whitman Administration created the Commission on Higher Education and the New Jersey Presidents' Council. Dr. Francis L. Lawrence served as Rutgers University President from 1990 to 2002.] As a result of that--I mean, there are a number of ramifications of that action, most of them not very good--but one of the worst ones was that colleges all over the state declared themselves universities basically and went about creating very expensive programs, say, for example, in music. Rutgers has a first-class music conservatory--how many do you need? I mean, it doesn't really make sense, but colleges always like new, impressive buildings. That's where we get that notion of the "edifice complex," because, "If my college can have a big music performing arts center, I'm a player." Well, those are like stadiums; there's the crowd that thinks they are important and they are, but, the question is, really, how many venues does the state need, and, built, developed and maintained, at what cost?
In any event, I'm probably not being as sufficiently detached or analytical here as I should be.
If you take something like football, for Mason--while he may have attended a game--I wouldn't have said that was his thing. Ed kind of liked it and we had members of the Board, like Sonny Werblin, who thought, football was very important and that we should expand our commitment to it. There was much discussion about, "Do we go big time?" and I and a few others opposed that move, but Ed finally compromised or thought he had. He said, "We're not going big time, we're going 'bigger time.'" Well, what's the limit of that? Then, I think, under Fran Lawrence, it became much more of a commitment, driven as much by the state and alums, as anything else. Under McCormick also, mostly, I think, the "go big" momentum was driven by the governor of the state and members of the legislature who kept putting bond money into expanding the stadium, even when it wasn't requested. [Editor's Note: Dr. Richard L. McCormick served as Rutgers University President from 2002 to 2012.] In Dick's period of time, the move to big-time football, I think, really came from funds from--and a push from the state, not to mention from "insiders" at Rutgers who were determined to see a more visible Rutgers.
It was once thought that Rutgers should just play football in the Meadowlands, in Hackensack. Wouldn't that make sense? Because the facility was there, playing in it might help to unite New Jerseyans--maybe more people would come to watch Rutgers play in this large, impressive stadium. You use a football stadium, what, fourteen times at most through the course of a year? An investment in a facility for that sole purpose doesn't seem very intelligent, but I think the governing board, and presumably the president, thought that this was an important thing for Rutgers to do, that this was going to raise our profile. Well, it might if you won all the time, but I think--well, anyway, the die was cast on that--but I think that marked Ed's presidency, and Fran's, in a way, and Dick's certainly.
I would say that Ed Bloustein's presidency was a very successful one, because the University grew, we joined the Association of American Universities, which was a big deal, still is, and, I think, the regard that faculty and students and the state's constituencies have, well, the regard for Rutgers, has increased dramatically. I think one of the shortcomings probably of all the presidencies, at least until Dick McCormick anyway, was an absence of meaningful public outreach. I think Ed, as a figure, reached out and gave speeches and appeared in various places and Mason, of course, because he had been a television guy, he had sort of, I don't know, his own personal standing, but the notion that we are a public university and how you define and deliver on public service, didn't get the attention that the academic programs and the research programs did. So, when you think of the public, land-grant university's three-pronged mission, academics, very important, research, extremely important, and service, we fall considerably short on the latter. We don't really know how to define and deliver on it, particularly. So, I think that's been a shortcoming. It's the sort of thing that Ohio State and Michigan understand better and do better, but, then, of course, they've been public universities almost from the beginning. I think Rutgers has a very strong land-grant tradition and that's been very, very good for the development of our academic programs and our research programs. When you think about that, I mean, we were a little private college and along comes Justin Merrill and Abraham Lincoln and, in 1862, with the brilliant Morrill Act, that made it possible for states to invest and lead, eventually, to significant growth for Rutgers. [Editor's Note: Senator Justin Smith Morrill of Vermont sponsored the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, which established and funded many state colleges after the Civil War and led to the growth of higher education in the United States.]
We've had periods of investment and growth and some of them coincided with excellent presidencies and, some didn't. (Paul Clemens' book--and the Anniversary Book celebrating Rutgers' 250 years--provide a good deal of the detail.) One of the things I've learned, or at least I think I've learned, is that the first year of a presidency is probably one of the most critical. It's when you have the most support--people want you to succeed, they're more interested in having you pay attention to what they're doing. It's a sort of period of new growth and new life, but a lot of presidents use that time to get to know the lay of the land. I understand that motivation, but they often lose the momentum they could have and I think, in some cases, particularly with Fran Lawrence, it took him a while to get started, and then, he was wounded by the allegation of racism. [Editor's Note: In 1995, comments made by Francis L. Lawrence, Rutgers University President from 1990-2002, in which he stated that poor results on standardized tests among African-American test takers were the product of a genetic deficiency, were publicly revealed, leading to great controversy and calls for his resignation.] I think he tried very hard to be a good president of Rutgers, but I think he is seen as someone who was in the wrong place. I think he was a talented man, a very smart man and, obviously, seemed to be a good man, but, somehow or another, I don't know what to call it, the connection, the edginess of this place, he couldn't get it, or, thrive in it. I think the notion of moving from Tulane to Rutgers must have been a very difficult one, but I think, from the Rutgers point of view, and Rutgers people are pretty hard on others, they didn't take to him. I think it was tough for him, but I didn't work very closely with him. I was off the Board of Governors at the time. I met him early on and I liked him, but I kind of worried for him. I tried to help where I could. I was close to Joe Seneca who was Fran's Senior Academic Vice President. Both encouraged me to accept their invitation to be Acting Dean of Douglass (2001-2002) which I was reluctant to do but, once I decided to accept, was fortunate to have their support. I thought both Joe and Fran were able to see that someone who might not be 'the usual suspect' could be a good dean of a college. Of course, serving in that capacity led me to understand a lot about what was going on with the colleges, and why they needed to change. I can't so much characterize Fran's leadership style other than to say it was probably pretty laid back. Fran worked directly through his board and used Joe Seneca, his Vice President, as sort of the major interface with the faculty of the University. [Editor's Note: Dr. Joseph J. Seneca served as Rutgers University Vice President for Academic Affairs from 1991 to 2003, the University's chief academic officer. He is currently University Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.]
Segue to Dick McCormick, it's a major difference. I mean, Dick came from the faculty--well, he was a student at Amherst and Yale---but his father, as you know, and mother were closely associated with Rutgers, so, he kind of grew up here. Then, he taught for a while, was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, went to North Carolina and Washington, and then, back to Rutgers. So, he had a tremendous amount of experience, but I think he came at a troubling time, because that was when Roy Vagelos, who had been appointed to the Board of Governors by Jim McGreevey, who was then Governor, had a plan for consolidating the medical schools with the University and, indeed, a broad merger plan that sort of dropped from the Governor on to the higher education system in the state without any of the genuine pre-game negotiations that should take place. [Editor's Note: In 2002, New Jersey Governor James E. McGreevey appointed the Commission on Health Science, Education, and Training, chaired by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, retired President, CEO and Chairman of Merck, who served on the Rutgers Board of Governors from 2002 to 2004. The Committee was charged with reorganizing the state higher education system. The plan that emerged from their work, identified closely with the chairman as its primary architect and known as the Vagelos Plan, recommended merging Rutgers University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology and UMDNJ and creating three public research universities in the northern, central and southern regions of the state. A Review, Planning and Implementation Steering Committee, also chaired by Dr. Vagelos, began meeting in January 2003 to take steps to implement the plan, but these efforts collapsed by December of that year.] I think Dick was somewhat favorable toward the idea, but the Board of Governors and the Board of Trustees were decidedly not. So, he started out with sort of being enthusiastic about something only to find out he was ahead of his Board on that, or behind his Board, whichever way one wants to look at it, and then, came the fiasco with his personal relationship. So, here, in his first year, he was harmed significantly. I think he recouped a bit with the effort that he put into transforming undergraduate education and, certainly, that was a considerable undertaking, as we discussed the last time. So, I think, then, he kind of was reborn, but it was something of a struggle from that point on. I mean, I would say that he committed himself fully to fundraising, to improving the quality of a number of the programs, new initiatives, but he had lost a good deal of support in the state. I think, in fifteen or twenty years from now, people looking back at his presidency will see a lot of highlights that they may not see or appreciate as much now, but I think he has served Rutgers well. As a matter of fact, I think probably all the presidents have, in their own way, and they're distinctly different, but, as you imply in the question, they lead differently, but they're also governing during different periods and engaging with a different set of people. And their boards differed. When I was on the board, most of the people were public citizens of one kind or another and there were few corporate representatives. Now, it's almost entirely corporate and that results in, shall we say, a different perspective. You get a focus on metrics, you get a focus on funds and it's much more narrowly-focused in a way. The current board meets for very short periods of time, uses conference calls etc. I think that the interaction/the dynamics of board and president is something that probably needs greater study, greater appreciation. There is too much of a sense of privilege rather than service. It may be that boards don't get the orientation they need to what's required. At Rutgers, some members come through the ranks--that is, they were graduates of the university--so, they have some feel for it. Others come from--and it's important to have different points of view, I don't mean to suggest otherwise--from other places around the country, but, well, let me just put it this way, I think there needs to be as much attention focused on the boards as on the president. When people tell me now, "Oh, we should have this in a president, we should have that in a president," I keep saying, "We'll select some people and we will recommend them to the Board of Governors, but, at the end of the day, that's who makes the decision. So, people ought to be asking the Board of Governors, 'Where's the University going? What's your plan for the next ten years? What kinds of conversations are you going to have with some of these candidates? How are you going to make that decision?'" As far as I can see, those questions aren't being asked, but, then, again, I'm more accessible and the board is sort of "over there" somewhere. [laughter] So, I don't know, Shaun, do you have any specific questions about different leadership qualities that might help me here?
SI: Going back to President Lawrence, you brought up some things that others have brought up. Personality conflicts seemed to have troubled him with certain groups, but, also, it seemed like he did not--this is what others have said--he did not necessarily articulate a vision like the other presidents. Do you think that is a fair assessment?
