Experimental Centennial Education Program 1969-1978
All that's left of the Centennial Educational Program is what former students of the now defunct program can see on their transcripts.
Gene Harding, retired journalism professor at the University of Nebraska and chief professor of the program, recently found out that files for each student who participated in the experimental program are no longer kept by UNL.
Transcripts with credit from the program read "Centennial College," but there's no way to determine the nature of work a student did for the credit, he said.
The memories of the people involved, however, are alive and well, and the fondness for the experience the program gave them is reflected in the way they talk about it.
Centennial College was a residential college started in 1969 with the idea that students would live and learn in the same place. It was located on North 16th Street in two halls, Love and Heppner, which were connected by a partially underground tunnel.
The college was perhaps known best for its casual learning environment. Students were encouraged to call professors by their first names, and almost all the courses were seminars, not lectures, Harding said. Professors had to be approved by the students before they were allowed to teach in the program.
"I remember one professor was kicked out because he insisted on standing and lecturing the whole time," Harding said.
Students also were involved highly in making decisions about the program, which, according to Harding, made for some trying times.
"Nominally I was dean of the college," he said, "but I didn't make many decisions without a town hall meeting. It was a little frustrating getting things done, but it was great fun."
Students came up with their own project ideas, modeling independent study courses, he said. At the end of the project, they would be evaluated by the professor and given a pass/fail grade.
Ryly Jane Hambleton, journalist and former student of the program, said taking classes in the same place she lived had its advantages.
"I didn't have to drag myself out of bed a whole lot earlier to get to class," Hambleton said, laughing. "Some of us barely got dressed. I know some guys who would come to class in their robes."
Students who were not in the program often came to Love Hall to study because they came to know it as a place where they could get work done.
One room in Love was remodeled to create a gathering space. The floor was covered in green shag carpet, giving it the name "the Grass Room," she said.
L. Kent Wolgamott, also a journalist and former Centennial student, attended the program in the late 1970s. By the time hecame to the program, he said, it was less rigid and more fun. One of his projects was remaking the movie "Wizard of Oz" at Pioneers Park.
"It wasn't the most strenuous work academically," Wolgamott said.
Other projects he took part in, however, required more serious effort, such as looking for everything written by Hunter S.Thompson and finding where the political power in Lincoln was located.
While the students had close relationships with the professors, the attention from students had some unintended consequences, he said. When Harding was running for a state Senate seat, for example, students from the program followed him on the campaign.
"Having a busload of hippie students come out and support you isn't necessarily the impression you want to make," he said. Harding's bid was unsuccessful.
While the spirit of the college is still alive in Wolgamott, he wonders if the program, had it survived, still would be relevant today.
"What we did then, versus independent study, isn't that much different, except that we did it in large groups," he said. "It made for a different kind of college experience, though I'm sure just talking about it can't give you an idea of what it was like to really be there."
After the program was cut for budgetary reasons in the late 1970s, Harding moved on to another academic position but lamented the end of the program.
"Centennial played such a large role in the lives of the students," he said. "I did other things, but nothing after that was nearly as satisfying."
Learning for the Seventies
- University of Nebraska Centennial College
The young photographer whose work appears with this story sat beside me in Dr. Robert Knoll's office in the Centennial Center. "Wouldn't you be interested in working for the ALUMNUS on a regular basis?", I asked. "Well," he hedged, "I've already turned down three or four other people. There's so much going on here I kind of like to hang around." And that's what the University's Centennial Education Program (CEP) is all about. It keeps the kids "hanging around" and "turned on" about learning.
When the University of Nebraska's 100th birthday came looming up last year, those responsible for such things as centennials began casting about for an appropriate way to celebrate its founding. No better way, they decided, than by founding a new college for beginning the second century.
Today, with only the first 2 ½ months of the Centennial Education Program as history, even the most skeptical would have to call it a going concern.
Last January, after winning Regents approval for the plan, Dr. Knoll, director of CEP, and his staff began accepting applications for the College's 177 spaces. When the tally was in over 900 students had sought entrance into the program.
From this torrent of applications, the staff had to narrow it down to 127 incoming freshmen and 52 upperclassmen. Dr. Knoll was quick to stress this is not an honors program, not an elitist group. And in order to keep it fair and square, those selected were drawn by lots. "We did have to use a few fudge factors," Dr. Knoll admitted.
