by Eugene G. Ouellette Ph.D.
Assembly Room, A. K. Smiley Public Library
COLLEGE- A REBIRTH
I think well agree that a rebirth
implies a death and a death implies a life- so this is best described as a story of the
life, death and resurrection of a college. Perhaps it would be fitting to start with the
opening statement from the 1973 Report of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Accreditation report about Johnston College, a non-traditional cluster unit of the
University of Redlands.
In its short existence, Johnston College has evolved a sane
and robust educational plan that in several directions indicate the next step-indeed the
next several steps-which many institutions of higher education are struggling to take and
some have already begun to follow.
Ouellette is an emeritus faculty member of the University of Redlads. He is a graduate of
the University of Redlands and holds a Doctorate in Communicative Disorders from the
University of Washington. He has served on the faculty of San Diego state University as
well as that of the University of Redlands. He retired four years ago after serving for 34
years as a faculty member at the university, department chair and Chancellor of Johnston
A note about the accreditation process :
all schools are assessed by accreditation teams whose function is to determine if an
academic program is educationally and fiscally sufficient to award degrees. Typically a new institution is visited two years
in a row ,five years later and thereafter every ten years.
Some additional quotes from the 1973
The Johnston College faculty is among its strongest assets
this is one of the most elite faculties for
undergraduate students anywhere in the country.
And the concluding statement of the
report: The 1972 visiting team found Johnston College to be an outstanding
educational institution. It found the college
outstanding in the quality of the educational experience it offers to students and in its
efforts to search for a new and more effective model of undergraduate education. The 1973
visiting team concurs in this judgment.
So, after only four years of operation,
Johnston College received the first independent and full accreditation of a
non-traditional cluster unit of a private liberal arts university and six years later , in
1979, Johnston surrended this valued accreditation and ceased being a college.
To try to understand the death of this
commitment of 340 students and 32 faculty members and administrators, it would be useful
to revisit its birth.
Possibly inspired in part by the cluster
college concept of neighboring Claremont Colleges, discussion about cluster units of the
University of Redlands began in 1961. The embryonic model of an alternative college to
train students for careers
In international business, the foreign
service and related professions was approved
by the U of R Faculty Council in 1967.It was decided that Johnston College would be the
first of many cluster units and would test
and evaluate new concepts and practices in higher education. At about the same time, Dr. Dwayne Orton, a U of R
alumnus and Director of IBMs international education programs persuaded James Graham
Johnston, a retired IBM executive, to donate 1.5 million dollars to finance a cluster unit
of the U of R which would bear his name. Actually
only $300,000 of Johnstons donation was available immediatedly with another $250,000
added in 1970. Its interesting to compare this one-half million founding gift with the 20 million founding amount of Hampshire
College in Massachusetts, Johnstons major non-traditional competitor at that time.
In 1968 the University of Redlands Board
of Trustees decided to establish Johnston College and created a JC Board of Overseers to
whom they gave autonomy in three areas: admissions standards, academic policies and
Dr. Pressley McCoy was offered the
position of Chancellor of Johnston College in the Spring of 1968 and he began his tenure
in August of that year.
The first year was devoted to academic
and campus planning and faculty, student and Board of Overseer recruitment by the first
three JC faculty members, Drs Rene Francillion, John Watt and Roger Baty.
It is important to note here that two
major issues of disagreement arose between Dr McCoy and Dr. Armacost almost immediately.
First, the question of approval of JC
faculty was raised by Dr. Armacost following the arrival of the first year faculty
members. McCoy contended that this was a part
of the academic autonomy granted to the Board of Overseers. Armacost argued that he alone
approved all faculty contracts and Armacost won the argument, for at least the next twelve
The second issue was perhaps more
important for it, along with the requirement
of university approval of the JC budget , contained the seeds of the colleges
eventual downfallthis centered on student life. McCoy visualized that living and
learning were inseparable and therefore student life was part of the new colleges
academic autonomy. For this reason the first JC Catalogue stated that Johnston students
would live in coeducational residence centers and would have moral autonomy.