LS: Yes, I think it has more to do with what he was comfortable with. Somebody said to me the other day, "You need to get a president who can work the room." I think what that means is to be comfortable in any setting and interact easily with others. I think Fran had trouble with some of the people in New Jersey. I mean, when you kind of think of some of the, oh, I don't know to put this gently, the kind of boisterous and aggressive members of the New Jersey Legislature, I mean, Fran, I think, probably wasn't comfortable in that kind of setting, with those kinds of people. I also think that he didn't have the stature, the combativeness, let's say, that Ed had. Thinking, for example, about the issue of the stadium expansion, provides an insight. I had heard this story and I had it confirmed--that Fran was approached to accept, oh, I don't know whether it was fifty million or what it was, as part of a bond issue, some of which was going to go to the Meadowlands, some of which was going to go to Rutgers and some of which would go somewhere else, as part of a deal that could be made, and he said no. He said, "I don't want to expand the stadium." Nonetheless, the request was out to the bond issue and the bond issue passed. The stadium was expanded. Governor McGreevy decided that that's what he wanted to do--a quid pro quo, evidently, to get support for the Meadowlands--and that's what he did. Now, why couldn't a president say, "I said I don't want the money--I don't want it. We're not expanding the stadium!" He should be able to do that and, when you can't make a stand on something as important, I think, as that, because that implies a direction for a program that's not being made by you and your board, it's being made in Trenton for, I would almost say nefarious reasons. "To get this and that done, you're going to throw this in and change the direction of our university?"
A similar thing happened with the stem cell bond issue, when McCormick was president: Why in the world we ever went along with the idea of, okay, in order to have a great stem cell research institute at Rutgers, we should have something in Stockton and something here and something there? No, you should say, "It should be a first-rate, single enterprise," and that's what we should have supported. Well, we didn't. We said, "Oh, throw money at everybody else, too, so we can get ours," and the issue was defeated. [Editor's Note: In November 2007, a $450-million- dollar bond issue to support stem-cell research was rejected by fifty-three percent of New Jersey voters.]
So, I guess the way I look at this, Shaun, is, there is usually in every presidency an opportunity to make a decision a certain way and some presidents make it and some don't and I think once people understand what had happened, even if they understand the pressures and even if they understand everything about it, you lose confidence, and then, you wonder what else might be compromised. So, I think maybe that means you have to be ready to walk away from something, but, frankly, I mean, as we're seeing in this latest Penn State thing [the Jerry Sandusky child- molestation trial], you're faced with a decision to make when you confront something and to think that you're going to protect an enterprise, just like the Catholic Church, "We're going to protect an enterprise, we're going to protect our institution." But, at what cost? Well, when that cost becomes known, how can anyone have any confidence in anything associated with the enterprise? So, what happens is, the rest of Penn State may be great, but it'll be a while before people start appreciating that. It used to be happy to define itself as the great place for football. Not so much for the next several years, I'd say.
I'd say, while I know it is not easy and the costs can be significant, if you've got a decision that has to be made and you know the right thing to do, and I think a lot of our presidents have known but, for one reason or other, didn't do what I'd say was the right thing, then, that's your legacy, whether you like it or not.
I think, for the next president, I think if we don't have a pretty clear idea where we want Rutgers to be going in the next ten years, if we don't have a sense that we have to cease protecting sacred cows, that we have to say, once and for all, "This is how we're going to do this and it's not going to be a collection of departments and institutes and centers and campuses vying for attention, it's going to be one whole university and here's how we're going to see it," then, I think, Rutgers won't make the progress it needs to make. I think it needs support from an engaged and committed board and from the state, but with this governor, well, Governor, I don't know. [laughter] So, I think it'll take an outstanding person to be able to give leadership and direction to a board--it's a small board--and to also unite all the entities at Rutgers who basically do their own thing.
I know my perspective is somewhat limited. I don't know all the departments, units, centers, institutes, but I know a good deal of them and I know everyone feels they need to run interference for themselves, but there should be a sense of how it, the university, coheres. There should be a sense as to how all this works to move us forward. Actually, as an aside, I like that Dick McCormick has been reaching out to the New Brunswick community. I think, as we're seeing, for example, in the President of Syracuse, she basically says, Nancy Cantor is her name, she says, "The university cannot thrive in a dying city." So, you have to approach everything you do in terms of the context of that city. Well, as far as I know, there haven't been too many presidents of Rutgers who looked at New Brunswick that way and I think we're finally seeing some movement to that direction. That doesn't mean there haven't been instances where people in the School of, to mention one, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, SEBS, have not reached out. There have been people all over Rutgers who have helped and we have Rutgers Day and we have all those things, but this commitment to the thriving of a city, maybe we're starting to see it now, but I think the next president needs to think along those lines.
SI: It is interesting that you pointed out the governing board is becoming more corporate in nature and in mindset. That must play into the whole reliance on sports. Do you think they see that as an investment that needs to pay off at some point?
LS: Well, I think if one looks statistically at what goes on around the nation, football doesn't pay off. I mean, it may have paid off for Penn State; I think I saw they spend fifty and they get seventy million, something like that. That's rare.
Rutgers spends more of its own funds than any other public university in the country, on football. I don't see what's coming back from that and I really don't even think that I like the idea that a high-profile football team can do anything for your admissions. I would hope that a Nobel Prize winner or strong relationships between faculty and teachers in high schools would have that effect. I mean, my grandson is now thinking about colleges. When I ask him, and he follows football, but, when you ask him, "What matters?" I mean, he's looking at MIT, he's looking at Stanford, they never have big football teams, although he's obviously looking at Michigan and it does. You may not have known a college's name, and so, I remember Seton Hall got a boost when its basketball team was doing so well and generated publicity, well, it got national coverage. So, you get the name out there and maybe then folks look into it, but, beyond that, I mean, good grief, for all the strengths and the combined talents of the faculty, to think that we're looking to our team to attract attention, I think that's almost insulting. The team, I'm sure, is just fine, but I think that, as we're seeing today, I just think the priorities are really skewed and I think the monetary investment is a tremendous mistake, to be looking at sports to bring revenue and attention to Rutgers. I think it's a mistake. I realize that I am a "voice in the wilderness" on that, but I can't even see, looking at the national landscape, how that football emphasis helps anybody. It seems to me to be a detriment--it's unwise and it's dangerous to players--and it consumes the capital of the universities, and I don't just mean money. We become the pawns of greed. And the players who go on to play professionally, which, of course, is largely why they're willing to play college football, those who haven't been injured significantly, is such a small, small portion. Well, anyway, let's not get too taken with that subject. [laughter]
SI: Going back to this report that transformed Rutgers under President Bloustein, did that become a standard procedure of self-evaluation or was it a one-time transformation?
LS: It was so comprehensive and so intense, I don't think anything like that's been done again. I do think that it should be done now, or, certainly, something close to it. I also think it provides a framework for going forward. If you don't have a sense that this is the direction you ought to be heading, I don't know how you build support for it. There's got to be a reason, a rationale for what you're doing and you need to galvanize support for it. We, my board, not only understood what the state wanted and we understood what we needed to do within, but we also decided to renew the mission, not so much redefine it, but flesh it out, so that everybody at every part of Rutgers could see where the emphasis was going to be and where we thought we were going at least for the next ten years. I think it was valuable also to Newark and to Camden, because I think it gave faculty there and the leadership on those campuses an opening to say a lot of the things they thought were important to say. Hearing some of that again now, in a lot of the forums on the presidential search, both the people from Newark and Camden are saying, "New Brunswick needs its own chancellor, because, basically, the President and the Vice President are acting as Chancellors of the New Brunswick Campus, and so, we feel like we're in the hinterlands and we don't have the voice that you have in New Brunswick." I think that's a very good point. I think that institutions and their members can sort of go on and there's sort of just a sense that there is no need to change--just continue to do what you're doing and maybe do it a little bit better or write another book or teach a few more students, and so forth--but, if you're going to renew and rebuild and revitalize, you need to, every ten, twelve, fifteen years, at least, do a thorough accounting and engage in planning. "What have we done? Did this investment pay off? What are we doing here? If you have the number one Department of Philosophy, how did you get that? What was the deployment of resources? How was that accomplished? Should we use that methodology for some of the other departments we want to grow?"
I was inducted into something called the Nutley Hall of Fame yesterday and Nutley is ...
LS: Thank you. Well, it's the town I grew up in, and so, it was a very sweet event, but one of the other people receiving an award is a geneticist who was the Chair of the Department of Genetics at Columbia University. She got her PhD from Rutgers. So, she talked with me for a while and she said, "Rutgers had offered me the Chairmanship of the Genetics Department and I really thought strongly about it, but, then, I decided to stay at Columbia." I thought to myself, "See, that's what should not be happening. If we have an investment in genetics and we really care about the growth of that department, she should be here and why isn't she? Did we go after her strongly enough? Was it a question of financing, of the laboratory facilities?" So, I don't know, because it was a short conversation, but it's those kinds of conversations all over that, if they're happening, we know we need to be thinking seriously about where we're going and have the guts and the courage to do what we need to do to get firmly on track. I think that's a commitment between the president and the board, but it's also with the faculties and with the public. I think, again, I go back to this relationship between presidents and boards, it's so crucial. I think it's so under-appreciated. Every single board member now, on the Board of Governors, was not there when Dick McCormick was appointed. So, he basically has a board that didn't choose him. So, how do you work with that? You have to be constantly renewing your connection with new members coming on to the board, but, then, you also say, "Well, how did they get there?" "Well, the governor appoints people." "Is the governor thinking about who he's putting on the board because he has some vision for the university? Has anybody talked with him about that or is just for some politician who needs a "high place" to go?" and the same thing with the Board of Trustees. They have this rule--I don't know where it came from, it wasn't there in my time--that if you become Chairman of the Board of Trustees, you automatically go on the Board of Governors. Well, automatic succession is not a very good thing. It may lead to some good results, but not by virtue of the process, but because of the people.
I think we've got some issues we need to be dealing with internally and I think one of them is really a good effort by the board and this Board of Governors may make it, because it has to choose a new president and it knows it needs to have a successful presidency. It needs to know where it's going in the next ten years, because it's the future of Rutgers. It couldn't happen in a better year, because 2012 is 150 years of the Morrill Act. So, I think there are a lot of things--the stars aligning--so, maybe, but, Shaun, I'm not one of those people who thinks that you just have to get the right "star," this frequent notion in presidential elections, for example, that, "We've just got to get the right person." This is not a celebrity contest, I mean, and, yet, I think that's almost how we approach it, "Is someone handsome? Are they tall? Is she this? Is she that?" "Wait a minute, what about competence, capacity to organize people, to inspire them, to bring them along?" I don't know that it's easy to spot all these things in a search, but I do know I have a pretty good idea of the questions I'd like to ask people and get a sense of their responses, but it's not an easy business, to be sure, but I think it's not just the president, it's those who chose him or her. It's the board that's going to select from among them and determine where they go from there. To me, it's always cut off, "Well, that's over. Now, let's go on to the next thing." No, it's just beginning!
