Developed by Abigail Broga, Assistant Dean of Students, and Ann Maloney, formerly Office of the Dean of Students
Students who attend the University of Illinois are often aware of the basic facts surrounding the inception of the University. Most know it was chartered in 1867, and some are familiar with the term “Land Grant University,” (LGU) although it’s likely that an even smaller number actually know what that means. Being an LGU, though, is what first gave rise and meaning, shaped our pedagogy, our faculty, and our first student body. Through the past 137 years, the University of Illinois has metamorphosed into a research university with land grant roots. The dual missions of research and teaching have had a direct impact on the way in which students and faculty continue to teach and learn here. External social, political, and legal forces have also combined to affect how the University operates. It is only by understanding this complex and intriguing history that students can properly evaluate their experience at the U of I. By placing Illinois into historical context, we hope to create a space where students can see themselves as part of an intricate network of political and social elements that have shaped the face of the University. Additionally, by becoming familiar with past trends, it will be easier to predict, or at least prepare for, the immense changes that will take place in the years to come. We will examine the factors that govern admission, how the student body has changed since 1867, elements of student life, and finally, students’ rights. Each of these dimensions impacts everyday learning in ways that undergraduates are seldom aware. But by dissecting each of these issues and comparing the University of Illinois to other institutions, we might finally answer two of the most intriguing questions: What does it mean to be a student here? Where have we come from?
*Note: Where a text has been referenced, an author and page number will follow. Full bibliographic information exists at the end of this document.
What does it mean to be a land grant college or university?
The Constitution of the United States reserves all powers not expressly granted to the federal government to the states. Since education is not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, educational policy has traditionally been left to the states. However, the federal government has long encouraged public education, beginning with the Northwest Ordinance in 1787, which set aside a section of land in each township for a school.
The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 followed this land grant precedent, by donating federal land and/or funds to the states for specific purposes. This link will take you to the 1862 Morrill Act.
The 1862 Morrill Act established Land Grant Colleges and thus brought agriculture and mechanics into college curriculum.
In 1890, the second Morrill Act led to the creation of “separate but equal” public white and black land grant institutions in 19 southern and border states.
What does it mean to be a research university?
A research university (like UIUC) is concerned with the creation as well as the transmission of knowledge. U.S. research universities are based on the German model that developed in the 19th century. Faculty are free to conduct research into a specialized area of an academic discipline, mentor and train graduate students, and teach undergraduates. Additionally, faculty are expected to perform service to the university (serve on committees) and in the community (extension). Most land grant, research universities adopted the “Wisconsin Idea” of using university resources to solve public problems.
What is the mission of a land-grant, research university?
John Milton Gregory, the first president of the University of Illinois, had a vision for a “splendid good” to develop in Urbana. He wanted the state to have a true university, “a place where knowledge and science are discovered and perfected, as well as a center for its dissemination.” Its aim should be to lead well-prepared students to the summits of learning rather than to conduct numerous immature minds along lower paths, for leaders of thought rather than masses of students made the true university (Solberg, p. 122).
In his inaugural address, Gregory discussed the problems facing the new University. First was the internal problem, “to make true scholars while we make practical artisans, not in one or two arts, but in the whole round of human industries.” In short, the task was to unite learning with labor, and to do so by relating special courses of instruction to a fundamental liberal education course (the core curriculum in science, literature, and art).
An external and more difficult problem came from public opinion. Since the University was the child of popular will, Gregory tried to rout certain common fallacies in regard to industrial colleges. He insisted that the University was not designed as an academy for working-class children. Admitting that the age demanded practicality, he explained that in a mobile society where careers were not fixed, the education which developed brainpower was most practical. Therefore language and books still remained the chief avenues of knowledge. the student who knew what he wanted ought to be free to choose his own path. The University should spread its table with every form of human knowledge and bid the ardent young men of Illinois freely to the feast (Solberg, pp. 100-101).
The University of Illinois now has 3 campuses: the land grant campus at Urbana-Champaign, the urban campus in Chicago and the regional campus in Springfield. Use the University home page at to see how the missions of each campus compare.
What does it mean to be a liberal arts college?
The liberal arts have been traditionally been described as the trivium (grammar, rhetoric and dialectic) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy). Generally speaking, the curriculum in a liberals college enrolls only undergraduates and the curriculum is focused on the transmission of knowledge. (For more on liberal arts colleges, see the Grinnell College website.)
