Money and privilege no longer describe college students who, books in hand, stroll across fair campuses. Changes in American college life since the 1960s make the previous 300 years—from the founding of Harvard in 1636—benign by comparison. Today, universities in gritty downtowns admit welfare mothers who struggle to escape grinding poverty. Sometimes they have to take their babies to class with them. Felons from prison enroll through special programs hoping for training that will enable them to surmount previous misdeeds. Men and women in low-paying jobs enroll part-time. They head families, struggle with car and rent payments, and are always tired. But they attend college classes, struggling to stay awake, preparing themselves for better jobs.
Author John A. Flower—World War II combat pilot, concert pianist, university president—takes us on an extraordinary professional and personal odyssey in this new book. As dean at Kent State University he was engulfed in the Vietnam War protests and witnessed the shattering events of May 4, 1970. During 20 years as vice president, then president, of Cleveland State University he was the target of racial protests that took place on campus. At the same time a lurid scandal involving the high-profile basketball coach required Flower to dismiss him. For more than 50 years he participated from the inside as profound changes across the nation caused ivory towers to crumble.
Flower writes eloquently and powerfully, helping readers to understand how forces for change reshape colleges and universities. He illustrates how external special-interest groups influence campus affairs, and analyzes their influence on curriculum, affirmative action, contract issuance, land acquisition, unionism, and a multitude of other issues. He uses his experience to present ways in which concerned citizens and community leaders can address change in positive ways. Downstairs, Upstairs is a wake-up call and a must-read for all Americans who recognize the imperative for higher learning.