The other thing we don't do here, is, we don't nurture the next president. I don't think, I mean, except for Mason, and, actually, I'm not even sure about that, the idea of being able to know that within your own ranks, you've got some strong candidates for the presidency, I think we ought to be doing that. I don't think we do it. I was interested in reading about the woman who's now head of IBM and how she was put in charge of every single department, almost every department in the company, with mentors and supporters. All through her career, she's been being prepared to be the head of IBM. I think that's what makes it possible to have a female, because she's not coming out of thin air, she's coming from the ranks. There are efforts in the higher education community to nurture people for presidencies; I don't know that we interact with them. I do think, if I were a member of the board now, I'd be sure that some of the people who were appointed to some of these vice presidential positions are people who might ultimately be considered to be the next president of Rutgers, because I think the value of continuity should be considered, instead of, somehow or other, attracting this great person from the outside. I mean, when you look around, you see the NYU president has come from inside the ranks the last two times. They've had extremely successful presidencies. Princeton selected from its own search committee. University of Pennsylvania, the provosts, two of them have gone on to head Ivy League colleges, because they're nurturing their future leaders. Why don't we do that and, also, then, keep them here? So, that's my two cents.
SI: Is it seen almost as a negative to come from within the system?
LS: Sometimes, it is, sometimes, it is, and that's pretty sad. In fact, some colleges and universities will not give faculty appointments to people who've gotten their PhDs from those institutions, because they don't want anything to look too homegrown. Well, you can be too homegrown, but, on the other hand, to reject people from the inside because, somehow or another, they don't bring the glamour that comes from outside, it's beneath the institution. You look at it on the surface, you say, "Oh, yes, you want to bring somebody in," but you say, "Well, how long does that last, if the person can't really integrate, relate, inspire and do all the things we need to have done?" I mean, actually, to have somebody come from inside here, I think, would actually be energizing, but we'll see. I haven't seen the log of candidates for the Rutgers presidency yet, maybe there are people, but I don't know. It hasn't happened yet.
SI: Another group that the University needs to move forward in its relationship with is alumni. Could you give me your sense of the university's relationship with its alumni, particularly in light of your role in the reorganization in 2006-2007?
LS: Yes. Well, after I finished the work with the transformation of undergraduate education, I remember I was doing something, I was at the Ford Foundation and I called my office. They said, "The President is looking for you." So, I called him and he said, "This is a call that basically means no good deed goes unpunished." [laughter] He said, "So, would you join this Task Force on Alumni Relations?" "Oh, good grief," I said, "you know that I'm seen as a heretic in the Douglass Alumnae organization. They'll have a fit if I do this. On the other hand, obviously, we've consolidated the colleges, now is the time to consolidate the alumni, I mean, because, if we're going to be one university, you can't have all these separate groups." You may know, Shaun, that a number of colleges, in an effort to stop this kind of effort, have wound up in lawsuits and have competitive alumni groups and so forth. So, it's a very touchy and difficult thing. We had at Rutgers, after all, twenty-some-odd, I think, alumni groups of one kind or another, primarily the undergraduate colleges, but there were a couple of other groups, the School of Social Work, Business School, etc. Anyway, I think we had reached a point where a number of these small alumni groups basically didn't have the resources to function the way they wanted to. So, I think they saw some value in consolidating, but there was the usual pushback from the big players. When Rutgers College's group decided it was a wise move to consolidate, and they had significant assets, it really helped. It was willing to put its assets into play, so-to-speak, and so it helped to draw people together, but I think, fundamentally, it was that President McCormick wanted it and he would invest in it. I think the Foundation, moreover, felt it was important to do. You can't really raise money for a university that seems so splintered. I think there was too much competition within the alumni groups, because they would get resources from the central body, but always felt it was getting less than somebody else was getting. We always want to do our own programs, we want to do our own thing, but they didn't have the money to do a lot of the things they wanted to do. So, how about that old notion of pooling our resources and getting more benefit? The timing was just right and, I think, coming on the heels of the successful transformation of the colleges, it was very hard for the alumni to say no. After all, who are they going to be recruiting in the future? So, how would they be sustainable? That's number one. Those who had some endowment, sure, maybe they could continue doing the things they do, but where would the new blood be coming from, because there was, now, one School of Arts and Sciences? So, it made sense.
The question really was, "How do you get from here to there?" You knew where you're going and the effort was getting everybody who was part of that to participate and cooperate. I think it ran pretty smoothly, by and large. So, yes, I think that was very important. I think it'll become more and more important as the years pass, because you see that block R all over the place and Rutgers, no matter where, someone will say, "I went to Rutgers." You're not hearing people say, "I went to Livingston," or, "I went to the Graduate School of Education," when they say Rutgers. Of course, it's easier to just say Rutgers, [laughter] but I think it's becoming more of a phenomenon. We are more than the collection of several parts. Because our history is so strange, in the sense of all of these various institutes coming together, I mean, I kind of laugh to myself that it's prohibited by federal law to have a sex-segregated college, so, Douglass College could not exist but for the fact that it's under the umbrella of the University. So, I saw a number of comments of people saying, "The next president has got to give Douglass autonomy." I thought to myself, "Oh, for heaven's sake, [laughter] the worst thing that could happen would be to get autonomy. A, where would the money come from? B, the student body is now a residential college, a good thing, but certainly not a number that could sustain the enterprise." The Alumnae have something like, I don't know, twenty-three, twenty-five million dollars, but a lot of that's encumbered. So, you want to say, "Just get real, for crying out loud." We can thrive, and women particularly can thrive, in this institution because of all of its strengths, not because of what's on that one campus.
One, what a digression, Shaun, but I remember saying at one point that, because of the strengths of the sciences on the Piscataway Campus, there ought to be a women's dormitory there. There should be a Douglass presence there. It shouldn't be just this one campus. Douglass, as Mabel Smith Douglass envisioned it, was to provide opportunities for the education of women--why not all over the university? Why think it can only be there? [Editor's Note: In 1918, Mabel Smith Douglass (1874-1933) became the founding Dean of the New Jersey College for Women (NJC). Douglass remained at the post until 1932. In 1955, NJC was renamed Douglass College.] So, I think that kind of limited view has hurt Rutgers over the years, not just at Douglass, but everywhere else. "We want to do our own thing." "Well, how can you do your own thing within the framework of the entire university and do it better?" That should be the challenge, not us against them, but rather how we can do something better, together.
Now, I know it sounds easy and it sounds kind of Pollyannish, but I think most of the large public universities have not only survived, they've thrived, because they have one identity and because they manage to function in an integrated fashion. I think we're pretty close to getting there, but we're not there yet, and, now, we're going to get a medical school to complicate matters! But, that's good. It'll increase us by another third, which is a wonderful opportunity, if we do it right, and that's also going to be on the new president's plate as well, although somewhat of the infrastructure will be laid, and coming at a time where resources are pretty limited. So, I think re-thinking how you deliver public education, keeping it accessible to those whose lives can be transformed by it, keeping it not so expensive that people carry loans for the rest of their lives and keeping the quality and the respect and recognition and the image of the University as the place where civilization is maintained, that's a challenge, but I think we can do it.
SI: I would like to ask more about your year as the Acting Dean of Douglass, because you said that heavily influenced your thoughts in all these areas.
SI: You said it came about when President Lawrence asked you to take it on. Was there any lead up to that?
LS: I think, well, Barbara Shailor, who had been the Dean, was leaving to go to Yale and I think there was, obviously, turmoil. [Editor's Note: Dr. Barbara Shailor served as Dean of Douglass College from 1996 to 2001.] Who was going to be the Acting Dean was a big thing. Douglass had had acting deans in the past, but I think Fran and Joe Seneca both thought this was an opportunity to start thinking about Douglass a little differently, although neither one of them said, "Here's what we want you to do." They just wanted me to do the job as I would see it. I thought about it for a while and I said no, wrote a long letter explaining why. They wouldn't accept the letter, which I thought was unusual. [laughter] I thought if you decline, you decline, but they were right in a way, which is something I should keep in mind as I do the presidential search--if people say no, it doesn't necessarily mean no. You can think about ways to get somebody to say yes. So, one of the convincing points was this: Only one year and absolutely nothing beyond that, just that one year, which, to me, came to mean holding everything together for that year, and then, trying to understand what was going on and what was needed and articulating those needs. It was interesting, because I thought that since I was the first person who'd ever gone to Douglass to become its dean would be kind of a nice thing and I thought the Alumnae would be pleased. The first call I made was to the head of the Alumnae Association and she basically said, "Well, we know you're a shill for the President, so, it's no big celebration for us." [laughter] I thought, "Well, there's a nice, warm welcome," but I figured, "Oh, they must be really stressed. They're really worried and they have no reason to be worried." So, I spent a good deal of time trying to assuage their concerns.
One of the interesting things, as an aside, is, they had a practice of giving the Dean fifty-thousand dollars, I think it was, for basic expenses that have to do with parties at the house, for guest speakers, and so forth. When I came in, they cut it to thirty-five. I thought, "What's up with that?" I mean, that's to support a function, not a commitment to a person. Now, you either want to do the function well or you don't. So, that kind of thing went on a bit during my deanship, a sort of testing, and I got kind of annoyed by it but, frankly, far more by the fact that the AADC was raising the money, but basically being reluctant to provide the funds to the college. Quite a dilemma. On the other hand, when I'd ask for money from the Rutgers Arts and Sciences people, they'd say, "Well, get it from the Alumnae, they have it." And the AADC would say, "Get the funds from Rutgers." Talk about being between a rock and a hard place! So, here I was in the midst of this squeeze. So, I began to say, "This thing is dysfunctional." But, when I learned that there was a restriction on the majors that students at Douglass could take, I kind of went ballistic. So, you're a Douglass woman, you can't major in physics because that's not approved here, and then, too, if you want to get a degree in journalism, you've got to transfer to Livingston. I thought, "What?" I mean, some of these things were just nuts and, if they're nutty because they are the ramifications of something, well, then, you take a look. "Okay, so, what's the value we're getting? What's the other side of the equation?" There wasn't any, basically, and, meanwhile, the quality of the student body was declining. You look, statistically, nationally, and women's colleges were having a hard time unless they reconstituted themselves in some fashion to become attractive, given the increasing competition and march to co-education. I thought, "Well, Douglass has Rutgers. I mean, that's what should make it attractive. So, you should be able to come here, but have the full panoply of advantages in the University," but, the problem was, the rules were such that you couldn't do that. So, I thought, "That has to change."