Students, particularly upperclassmen, with special abilities such as fluency in a foreign language, were given special consideration because it was thought that their skills could greatly enrich the program. Also racial and geographic factors were considered. The purpose, he explained, was to insure an enrollment of students with diverse backgrounds and a wide range of experiences.
And Centennial College students are about as diverse as anyone would want. Sixty per cent are boys, 40 per cent girls, just par for the rest of the University. Some are Greek, most are not affiliated. They come from all over the state and across the United States, as far away as Hawaii. A few are veterans, one is blind.
And so in September this random assortment of young people assembled themselves in two buildings of the Women's Residence Halls, the men occupying Heppner Hall, women students in Love Hall. The lower floors of both buildings are used for class rooms, conference rooms, library and recreational areas. The basement houses a television lounge (the least used of the facilities) and a "Commuter Room", a locker and study area for Lincoln students living at home who are enrolled.Because the students planned it, there is an air of uniqueness about the Centennial Center. And its uniqueness has been no small revelation to some. It has surprised many observers what students would eliminate or change about their college experience given the opportunity. Elaborate surroundings is apparently one of the first things to go.
The main lounge, The Commons to the staff; The Meadow to the students, has as its only furnishing a lush green carpet. And unlike the usual dormatory lounge that's rigged out like the lobby of the Plaza which gets used mostly on Parents Day, The Commons is lived in. "These kids don't live upstairs in those rooms," Dr. Knoll said, "they live in the living room." The TV lounge, just as casual, is furnished in a motley collection of comfortable looking, old rump sprung chairs and sofas dredged up from a variety of campus sources.
This attitude of studied informality invades every aspect of the Center. The areas designated "class rooms" all wear the look of one corner of an employees cafeteria: table and chairs assembled looking like the accounting department just finished its coffee break.
A reading library of 600 paperback volumes circulates freely among the students. They picked out the titles, one of the book stores donated the books and they were in business; skipping, however, the dreary details of due dates, fines, cards and check outs. The object is to get the students hooked on books.
The physical facility, the very proximity of one student to another and students proximity to instructors and learning aids, is key to CEP, insists Dr. Knoll. For that is one of the purposes of the program, to enable a student's social life to reinforce his academic life. "We assume that students who live and study with each other, will have something to say to each other."
CEP combines the best of both the small college and the large university, according to its planners. The students have the advantages of a close relationship with classmates and teachers without being deprived of the benefits of a great university, according to Dr. Knoll.
The Centennial Course, a free wheeling, interdisciplinary study of modern social problems, takes up only a third of student academic time. The remainder is spent in classes outside the Center. In the future, credit hours earned for the Centennial Course will apply toward a student's group requirements.
What is significant about the course is that it doesn't departmentalize learning. It is designed to provide students with training to seek answers no matter where they occur. The end product of education, said Dr. Knoll, is wisdom.
Next to the Centennial Center itself, the instructors, or Centennial Fellows as they are called, are most important. Some of the University's best known and most widely respected professors are working with the program.
Full-time fellows are T. E. Beck Jr.; of the English department; Dr. Jerry Petr, economics instructor and Dr. Philip Scribner, of the philosophy department. Working part-time are Dr. Henry L. Ablin, associate professor of electrical engineering; Dr. Thomas Helms, an entomologist; Dr. Edward Hoinze, a specialist in modern Germany and Dr. Theodore Jorgensen, physics instructor.
There are other instructors and graduate assistants, too. All of them with appropriate academic credentials and in varying shades of experience and excellence, according to Dr. Knoll.
And then there are some teachers even Dr. Knoll didn't figure on. With blind luck, peculiar to the Centennial College, the Center's janitor turned out to be graduate student Ron Kurtenbach, known as "Doc", who chats, instructs and philosophizes with students on his 10 til 2 a.m. shift. He is, as Dr. Knoll commented, "the only custodian who conducts informal seminars while sweeping floors".
Doc is only one of several happy accidents surrounding the College but it seems no accident that students share the staff's almost paternal enthusiasm for the program. They like its intimacy, its freedom and diversity, and most of all they like the feeling of being trusted to accomplish a mission during the coming months. As a freshman told one reporter, "It's kind of a contract basis where you know what you have to get done by the end of the year."
When such a deluge of applications appeared for such a liinited number of spaces in CEP, some professors began to speculate that its popularity was due to basic dissatisfaction with the conventional college curriculum. That might be part of it, conceded Dr. Knoll, but he believes today's young people are eager to take part in something new, as well.
