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Then And Now

Eighty years ago the University of Michigan was faced with problems not unlike those of today. Writing in the annual report of 1867, President E. O. Haven pointed to conditions that had developed — following the Civil War—that are familiar as they recur after World War II. President Haven wrote:

"So large a number of young men—the largest attending any University in the country—have not been accommodated without difficulty. The recitation and lecture rooms of the Literary Department have been in some instances inconveniently crowded, the passage ways and stairways in the old building originally designed for dormitories, now used for recitation and lecture rooms, are too narrow for the multitudes that pass and repass each other there. We have been compelled to divide some of classes which are pursuing the same studies, into sections, thus increasing the labor of the instructors."

Four of the buildings which were crowded with an enrollment of 1,255 students in 1867 are still standing and jam-packed in 1947. They are Mason Hall, built in 1841; South Wing, 1848; Observatory, 1854; and Economics (and Pharmacology), 1856. (University Hall, 1871; and Romance Languages, 1880, followed soon thereafter.)

Long since declared obsolete and hazardous, these buildings will be replaced if the University is enabled to go forward with its building program, which will include an addition to Angell Hall, center of the "Literary College."

In 1866 the Society of the Alumni appointed a committee to "memorialize the legislature" on the needs of the University. The memorial, presented in January, 1867, suggested that one-twentieth of a mill on each dollar of property taxed by the State of Michigan be given to the University. Such legislation was provided and it was the beginning of the mill tax in support of the University—a tax that has meant much in making Michigan one of the great universities.

With the University on the threshold of annual enrollments exceeding 20,000 students, now is the time to prepare for the days ahead, and to serve the present students. If anyone had prophesied eighty years ago that Michigan would have 19,000 students in 1947 he would have seemed to be a wildman. Yet there were men of vision then, and their fore sight and courage enabled the University to carry on. The regents, executive officers, faculties and alumni of today have studied current and foreseeable needs.  They have informed the legislative and state officials of these needs. It is time to add another step in the march to greater educational service.

The Michigan Alumnus

February 1 1947, Page 226

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