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Laying the Groundwork

Beaver Yearbook, Experimental College, Eric Clausen, 1972.

Dr. Eric Clausen

A number of faculty at MSC, most notably earth science professor Dr. Eric Clausen, thought that the discourse between students and faculty had shifted too far to the institutional side. Individual students were being smothered by the vastness of the academic programs. College students were not an integral part of the educational process in many classes, other than through their enrollment. They had little to no say in the development of curriculum.

For most students, the college academic experience was all about producing tests and papers, which faculty graded on an  A-B-C-D-F scale.  Students had to operate within the institution's strictly-defined rules and policies. The national call for a stronger student voice within academia that had begun in the 1960s had not yet penetrated MSC to a significant degree. That would begin to change with the creation of the EC.

"Class Fills New Role", Red and Green, 1970.

Article from Red & Green about new class set-up which preceded the EC. A similar progressive student-integrated classroom process would be developed for the EC in 1970.

Experimental colleges were not new when the EC at MSC was created. A large number of experimental colleges had been opened in the previous fifteen years; Bensalem (the experimental college at Fordham University), Franconia College, College of the Potomac, and Hampshire College were all opened as full-time experimental colleges during the period from 1958 to 1969..

These institutions and others like them set the bar for what an experimental college could be, through willingness and innovation. Experimental schools were not just liberal clones of typical colleges of the era. Many of the policies and processes of traditional colleges and universities were greatly modified or completely jettisoned.

The EC at MSC was not liberal in the same vein as Hampshire College, which was described by Coyne and Herbert, in 1969, as “students and faculty always doing the old Peace Corps things” or the College of the Potomac, which had no full-time faculty.  Rather, the EC relied on professionals from various fields to relate their experiences to the student body. This in itself, however, was a substantial leap forward for MSC.