"The University of Nebraska has an orderly, beautiful student body that allows us to innovate with cooperation," he said. "We can do more here than keep afloat, we don't have to just hold the place together, we can build."
Centennial's Early Days - printed in 1971
“I think it would be interesting... I think it would be fascinating to start a new college, I think... Don't you
Wally Peterson? l think we should celebrate the University’s centennial by looking... We haven't had a new
college since the Business Administration College some 50 years ago."
One might conjecture that this is how Dr. Robert Knoll, in his flitting, nervous manner, proposed in 1966 the creation of a Centennial College at the University of Nebraska. The nature of the new college was to be experimental.
One year after its inception in 1969, experiment still characterizes the Centennial Education Program (CEP). But this attitude has been tempered by the first year's experience. From the experience of the first grew the second Centennial.
Generally, the architects of the CEP sought to establish an intellectual community by combining a
Knoll, who placed the general CEP curriculum for the first year under the heading Nature of Social Change, said in May 1969: “By the end of the year, the student should have learned something of himself, his environment, and the possibilities for his future. He would also have learned how to study both independently and in groups, and how to relate the problems he daily confronts to the problems of the past."
Knoll's hope for Centennial College was a merging of students' intellectual and social life. “I wanted a place where people with intellectual interests would be comfortable; I was not interested in an honors college." “I hoped for a program where a student could immerse himself in an interest." according to T. E. Beck, a fellow at the College. "I hoped the College would remain small, coed, residential, intense, with interaction between students' social and academic lives reinforcing each."
Nancy Ryan, a student member of the Centennial Education Program planning committee in 1969 and
currently the dorm house-mother, says two basic assumptions governed the establishment of the college
curriculum: (1) the faculty and students would be learning together and would therefore establish new
relationships, and (2) less emphasis was to be placed on specific knowledge than on the method of attaining it.
“It was assumed that faculty would function as merely older students with more experience and therefore give an
added dimension to learning" she adds.
That there were differences of opinion, no matter how slight. As to the curricular methods and means to reach general goals was of considerable significance to Centennial College in its infant year. The consensus on goals was strained most by a division over the mechanics of the core course, the degree to which it should be structured and the nature of academic demands to be placed on students. The differences between faculty, between students and between students and faculty on this issue were acted out on a spectrum ranging from serious discussion to irritated bickering. Yet it was precisely these differences. when combined with attitudes tolerant of compromise, which gave Centennial College the curricular mobility and atmosphere of experimentation it needed in the first year.
Some faculty were unwilling to say no to certain projects, according to Knoll. They felt that a student can learn by failing, he adds.
“These people were equating discipline with tyranny" Knoll says. "There was a conflict between those who wanted rational discipline and those who wanted a personal growth independent of discipline."
This division of ideas within the entire College made for a highly flexible curriculum and in some cases considerable deviation from the stated concept. Although we preached the problem-solving approach" Beck says. “the diversity of opinion among the faculty subverted the approach. We therefore had a diversity of learning experiences. Some projects had close fellow attachments, for instance, and others had nominal involvement."
If this dissension can be considered a "problem." The College had other problems, not the least of which was misunderstanding of CEP by the public and students and faculty in the University. Grades, admission and the ancilliary courses of math and Iangauge were subjects of misconception.
Knoll asserts that the College was a focial point for campus anxiety, a useful but unfair scapegoat. "At the same time" he adds, "the College has excited conservative people in the state because of its imagination and academic prowess."
If these were indicative of the problems of the CEP in its first year, the College also had bright points.
Perhaps the most obvious and wider acclaimed success was the living environment.
In the most complete and scientific evaluation of the CEP. Dr. Robert D. Brown of University Counseling says
that "no other goal of the CEP was achieved as much as this one (the living-learning environment)."
Brown likens the College to a small liberal arts college with a convenient living environment with faculty offices, classrooms, lounge and “congenial companionship." These factors, says Brown, had a profound effect on student-teacher relationships, which were more personal than such relationships in the greater University, and student-student relationships, which evidenced more, but less intense friendships than outside the CEP. There also was less formal dating in the College, according to the Brown study.
Subjective student statements tend to corroborate the Brown findings as well as suggest other effects of the living-learning environment.