Not a short story, by any means. One of the changes that came right after I left was a negative one. What they decided to do was to allow Douglass students to major in anything, but required them to minor in women's and gender studies. "What?" Now, that's interesting. So, a woman who wants to come here, to major in physics and to minor in chemistry, and she can't? She can't? You're taking away choices, not providing them. Well, perhaps, I'm getting ahead of myself here.
So, anyway, Shaun, to make a long story short, I loved being dean of Douglass for the year; I loved the students, and I thought the faculty fellows I dealt with were super and I added several to their ranks. I thought there was a future for the college, a very compelling one, but not as the institution it was then. Building on its assets, the commitment, the loyalty, the traditions of the place, what it had accomplished over all the years for women, not least providing employment opportunities for faculty as women who had difficulty getting jobs, for the most part, except in a place like Douglass. So, there were so many strains, they just needed to be brought into, in that case, the twentieth century, I honestly think.
And let me say also that, of course, it was the year of September 11, 2001, and the traumatizing of students by the attack on the Twin Towers. One of my students and her dog went to help at Ground Zero. One of the stewardesses killed on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, her daughter was a Douglass student. The impact of the attack felt very close. As a result, there was much, I don't know what to say, challenge, fear but also resilience, warmth and support and encouragement that came with the shock. I was thrust right in the beginning of my tenure, connecting with my students and with the staff. It was extremely sad and difficult, but it was also, for me, an effective beginning, because I couldn't think very much about the job or what I was supposed to do. I kind of got thrown right into it. I got pretty close with the students. I went to the Government Association meetings and to various things and organized a number of programs during the year. I think I helped bring the college more into the mainstream of University life, because my connections were broader and I brought faculty fellows in that had not known much about Douglass. So, I thought it was on pretty good grounds when I left, but I did know, clearly, that certain things had to change. There were inequalities in the whole system. Some of the people were paid less than were being paid in other parts of Rutgers, and, as I mentioned before, there were different honor systems, different graduation requirements, so many things that only got in the way. If the students wanted to form a student organization, they had to get sign-offs by about eighteen other people, dumb things, Shaun, without a benefit on the other side. So, now, by the way, without all those crazy restrictions--and the reason for the restrictions--we're in better shape. Less nonsense such as maintaining differences, just to be different, so that we can say we're different, and then, we fight for our differences, rather than thinking what's good for students--so, now, I think the perspective is, "What do students need? How do we deliver those services effectively?" not, "How can Douglass keep its mental health people? Well, how about the people over here at Rutgers? They have three people, we only have one." "Well, do you need one all the time?" "No, but, sometimes, we need two," there was no coordination of any of those kinds of things. Now, we have it and, I think, so far as I can see, nothing's been lost. Many of the traditions that obtain at the college campuses still exist and have been given sort of a new dimension by the changing circumstances. I think we'll look back on this period of time and all the efforts preceding it, from Richard McCormick, Senior, through Kenneth Wheeler through Ed Bloustein through Fran Lawrence through Seneca, all the way through Dick McCormick, to finally have one School of Arts and Sciences, and realize, fully, it was a step we had to take. We have yet to make the most of it, but I think we certainly will. Our departments are thriving, I think students couldn't be happier, I think the residential college ideas, you'll see more of them. I think it was an important part of my life, my learning, and I also found it personally very gratifying, but for the being called "the shill of the President." [laughter]
SI: Did you find that kind of sentiment in any other segment during your time as Dean, like in the staff?
LS: Some of the staff, yes, certainly initially. I think the staff was, well, really, the morale was very low. Apparently, Barbara Shailor had reorganized the staff and promised new titles and improved pay and none of it had come to fruition. Well, you ought not to promise people anything before you get it approved, but, so, I had to deal with the impact of those disappointments. And, I think people thought I wasn't going to stay, so, they thought they didn't want to take me seriously. I think they thought I was kind of a placeholder, so, I made every effort to tell them I wasn't that at all. I spent a lot of time trying to revitalize and kind of wake up the staff. For good reasons, some of them were demoralized; and some had talent, but there was a funny thing operating, a distrust and dislike among the staff so much so that people didn't want to do their jobs because they didn't want somebody else to look good. I thought, "Well, that won't get us very far." I didn't want to terminate anybody, because, with a one-year deanship, I shouldn't do that. I had a full appreciation of who had strengths and who didn't and I think that, in the end, people supported me. They gave me a big luncheon at the conclusion of my service. It was kind of sweet in a way, because I had a habit always of wearing a necktie--I don't know why, but I did--and they all came in wearing neckties, as sort of a kind of tribute. So, I think at the end of the tenure, most of the staff were glad I was there and I think some of them would've liked me to stay. The students signed a petition to get me to stay and I kept telling them, I said, "The reason you're doing this is because you know I'm going. If I were going to stay, you'd probably be saying, 'Get out of here,'" [laughter] but I found that very warm and, I think, very compelling. The one thing I think I've always found is that whether it's students or your colleagues, you're a student yourself or you're actually teaching students, that's where the real heart of the enterprise is. I mean, that's why I'm still here at my age teaching, because the students are great. They want to learn. They have a future, they care about it, they work hard. They have so many troubles and so many challenges and worry about their job prospects, but they're interested in social justice and they care about others. You sort of say, "Well, I'm not ready to part ways with that." I think if we can keep our eyes and our hearts focused on students, then, this enterprise will thrive. I think we kind of get off that every once in a while. I used to say this at Board of Governors meetings, "We've been meeting here for two hours and I don't think I've heard the word education once," because it's about buildings and it's about money and it's about grants and funds and lawsuits, and football, and whatever, "What about learning?" I know you have to support the infrastructure and I know there are administrative responsibilities and the more regulation you get, the more you have to have people to respond, but, fundamentally, it's seeing students in class and watching them in the library and seeing them engage and challenge one another. Well, that's the way I look at it. I think board members should hang out in the classroom now and again. I mean, that may be tough for the faculty members, but you can get somebody to give them permission. I used to go to Senate meetings every once in a while, just wanted to get a sense of what was going on. I know there's a sense that, as a board member, you should be removed, but I think you should be removed at the same time you're also connected at least to the heart of the enterprise, so that you don't lose sight of what you're really doing. I mean, it's a privilege to be on a board and you shouldn't be there because you think you're going to get some kind of benefits, like free tickets to something, whatever. [laughter]
SI: I want to get a little more into your classroom work, your work with the Center. The Center was started in 1986, correct?
LS: Something like that, yes, on the Newark Campus.
SI: Before that, you had already been involved with the Institute for Research on Women.
LS: No, the Institute for Judicial Administration at NYU, actually. My colleague, Sandy Jaffe, and I created a center for, I think we called it the Center for Dispute Resolution, and it was, as I said, at NYU in the Public Affairs School. I'm just trying to think of the years. That was after I left doing the work I did at the Ford Foundation helping to develop an agenda for the National Institute for Dispute Resolution that Ford, with a few supporting foundations, had created. Basically, with NIDR, we were trying to create a fund, a grant-making philanthropic institution, that would seed a lot of dispute resolution and assisted negotiation work around the world, from community-based dispute resolution centers, where people would be trained as mediators and help manage local conflicts, to major initiatives, even when, to take an extreme example, people who were routinely killing one another needed to move on, to create sustainable polities. "How do they form a working polity? A working government? How do they construct a constitution? How do they decide whether and, if so, how to punish people who are guilty of transgressions of great magnitude?" Consider, for example, South Africa's Reconciliation Commission. So-called Truth Commissions offered one way to move past violent civil strife. After all, if almost everybody was implicated in violence, do you spend the next years trying to prosecute people or do you try to build a nation?
So, these are the extreme varieties on a negotiation theme, and, Shaun, to get right into the heart of the enterprise, we started really, first, domestically, looking at courts. Recognizing that ninety-five percent or so of cases that are filed in court settle, rather than get tried, we wondered, "What happens in that settlement process? People are negotiating, but under what circumstances, with what constraints? Are agents, lawyers, doing it or are parties directly involved?" The more you got to understand, the more you saw value in people resolving their disputes themselves, at least having some direct degree of involvement. To make a very long, drawn-out story short, when you recognize that, you begin to move from one side of the equation to the other, less of a focus on dispute resolution per se and more on how we make decisions better in the first place. Not only to avoid costly confrontational conflict, but, also, to improve people's skills in negotiating. So, we found ourselves working with courts to set up programs so that people could walk through a courthouse door and go into mediation, for example, where they would not have to file a complaint, and be directed to community-based centers that work with the police and others. Another example, say you've got a land-use problem or you have a landlord-tenant dispute, instead of going to court to get somebody to decide it, you approach it in a way that tries to help the parties work things out themselves, with the assistance of a mediator.
There were no forums that made it possible for people to do that. So, we had to create an institutional capacity and that's part of what the work was that we did early on. When we moved from NYU to the Rutgers Law School in Newark, it was because the dean there, Peter Simmons, recognized that law schools should be spending a little more time on the negotiations that lawyers do with their clients that gets that settlement figure so high. Maybe, instead of waiting until the end, just before trial, to settle, we move it up earlier. So, we save all the costs of discovery and all the aggravation that entails. I mean, when you look at some of the cases, it'll take years to get to court, so you can ask: "What's happening with people's lives during that period of time?" So, particularly with divorce and child custody, it just made sense to help these people get on with their lives and reach decisions earlier. The impact on their kids is so great if you have to wait a year or two to get a divorce and the money distribution and property settlements are going to wait for then, then, you have people waiting, and, in some instances, living in the same house while they are in conflict. That's a negative for their kids and for themselves. So, across the board--small claims, child custody and visitation, divorce, community matters, even large corporate disputes, construction disputes--people need to get on with their lives, on with conducting their businesses. They can't interrupt the construction of a building because they have a dispute with a supplier. So, you had to have a mechanism to resolve disputes or help resolve them.
Anyway, we worked on court-related dispute resolution programs, with the New Jersey Supreme Court, to institute them all over New Jersey, and we helped to create two major initiatives at the Ford Foundation. One Ford initiative was the creation of the National Institute for Dispute Resolution and, later, the second, the Fund for Research on Dispute Resolution. The idea for the second was this: "You've now created all these programs--how are they doing?" Ford and the Hewlett Foundation were the major players in all of this. They believed that they ought to be providing support for changes that they were convinced ought to be made. Without philanthropic support, a lot of things fall through the cracks, because there's no institutional support for it.
So, I would say, from when we started, in the '80s, until now, there has been a tremendous change in the way people approach conflict. We have institutional capacity within the courts and within communities and there are also freestanding programs in a lot of places. There's also something like two thousand programs in schools to teach kids to be mediators. I find it particularly lovely to have students show up in my graduate course who tell me they learned to be peer mediators in high school; we've had RAs, residential advisers, here at Rutgers using their mediation training. Now, they are coming to a public policy course to learn how they can institutionalize programs and develop their skills.
