Auburn University

SYNOPSIS OF AU PRESIDENT HARRY M. PHILPOTT'S CORRESPONDENCE, 1965-1980



 

Alabama Commission on Higher Education

The president of the Alabama Committee for Better Schools—an organization of professional educators and lay people—wrote regarding his group. He had served on the Committee on Higher Education of the Alabama Education Commission during the 1950s. That group recommended the creation of a Commission on Higher Education "with broad investigative and recommendation powers but without power to direct or otherwise impose on the autonomy of existing institutions." The Committee for Better Schools had framed such a bill, which Presidents Rose (Alabama) and Draughon (Auburn) had considered earlier. Charles F. Zukoski to Philpott, March 1, 1967.

In October, 1966, Philpott made a speech to the Auburn faculty in which he recommended the creation of "a Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee to study higher education." He was prepared to endorse the legislation proposed by the Alabama Committee for Better Schools to create an Alabama Commission on Higher Education. He would oppose a central agency that threatened the independence of the various institutions of higher education. Philpott to Brandt Ayers, April 14, 1967.

The Alabama Education Study Commission recommended the creation of a coordinating board known as the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. "Report of the Alabama Education Study Commission," 1968, p. 22.

The Executive Director of ACHE, Clanton Williams, called the agency a "toothless tiger" and proposed legislation that would empower it to prevent the needless expansion of institutions and degree programs. Birmingham News, April 26, 1973.

Williams apologized for the tone of the April 26 article, but insisted that ACHE did need to be strengthened. He opposed its becoming "a board of control" unless the state failed to created "an efficient medial mechanism" to do "what we all realize must be done." Williams to Philpott, May 18, 1973.

The chair of the Commission on Higher Education wrote to the governor of "the present impasse between Troy State and the Commission," which had developed "over the situation in Montgomery." Troy opposed the Commission’s efforts to limit their activities in Montgomery. The author noted that the citizens of Montgomery had expressed their preferences in this respect when the legislature created AUM. Sage Lyons to George Wallace, June 25, 1974.

Hanly Funderburk (AUM) had recently discussed higher education in the state with Sid McDonald, who wanted to introduce legislation that would give ACHE "the power of injunction for specific programs." McDonald further believed that this could not be accomplished without the support of Philpott and the presidents of the University of Alabama and UAB. Funderburk favored the legislation, [which could be used to curtail the expansion of Troy State in the Montgomery area.] Funderburk to Philpott, September 18, 1974.

Philpott agreed that ACHE needed more power, but he did not favor a statewide board of regents. He would favor legislation which created "a mechanism by which injunctive power [could] be imposed against programs not recommended by the Commission." Auburn University News Service, November 8, 1974.


State of Alabama

Herman Harris--assistant director of the Alabama State Teachers Association—wrote to the editor of the Montgomery Advertiser regarding his organization’s opposition to a branch of Auburn University in Montgomery. Joe Reed—director of the ASTA—had announced that the group would appeal the federal district court ruling on the case. Their argument had been that creation of AUM perpetrated a dual educational system. To those who said that blacks could attend AUM, Harris replied that whites could attend Alabama State. Montgomery Advertiser, August 16, 1968.

Luther Terry—VP for Medical Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania—and two other consultants recommended that Auburn’s School of Pharmacy be located on the Montgomery campus because of the greater clinical opportunities available in that metropolitan area. Luther Terry, et al., "Report of the Advisory Committee on Allied Health Sciences for Auburn University," July 29, 1970, p. 11.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredited AUM as an "operationally separate" unit of Auburn University. This gave it a status greater than a "branch" of Auburn and meant that it would be accredited separately by the Southern Association. According to the newspaper account, "AUM officials called the separate accreditation a step toward full status as a more independent urban university." Montgomery Advertiser, December 16, 1973.

Hanly Funderburk—VP for AUM—wrote complaining because AUA was offering a computer science program in Montgomery. He asked Philpott "to return to sound management principles and require everything that Auburn University [did] in the Montgomery area to be administered by the Montgomery campus." Funderburk to Philpott, November 18, 1975.


AUM: Court Action

Philpott wrote to the president of Alabama State, saying that he recently met with the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce. About six months ago, the Chamber had requested that the University of Alabama establish a branch in Montgomery. For geographical reasons, President Rose preferred not to do so. He urged them to consider a branch of Auburn. Philpott had no wish to establish a branch in Montgomery, but the Chamber had a promise from the governor to support legislation for an independent institution if neither Auburn nor Alabama would create a branch. Philpott considered the latter a less desirable alternative than taking on a Montgomery branch. Ideally, he preferred to wait for a comprehensive study of educational needs by a citizen’s committee. Much of the pressure for a Montgomery branch, he believed, was "coming from the Air Force." In short, he had "a hot potato" which "could be cooled" if the governor endorsed a comprehensive study. Philpott to Levi Watkins, February 15, 1967.

The three-judge panel that heard the case against establishing AUM included Frank Johnson. The plaintiff’s case was stated thus: historically, Alabama had a dual system of higher education; though no longer supported by law, the dual system remained intact; the court had taken affirmative steps to eliminate the dual system as it applied to elementary and secondary education; that duty applied equally to higher education; construction of new facilities represented an opportunity to dismantle a dual system; the planning of AUM had not maximized that opportunity. The court refused to uphold the plaintiff’s case because no court dealing with desegregation in higher education had gone further than ordering nondiscriminatory admissions. Alabama State Teachers Association v. Alabama Public School and College Authority, US District Court, Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division, Civil Action Number 2649-N, July 26, 1968.

The US Supreme Court affirmed the judgement of the district court in authorizing the establishment of AUM. "Statement by Harry M. Philpott," January 20, 1969.


Alabama Legislature

Material presented at a legislative budget hearing indicated that Auburn received $1000+ per pupil from the state, but this used an overall figure for state appropriations which included funds for extension and agricultural and engineering research. The latter did not support the instructional program. $700 was a more accurate per pupil figure. Philpott to Alton Turner, May 25, 1967.

Philpott advocated reviewing sales tax exemptions allowed by the state. The Department of Revenue believed that the elimination of all exemptions would raise $110-120 million. Only about $10 million of this applied to agriculture, but the Farm Bureau had criticized the president’s position. Philpott to Board of Directors, Alabama Farm Bureau Federation, July 17, 1967.

Between 1965 and 1975, legislative appropriations to the University of Alabama had increased 189 percent while those to Auburn had increased 154 percent. At the same time, Auburn’s enrollment and credit hour production were higher than Alabama. "Comparison of Auburn and University of Alabama Budgets," [1975].


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