“Students established a community feeling by common intellectual studies and consequently interacted honestly with each other.” Dan Bauwens, a student from Omaha, says. “As a result, their good friendships formed in a short time.“
“lf you don't know the people you are studying with you tend to be insecure and more inhibited in learning and intellectual interaction" says Mary Pat Fowler, a sophomore from Omaha. “An essential part of learning and Centennial College is getting to know people."
Jim Schaffer, a senior from Lincoln, agrees with the importance of knowing other students but assigns equal value to the physical aspects of the living environment. In the CEP the personal relationships between student and student and student and faculty lead to many informal discussions." he says. "That seldom happens outside the College because students in a class at Andrews Hall are generally strangers."
When a student has a class in a particular room at Centennial chances are he has had a cup of coffee there
or talked with his girl at night, says Schaffer. These experiences help make learning total and relaxed, he adds.
Whatever the combination of reasons, the multitude of group projects and independent study produced
numerous examples of "amazing intellectual imagination" in the words of one faculty member. It also produced examples
of miserable failure and little effort. Under the broad topic of the Nature of Social Change, group and individual
study projects range from witchcraft to Latin American Politics to the study of plant emotions with electric devices.
One group study, based on Darwinism, led to several final projects ranging from "Evolution vs. Christianity" to “Hair:
Its Loss with Respect to Man's Evolution" to “The Abominable Snowman: Fact or Legend?"
Despite the diverse nature and often high quality (in the opinion of many faculty) of the study reports, the Brown study
concluded that the academic aspect of CEP was "less successful" than the living-learning environment aspect.
The conclusion was based on a comparison of Centennial freshmen and a group of greater University freshmen with comparable SAT scores. The results showed little significant difference in the grades and grade pattens of the two groups. The Brown study prefaced the results by stating that grades were a poor criterion for evaluation.
Nevertheless, the Brown study raises two points: (1) Centennial College, despite being less random in selection than it would like to be, is not an honors college, as its faculty say it is not, (2) lf participation in the first Centennial College did not result in better academic performance, for example, grades and the simultaneous brilliance and dreariness of some studies, were there benefits other than a nice living environment? Both the Brown study and individual students answer the question “yes.”
Brown concluded that “CEP freshmen at the end of the year showed a profoundly greater interest in reflective thought and greater breadth of interest in ideas... The growth exhibited here resulted in a student who was more intellectually curious, more tolerant of new ideas and more ‘intellectual.’ These changes were not matched by the regular University student."
Not only do CEP students agree with this statement, they cite perhaps an even greater benefit derived from Centennial College-an appreciation of learning and education.
When I came here from high school. I didn’t appreciate education" says Robin West of Lincoln. "But I discovered I could think on my own. Nobody told me what I was supposed to get out of the subjects in Centennial. I learned myself."
Kim Hobson of Lincoln says study in Centennial gave him self-discipline and the ability to work independently. Both Hobson and Miss West say their most valuable gain from the first Centennial, however, was academic self-confidence, a knowledge of intellectual capabilities. This statement was repeated by many Centennial students.
“Centennial College does not produce a skill nor even a procedure for learning." according to Schaffer. "Rather, it is an opportunity for a student to realize his own capacity, and then he can go about the problem of learning."
How, then, did the first Centennial College rate in the opinion of some of its faculty and students in
preparing its members for “the problem of learning," in its living environment and in living up to its public goals
and private expectations?
"One cannot pronounce success or failure on the CEP after only a year" Beck said. "We see signs of
health and immaturity; this is not to be unexpected.
“We also see that the intimate, coed living situation has been a marked success. Most students, however have not grasped
my concept of intellectually immersing oneself in an interest. But that was my expectation: my hopes were not so high."
"Bauwens agrees that the social environment was pleasing to most but contends that the academic life of the College had not met similar acclaim because “as yet there has been no definition of academic goals.
“My expectations for the College were unrealistic. It took me a long time to realize how little the faculty actually had thought about the sticky academic issues. Students and faculty were equally ignorant. It was a case of the blind leading the blind, and it was never estabIished which blind group was leading which.
"Still, Bauwens feels that although the CEP “floundered a little" in its first year, it did not do badly and is progressing much better in the year 1970-71.
Although he admits there is little tangible difference between students in and out of the CEP in the quality of papers, for example, Dr. Jerry Petr takes exception to the concession that Centennial College was less academically successful than it should have been.
Intellectual curiosity and self-motivation is academic success." he says. It means these students are likely to go on being learners after they graduate.