It's been a good time to live, [laughter] since my career sort of parallels what's been going on in the general "conflict resolution" universe. The field is so broad now that you find people negotiating regulations before they're adopted, saving time and effort and getting better ones as a result; ending conflicts over who put toxic waste where and cleaning up those sites; bringing six or seven states together to negotiate water rights and access to rivers and streams for fishing and for fresh water for drinking. These complex areas of regulation and policy and planning are now being negotiated, usually with the assistance of a facilitator or mediator. So, you have a better capacity in the nation, I believe, particularly in the environmental area, but also social justice policy, to come to better resolutions.
Most of the research supports a collaborative approach. When people make their own decisions--and, when you think about it, negotiations are always about future behavior--you're going to make them work. And, going forward, you can change them when you need to, because you're in a good negotiating position with the people who have been part of that agreement, and you'll cooperate to make it work.
So, I wouldn't say there's less litigation, but there probably is, but there's far more settlement. Now, people are resolving a lot of their differences before they get to court. One of the downsides, however, is that judges and retired judges have seen the advantage of this, so, they've decided to become mediators themselves. You see a lot of private companies settling their disputes out of court. Some of those ought to have public review, because they have public implications. So, a doctor, for example, who is accused of malpractice, settles privately, could still be in practice, because there's not been any public review. Corporations that are responsible for defects in automobiles, settle with individuals, confidentially, and the cars remain on the street causing more injuries and deaths. And so on. The connection between private and public justice needs some work!
Moving on to more of what we do, beyond analysis, advocacy, writing, training, and mediating, we teach. We taught in the Law School for a while, but, then, when the Bloustein School was created--which is a wonderful opportunity, to have worked with Ed Bloustein, and then, to be in the school named for him--we moved here. Actually, I had something to do with the naming of the school, and, actually, I also got Mason Gross--not me, the Board--got the School of the Arts named for Mason Gross. So, that's kind of nice, to be in the building with the Mason Gross School and the Edward J. Bloustein School and to have known both presidents and to have worked closely with one. Anyway, so, we teach a course on negotiation law and conflict resolution in public domains. We attract students from the planning and the public policy side of the school, but we also get students from Social Work, from the School of Education, many from the School of Communications. We've even had some from cell biology. We said, "Why are you here?" and they said, "Well, we think we may run hospitals when we get older, and so, we want to know how to organize and manage people and improve our capacity for problem solving." We now have such a diversity of students, a global diversity!
So, I think, if I summed up my sense of the broad field in which I work, in a sentence, I'd say this: If you want to solve a problem, or resolve a conflict, you have to approach it from the perspective of the parties' interests, how they may coincide or how they can negotiate through their differences. Instead, if you present the problem or the conflict to a judge or a third party, a decision you get a win-lose outcome and that can be difficult to implement. It's imposed, rather than negotiated. My interest, always, is trying to understand how people approach negotiations--which is usually a variation on a zero-sum approach--how to enhance their negotiations and how to assist them from time to time and introducing them to the influences on the process, gender, culture, history, context, and, not least, the various psychological dimensions in play. Risk assessment, cognitive dissonance, and reactive devaluation can have significant effects. These factors reflect an emerging field, that of behavioral economics. People don't necessarily act rationally, as it turns out.
So, we have to understand what motivates behavior. "Why would I pay more for this house than you would? It reminds me of my grandmother's." That's not objective, that's not rational, but it's emotional; it's behavioral. How do you get the Northern Ireland folks and the British and the IRA to see things differently, when they're so rooted in their past that every time they sit down to negotiate their future, they talk about the Easter Rising in 1915? They need to recognize the time is now to reconcile. How do they go about doing it? One of the most widely used instruments, to trigger change, or to open possibilities, is apology. I've written quite a lot on this, because it fascinates me that a device that simple can be so effective when, of course, it's genuinely delivered. So, anyway, this field allows you to just range so broadly, from anthropology to psychology, from political science to economics, all over, and to bring people's minds to a place where they can actually think about problems in a way to solve them. Instead of, "Who should win and who should lose?" or, "What's right or what's wrong?" It needs to be, how can we move ahead? How can we plan for a constructive future? Form a working polity? Most conflicts are not of that order to be sure but even seemingly minor disputes can have deleterious effects on relationships.
It's important, too, to recognize that conflict is not a "good" or a "bad" thing. People who have legitimate differences see the world differently. It's how we resolve conflict that matters. If we didn't have an appreciation for conflict, we probably wouldn't have a democracy, and then, we wouldn't have respect for rights, like freedom of association, freedom of speech, and we'd hardly be progressing at all. So, I sort of say to myself, "Well, we may be in difficulty, in turmoil, but, we also have an opportunity to do something, to produce a settlement that meets peoples' interests, with which they will comply, and that we're likely to get much better results by approaching the situation with a problem-solving perspective." Not easy, by any means. I think President Obama tries to do this but with limited success given that the opposition is composed of people who simply want him to lose. [laughter]
So, it doesn't work all the time, but it's worth trying. Since most people approach problems as a zero-sum thing, "If I have a problem, somebody's got to win, somebody's got to lose," it's tough to get on "problem-solving ground." I know I see the world differently. But, I'm determined to advocate understanding--where "the other" is coming from/what she/he/they need--so that conversations across differences can be respectful, and educational, and, given the urgency that can often be part of the picture, come up with solutions that the contending parties can live with? Most solutions, if there's not enough vested for all the parties, won't be honored; they won't go forward.
Winning is not such a great thing, because, then, who's going to be with you? Who's going to help carry the thing through? And with most negotiations, that's just the start. You've got to get to implementation, and then, you have to make something work. Decisions that are basically enforced, or coerced, really, by a third party, lacks "buy-in," lacks mutual investment. So, parties hold off; they don't pay attention, they delay. Most of the research studies say people who've mediated their conflicts are more likely to honor the terms, as I said before, because they own them, they produced them. But, "If a judge ordered me to do it? Well, maybe, I'll get around to it." Some of these things are subtle, but, mostly, I think it is people being responsible for their own behavior, recognizing and respecting the others who have a different point of view and trying to see whether there's some way in which they can deal with their differences, they can reach a solution that'll work over time.
Surprisingly, if you're willing to invest enough--and I've been in some conflicts that took two, two-and-a-half years to resolve--in the end, people not only "see the light," they've worked hard, they've invested in a process and, now, they want it to work. So, sometimes it is reaching that point at which you've invested enough time to now say, "Okay, well, now I've got to make this work, because I've already been sitting here for so long," [laughter] but, you know, curiously, the same motivation is there, Shaun, that keeps people in conflict. As Lyndon Johnson at one point said, he really ought to stop the Vietnam War, he knows it's a loser, but, if he stops it, how can he justify all the lives lost? So, he came up with new reasons to continue it--and so more lives were lost--because, acknowledging the fault, acknowledging the wrong, becomes impossible to do. So, you continue doing what you're doing. That's pretty compelling. So, you've got to have ways in which you can get people to start thinking differently. Eventually, Lyndon did, but a little late. So, despite all the other successes he had--they're more appreciated now, Civil Rights, and so forth--his legacy is tarnished; he bears the burden of that war, which was really not even his until he made it his own, sad. Anyway, I'm looking at the Dalai Lama [in a photograph in the interview room], so, I'm thinking about peace, war and reconciliation.
SI: You have laid out a wide range of potential cases. Is there one area you specialize in or do you handle all cases?
LS: I never set out to specialize in anything. We were mostly trying to educate people, teach and influence courts and corporations and communities to think about the issues we were thinking hard about, and, basically, we set out to do the training of people who would do some of the work facilitating conflict resolution. Since people are often so distrustful about third parties and reluctant to go into a process they don't understand, they turn to "experts" and having asked and having received an explanation, they often say, "Well, you've explained it, we now know what it is. So, now, you do it." The first case we did, we got involved just that way. It involved fifteen of the major insurance carriers in New Jersey; they were being sued by the State of New Jersey, because through the joint underwriting association for drivers in the state, the JUA, they were seen as committing fraud, that they were stealing from the fund, effectively, by not challenging charges for repairs and other costs, and generating fees for handling the cases, some ten percent on top of the costs of recovery. The scope and impact was considerable as the underwriting fund, the JUA, was basically insuring most of the people in New Jersey. Because the rates for being insured by the JUA were cheap, so, many sought coverage there instead of through individual insurers.
The carriers who were affiliated with the fund, the fifteen, wrote the rules so that when they handled a claim, they could put ten percent on top of it for their own profit. Well, then, there was no motivation, economically, to keep the claim payments low. The higher they were, the more the insurers would get. But, the state, in effect, was complicit in allowing the rules to be written by those who would implement them, clearly allowing a conflict of interest to be ignored. The insurance carriers said, basically, "We're not going to admit to fraud. That's not what we were doing. We were doing our job." In reply, the State Attorney General said, "Well, yes, but we think there have been some implementation problems here." It was a clear case. So, the Assistant Attorney General, Ed Dauber, an outstanding lawyer, said, "Let's mediate," and he is the one that asked us to come and explain the process to all the insurers and the state insurance department personnel people, people who didn't even want to be in the same room with one another.
We explained the mediation process and, subsequently, "the parties" interviewed a number of people to mediate; they wouldn't accept any of them. So, they came back to us, after, I think, six months, and said, "You people, we can all live with you." [laughter] That's me and Sandy Jaffe. So, we got involved in that case and that's the one that took two-and-a-half years, ultimately, to settle. Some insurance carriers settled sooner, some settled later, but, at the end, Shaun, in one of those remarkable moments one would never have been able to predict, both sides held a party to celebrate the settlements!
The people got along during the mediation, moreover, with some ups and downs to be sure, but, basically, people, who had been, quote-unquote, "enemies" beforehand, could be seen at the blackboard working out problems in setting up a regulatory system that the insurance commissioner would be able to accept, that the regulated could live with, what would satisfy the state's needs. They were basically redesigning an entire system to make it work. At the same time, they had resolved their financial difficulties, saved the State of New Jersey a phenomenal amount of time in litigation, and money, and the same for their own companies.
At the party, held in Princeton, at Lahieres, awards were given for, say, the first to settle, and for this and that--all in great good humor! Now, who ever heard about a party at the end of a legal case of that scope the dimensions?