An Overview of Significant Events in American Higher Education
1830-1860: Antebellum Expansion and Efforts at Reform
1832 - City University of New York (CUNY); first BS degree (to this point, only Bachelor’s of Arts degrees had been awarded)
1833 - Oberlin College founded first to admit women and blacks
1854 - Ashmun Institute (Lincoln University in Pennsylvania) founded first college for African Americans
1860-1890: New Departures
1861 - Vassar College founded
1867 - University of Illinois founded
1870 - First college dean in higher education (Professor Ephraim Gurney) appointed at Harvard to relieve president of disciplinary responsibilities
1876 - The Johns Hopkins University founded emulated German model of graduate education advancement of knowledge and secularization; strong graduate program, weak undergraduate program; encouraged research and professional organizations
1888 - Hatch Act established extension services
1890-WWI: Growth and Standardization
1901 - Joliet Junior College founded
1901 - Thomas Arkle Clark appointed Dean of Men at the University of Illinois
Educational foundations established: Carnegie Foundation andRockefeller Foundation
1916 - National Research Council founded
1945-1960: Postwar Years
1944 - Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (GI Bill)
1957 - Sputnik launch, spurring new emphasis on math and science education in U.S. schools and new focus on scientific research at U.S. universities
1960s-1990s: Years of Federal Legislation
1964 - Civil Rights Act
1965 - Higher Education Act federal financial aid
1972 - Title IX banned discrimination on basis of sex in higher education
1972 - Buckley Amendment or FERPA replaced in loco parentis
1998 - Amendments to Higher Education Act parent notification for underage alcohol violations
COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY ADMISSIONS
Historically, how was admission determined?
Entrance to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other denominational colleges was limited to males of European descent, who were from the “correct” religious persuasion, came from families that could afford the tuition (and forego the student’s earnings). If a student met these criteria, then admission was determined by the ability to read and write Latin. Even when colleges followed the westward expansion of the population in the 19th century, admission to colleges was limited to white males (except at Oberlin). Separate colleges for women and freed blacks (see Anderson College website) were established in the 19th century. Suggested reading: In the Company of Educated Women by Barbara M. Solomon (376.973 SO47I in UIUC Undergradudate Library).
When the University of Illinois first opened, “the University could not afford to be choosy. Its examination for admission covered arithmetic, grammar, geography, orthography, and history. Standards were low because the (public) school system of the state ruled out high standards, and therefore most students pursued preparatory work at Urbana” (Solberg, p. 105).
Most private colleges essentially admitted any white male who could pass the entrance exam. In 1919, President Hopkins of Dartmouth proposed a more selective approach and got this response from a board of trustees member:
When I got done, Mr. Streeter leaned over and said very seriously and without the slightest intention of being humorous, “Mr. President, do I understand rightly that you seriously proposed sometime in the future to decline the application of somebody who really want to enter Dartmouth? Well, now I guess this is all right and I’ll probably vote for it, but, by God, I’ve got to have a little time on it after forty years of watching Dartmouth grab and hogtie every prospect that wandered inadvertently into town with a hazy idea of sometime going to college somewhere. (Levine, The Opening of the American Mind)
What did “selective admissions” mean?
In September 1922, Dartmouth’s President Hopkins called for an “aristocracy of brains.” Calling college attendance a privilege, not a right, Hopkins said “’It would be incompatible with all the conceptions of democracy to assume that the privilege of higher education should be restricted to any class defined by the accident of birth or by the fortuitous circumstance of possession of wealth, but there is such a thing as an aristocracy of brains ” (Levine, p. 141).
Hopkins’ plan for admission included: exceptional scholarship, high scholarship, personal ratings (recommendations), geographical distribution, and all properly qualified sons of Dartmouth alumni (legacies). He believed “[t]he entire class will be selected on the basis of qualifications and no one allowed to enter simply because he has secured rooming accommodations” (Levine, pp. 141-142).
Why would a college want to have selective admissions?
Selective admissions were part of a strategy to “develop a high-quality, small, but national liberal arts college” (Levine, p. 145). Colleges would receive a psychological edge by being like clubs whose desirability is linked to exclusiveness. How does this relate to the rankings in U.S. News & World Report or Rugg’s?
How did “selective” admissions become “exclusionary” admissions?
In the 1920’s and 1930’s, many colleges chose to “reject deliberately and systematically qualified but socially undesirable candidates in order to placate their alumni and other upper-middle-class WASPs The anti-Semitism became critical to a college’s ability to call itself an elite school [due to] the rampant nativism in this era” (Levine, p. 147). Do you see any relationship between these arguments and current arguments to prohibit race-based affirmative action in admissions?
What tactics were used to exclude the enrollment of “undesirable” applicants?