Students reasonably interpreted this to mean that men and women would live in the same
residence halls if they chose and would be relatively free of traditional life styles and
codes of conduct. But when they arrived on
campus, the students found single sex dorms with strict house rules. Dr. Armacosts
concept of innovation was different. It
extended to problem-solving learning and combining knowledge of international business and
government with an ecumenical moral vision, and this did not extend beyond the classroom.
This issue first surfaced at the colleges beginning ten day retreat at Pilgrim Pines campground in September,
1969. Verda and George Armacost attended the retreat which was structured around the use
of T-groupsgroup meetings led by professional group leadersand at his first
meeting Armacost learned that McCoy had promised living autonomy to the students against
the universitys traditional policy At that point, personal and professional lines
were drawn between the U of R administration and its fledgling cluster unit..
This student life conflict was quickly
exacerbated when the Johnston community took possession of its campus which included two
traditionally built dormitories with windows that could not be opened and strict hours
posted for women students. The community also
learned that it could do nothing about what it considered had been a lie by t he
George Armacost had assured the UR Board
of Trustees that rules governing university housing would apply equally to the Johnston
communityand this meant that doors to the residence halls would be locked at 10 p.m.
Given the heralded promise of a living learning relationship, the students found
such rules to be paralyzing and the newly created Johnston faculty voted to teach under
This early conflict contributed to much
of the first year student behavior which was totally unacceptable to Dr. Armacost., but
which was becoming prevalent on college campuses nationally. For example, nine memos were sent from Armacost to
McCoy complaining about students smoking on campus. Students committed vandalism
on the residence hall lobby furniture; they decorated their rooms and hallways with
murals; they built wooden lofts in their rooms to increase floor space; they painted monopoly murals on the squares of the
Johnston sidewalk; they participated in nude sun bathing on the dorm roofs and filled
their dorms with loud music; their dress was different, some went barefoot; some students
used drugs and some slept together; they continually replanted the new trees on the Johnston lawn to break up the
straight lines of trees. And all this behavior ran counter to university policies of
student deportment and student expectations.
But it did parallel McCoys contention that the central concern of education must
focus on the individual, and that the JC community
, not outsiders, must decide what constitutes a valid undergraduate education.
Johnston students wanted to be
responsible to and for themselves. But the UR
saw itself clearly acting in loco parentisthe U of R had little sympathy for such
striving for freedom and JC students had none at all for U of R policies and their
rationale. According to Kevin ONeil and Bill
McDonalds book ,_- A History of Johnston College 1969-1979, Johnston students simply
did not wish to live in a world of courteous, well groomed people conducting chaste lives
on a quite, safe campus.
While these daily conflicts were taking
place, Johnston students and faculty were constructing and implementing an innovative
academic program. The cornerstone of this program rested on the idea of a negotiated
contract which.occurred on two levels- a class contract and a graduation contractmore
on this later.
Again, according to the accreditation
report, At Johnston College the contract concept comes to encompass much of the
educationalintellectual and affective- development of both student and teacher- the
concept of the contract is a dramatic lifting of the usual constraints of student-faculty
collaboration in curriculum development. So, a viable academic program was in place
by the end of the first year.
And I should add that this contractual
process exemplifies the importance and focus on the individual- intellectually and
affectively- and it was easily adapted into the many academic programs that developed.
Early on, these programs consisted of
inquiring into four dimensions of information and learning they were environmental,
interpersonal, intercultural and international and they functioned somewhat analogous to
traditional departments. After a few years, the community developed a series of off-campus
programs to supplement classroom learning and since you are more familiar with classroom
style Ill emphasize the experiential side of Johnston learning, such as the
University Year for Action , a program designed by Vista, the domestic peace corps, a five
year federal grant by which 30 students spent a year in community services, working with
local agencies to help fight poverty and discrimination. The Johnston program had three
segments: one group worked as probation counselors for juvenile offenders in Indio, a
second group tutored in local school systems while a third group participated in a variety
of community development projects including a drug counseling clinic, a legal aid clinic
and a job counseling facility.
