Steven Sample

Steven Sample

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[Intro slide stating:
UB School of Social Work
University at Buffalo] [Denise Krause speaking]: Well, thank you for hosting us here. I am Denise Krause and Steven Sample, the president of USC, and Holly Bridges, is
also with us, as is Sue Green from University of Buffalo, and Holly is from
USC, as well, in public relations or public relations projects. It is Tuesday,
December 11th, 2007, and we are at the campus of USC in Los Angeles.
[Sound cuts out for a bit.] And we would like to start a little bit
with hearing about your experience and time at UB, and if you would kindly start
talking about when you were at UB, your position, and what brought you to the
University of Buffalo.
[Steven Sample speaking]: Katherine and I came to UB in 1982 – from the University of Nebraska, where I was executive vice president, and I think I was 40 when I became president at UB. And I, I had wanted to be a university president in my thirties, but it never really happened. You just, you
just weren’t, did not reach manhood. Yeah, in the eyes of the boards of Trustees
that were considering candidates for presidency. But when I turned 40, suddenly
I was old enough. I guess I was old enough to carry a spear or something like that.
So, I was, I looked at a couple of universities, and it just seemed to me
that SUNY Buffalo was the most exciting. It was very important to me to be in a
public university, although that dissipated by the time I left UB, for
a private university. But the SUNY system had a lot of money, and it was a very
extensive system. It also had a very suffocating bureaucracy; That was the
downside, a suffocating bureaucracy of SUNY Central, but also a suffocating
bureaucracy in the, in state government, as well. But that was the basis on which Katherine and I came. When we, when we arrived at UB – we could sense it during the interview process. But when we actually arrived full-time, which I think was in March, ah, ’82 You … SUNY Buffalo was sort of down on
itself. SUNY, to some extent, was down on itself, but particularly, I think SUNY
Buffalo. I don’t know all the reasons why, but it was, it was like a person who was
bruised all over any place you touched, you know? It hurt. I can remember talking
to students, probably over a period of a few months. I probably talked to over 100
students and no student that I ever talked to said that he or she was proud
to be at SUNY Buffalo and I’d say, you know, what are the great advantages and
they kind of look down, and say, “Well, it was a state school, tuition was kind of low.”
You know, things like that. So, that really, that really struck me, was the first time
I’d ever been at any University where students weren’t proud to be there. And part of the
reason for that is the fact that New York State and New England generally are
very focused on private higher education, that’s the model of excellence. Unlike
from the middle West, the West. So, it seemed to me my first job was to get
people to be proud of being at a public university, because at the time the state
acquired UB, in ’62, that was when the State of New York was putting together
its state university system, and at that time, almost everybody agreed that, that
SUNY was the college of last resort. SUNY was where you went to go to college when
you couldn’t go to college, because of this emphasis on private higher
education. So, an early agenda item for Katherine and me was to get people thinking that
being part of a public university was a good thing, and that we should compare
ourselves to other public universities, rather than comparing ourselves to
private universities, which we would never be again. And that was, I think that
was a positive step, when I kept saying, let’s look at, let’s compare UB with the
University of Michigan or the University of Wisconsin, the University of
California Los Angeles, you know. And forget about this private higher
education. We’re not private anymore. We once were. And so, many constituents, not
just at the university, but of the town, always felt that the UB had been raped
by the state government, and this hostile takeover. There was some truth to
that, but on the other hand, the private UB was in deep financial difficulties. So,
the State did come in and invest billions of dollars, and in those days, a
billion dollars was a real chunk of money. A lot of new buildings, you know,
higher faculty salaries, better library acquisitions. So, I used to say in
speeches, I described it, and I’d say, so, many of the city fathers of Buffalo felt
that Rockefeller was raping us, but then I would say some rape you know, because
of this huge investment. I guess that maybe tells you most of what you want to know in a preliminary way. [Denise Krause speaking]: Well, one of the credits that you have gained, I think has been putting UB on that track, and moving it into the
Research 1 kind of university that it is today. And certainly, Greiner picked
that up following you, and I would imagine when you came in ’82, there was a
lot of unfinished business, I think from the 70s. At least, that’s what I had read
about, and you followed President Ketter. [Steven Sample speaking]: I did.