So, we began to say to ourselves, "Well, maybe we ought to do some more of this," and got involved in the Owens-Illinois case over asbestos, which was also time-consuming. People with asbestosis and all kinds of terrible lung diseases and Owens-Illinois basically saying, "Well, we were making asbestos for the ships for the war. We didn't know that it was going to be affecting the lungs of the people who worked with it and others who were exposed to it." So, some of these cases, as I say, it's not easily right or wrong, it's, over time, that we learn things and figure out fair solutions to the challenges. You can do research now that couldn't be done when some of the exposure started allowing people to understand the full impact and the cost of individual medical treatment and, of course, the costs for remediating the clean-up of sites and apportioning responsibility for those costs.
As far as some of the toxic waste dumps are concerned, and New Jersey has many of the nation's worst sites, people had been dumping in these sites for decades--and who knew what half the stuff was that they were dumping? So, how could you just apportion blame to the latest insurance carriers? You really needed to come up with a structure and a fair system for paying back and giving remedies to people who should have them, states and municipalities, but, also, try to avoid putting people out of business.
Anyway, so, while we never sought, really, to do much mediation, we wound up doing quite a lot of it, primarily large, complex cases that had significant public impact. Right now, we kind of figure private providers ought to be doing the work. We're, after all, public employees, but, from time to time, we do do cases and, in fact, have done some within the University, about which I cannot speak, but it has made all the difference. Holly Smith, who was the Dean of FAS, said to me at one point, "We need a SWAT team here [laughter] to deal with some of the departmental problems that surface from time to time and came to my attention." I'd say, "Not really a SWAT team, but a group of people who can go in and help people manage their conflicts constructively." The young people in a department who have, shall we say, a different perspective from the people who've been there a long time can fuel conflict as can jealousies and animosities that develop over quality and scope and teaching methodology, and, also, considering that there is a lot of ego in this place, as you might have encountered from time to time, the need for "conflict resolution services" in house were needed and are needed.
So, we did some work for Phil Furmanski that, in three or four instances, I think, helped the University--well, not the University, but these pieces of the University--stand on firmer ground and to great effect, I have to say, which is a tribute to the people who participated as well as the process and those, we, who facilitated it. [Editor's Note: Dr. Philip Furmanski served as Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs from 2003 to 2011. He is currently a Professor of Cell Biology and Neuroscience at Rutgers-New Brunswick.] One thing about mediators, they're supposed to stay in the background. They're just the catalysts for making people do what they want to do anyway, but just don't have a way to do it. I like that image, because I'm getting tired of high-profile stuff. [laughter]
SI: When you are not involved with a case, is most of your time spent teaching or writing, developing policy?
LS: Good question. What do we do? It's so interesting the way the teaching interacts with the mediation, because a lot of people, when you say to them, "You know what you're doing? You're engaging in reactive devaluation," and they say, "What is that?" You tell them and they say, "Oh, am I doing that?" Somehow or another, their own behavior then becomes a phenomenon that they can manage, because it's not just them, it's what other people do as well. So, the teaching comes through in the mediating.
We teach a graduate-level course, but, also, we do a number of seminars inside Rutgers and outside the university. We'll do some for the Center for Non-Profit Corporations of New Jersey, for example, helping people--they have, I think, a thousand members--helping them figure out how they can deal with conflicts within their organizations. We do some work with the Institute for Women's Leadership too. They have a program that has what they call Leadership Scholars and these young women, basically, are focused developing leadership skills and devoting themselves to social justice projects. They need to understand negotiation skills and problem-solving skills. So, we teach that, and taught last week a section of a colleague's course--she's doing non-profit management--and, increasingly, subsets of other people's courses. We also do workshops for all the planning students in the school, because their course requirements are so heavy that, frequently, they can't take our full course or one of their required courses conflicts with our time slot. So, we do a separate section for them.
We've done work for planning associations across the country and we've done work for administrative law judges, schools, school mediation programs, a variety of things. So, that's sort of our service or engagement part and we work with other faculty on research. When we wanted to understand why, for example, people in public positions, legislators, cabinet heads, resist collaborating, when it's pretty obvious that to get to a good policy outcome they really need to be sitting around a table working on it and they don't, we were curious. So, we worked with Mark Aakhus, who's in the School of Communication and Information, to help us design a research study and, basically, to do a good deal of it. We facilitated a couple of roundtables mid-course in the project. We've had students here on independent study, some of them working with Roy Licklider, who does work on how civil wars end and what happens afterward and the role of memory in keeping the war mentality alive. Well, each year, it's different, so, it's sort of hard to say. I think we do a reasonable amount of service. We also try to do a lot of service in the school--facilitating retreats of faculty or meetings relating to accreditation--and then, we do programs with other parts of the University, for example, trying to bring lecturers here, to enhance joint work. I've been working to get Jane Lubchenco from NOAA, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, to come here and talk about how she used collaboration to develop plans for protecting the fisheries. Also, Bob Goodman, Dean of the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences, he was interested in having Lubchenko come, as was Phil Furmanski and Joan Bennett, who's head of Women and Science at Rutgers.
So, there are ways in which we try to serve as a catalyst for programs here at the same time we're trying to bring front and center our own collaborative problem-solving capacity. I should say one other thing here, that, for years, Rutgers has had this Humphrey Fellow Program. Do you know what that is?
LS: It's kind of the opposite of the Fulbright Program. The Fulbright has federal money and sends people abroad, American scholars to various places, to teach and learn, named for William Fulbright, Arkansas Senator. There's also the Hubert Humphrey Program, which does essentially the opposite. It brings people from mostly developing nations here to the US to study for long periods of time and connect with various internships in their areas of expertise. It's highly competitive. There are probably six thousand applicants for thirty openings, something like that, and Rutgers has had that program for years, not right now, but we've reapplied. So, in the last couple of years, well, ever since its inception, we did seminars for the Humphrey Fellows--they're from Palestine, from Israel, from Zimbabwe, from Vietnam, from Cambodia, all over, and all over Africa. Some of them get so seized by this whole notion of negotiation being an actual thing, rather than something you just do eighty percent of the time with little awareness or analysis, and that you can actually learn how to do better and institutionalize forums for decision-making, so, then, they take our course. The last three or four years, let me just give you one example, one of the students who came and stayed, for a while, Nadwa Al-Dawsari her name is, from Sana'a, Yemen. She took our course, and then, went back to Yemen, started a small institute to teach and to train, and then, came back and said, "I really want to do something more. Can you help?" We put her in touch with something called Partners for Democratic Change. It's based in Washington and a good friend heads it. To make a long story short, they were so enamored with Nadwa at Partners, they gave her funding for two years to establish an institute, which she leveraged to secure funds from USAID, the United States Navy and a couple of other sources, to create a conflict resolution and training center in Sana'a, Yemen. So, now, here is this student of ours over there doing such important, essential work at the time when the Arab Spring is taking off. She, with a couple of people, is making a tremendous difference. One of her colleagues, also from Yemen, came here, Kamal. He's the chief architect for the restoration of the oldest mosque in the world, which is in Yemen, and he's also interested in conflict resolution in doing his work. He's here right now because his wife just had a baby. They came to the States to have the baby. We have another fellow who created community mediation centers all over Mexico who was one of our students. So, the reach of the teaching capacity just seems to know no limits when you can connect with other programs and the Humphrey Program has just been one of the most outstanding ones. I just hope we get it again, because it's a real boon for Rutgers and I think MIT is the only other place that has one, in the planning area, anyway. Anyway, I don't know how we got on that, Shaun. [laughter]
SI: We were talking about how much of your job is policy development, how much is teaching. I just want to get a few more things on tape. You said you wanted to mention your time on the Higher Education Board. We did discuss that earlier in the series. Did you want to say something else about it?
LS: We did a bit. Yes, I would only say this, that I think that I have, as you know, pretty strong feelings about the importance of boards. Stephen Bailey, a name prominent in higher education, said that an institution can be worse, but it's seldom, if ever, better than its board. Most states have some higher education board or constituency commission, something of a high level that will constantly get a Governor and a Legislature's attention to the needs of higher education. I
think, for economic development, for the creation of an intelligent, informed citizenry and a variety of other reasons, we need higher education institutions. We don't all make our case very well; and sometimes, when we do, it seems very self-serving. So, you need a body at a statewide level to do that articulation for you and, usually, they need to be the most patrician, high-placed citizens, social-justice-caring people, committed, wise, smart and sharp. From the beginning, the higher education board here in New Jersey had outstanding people on it, people who were Nobel Prize winners, leaders of industry, of labor unions, active, experienced people with standing. Al Merck, who headed Merck, served a long time. I found him to be a person of tremendous interest in philanthropic purpose. Bill Baker, former head of the Bell System, so wise and sane, Kay Neuberger, head of the lower board, and some of the best presidents of New Jersey's colleges and universities. It guided the early days of public higher education in New Jersey so well that it put us in a good position for growth, and then, it disappeared, because Christine Whitman, shortly after she was elected governor, thought we didn't need it. That was probably one of the dumbest moves she ever made, and why was it done? "I wanted to just get rid of one department," sort of like [2012 Republican Presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick] Perry--he can't even remember the third one he wants to get rid of. That kind of bull is so annoying, instead of understanding what you're doing. So, she cut departments. She said, "The colleges can grow free." Oh, yes, that's really worked well. Interest in and support for higher education has declined, seriously.
So, I think the next governor, because I don't know that this one, Chris Christie, is going to be interested--he says he is and I hope he might be--but I've not seen any evidence of the creation of anything that would be the voice of higher education to the public and the state. I think we need that voice. If it's not the governor--someone like Tom Kean who was directly and meaningfully engaged--then, it's got to be a chancellor and a group of individuals who care about learning in New Jersey, let's just put it that simply. I don't know that I would have appreciated this point as much as I do now had I not served on that board, but I saw what it did and I knew what it chose not to do, which was not to inappropriately intervene, but to try to create the circumstances for good behavior at the colleges and support appropriate development of programs and seed good ideas, and look to the quality of life for students and setting of tuition and a variety of things, all important, I think, fundamentally, to the future of higher education in the state. So, I'd like to see something along those lines come back, with a commitment from a governor.
For now, I think it's going to be the Rutgers President who has to lead, be the lead voice in getting that done, but he or she has got to be able to galvanize the leadership of the other institutions to be part of that effort and not have it seen as, "Rutgers making its own move and leaving us out of it."
