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Academia's Golden AgeUniversities in Massachusetts, 1945-1970$
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Richard M. Freeland

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780195054644

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195054644.001.0001

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The Institutional Complex and Academic Adaptation, 1945-1980

The Institutional Complex and Academic Adaptation, 1945-1980

(p.355) Chapter Seven The Institutional Complex and Academic Adaptation, 1945-1980
Academia's Golden Age

Richard M. Freeland

Oxford University Press

Change among universities in Massachusetts during the golden age illustrated the pervasive tendency of academic institutions, linked as they were to historic social divisions, to seek higher status. With essential resources readily available, these campuses converged from disparate prewar positions toward the functions and values of the research university, the dominant model of excellence in the postwar period. The inclination to pursue common goals was circumscribed, however, because the circumstances of change were always specific and resources were never infinite. Local variations in competitive conditions combined with other elements of the institutional complex—academic ideas and organizational dynamics—to channel campus ambitions and preserve elements of diversity. The new conditions of the 1970s further demonstrated the relationship between competition and diversity while testing the durability of initiatives launched in years when growth was easy. With resources now more constrained, universities were compelled to craft their strategies of change more carefully and pay closer attention to their particular strengths and characteristics. Still, campus priorities in the decade following the golden age revealed the extent to which institutional ambitions tend to take precedence over educational ideas. Efforts to pursue the most important reform proposals of the late 1960s and early 1970s were repeatedly subordinated to the protection of institutional interests in the face of new and challenging competitive pressures. In the closing section of Chapter 2, we considered the forces that produced change among universities in the golden age as understood by commentators at the end of the period. These accounts stressed two phenomena: the increased demands of society for academic services and the enlarged power of the academic professions. In the face of these nonacademic and extrainstitutional pressures, it was widely argued, individual universities were largely reactive, more carried by currents they could not control than aggressive in shaping their own futures. The postwar histories of universities in Massachusetts, as we have encountered them in the last four chapters, demonstrated the importance of macrolevel causes of institutional change but also focused attention on the initiative exercised by campus leaders within an academic marketplace still dominated by interinstitutional competition.

Keywords:   Presidents, Professionalism, Proposition, Research: applied, Sloan Commission on Government and Higher Education, Social context of universities: in Massachusetts, Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Southeastern Massachusetts University, World War II: activities of universities during

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