Another program was the cooperative
education project which placed twelve students per year in internship settings such as the
US State department, the United Nations, the Bronx Zoo, and corporate environments such as
TRW and the LA Times.
An interesting program was Roger Batys
community insight program designed to involve students in cross cultural experiences.
Students prepared during the Fall in a class, completed the internship during the January four week Interim period and participated in a
reflective course about their internships during the Spring semester. This program provided domestic and foreign home
stays primarily on American Indian reservations and in Mexico.
The successful University Without Walls
program at Johnston was an attempt to establish the free university ethos of the 1960s
in a JC context. The UWW student, many
times a working adult, would build an education by assembling courses, independent studies
and credit for prior life experiences. This grouping would be negotiated into a contract
with a faculty advisor and approved by a faculty committee. This model provided the
educational basis for the later efforts of the second cluster unit, Whitehead College.
The most successful offshoot of the UWW
program was Johnstons Masters degree in Humanistic and Transpersonal
Psychology. This combined both clinical and experiential components. Students studied one
or more of the following: encounter groups,
gestalt groups, psychodrama groups, the biofeedback program, , meditation workshops,
rolfing or structural patterning and spiritual healing. Several counseling internships
were available as well as participation in a crisis hotline or womens groups. The
core of the transpersonal movement was a rediscovery of the spiritual dimension in the
individual. Johnston had long been a home for the development of humanistic psychology
whose goal was to develop the whole person, physical, emotional, intellectual and
program also contained traditional required courses such as Developmental
Psychology ,Theories of Personality., Statistics and others.
Another program was the Wilderness
program, approved in 1975. In this program
students would hike, camp out, rock climb, and master survival techniques, as well as
study ecology of the local forests. Additionally,
the wilderness courses focused on cultivating attitudes toward physical fitness based on
self development rather than competition.
So the off-campus experiential aspects of the Johnston educational
process, the community service, home-stays, in-service clinical training,
transpersonal/spiritual experiences and working internships provided Johnston students
with a rich set of possibilities for a hands on education. All of these experiences shared the assumption of
the University Year For Action that experiential learning constitutes an indispensable
part of undergraduate education.
Of course these and other programs are expensive, especially for a
young , growing college so development of foundation grants became an administrative
priority . Grants were received from groups such as the Danforth Foundation, TRW, The
National Institute of Mental Health, the Lilly Foundation, the US Office of Education, the CBS Foundation, First
Western Bank of Los Angeles, the IBM Corporation, the Ford Foundation, The Kiwanis Club, The Shell Companies Foundation,
the Elks Foundation, the Xerox Fund, US
Department of HEW, Soroptimist Club, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, American Baptist Board of Education, Alberto
Culver Company , Board of Education-United Presbyterian Church, The Layne Foundation,
National Council of Churches and the Falk Medical Fund. In truth, this is only a sample of
total financial support generated by and for the young college,
And since Johnston and its resources were
small , it was determined to create alliances with other colleges who were willing to
sponsor student exchanges for Johnston
students, thus offering a variety of environmental and learning experiences. Some of these
included Prescott College, Simmons College, The World College, Fisk University, Thomas
Jefferson College, Evergreen College, Hampshire College, Howard University and fifty-six
additional colleges , all members of the
University of Experimenting Colleges and Universities. They included schools such as the
University of Massachusetts, the University of North Carolina, the University of Alabama,
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, Stephens College and Skidmore College. Foreign
exchanges were negotiated with Ching Chou College in Hong Kong, Thomasatt College in
Thailand, Reitaku College, International Christian University, Wasada and Kansai Colleges
of Japan, and Edinburgh University in Scotland.