How do you get Montclair State University and The College of New Jersey and others to be part of a movement to restore, basically, respect to higher education and to recognize its role in the important dimensions of life in New Jersey, now and in the future? I don't know of any other way, and so, short of electing a governor who's going to be that voice, I think we either need to convince this one that that can be his voice, although all his trashing of teachers might get in the way of that! But, the creation of a board that has authority, standing and connection with the cabinet and the governor, I think we can't do without it. So, we'll see, but I think that's probably all I need to say about that. The record probably stands. I think I had some things to mention to give to your colleague [Paul Clemens] and I guess I was going to do that in the course of talking about this. So, maybe I'll just give it to you and you can give it to him, but I think, in rereading some of Ed Bloustein's writings and looking at some of the things I did which led me to be on the Board of Trustees in the first place, I think I had not talked at all about the League of Women Voters. I may have incidentally, but one of the things, when I was a college student, that I thrived on, was simply sitting in the student center and talking about politics and the environment and Algeria, anything and everything that was going on at the time. I went on hunger strikes and I did various other things and I just loved it. I thrived there, and then, I graduated, and I thought, "Uh-oh." So, I started doing graduate work, sure, but it wasn't the same, and then, I was invited to join the League and I did that. I thought, "I have found the student center, this wonderful group of women," many of whom were older, a lot older than I was, who were well-educated, smart, couldn't really get jobs or believed that they should be home. Their strength and intelligence, their education, their learning and their passion came into the program. I threw myself wholeheartedly into the League's work, because it was there, and because I could do it.
I chaired the education portfolio for the League's State Board. I testified in legislative hearings, I supported integration, I served as an amicus in the lawsuit to get the State Supreme Court to get the State of New Jersey to give meaning to its constitutional requirement to provide a "thorough and efficient education to public school children through secondary school," and so on. And I championed support for higher education, for more college spaces for students in New Jersey, and bond issues to expand and improve higher education facilities in the state. It was through my work on the bond issue for advancing higher education in '68--now, I had just graduated in '62 and I might have had one graduate degree by then, but I'm not sure--but working on that bond issue brought me in contact with Rutgers and the state. [Editor's Note: In 1968, New Jersey's voters approved a $990-million- dollar bond issue, generating over $200 million in new funds for educational institutions, including $68.2 million for Rutgers University.] So, I got appointed to a couple of state commissions, but I also wound up, in '71, on the Board of Trustees. So, I've always thought it's the League and, if it hadn't been that opportunity for women that the League offered, my life would have been distinctly different. The League has made a difference in the evolution of this democratic country. To now see that my League is actually working in some of the countries around the world that I'm working in, that they're trying to develop the capacity for people to understand functioning democracy and to get people to vote, what voting means, and here I am, trying to help people reconcile after a civil strife, I thought to myself, "Well, it's like I'm coming back to the League or I'm catching up with the League," whichever the case may be. As you reflect back on your life and you think of things that were seminal, I think one connection, clearly, was the League. At the time, to me, it was a savior, "I now have a place to feel sane, because I don't want to be talking about diapers and parents' meetings and all this kind of stuff. I want to be talking about war, peace, government, social programs, a variety of things."
My daughter, Eve, who attended American University, served an internship at the National League headquarters in D.C.!
Also, I should say, at the time, I was studying China and the League was deciding on whether to adopt a position on China. So, that became a nice thing for me to work on, but I primarily became their education portfolio manager, which also coincided with everything else going on in the state, particularly regarding equalization of funding and school district organization. So, in the end, well, there's a certain six degrees of separation. There's a way in which things that become manifest early on and you don't really know how strongly committed you are, but, then, you look back and say, "Oh, I guess I must've been, because look at this." So, I think I started out, when we first started, talking about my mother and the influence of my family and there's Nutley with my induction ceremony yesterday, so that comes back into play, and then, the League, and then, all of these years here at Rutgers, ending with, I guess this must be my last hurrah, the presidential search. So, I hope I'm part of something that's going to be good for Rutgers for the next decade, so, you should wish me well. [laughter]
SI: I do.
LS: Okay, is that a good end?
SI: There is so much in your résumé that we could talk about, but, obviously, we do not have time.
LS: If there's something else you want to talk about, it's fine, Shaun. I have a little more time.
SI: I did want to ask about the Institute for Research on Women. You were co-director there for seven years.
SI: From 1983 to 1990--co-chair?
LS: Is that what that says?
SI: "Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers University, Co-Chair, 1983 to 1990."
LS: Oh, okay. When you're a Trustee, you go on various Trustee advisory boards of the colleges and of various things. I think, shortly after I left the Board of Governors and the Trustees, I was involved, I guess maybe because I was doing some work, initially at Newark, with Mary Hartman, who was then Dean of Douglass. Even early on then, we started talking about the role of negotiation and how women tend to be seen as not effective negotiators, whether it's bias or prejudice or whether it's discomfort in a confrontational bargaining context.
Maybe we ought to start thinking about that and I think Mary had just--I guess she was still Dean--but she was thinking of leaving to form the Institute for Women's Leadership. So, I got kind of involved in that and Catharine Stimpson, who was Dean of the Graduate School, had created the Institute for Research on Women and got Rockefeller funding and a couple of others and I think I got involved with that early effort. I don't remember a whole lot about the early days of both of those entities, other than that they were building, that Women's and Gender Studies was starting from a little program that was in the basement of Voorhees Chapel to a full-fledged, PhD-granting degree program. That came over all that period of time. So, I've been constantly, I would say, consistently, associated with various things that involved women, but I think my perspective was always a bit different, which was I want women to have the same things men have, but I don't think women necessarily are "better than" or have these special gifts that they bring to anything. Individual women may, but I think, once you go down that track of this sort of specialness, it leads to the separateness and separateness in a democracy is not a good thing. I don't think it's good here, but I think a lot of the early effort was to get recognition for women's history, which didn't have much attention, and for recognizing that when you saw the way the faculties were formed on the Douglass Campus, the disproportionately high number of women, and the disproportionally low representation of women in the other parts of the University, you knew that you needed to do some affirmative action to make things become much more of a level playing field. I saw a lot of the institutes that became part of the Institute for Women's Leadership to have crucial roles in that commitment--Women in Work, Research on Women, Leadership, obviously Douglass and Eagleton's Center for the American Woman and Politics. I mean, they were all part of that early, developing commitment to create an institutional framework and generate recognition and university support. I was not closely involved with individual center and institute programming, but sort of more involved kind of looking at the perspective broadly, "What could our work, what could our center, bring to what they do?" So, we did a lot of programs for the Center for American Women in Politics, from going to their national meetings and having programs for state women legislators to doing some forums for people who were thinking of running for office, getting them up to speed with negotiation and problem-solving and what kinds of forums and policies and programs they might be interested in. So, we've done that, and then, consistently with the Young Women Scholars, and then, periodically with some of the other centers and institutes. So, it's been a long affiliation, a somewhat turbulent one from time to time, but it's now better, back on firm ground. I'm still on the advisory board now for the Young Women Scholars Program and I like that. It's a very, very competitive, a very solid program. I like doing that and the new head, Alison Bernstein, who comes by way of the Ford Foundation and a number of programs, she was a Provost at Princeton, is a good friend, and so, I kind of reestablished my relationships there through her and some of her colleagues. So, I don't have much more to say about that, but, then, it was an important part and, as you cite the years, it indicates to me longer than I thought. [laughter]
SI: To wrap up the session, since you are currently heavily involved with the Presidential Search Committee as co-chair, but you were also involved in the one that brought President McCormick back to Rutgers, can you tell me a little bit about that process, back in 2002?
LS: Yes. It was very fraught, because, as you probably remember, the Board basically replaced Fran Lawrence before it had a President or had even launched a search. So, there was Norman Samuels, sort of Acting President, Joe Seneca was sort of Acting President for a while; I mean, it was very difficult. [Editor's Note: Dr. Norman Samuels is a Rutgers University Professor in the School of Criminal Justice and the Political Science Department at Rutgers-Newark. He served as Provost of the Newark Campus from 1982 to 2002 and Associate Dean and Dean of the Newark College of Arts and Sciences from 1976 to 1982. He was named Acting President of Rutgers University after Dr. Francis L. Lawrence left the presidency in 2002.] So, the Board, particularly Gene O'Hara, who was the Chair, was getting more prominence. The Board was having difficulties, because this was the time when Governor McGreevey had decided that we ought to merge the universities, meaning Rutgers and UMDNJ, and McGreevey was also attacking Fran Lawrence unrelentingly. It was just so inappropriate. So, in the launch to the search and the forming of the search committee, I think, took a lot of investment, a lot mattered. The Board put a lot of time and effort into that and chose John Colaizzi, who was the Dean of the School of Pharmacy, to chair the search. The group worked extremely well, had some very, very good members on it. I think that most of the search stuff remains confidential, so, it's very hard for me to say much about it, other than to say that I thought that the dynamic, the way people worked with one another, was very good. I think one of the major problems was that, certainly, the Chair of the Board, if not the Board itself, said that they would not entertain any nominations that were not sitting presidents, experienced sitting presidents of public universities. That limits your pool quite a bit and, I think, it was understandable but it was unwise. I think it was a reaction to, as most presidential searches seem to be, reactions to the previous president. I remember someone saying to me, "Well, we chose Fran Lawrence because he wasn't Ed Bloustein." Well, that's certainly true and, in many respects, Dick McCormick's not Fran Lawrence, but what does that mean? just seemed like very, very different people with different perspectives and likely to bring a different dimension of leadership, which is where we started today, on what's the difference? I don't know that, realistically, it means anything you can actually work with.
So, I think we were limited, as I said, and so, that affected the pool, but I think, in the end, there was such--I think I would be getting into territory that's probably not appropriate for me, because it was for the Board of Governors to decide who among the people we presented to it should be chosen president. I know they certainly did pursue Dick McCormick with great enthusiasm. I think there was probably a kind of a kismet feeling. Here was the son of the great Rutgers historian and former dean of Rutgers College, Richard P. McCormick, in the person of Richard L. McCormick, himself a recognized leader of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, a very, very well regarded historian and an administrator who was seen as having succeeded effectively in leadership positions at two other major public universities, North Carolina and Washington. So, I think it must have seemed like a perfect fit and my guess is, if a lot of other things had aligned and we say the stars aligned, maybe it would have been a more successful presidency--nobody can say that at this point--but I think, now, there are no restrictions on who we can look at. I actually made a point of asking to have that freedom, because I think it's very important to, as I said to the Chairman of the Board, "We want to be able to look beyond 'the usual suspects.'" So, consider this, when John Brademas went from the United States Congress to head NYU, sure, he had a PhD, but he was not a usual suspect and he had a very successful presidency. The people he hired, which, I think, is the first measure of a good president--who do you hire is a strong clue as to its likely success--Brademas made excellent choices. McGeorge Bundy, when he was President of the Ford Foundation, said, "The first thing I do, I always hire people who are smarter than I am, because that's what I need to run anything I'm in charge of." A lot of other people hire people--I think Phil Furmanski used to say, "'A' presidents hire 'A' people, 'B' presidents hire 'C' people." Now, of course, you don't know that until after it's all said and done. Hiring people is not an easy matter--I don't mean to suggest that at all--but who you hire for the top positions in the university are going to be the first sign to everybody about how serious you are.
