Did you know that the Residential College was originally meant to be located near North Campus on the south side of Fuller, formerly the Ann Arbor Municipal Golf Course? Did you know that all RC courses - not just language courses, but all of them - started out pass/fail with written evaluations? Did you know that students protested the change in leadership of the Benzinger Library in the 2000s? The RC's 50 years of experimentation in cultivating a liberal arts experience in the midst of a complex university environment is rich with historical anecdotes. Thanks to the Bentley Historical Library's archive of The Michigan Daily newspaper, we can easily search and see the actual paper scans as well as read transcribed text versions. The full searchable archive is available at digital.bentley.umich.edu/search. Read below for some RC stories, courtesy of this archive.
Conceiving the RC, according to the Daily's news stories
The RC faculty planning committee reported in their recommendation to the University President Harlan Hatcher and Board of Regents in 1966: "It may be possible to combine the virtues of the very large university and the fine, small, arts college, while holding to a minimum their respective deficiencies. It is just this unique contribution that the new residential college at the University aims to achieve ..." That was 52 years ago, and we're still operating a learning community with these aims. President Hatcher summed up the RC's purpose succinctly: "The question is how to provide an atmosphere of warmth and intimacy that will best stimulate the intellectual and personal maturity of young people, in an age of bigness, complexity and impersonality." You can read more about the RC's opening announcement here, August 1967. Here's a funny line for you: The facilities of the RC were to be "educationally adequate, not luxurious" (full story here, August 1965). Perhaps it is due to this spirit that some have struggled to warm up to the updated spaces in the now-renovated East Quadrangle?
That's just the beginning.
There's so much RC history in the Bentley's archives. Here's a sampling of other stories through the years meant to get you started on your own historical hunt for RC stories:
"Confidence a major step for minorities", about the development of the Abeng Lounge from the Black Power Movement by three RC students, and touches on the Minority Arts and Cultural Festival in East Quad, February 1984. "All festival events are free and open to the entire groovy public."
"Pilot Program and RC: Colleges within a college", covering the early Michigan Learning Community (MLC) at Alice Lloyd and how it differed from the RC, September 1984. It includes a great quote from then RC Director, John Mersereau: "It is not a haven for weirdos or radicalism. The students are intellectually aggressive."
"Prof. praises RC evaluations", an op-ed by Carl Cohen, May 1986.
"Do Away with Berets: Poetry Slam is for the Unpretentious", Coverage of the Ann Arbor Poetry Slam held at the Old Heidelberg, featuring Ken Mikolowski, retired RC Creative Writing lecturer, October 1989.
"A Walk Through the Woods: RC to perform wandering play", about the 2001 A Midsummer Nights Dream, the inaugural Shakespeare in the Arb production, May 2001.
"Guerrilla librarians", by Elliott Mallen (RC History 2007) about the tensions between RC and East Quad students with U-M Housing over the administration of the Benzinger Library, and the development of the student-run Benz Library Co-operative, March 2005. Summarizing the spirit of the students, Mallen says, "Of course, no amount of amenities can make up for the feeling of ownership and community that come from being able to exercise control over one's surroundings without interferences from above."
We are greatly appreciative to the Michigan Daily for generating such an important print newspaper all these years, and to the Bentley Historical Library for digitizing this archive.
If you'd like to read a history of the RC from the beginning through 2015 written by our own former director and professor, Charlie Bright, and former lecturer Michelle McClelland, you can find it here.
Happy reading, groovy people.