Branch graduate groups were established
in the Los Angeles area and negotiations were almost completed for similar locations at UC
San Diego and Cal State in Sonoma. But then the college ended.
So what happened to this flourishing
college? How did it quickly evolve from a robust college of 340 students and 32 faculty
and administrators with a impressive national reputation into a University of Redlands department of 35 students
and one and one-half faculty/administrators? It is possible to explain how this happened but
not exactly why it happened.
The university publicized in 1976 that
Johnstons decreasing financial resources were substantially contributing to the
deficits of the university. The truth is that at this point, Johnston College had
accumulated a total $20,000 deficitthis according to UR business office records. And this is without reception of the
total Johnston founding grant. And this is without any of the Overseer Power gift of
approximately $800,000 which had been assumed
by the University of Redlands. And this included a first year deficit of $170,000. All of
this in spite of the UR Board of Trustees approval
of a deficit up to $100,000. The university had suffered growing deficits for several
years; in 1976 its annual deficit hovered around $300,000 with a debt to the Bank of
America of 1.5 million dollars. The 1977 deficit was estimated at that time to be
approximately one million dollars. No wonder
that the then current UR Treasurer said to me, The University is legally bankrupt
It was apparent that the university had expected Johnston College to be a paying
proposition from the start with little leeway for the inevitable period of losses which
mark the founding of institutions of higher learning.
I should add that each year the
UR charged Johnston a fee of 16.2 percent of the total UR budget. This is because the UR
administration had decided that since Johnston students constituted 16.2 per cent of the
total university student body, the college should make this annual contribution to the UR for use of facilities such as the administration
building, athletic fields, library, etc. Financially, Johnston was treated as though it
were a separate institution renting space on the UR campus.
Johnston Colleges death however
most probably began during its first week at Pilgrim Pines in 1969., when Verda Armacost
bolted from her T- group in tears because of direct student language and George
Armacost first learned of the promised
autonomous student life . Perhaps it took six years and three UR presidents to come to the conclusion stated by
President Douglas Moore that Johnston College is an incoherence of the Redlands
image. Student dress and behavior, student life, student indifference to UR policies
and UR administration, student reaction to the then active war in Vietnamlets
not forget that at this time the University of Redlands was only one of two California
colleges that did not demonstrate against the Vietnam conflict - So basically a bad fit of
a liberal institution into a conservative environment .
Regardless of the why , what
actions taken by the universitys Board
of Trustees were clear. In 1976 they apparently decided that Johnston College must cease
so it was time for a reorganization of the college. It
was time to take control of Johnstons faculty contracts and Johnston College student
life. The following changes were made:
The Chancellor was renamed Provost and
directed to report to the UR president and the UR Board of Trustees, bypassing the
Johnston College Board of Overseers;
Departing and fired JC
faculty members would not be replaced with any exceptions to be approved by the UR Board
All members of the Johnston College Student Life staff were
The successful Johnston development staff and Public
Relations director were fired or transferred to the UR Administration;
The Johnston admissions office was closed and the staff
fired; this effectively closed down the Johnston network of feeder high schools since the
UR admissions staff did not visit these schools.
The director of the University Without Walls program and the
Assistant to the Chancellor were fired;
The Johnston commons was closed and all students were
required to eat at the UR commons.
All these changes took place at a time of
nationally declining undergraduate enrollments and a national trend among entering college
freshmen of primarily seeking undergraduate majors in business training.
I should add that at that time the UR
admissions and development staffs failed in their efforts to replace the fired Johnston
administrative staffthe UR administrators did not understand Johnston and could not
sell what they did not know. A UR vice-president at that time told me that he had never
visited the Johnston campus and he was not about to change his behavior in the future.
Now faculty started to leave, followed by
students who cited as their major reason for leaving the loss of faculty members. By the
fall of 1979, only 18 faculty members and 136 students remained.
