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IN A PIECE in the CRIMSON Supplement last Wednesday, I pointed out that the federal government has become the largest single source of income for American universities, according to U. S. Office of Education statistics. Harvard, a mild case among large private institutions, received 37.8 per cent of its total income from the federal government last year, as compared with 33.6 per cent from private gifts and endowment earnings. The piece showed how, without exerting any direct control, the federal government has changed the entire character of the university, converted it into a "service station," and deeply disturbed the internal university structure.
The piece also showed how the university has become increasingly dependent on the federal government for support, how the university cannot merely kick the government off campus--because the structures that the government has helped build with research funding are all over the campus, and without federal money the entire university would collapse.
One obvious cost of this dependence has become evident very recently. The university, by accepting huge amounts of federal support, has opened itself up to external political forces. Campus disorders have become the hottest political issue in years, and Congress, which has not had a good witch hunt in a long while, is responding magnificently.
No less than four Congressional committees (including the HUAC with a brand-new name) have announced that they will investigate university rebellion. In the Senate, in fact, the Internal Security Subcommittee are fighting over who will get to do the job. Meanwhile, legislation has been introduced to cut off federal funds to universities that cannot handle disorders; as long as buildings are occupied, the universities will not get the money.
For the past two weeks, President Pusey has been working to convince Congress that the universities can take care of their problems themselves and that new legislation will only aggravate matters further. It is clear, however, that Congress would not be so upset if it did not have a financial handle on the universities. Pusey has to defend the university from Congress because Pusey brought the federal government into the university.
STILL, a closer examination of the situation reveals that Congress does not have nearly the power it pretends to have. The universities' rears of congressional intervention may be greatly exaggerated. One reason for this is the weakness of Congress in 1969, in a century in which political power has increasingly been flowing away from the Capitol. Another reason is the power of the allies of the universities--the permanent government (the federal agencies) and, for the most part, the President and his staff.
Federal funds are coming into universities today by two major routes--support for scientific research and scholarship aid. And to understand what kind of "direct control" the federal government has exerted on universities with its funding, we must understand the separate political phenomena of the two routes.
Research money does not require a single direct authorization from Congress. It comes instead from more than a score of different agencies, which budget research and development funds for long-range goals, then distribute the funds on a project-by-project basis to whoever can do the job best. In 1968, the federal government was obliged to spend $17 billion on research and development--an eighth of the total federal budget. Only 9 per cent (or 13 per cent if university-run federal contract research laboratories are included) of this research money went to universities. The bulk of it (61 per cent) went to private industry. The National Science Foundation (NSF), established in 1952, only barely coordinates the dispersal of these funds. When Congress approves an agency's total budget with its research estimates, it is hardly ever concerned with whom the research money is going to (except obviously in the case of enormous contracts that may benefit a congressman's home state)--only with what the money is going for.
The funds are distributed under different conditions by different agencies, to faculty members for specific projects and to individual (or occasionally groups of) universities for research centers. By this method, the universities took over 72 per cent of their total research funds in 1964 (latest Office of Education figures).
THE SECOND route, the scholarship route, is a new one. Congress is in direct control of funds that go to universities this way. Debates on education bills are usually lengthy and appropriations extend over three or four years. The Office of Education administers programs under these general education bills. In 1968, the agency was authorized to distribute $4714 million under the extended 1963 Facilities Act, $397 million under NDEA, and $427 million under the 1965 Higher Education Act extended.
The two routes involve different sets of political situations. The permanent government distributes research funds, and Congress distributes scholarship (and facility) funds. It is important to see how these two controlling powers handle the money they distribute.
The permanent government is interested in buying a product from universities--research. It is not "aiding" higher education; the Congress "aids" it through NDEA and the Higher Education Act. The permanent government is relatively insulated from external political pressure; Congress is not insulated at all. In an examination of instances of direct federal control over higher education through the weight of funding (the NDEA oath, for example) we find that it has been Congress, not he permanent government, that has been involved--even though the Congressional share of total support is very small. The permanent government has consistently opposed Congress in these instances, because the agencies have a true stake in university research.
Last spring, in reaction to Columbia and other campus eruptions, Congress attached several "antiriot" amendments to student aid legislation. The first of these was included in the Independent Offices Appropriations Act, which was signed into law October 8, 1968. It applies only to NSF funds, denying them to individuals who refuse to "obey a lawful regulation on order of such institution that such refusal was of a serious nature and contributed to the disruption of the administration of such institution, then the institution shall deny any further payment to, or for the benefit of, such individual."
The second version was placed in an appropriation act for the Departments of Labor, Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Office of Economic Opportunity, and also in the Defense Department appropriation bill. It denies assistance to students who are convicted of crimes involving "the use of force, trespass or the seizure of property under control of an institution of higher education..." The third version was attached to the Higher Education Amendments of 1968 and applies to the extensions of NDEA and the Higher Education Act of 1965.
What is important about this legislation is that it has not been enforced. The legislation is not being enforced, first, because it is up to the universities to enforce it, and the universities do not want to. Harvard explained in a letter accompanying its federal contracts:
It should be noted that in accepting this contract Harvard University wished to protest, in strongest terms, the so-called "Anti-Riot Provision." Practically speaking, the Provision is unenforceable and without reasonable relationship to the central purposes of the Act... (It is) wholly inconsistent with the nature, purposes and responsibilities of the University.
ANOTHER reason that the legislation is not being enforced is that, up until March, 1969, the Congress was not eager to have it enforced. Individual Congressmen had scored with their constituents by denouncing the rioters. The substance of the legislation mattered very little. It is a case of symbolic legislation. Finally, the permanent government has opposed the legislation, especially the riders to the appropriations acts, because it would interfere with their dealings with the universities. The permanent government, with few external pressures, merely wants to get its job done, a job for which it requires a good working relationship with universities.
THE MAIN defender of the permanent government's interests is Robert H. Finch, who apparently has had some influence on President Nixon. Finch's Department of Health, education, and Welfare is the top purchaser of university research, and Finch has consistently opposed legislation that would aggravate the government's relations with the university.
In testimony before the Green committee April 18, he said that the government was not equipped to "play cop by cutting off funds" to universities with disorders. In an article in the Washington Post May 8, David Broder said that Finch "disagrees with last week's tough denunciations of militant students by Vice President Agnew, Attorney General John N. Mitchell, and Justice Department aides." Broder said that Finch believes that setting up "the federal government as a regulatory agency would be a mistake."
Despite all of this powerful support, the university is facing some serious problems. First, the non-research share of federal funds to universities is rapidly increasing. In 1962, scholarship and miscellaneous federal support accounted for only 5 per cent of total federal funds to universities. Today, it is over one-third. Recent plans for more federal aid, such as the Carnegie Commission proposals, would involve Congress further. Second, there is no doubt that public pressure for some kind of an end to university disorders is increasing. Americans want their problems over right away, and they still believe that getting tough can accomplish anything (Eric Hoffer said so in his congressional testimony.)
In the end, however, this experience with Congress may be more helpful than anyone realizes. Suddenly, universities are waking up to the enormous costs they are paying for federal funding. And, perhaps, if the government cracks down and cuts off research funds, the university will be on its way to being free again. The sit-ins will have worked again. The Federal government will be driven out of the university. And that cannot be bad.
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