There are parts of academic success that cannot be measured by the grade system. Maybe they can't be measured at all by our
present level of sophistication. The intellectual challenge I get here is higher than I get in the regular University.
"Petr believes the experience of the first year has helped both faculty and students work out a philosophy of education and
has resulted in a College better defined. This "better definition" is perhaps clearest in the mind of Robert Knoll, the
senior fellow of the program.
“For a good portion of the year something approximating my conception of Centennial College existed" Knoll said. "It ceased to exist once we got to easy on students, too interested in attitudinal change instead of intellectual discipline."
"I don't care what students think about as long as they think about something. Last year I didn‘t assert myself on this point of requiring more academic proof of intellectual pursuits. I gave in to those fellows and students who preferred the chance of personal growth to intellectual discipline. We won't do that this year."
One alteration from last year has been the requirement that students meet with the faculty member adviser bi-weekly and submit reports explaining progress in their study. Consistent with this example of a more structured College has been an increase in community organization. There is evidence of this organization in the creation of committees to handle everything from public relations to planning the curriculum.
Centennial College, one year later, has not changed radically in its goals or program. It might be said that the College is using that first-year experience to set a more stable direction for the development of the program as it seeks to reach its ideals.
Furthermore, the CEP probably will not expand in the future as it did this year. What is more likely is the creation of a Centennial College II which will offer a core course primarily for students with science or engineering majors. This new college will probably not get under way until 1972-73, according to Dean of Faculties C. Peter Magrath.
In spite of its difficulties, sometime turbulence and more worldly view of its ideals, Centennial College continues to be one of the best forms of undergraduate education in the eyes of its faculty and students. This attitude may best be summed up by Petr.
Centennial College should exist for everybody. Hopefully, the benefits of this program will soon spread throughout the University."
The Centennial Education Program
Overview of New UNL Learning Strategies (1969-1972)
The 1960’s were a time of vast and unique new social and political movements across the entirety of the United States. It was a time of civil rights revolution, culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, which breathed a new life into his cause. It was also a time of anti-war protests against the Vietnam War, which raged on between 1955 until 1975, and the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, in particular. However, during this time there was also significant expansion of understanding in the way we think about education and learning.
One result of this was the creation of the Centennial Education Program (often referred to as simply the “Centennial College”) by the University of Nebraska in the year 1969. This was a cluster college which incorporated a new strategy of teaching that was based around both the integration of living and studies, and a curriculum designed by students based on interests they expressed.
This web site is intended to document aspects about the origins of the University of Nebraska’s Centennial Education Program between 1969-1972.
What is a Cluster College?
The Centennial College was loosely based on the format of a “cluster college.” A cluster college can be described as a smaller college that operates within a university’s parameters and is associated with the university, but also retains a certain degree of autonomy and tends to specialize in one or few specific fields of study. A cluster college usually has its own curriculum and affiliated courses, but students are encouraged to supplement their curriculum with classes from the larger university, and this is often a necessity.
Cluster colleges often have their own facilities and/or dormitories, as is the case in the Centennial College. Additionally, these spaces may be utilized for multiple purposes. The Centennial College is a prime example of this due to its use of one hall as dormitories, integrated classrooms, and galleries to display student work.
Courses Offered Within the Centennial College
The Centennial College curriculum covered a large variety of courses, at all levels of undergraduate study. While the extent of the college's courses contained a wide variety of subject matter ranging from the arts, humanities, social sciences, and many more (original documents containing the full list of courses can be seen here and here), some of the more unique courses were typically available at the lower levels of study, and included:
Additionally, at higher levels of study, many group courses were available. These courses typically involved group work to discuss and apply education in social topics, arts topics, humanities, dance, and theater.
Curricular Program Design
The Centennial College’s curriculum was designed around new philosophies toward learning; the idea that education can be more effective if students are given freedom to choose to study topics that they are interested in. The college essentially offered elective course material without students having to sift through many extra subjects. Frequently students would pick a topic of interest, and then the professorial staff involved would design a semester-long course based around this choice, frequently involving large projects that the student would work on, and make progress reports on to the staff periodically.
Additionally, almost all classes offered in this fashion were done so under a pass/fail grading system, effectively eliminating the students’ pressure to learn and regurgitate information on exams, and putting a larger emphasis on self-development. Naturally, exceptions were available, usually if the teacher requested a student’s work be graded on the usual four-point scale due to exceptional work.