Colleges first tried to keep undesirable students out by administering the College Board examination in hopes the applicants would do poorly. (“The College Board examinations and the Scholastic Aptitude Test were originally tailored to fit the class bias of their designers; as the dean of Columbia told Yale’s dean of admissions, ‘most Jews, especially those of the more objectionable type, have not had the home experiences which enable them to pass these tests as successfully as the average native American boy” [Levine, p. 152]). Do you see any similarities between the purposes and/or arguments about standardized tests in the 1920’s and 1930’s and today? Do standardized tests really measure merit? Is “merit” a synonym for discrimination?
Asking questions about financial need, religious background and racial inheritance.
Requiring a photograph with the application.
Establishing a quota.
Why did exclusionary admissions change back to selective admissions?
Supreme Court rulings and federal statutes have forced both public and private colleges and universities to change their admissions policies (private institutions are covered because they receive federal dollars). The Constitutional claims generally arise from the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Statutory claims are based on Titles IV, VI and IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disability Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483 (1954)
This ruling prohibits public institutions from discriminating on the basis of race in admissions absent a compelling state interest. It specifically concerned elementary and secondary schools.
Florida ex rel. Hawkins v. Board of Control 350 U.S. 413 (1956)
Confirms the relevance of Brown to higher education.
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke 438 U.S. 265 (1978)
The Supreme Court prohibited the use of quotas and separate considerations based on race, but stated “the state has a substantial interest that legitimately may be served by a properly devised admissions program involving the competitive consideration of race and ethnic origin” (438 U.S. at 320).
Hopwood v. Texas 78 F.3d 932 (5th Cir. 1996) (Supreme Court rejected review in 116 S. Ct. 2581 (1996)
The University of Texas Law School had an affirmative action admissions program that resulted in minority applicants whose SATs and undergraduate GPAs were lower than white applicants’ being admitted. The University claimed its purpose was to remedy past discrimination. The Appellate Court ruled that achieving a diverse student body was not a compelling state interest. Since the Supreme Court rejected the University’s appeal, the Appellate Court ruling remained in force.
Grutter v. Bollinger
When the Law School denied admission to petitioner Grutter, a white Michigan resident with a 3.8 GPA and 161 LSAT score, she filed this suit, alleging that respondents had discriminated against her on the basis of race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U. S. C. 1981; that she was rejected because the Law School uses race as a "predominant" factor, giving applicants belonging to certain minority groups a significantly greater chance of admission than students with similar credentials from disfavored racial groups; and that respondents had no compelling interest to justify that use of race. The District Court found the Law School's use of race as an admissions factor unlawful (from Findlaw).
Gratz v. Bollinger
Petitioners Gratz and Hamacher, both of whom are Michigan residents and Caucasian, applied for admission to the University of Michigan’s (University) College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) in 1995 and 1997, respectively. Although the LSA considered Gratz to be well qualified and Hamacher to be within the qualified range, both were denied early admission and were ultimately denied admission (fromCornell University).
United States v. Commonwealth of Virginia 766 F. Supp. 1407, vacated, 976 F.2d 890 (4th Cir. 1992)
The Virginia Military Institute (VMI), a state supported school, did not admit women. The Appellate Court gave Virginia that option to admit women to VMI, establish parallel institutions for women, or end state support of VMI. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case (508 U.S. 946 ). VMI wanted to establish a parallel program at a nearby private women’s college. The Supreme Court was again asked to review the case and did in 1996, ruling that VMI’s exclusion of women violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment (116 S. Ct. 2264 ).
Southeastern Community College v. Davis 442 U.S. 397 (1979)
Colleges may not deny admission to “[a]n otherwise qualified person who is able to meet all of a program’s requirements in spite of his handicap” (442 U.S. at 405-07).
While exclusionary and selective admissions processes led to a more homogeneous student body, it was federal programs such as the GI Bill, the Civil Rights Act, and the University’s Project 500 that truly changed the makeup of campus communities. Rather than limiting the student population to keep out the socially undesirable or “unqualified,” these mandates blew open to door of college campus diversity. From the first women admitted to UIUC’s campus (1870) to Project 500 (1968), and everything in between, this land grant university evolved with (and as a result of) the diversification of its student population.
The G.I. Bill of Rights came about as part of a post-WW II shift in ideals surrounding education. These are detailed in The President’s Commission Higher Education for Democracy, 1947.
Project 500 at UIUC
“Project 500 was the first major attempt by the University of Illinois to provide equal educational opportunity for the families of children in the state of Illinois and elsewhere across the United States” (from UIUC News, 10/13/03).