The last three years of the colleges
life were sad times of disappointing student enrollment and faculty growth. In 1978, apparently forgetting that academic
autonomy had been granted to the Johnston Board of Overseers, President Moore told the
Johnston faculty that all graduate programs belong under the aegis of the UR Dean of
Graduate Studies and that all External Degree programs belong under the direction of
Whitehead College and that there should be only faculty on campus. In February, 1979,
the strong external degree program was terminated by the president; all the
psychology programs were terminated and five faculty contracts were not renewed. Johnston College was no longer. So much for life
and deathwhat of rebirth?
When the UR administration and Board of
Trustees closed Johnston College by disbanding the Board of Overseers and forcing the
college to surrender its prized accreditation, it destroyed the semi-independent college
and this is apparently all they intended to do at that time. Most importantly, they did
not destroy the academic ideas underpinning the collegewhich really constituted the
substance of the enterprise. At that time, most of the university people saw Johnston as a
collection of problems but the problems were reflective of student life and budgetary
concernsand they were solved by closing the college. Actually, shortly after the
college closed, the UR Director of Development attended
a meeting with the then president, Dr. Moore, who was
making final plans for the closure of the Johnston programbut during the meeting someone brought in
a recently published copy of the
World News and Report College edition, in which the University of
Redlands was heralded because of the presence of the Johnston experiment. That ended the
discussion about final closure. And 31 students, a director and a faculty member stayed on
with their belief in the academic potential of the Johnston experiment and no one
interfered with their carrying out their commitments to it. So eventually under the later
leadership and support of President Appleton and a new group of UR administrators, the
Johnston experiment has continued its careful and steady growth so that now there are two
full time administrators and 190 students with access to all of the UR faculty. It now prepares to celebrate its 35th
The Johnston Center for Integrative
Studies was born in 1979 and described itself as a contract based, individualized
education within a community. It assumed that since students own their learning, they
should be free to negotiate their education. It assumed that Johnston Center students are
inquisitive learners rather than passive consumers of education and that each student
should be expected to take responsibility for his/her education. It assumed that living-learning is a unity and
therefore the Johnson Center experience should be a training for life. It believed the
Johnston Community to be a fluid concept, a group of committed people in progress and
therefore always open to change while at the same time conservatively perpetuating an
innovative, time-tested academic process.
The core of the academic process is still
the practice of negotiated contracts, both on the class level and graduation level.
The class contract is a negotiated
statement of commitment between students and
professors at the beginning of each semester. In it, students outline objectives for the
class and what they will do to meet these objectives. It is a working plan that defines
the expected quantity and quality of student performance. Each class contract has two
parts: the course description and specific course plans as negotiated with a faculty
member. Students can negotiate changes in the syllabus or contract for more or less course
work which would be reflected in the amount of credit to be given for the course.
Each student in a Johnston course is
required to write a self and faculty
evaluation in which the student assesses the work done and provides the faculty member
with crucial information about both student and faculty performance. Each faculty member
is required to write a narrative evaluation rather than a grade for each student,
believing , among many reasons , that grades focus attention on competition with other
students rather than on ones own objectives. Evaluations describe what the student
accomplished, how well they did it and give specific suggestions for improvement.
Typically they comment on the quality of student participation and interest in the class
and the strengths and weaknesses of student papers, presentations or performance on exams
if given. 90% of the UR faculty have agreed to write narrative evaluations for Johnston
center students and of course the evaluations become part of each students permanent
transcript. Although rarely necessary, all evaluations can be translated into units and
grades at the students request or that of another college or graduate school.
The Johnston Center students
graduation contract is a written plan outlining each students undergraduate
education . It meets student goals and institutional expectations. It is typically
prepared by the student and advisor toward the end of the students sophomore year
and includes the following:
A narration about the students educational history ,
preferred styles of learning, and development of a major concentration . It lists the
courses that comprise an academic major field of study and academic breadth of study.