So, I think, if we approach the search as, "We're looking for a system head, a sort of chief executive officer, rather than a COO, chief operating officer," you're looking for two different people. If it's a CEO, you want someone who can pick the heads of the campuses and the major players within the University. That decision has got to be the most major one he or she'll make. I think, probably, that's what we need. I think Rutgers is too huge--and now, with the medical schools and institutes, growing by another third--for a president to be able to be like Mason Gross, sitting in the Rutgers lounge at the end of the day, talking to faculty, most of whom he knew personally. I mean, those days, that's not going to happen. We need something that's equivalent for the operating officer, because I think that person has to be the intellectual leader and has to be connected to the campuses in a way that they feel "even" in his or her perspective, but the new president, it seems to me, needs to be like the head of state, almost like the president of the country in a sense. He or she has to know what the institution is and guide it and provide the vision for it and work with the Board to accomplish it, but it's all those operating people that are going to probably be the measure of that president's success. So, in effect, as we conduct this search, you're almost thinking about the President, but, also, who else? I'm not sure what form those interviews take. I have a sense of what I think, but I'm only one of twenty-four and, as vice-chair, I need to keep a little more quiet than I would otherwise be, [laughter] but, nonetheless, I don't think I'll change form too readily. So, I mean, that's about what I would say at this point. I think it's not a limited search. The Board's very interested in what we're doing. It knows that this is the single most important decision it can make for the next decade and knowing that means it's going to take it seriously. I wish I had a better idea of where the BOG thought the University ought to be going, because there is no strategic plan, but, in a way, it would be unfair for a president to inherit someone else's newly-drafted strategic plan. Of course, if it was the Board's, maybe he or she could flesh it out a bit, but, in a way, they'll be all going into this together, which means that the risk is higher, but, on the other hand, there's that much promise as well. So, as I end, this my final flourish at Rutgers, I suspect, I carry the burden pretty heavily. In some respects, I wish I didn't have it, but it also means that no one ever talks to me about anything else but the presidency and I can't say anything. [laughter] So, it leads to short conversations, although I get to listen a lot, but I think, I don't know, really, why the Board chose me for this role; I was astonished. I couldn't believe that was happening, but, as I think about it now, I guess I'm probably one of the few people that's been around as long, has been student, undergraduate and graduate, faculty, staff and a member of both governing boards, and, chair of the BOG. So, in a way, I probably bring a perspective that no other single individual does. Now, whether that'll count for anything, I don't know, but I'm certainly going to try, because I think this is probably one of the most important things I can do right now and I, as I say, carry the burden pretty heavily. I wish I didn't, but I hope I'll rise to the occasion.
SI: I am sure, good luck.
LS: Thank you, I'll need it. [laughter]
SI: I appreciate your work there. Thank you very much, I appreciate all your time.
LS: Thank you, Shaun. And, now, if I may, I'd like to say something about my family because, among other reasons, the course of my life, particularly having married young, before I finished college, and having three daughters, two when I was quite young, and a third when I had just turned thirty, was heavily affected, changed, and immeasurably enriched. And now, with six grandsons, my life is taking on greater dimension, challenge, opportunity, and wonder!
--------------------------------------------END OF INTERVIEW--------------------------------------------
Reviewed by Kathryn Rizzi 9/16/2012
Reviewed by Saskia Kusnekov 3/10/2016
Reviewed by Shaun Illingworth 8/3/2016
October 2016 Postscript by Linda Stamato
I'm commenting now, without Shaun's prompts, as I end my reading, and re-reading of the text that was done, as is obvious, a number of years ago. I'm just getting to finalize it and figured that I'd try to update it, in a very brief way.
So, it's 2016, the president I was searching for, was chosen, and has been serving just short of five years, Robert Barchi. We've expanded to include two medical schools, various institutes and centers and have something close to 67,000 students! I've worked with Barchi, most recently on a two-year committee to review the academic organization of Rutgers and to recommend strategic investments and offer opportunities for new programs, institutes and schools. I wrote two chapters in the anniversary book to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Rutgers--coming in November of this year, 2016--the introduction and the conclusion that focuses on the future--and participated in the president's symposium on higher education. And, my colleague, Sandy Jaffe, and I continue our work at the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, continuing to teach, train, and provide mediation, within and outside the university. We may be heading to the University of Konstanz, in Germany, in June, to teach there.
At the same time, of course, there is my family. My two sisters, Karen and Eve, remain close. And, my daughters, well, how to summarize? Their lives intersect with mine, at Rutgers, to be sure, but also in the communities in which we have lived, primarily Montclair, Mendham and Morristown. It's hard to draw direct lines to things your children have done, the decisions they've made, but, I think, you can see influences.
Some straight facts, to start, Nina (Fondaco) is a Rutgers graduate, a Woman's Studies major, and the mother of two sons, the youngest, Derrick, having just graduated from SEBS, with honors. He is a nutrition major, working, now, at Unilever where he did an internship. His brother, Joe, went to Ramapo College as a presidential scholar, majored in computer science, and is working in that field.
Nina did a number of things following her graduation, working for Traveler's Insurance Company, the Land Trust for Historic Preservation, a prominent not-for-profit group in Morris County, and, now, for a landscaping company.
Liz, (Giessner) as I mentioned, home-schooled her three sons. She went to Tufts, Colorado and Harvard, taught math in a fairly tough environment in Maryland, inspired her students, accomplished good things, and married, later, not like her mother! She traveled across the country, following her graduation with a major in psychology from Tufts, and worked for a while in Boulder, Colorado, and took courses online in math, tutored students at the university and, finally, received a degree in math before heading to Harvard for a Master's in Math Education. She taught in Maryland following her graduation. She lives in Michigan now, and her three sons--the youngest still at home who aspires to be an astro-physicist--are following in her, and I like to think, too, my steps.
Paul, the oldest will finish at Ann Arbor with two majors, one, in music, with a concentration in organ performance, and two, in electrical engineering. He is anticipating graduate school to start in January, maybe, at Michigan, maybe at Stanford. Tim, after one year at the honors college, James Madison, at Michigan State, transferred to Western Michigan University to pursue the piano. He still intends to go to law school. We expect him to become governor of the state and maybe President of the United States! All three boys, men really, play the piano. For all three Giessner boys, interest in politics is high, values are firmly in place, a full appreciation of the richness of family life is evident, community engagement is a "given," and they have established a solid tradition of giving, of caring for others and doing service. Art and music, theater and concerts are very much a part of their lives. They enrich their family and their community. They have enriched my life! As has their mother who continues to be very active in the many dimensions of her life, a complex web of family, school, church and community, and, too, friends.
Eve, as noted, went to The American University in D.C., a great choice for her. Initially thinking of majoring in theater, she chose psychology, and she took full advantage of the richness of D.C. She intended to pursue social work, changed her mind to pursue teaching which was a superb choice for her but that talent became manifest in places other than schools, in a pre-school setting and then as education programs director at a museum and now at the Historical Society of Princeton. In that capacity she reaches back to Rutgers, where she is "well-connected," for various speakers! She and her husband, Ken, have added to the all-boy grandchildren collection, with Carter Aaron, who is but three years old at this writing. They are creating a rich life for him and he, decidedly, is enriching theirs and mine!
So, themes? Influences? Well, political, really public life and citizenship obligation and engagement, that's one, for sure. Teaching and a deep appreciation of learning and imparting learning, that's obvious, too. An appreciation of humor, for sure. And, respect for others, tolerance, spirituality, affection. A decided urge to be on the right side of history. And an enthusiasm for life.
How does one sum up a life? I'm not sure that's what I want to do, or even try to do, but, perhaps, just simply to say that my life has been expanded, deepened, changed--enriched--by Rutgers, as a student, several times over, as a member of the governing boards and all that involved, and as a teacher, no occupation more satisfying than that. I think the fact of my being at Rutgers has influenced, benefitted, my children and their children as well. I can see the impact on my family, then, sufficient to say, I think, that I've done good, or so I conclude, looking at my daughters and the lives they lead, and my grandsons and the lives ahead of them.
Linda Stamato (1940- ) Biographical Timeline
1940 Born Linda Lautenschlaeger on July 30th in Newark, NJ
Mid-1940s to Late 1950s Raised in Nutley, NJ
1958 Graduates from Nutley High School
Enters Douglass College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
1961 Marries Frank Stamato, Jr.
1962 B.A., Douglass College, Rutgers University, Political Science, honors
1963 Daughter, Nina, born
1964 Daughter, Elizabeth, born
1968 M.A., Seton Hall University, American Studies, high honors
1970-1980 Ph.D. Studies, New York University, American Civilization (all but thesis)
1971 Daughter, Eve, born
1972 Named to the Rutgers University Board of Trustees
1977 Named to the Rutgers University Board of Governors
1977 M.A., Rutgers University, Labor Studies, high honors
1981 Divorced from Frank Stamato, Jr.
Named Chair of the Rutgers University Board of Governors
Begins first term on the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education
1982 Becomes Associate Director, Dispute Resolution Assistance Center, Institute of Judicial Administration, NYU Law School
1984 Completes terms on the Rutgers Board of Trustees and Board of Governors
Ends first term on the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education
1986 Leaves NYU to become Co-Director of the Center for Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Rutgers University (current position)
1988-2001 Serves on the Board of Trustees of The Center for Analysis of Public Issues (publisher of The New Jersey Reporter); Board Chair from 1996 to 2001
1993-1994 Completes second term on the NJ Board of Higher Education
2001-2002 Serves as Acting Dean of Douglass College
2002 Serves on Rutgers University Presidential Search Committee
2004-2006 Co-Chairs the Structure Committee of the Rutgers Presidential Task Force on Undergraduate Education
2006-2007 Serves on the Rutgers Presidential Task Force on Alumni Relations
2011-2012 Serves as Vice Chair of the Rutgers Presidential Search Committee
For more information on Professor Stamato's accolades, publications, courses and public service, please see her CV on the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy website.