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As both an administrator and academician, Jacques Barzun seems a good choice to take us on a tour of the American University. His synoptic view is more varied and far easier to read than the recent sociological blockbuster with which it will inevitably be compared, Jencks' and Riesman's The Academic Revolution. But like that study, little in these pages can give comfort to the Campus Left. Barzun's urbanity generally takes on an acid tone when dealing with student unrest, specifically what he terms the ""arrogant pretensions and airs of holier-than-thou put forward by the institution goaders."" In fact, though he carefully notes all its problems and misadventures, what he presents is a defense of the multiversity, whose model, since that is Professor Barzun's stamping ground, is none other than the exploding leviathan on Morningside Heights. He even has good words for Columbia's president, Grayson Kirk, who ""has shown himself ready and eager for progressive changes."" The reason, apparently, for so much university criticism is, quite simply, ignorance. The public, the students, the newspapers simply do not know enough about the intricate mechanism, or what they consider the bureaucratic character, of the large university. Barzun does not shy away from its failings (there are many proposals of a radical nature, both functional and cultural), but essentially his is a pragmatic discussion, and often detailing such things as the budget or course planning or regulations, he suggests Fortune extolling the heady structure of industry. An old name and certainly an old point of view.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1968
Publisher: Harper & Row