This curriculum design allowed for openings for guest instructors and material as well. For example, later in the program’s existence (in the school year of 1977-1978), there was an in-dormitory rotation of guest instructors who lived in Love - Heppner, including a guitarist who instructed interested students in classical guitar, a professional painter, a mural artist, and a mime, pantomime, mask performance and juggling instructor
Integration of Studies and Lifestyles
Naturally, with the integration of this new type of college into the university, some space would have to be allotted to living areas for students. This proved a problem that was difficult – but not impossible – to overcome, as the university was already somewhat lacking in dorm space. The solution was to use some already-present dormitory space for new purposes. In 1969, 231 spaces were chosen to be set aside for the use of the Centennial College in Love hall and Heppner hall (one space is roughly equivalent to one student’s necessary living accommodations).
Of these spaces, 2 were used to board housemothers, 12 spaces were used to board 6 student assistants (at the use of 2 spaces per student assistant, meaning each was given their own full room), and an extra 2 double dorm rooms and 2 single dorms were made by partitioning an old sun parlor in Heppner hall. This left 57 extra spaces that could be used as classrooms, galleries, and activity rooms by the students in the Centennial College.
With this innovative use of space, the participants in the Centennial College were able to seamlessly integrate their work on schoolwork and living, further demonstrating the ingenious learning strategies of the college. Students were given more freedom to work, relax, and live on a day-to-day basis within their college setting, minimizing difference between school and home, and allowing them to learn around their own schedules.
Professors Involved During This 1969-1972 Period
The Centennial College initially had a professorial staff of four full-time teachers and five part-time teachers.
The full time teachers included
Part-time staff included
UN-L Centennial Freshman's Review
To a freshman just beginning to adjust to the bureauracy of the University, Centennial College offered an entirely different outlook on education. Suddenly no one cared whether or not I had a student ID or what my Social Security number was. Not only did people want to know my name, but they were interested in who I was and what I wanted from life.
During the first few weeks we found ourselves spending a lot of time in the Commons Room meeting each other and exchanging our views on religion, war, government and life. Communication wasn't forced. We had a sincere desire to know what each other's thoughts were. We only began to realize the advantage of living in a small coeducational community.
I was fortunate to have all but three hours of my class time in Centennial. This left me with 63 hours a week to do with as I pleased. Released from a structured 6-hour day only three months earlier, I had anticipated unlimited amusement, recreation and relaxation. Most suffered from this delusion for several weeks.
Then we became aware of the benefits of seriously studying a topic that interested us. But this freedom of study presented other problems. It was much harder to set up my own course of study than it was to memorize dry lectures and unimaginative textbooks.
Although I could define the problem and establish a method of research, I discovered that solving the problem of my topic — urban renewal — was impossible. My study was aided, however. when I heard authorities speak on the subject and discussed the topic with students interested in related areas. A Fellow was always available to guide me in my study.
The close relationship between the students and faculty is inherent in Centennial College. Professors who sincerely respect your opinions, whether or not they agree with you, encourage free communication between student and instructor. The benefits derived from this kind of learning are more lasting and valuable than those gained from lecture-textbook-survey classes.
Because I study what I want, I will more likely be able to retain and apply my knowledge to living experiences, and apply my knowledge to living experiences. Centennial College offered math and language courses. My French course was frightening the first time I attended — there were only eight students, not thirty as in my high school class. Forced to make a significant contribution to the discussion, my vocabulary increased.
In the math course, there were no scheduled classes, although tutors were always available. This eliminated all the hours wasted watching a professor interpret a theorem I already understood. Six hour exams and a final constituted the complete course. The exams could be taken any time I finished a unit. And at any time I "just couldn't get" a theorem, there was always a tutor or an older student present to help me out.This kind Of interaction among the students loads to friendships between the sexes that are difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in large, segregated dormitories. The opposite sex is not considered purely as a prospective date. Centennial students discover that the opposite sex consists of real people, not sexual objects or stereotypes. The amount of one-to-one dating is minimal: most activities take place in groups.
Whenever there is a "must see" movie in town, a notice appears on the brown board naming a night when a group decided to attend and inviting others. The same thing occurs more spontaneously with walks to the doughnut shop and soccer games in the spring. In this atmosphere the friendship which develops tends to be deeper because it is not formed in an artificial situation.