Also, three recent dissertations authored by women currently or formerly affiliated with UIUC discuss issues related to diversity on campus.
Joy Ann Williamson, "We Hope for Nothing, We Demand Everything": Black Students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1965-1975 (PDF File; also UIUC Main Stacks, 378.77366 W673w2001). See also Williamson'sBlack Power on Campus: The University of Illinois, 1965-75 (University of Illinois Press, 2003).
Priscilla Fortier, Diversity and Opportunity: A New Paradigm for Elite Public Universities (PDF File; also UIUC Main Stacks, Q.370 Tb02fo).
Abbie Broga, And Everything's the Same: Transformation of a Campus through the Eyes of an Intended Change Agent (PDF File; also UIUC Main Stacks, Q.370 Tb03br).
Diversity on campus has been recognized as a pressing issue by numerous higher education policy groups. For example, see documents related to the Kellogg Commission (1996).
With the ever-changing and constantly diversifying student population at UIUC, there was an increase in the availability of activities, and similarly, “student life” venues and experiences. Among these changes were the inception of fraternities and sororities on campus, Registered Student Organizations, Student Government, school athletics, and campus-wide publications, such as the Daily Illini. In addition, there are student experiences that are not officially associated with the University that involve alcohol and the campus and downtown bar scenes. While this aspect of student life is not directly related to academia at the University, many students would probably agree that it is impossible to separate their academic and social lives.
“Early in 1872 spurred on by students from a neighboring college, three Philomatheans founded a chapter of Delta Tau Delta.... Soon thereafter 14 more students joined. Although the Delts had no fraternity rival on the campus, their activities in college politics led to 'pro' and 'anti' Delt factions” (Solberg, pp. 199-200). Follow this linkfor current information on campus Greek life. See also listing of campus Registered Student Organizations. The Student Life and Culture Archival Program also has substantial holdings that document the history of UIUC's Greek letter organizations.
The first student government constitution was drafted and accepted by the students and faculty on October 3, 1870. Bylaws regulated such things as the playing of musical instruments, the handling of slop pails, and included rules about not throwing trash out of windows (Solberg, 185).
Something to think about: How has student government changed since 1870? What do current students look for in a student government? What should their role be?
The campus newspaper, published weekdays, is the Daily Illini.The first student publication on campus was “the Student, an eight-page monthly established by a few upperclassmen with faculty approval in November, 1871” (Solberg, p. 201).
“FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.”
Documents on deposit in the University Archive detail the university's response to past student protests on campus. See also Joy Williamson's dissertation, referenced above.
Although this topic is not academic in any way, the reality of student life on campus involves, for some part, the consumption of alcohol by of-age and minor students. Alcohol 101 is an attempt by the University to educate students in the realities of drinking.
Things to think about: As a student, how does alcohol affect or not affect your academic or social experience at Illinois? In addition, what are your thoughts on the law that allows students that are underage to enter the bar but not drink? What responsibility does the University have to the surrounding community, and to the students?
Parental notification: The Code of Policies and Regulations Applying to All Students covers topics related to alcohol to student privacy.
Technology and the University
The Office of the Vice President for Technology and Economic Development at the University of Illinois “oversees and facilitates the transfer and commercialization of University-based technologies and intellectual properties.”
The addition of this office in the University of Illinois system is a clear indication that the traditional land-grant mission of teaching, research, and service has been expanded.
Licensing revenues and patent activities of universities are reported to the Association of University Technology Managers, or AUTM. According to their website, “AUTM is a nonprofit association with membership of more than 3,200 technology managers and business executives who manage intellectual property-one of the most active growth sectors of the U.S. economy. AUTM's members represent over 300 universities, research institutions, teaching hospitals and a similar number of companies and government organizations.”
Also, “IllinoisVENTURES partners with faculty inventors and entrepreneurs to build breakthrough start-up companies based on University of Illinois research and development.”
In the past few years, many articles have been published in theChronicle of Higher Education regarding the issue of the commercialization of the university. To access the Chronicle, students must be on a library computer. Once at the site (http://chronicle.com), it is possible to search any keyword. By typing in “commercialization,” many relevant articles can be linked.
According to the State Science and Technology Institute, “SSTI is the most comprehensive resource available for those involved in technology-based economic development.” Things to think about: SSTI is a private organization that is interested in “technology based economic development.” How might their mission intersect with that of the university? What would the consequences be (both good and bad) of a union between these two entities?
Levine, Lawrence W. The Opening of the American Mind. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.
Solberg, Winton. The University of Illinois, 1867-1894: An Intellectual and Cultural History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1968.