CMU in the 1990s was physically, philosophically different than today
Central Michigan University, physically and philosophically, was vastly different in the 90s compared to today.
Fewer students roamed the campus. There was no Student Activity Center nor was there a Event Center. Fewer dorms and off-campus housing existed. Cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board, was drastically cheaper than today. Even the university’s philosophies regarding things like teaching and marketing began to change.
Professor of journalism John K. Hartman, who began teaching at CMU in 1984, said the student body was smaller and less diverse.
“There were fewer graduate programs and graduate students,” he said. “There was less emphasis on that.”
Teachers were often hired based on their teaching ability rather than their ability to conduct research, Hartman said. He said that has since changed.
“Central Michigan University at that time was a teaching-oriented school,” he said.
He said the Faculty Association, who faught a highly publicized battle with the university administration last year, had a very contenious relationship with former University President Leonard Plachta.
“The faculty at the time was too powerful,” he said. “Leonard Plachta did a lot of things to reduce the influence of the faculty, particularly the business faculty.”
He said at one point, when Plachta came to speak to the faculty, he had to have security with him.
CMU’s attitude toward students changed as well, viewing them as customers rather than students, Hartman said.
“They tried to make CMU a more customer-oriented place,” he said. “They saw students as customers.”
Dean of the College of Humanities Pamela Gates, who first taught in the English department from 1993 until 2001, said the English department made few hires her first few years as a professor in the early to mid-1990s.
“In my home department of English, there were few hires,” Gates said. “One or two a year.”
Later in the decade, however, many faculty members who were hired in the 60s began to retire, leading to an influx of new professors.
“It was amazing to see 50 to 60 percent change of faculty in some departments occur and for some departments, it changed the dynamics of program offerings,” she said.
Gates said, in 1997, Plachta reorganized the college into what it is today.
The former College of Arts and Sciences was divided into the the College of Science and Technology, the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the College of Communication and Fine Arts, she said.
“The College of Business and the College of Education and Human Services had some change in what departments were housed there, but names remained,” Gates said.
Along with an overall smaller faculty and student population, the look of campus began morphing slowly into what it is today.
Guy Newland, the philosophy and religion department chairman, said many buildings and structures we see today did not exist or were much smaller than they are now.
“The health building, Dow, the education building, and the music building were simply not there,” Newland said. “The football stadium was much smaller.”
The Park Library was not built until 2001, but the library which stood then and in nearly the same location, was much smaller.
“The library was much smaller and consisted of fixed shelves with books,” he said. “We have a card catalog — a huge bank of drawers with index cards on which all the books were listed. That was how you found a book.”
He said students learned a bit differently than students now, using less technology in the classroom.
“There were no mediated classrooms and no Blackboard, etc.,” he said. “People just read books and articles and handouts from the professors. Obviously, there were no ‘online classes.’”
Even through contentious financial times and strained admininstration relationships, the students remained largely the same as they do today.
“Quite honestly, I do not see a significant difference in our students in my classes; they have always been committed to their work and future profession as teachers,” Gates said, speaking in regard to the English department.
Newland said students were often honest, respectful and eager to learn, even after they graduated.
“They were sincere people who wanted to learn something and find a way to get a job when they graduated,” he said. “They would try to do what the faculty asked of them.”
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