[Denise Krause speaking]: And I remember reading in some of the UB articles that Ketter was not well-liked, at least was the tenor. And what was it like coming into an atmosphere at the University, where you
knew the former president stood on shaky ground with folks?
[Steven Sample speaking]: Well, coming to, coming
to UB in ’82, following Dr. Ketter was an easier transition than it might have
been. It’s almost, almost always easier for a new president to follow an
outgoing president who is not well liked. That gives you sort of some instant,
instant score points. So to speak, right at the beginning. So, the fact that,
that Ketter was, maybe unfairly, but was demonized by so many students, in fact,
made my job easier. I remember coming in on a Sunday evening to actually, ahead of
the [inaudible] Buffalo, to actually take over as, as president, and I was met by this phalanx of the University Police and university administrators; university this that. They said, “The students have taken over Sproul
Hall. They’re going to sit-in at the president’s office.” And the head of this
delegation, I think, the senior police officer said, “So, sir, what are your, what
are your orders?” And I looked at my watch, and I said, “You know, gentleman. It’s 9:30
at night. I don’t become president until midnight. So, I’m going to go to bed, and at midnight, if there’s still a problem, give
me a call.” Now, that was, they were a little taken
aback by that, but in New York State, there is a law that gives a president an enormous authority to dismiss someone without a hearing. So, the university president, I think private, as well as public, can hide
behind this law, and, and dismiss disenrolled students, or faculty for that
matter, without any kind of prior hearing. But then that person, who was disenrolled,
had to be, and have an opportunity for a hearing with the president, I think
within two days after the disenrollment. So, at the time I became president, which
was at midnight on that fateful Sunday night. During the intervening two hours,
President Ketter had disenrolled 30, 40 students, and if you’re disenrolled, under
that set of rubrics, then all of your personal belongings are cleared out of
your dormitory, and it’s put on the curb, and you become persona non grata. You
cannot legally come onto the campus, until after this hearing. So, there are a lot
of kids out there in the cold, in March, with everything they owned on
the street. And we set up these hearings. We encouraged every student to get a
lawyer, and to bring a parent, because the issue of the hearing was not, should this
young person be disenrolled, the issue, the issue was should he or she be
reinstated, because they were already disenrolled. And so, I sat through these
hearings, and I would ask the student, you know, “Do you think you’d be
comfortable coming back into this community and living within our rubrics?
Living within our rules?”
“Oh, yes sir, Mr. President.” And the lawyer, would say, “My client …” The mom and dad would say, and so, all of the young people were reinstated. But it was a good way to start. I wasn’t the bad guy, hadn’t
disenrolled him. I let him back in, but everybody knew, you know, it could be kind of rough.
[Denise Krause speaking]: Do you remember what I did involved Squire Hall. Do you remember what, what it was that they were protesting? [Steven Sample speaking]: Well, as you know,
the State, there were a lot of decisions made at the State level or at the SUNY
system level, that would be made at a local level in most institutions, even
most public institutions. But the State had promised UB, an all-new campus, down in Amherst, 1200 acres. That it would be beautiful and green, with trees, and all
these new buildings. In retrospect, that was a mistake. In retrospect, the State, and SUNY, and UB should have taken over the golf course. Remember that golf course, just to the north of what we used to call the Main Street campus? In retrospect, hindsight’s always appropriate. The State should have
condemned that land, and taken it over, and UB should have expanded in that same
place, but the State thought they had an infinite amount of money. So, they brought to
1,200 acres, began to build buildings, academic buildings on the new campus, in Amherst, but that left some programs still at the old campus on Main Street, and academically, academically, it’s terrible to move a university. It’s always terrible. That’s what people
didn’t understand at the time, but UB was only partially moved, only half moved to
the new campus. So, there’s a lot of bus riding back and forth, and some people
still identified with the old campus, because that’s where the great battles
were fought during the late 60s and early 70s. And so, Sproul Hall was the
Student Union on the old campus, and of course, the plan was to build an all-new
Student Union, on the new campus, which I think ultimately came to pass. Actually, I
think that when it was appropriate of all, I was still president, but at that
time, the Student Union, such as to the extent that there was any student union, it was
Sproul, was it Sproul?