This togetherness at the College resulted in two especially memorable events. During the Pig Roast, everyone contributed to the feast. One of the girls brought a pig from home and we roasted it in the courtyard all day. The carving of this huge animal, accomplished by five students, was an achievement in itself. Afterwards there were both amusing and serious speeches by many of the Centennial residents.
The most spontaneous get-together took place during the annual Greek-Dorm Snowball Fight in front of WRH [Neihardt Residential Center]. Early evening everyone had listened to two girl guitarists sing in the Pub. Later there had been a concert from the Ogallala Dusters, Centennial's jug band-in-residence. When the fight began we turned out all the lights in the Commons and everyone gathered around several of the guitarists. The contrast between the childish chaos outside and the nearly one hundred people inside quietly singing "Leaving On A Jet Plane" was striking.
I knew of no Centennial student who has not profited in some way from the College and few who do not consider it the best learning
environment on campus. I would not trade this last year in Centennial College for any education in any other living situation.
I will not tell you that I have felt no disappointment in my experience with the Centennial College. What you have begun to read is a confession, not a bulletin or a brochure. It's not just a confession of disappointment by a mind prone to idealism that can never be. It's more than that. It's a statement more honest and human than anyone ought to be willing to make in a yearbook.
It is important to understand the difference between the non-creative and non-educational world offered to you by the regimentation of lectures and labs of even the finest University and the kind of education that can result when a student is exposed to programs like the Centennial College.
The former offers the mind a bewildering array of turn-off devices, delighting in production of a student who has rote-memorized to the A-plus degree and who, in conspicuous addition, behaves in all the unimaginative ways that permit institutions of higher learning to exist in a sort of mothball dynamism.
The Centennial College, not at all unique in its educational goals, hoped to develop Scholars and this year began to learn how. Before I came to Centennial, I had experienced three years of life in the regular University community. You know what this is all about. Uou've been through it too. Like me, you've gone to class on the first day of the semester, wandered around to find the proper room and once inside, have scrambled to find a free seat among one hundred or so other not-so-hungry intellects.
Very soon a man called a Ph.D. arrives and passes out a carefully mapped plan of study. He tells you which book to buy and gives you all information you need about the point scales he uses to determine grades. He explains that it will be necessary to attend lectures faithfully, further explaining that he will take attendance to insure this. He requests that you write several papers during the course of the semester on pre-designated topics.
Then, a short pause, followed by students dashing to fetch their 49-cent special-deal notebooks. You and the students around you know that it's time to begin taking notes. These you take without remark and in as great detail as possible.
As you later perused them and rewrote them for your carefuly-scheduled hour exams, you found that you included all matter of "trash." If you were a gunner, as I was, it didn't matter that you knew some of what your notes had included was "trash". You learned it anyway. Even more disgusting than this wasthe fact that some of this obviously irrelevant and unimportant material was included in the hour exam. I guess we won, didn't we?
If I was turned off by what I'd been through, I had many more opportunities to relive it - to re-eat and re-expel the body of knowledge found in my books and my notes. I was a student and this was rust the way it was.
But it wasn't all that bad. There were those rare teachers that challenged the mind. They struck matches in a chamber fired with unburned intellectual wood. I didn't understand my encounters with these people. Neither did my follow students. But we knew the teachers were good. we know there was something almost magic about them.
I passed from this world to the Centennial College as a senior. I had done well by the University's standards I had begun to think that I had successfully made the transition from student to scholar. I was wrong. I found myself challenged as never before. I was not asked to imbibe information on someone else's terms but to think, learn and discuss on mine. I was invited into a developing intellectual community, a community where the production of the mind was valued, a place where people wrote what they wanted to and read what interested them. People practiced good clear thinking. Even the janitor was an intellectual.
Although delighted by the prospect of living in this minimally structured environment, was unprepared for it. Before long, I realized that this environment which was conducive to the expression of the greatest creativity was threatening to produce indolence in me. My college years had been constructed to minimize intellectuality and maximize control. I was sadly in need of the discipline that characterizes the true scholar. Mine had always been imposed from without.
I spoke of disappointment before. The source of disappointment was my own incompetence in the face of intellectual freedom. By now I have been able to adjust to the environment in which I find myself and for the first time, I have assumed sole responsibility for my education. It is. in fact, only now beginning.
I am confident that as time passes. Colleges like Centennial will allow more people to gain the real meaning of education.
There is one failure possible in any experiment as carefully conceived and as judiciously mothered as the Centennial
College — termination.