There is a description of a cross cultural experience and a description of a senior
project if planned. This is not required but
over 80% of Johnston students complete them. It also includes other specific requirements
such as exposure to languages, physical education and state requirements.
The tentative plan is taken to a
Graduation Contract Committee by the student and advisorand again negotiations take
placeobviously negotiating ones education is the heart of the Johnston Center
pedagogy. Typically students `approach this very important committee as though it were a
group advising session and after discussing all requirements the proposed contract is
either accepted, modified or rejected by the committee. Obviously, no two graduation
contracts are exactly alike.
When the student, advisor and registrar
believe that the student has successfully completed all aspects of the graduation plan,
they meet with a second committee, the Graduation Review Committee. During this meeting,
the advisor presents a précis of the students work and the student comments on
his/her Johnston experience. These meetings
are typically open and often end up as celebrative sessions, honoring the students
career in the Center.
There are different types of classes
available to Johnston students. There are Johnston seminars proposed by either students or
faculty and are taught by one of the more than 50% of UR faculty members, who form the new
inner core of the Center. There are cross-listed courses which are taught by
the majority of UR faculty members willing to write narrative evaluations for Johnston
Center students. There are individualized studies performed under the supervision of a
faculty member. There are internships sponsored by faculty members and possibly outside
supervisors. There are student taught courses under the supervision of faculty members and
there are Integrated Semester courses which consist of a full semesters work with a
faculty member, equivalent to 8-12 units. In each of these academic experiences students
are expected to share responsibility for the success of the course.
Of course, all the planning and
contracting and course completion culminate in the Johnston Center graduation ceremony.
This is unlike any other graduation ceremony in the country and I would urge all of us to
attend the next one at the conclusion of the Spring semester. Typically a faculty member
delivers the commencement address, President Appleton confers the degrees, each degree is
presented to each student by people chosen by the student. Then they speak and finally
each student is asked to say whatever he/she wishes. Attendance at one of these ceremonies
would enable any stranger to the program to understand what Johnston Center is really
about for each student.
So what has the rebirth changed? There is still national recognition for the
program. Johnston students still do not believe that ones undergraduate education
should simply reflect expectations of the surrounding culture. Johnston graduates still
prosper in various professions and corporate enterprises and they still seem to treasure
the joy of learning.. And at reunions the word comes back that the entrepreneurship mode
negotiate, negotiate -- learned at
Johnston provides its graduates a basis of success in any field they choose. But the
rebirth has brought about, among others, an element of trust that is truly remarkable to
see. During its first ten years of life,
Johnston College and the University of Redlands had little personal or professional regard for each otherthere was mutual
coexistence at its best , but now, especially thanks to Jim Appleton and his
administrative staff, founding faculty Bill McDonald, Kevin ONeil, Doug Bowman and
Barney Childs and the outstanding leadership of Frank Blume, Yasuyuki Owada and Kathy
Ogren, trust is evident on both sides of the street. In fact, there are no longer two
sides of the street. A university professor recently quoted to me the belief of other university professors- that it
is a privilege to be asked to teach at the
Johnston Center. University of Redlands and Johnston center students live and work togetherall admissions, public
relations and development work for the Johnston Center is performed by UR offices, all
Johnston Center teaching is performed by UR facultythis is what trust is about. I
should add that while it is true that the Johnston Center is supported from the university
operational budget, it is also true that loyal alumni contribute to its support through
the Directors Discretionary Fund and
the Building a Johnston Community Endowment Campaign.
Many of us knew Frank Moore, the former
editor of the Redlands Daily Facts. Frank wrote the following editorial about Johnston : Rudyard Kipling once said that prophets
have honor all over the earth, except in the village in which they are born. This may have
application to Johnston in the village in which it was born. It may be that Johnston is
now a prophet of education that in time will bring more honor to Redlands that the people
of our town can imagine.
Bibliography is bound in
the hard copy available in the A.K. Smiley Public Library, Redlands, CA.