[Denise Krause speaking]: I think it’s Squire. [Steven Sample speaking]: Squire. Now, that’s something you’ll have to go back and correct. Squire Hall. So, Squire Hall was the Student Union, and, and Squire Hall was being closed, and it was going to be converted into the new dental building for the university, because the clear plan that was sort of emerging was that the Health Sciences would be on the Main Street campus, and
everything else in the university: Arts and Sciences, and Engineering, and all that would be at the new campus. So, in that context, it made sense to close Squire, and because construction had to begin, but a lot of students, and a lot of hangers-on from the late 60s and early 70s thought that was terrible. So, they occupied Squire Hall,
and that was, it was because they were unwilling to move. That’s when those
students were arrested, 11 o’clock at night, before I was president. They were
disenrolled. Personal belongings were put on the street, and that’s when I
became president. So, there was a big demonstration the next day of the
president’s office, and I think my approach was a little different from
Ketter. Ketter, Ketter took a lot of that stuff personally, and and it became a
bitter fight between the President and some radical faculty, and some radical
students. Now, my approach was more to ignore it, and to just say, look, you know,
we have to keep the buildings open, so that professors and students can go
about their business, but other than that, I just didn’t, I didn’t take it personally. I didn’t get angry, and so that all died out pretty quickly, and I remember that I gave a speech. I hadn’t planned to give a speech. [Pause.] I planned to be there until my inauguration, was going to happen in the fall, but because of all attention I, I gave a speech, just kind of describing how I plan to govern and it was, it was very well received. It was maybe one of the better speech I ever gave, in part because the audience were emotionally charged, because of the
recent events of sit-ins, arrests and disenrollments and the like. But, but it was, it
was, it was the taking over a Squire Hall, and gutting Squire, all converted into a
dental building that irritated. Now, it’s funny, in New York State, generally, and
in SUNY in particular, patience counts for a lot. You can get almost anything you want if you’re willing to wait long enough. So, as I said earlier, UB did get a brand new student, and what I’ve seen, a very nice one. And so, that, that did, that did come to pass. Eventually, if I’m not mistaken.
It almost happened during my watch, almost was completed during my watch, to
move all of the academic programs, onto the North Campus, of course, there were
the buildings of the North Campus, they were affectionately known by many
students as Neo-Nazi. Now that, and there’s actually, apparently an
architectural circles a word for that, called the new brutalism. So, the
buildings were often brutalistic, and whether it was Neo-Nazi or not, maybe a little unfair, but it didn’t, it didn’t have the same appeal as some of the warmer
buildings, architecturally warmer buildings on the Main Street Campus.
[Denise Krause speaking]: It’s funny that you mention that, because even today, the Ellicott complex, that dorm complex, is called Legoland because of the unique rectangular shapes of all the buildings, and so, it, it follows today in the myth of the University, you know, why the North Campus was constructed as it was, to keep protests down. [Steven Sample speaking]: The dorm half a mile from …
[Denise Krause speaking]: Yeah, yeah I,
you know, and it’s, I don’t know how many years later really, you know, and think
about that. As you know, we’re from the School of Social Work, and the School of
Social Work is one of the smaller professional schools at the university.
And we’re wondering what you might remember? I can refresh some of the deans who were, were
there. When you came to UB, Elizabeth Harvey was an interim who you had helped
to appoint to a full Dean, and she had followed a man named Sherman Merle, who
was a very conservative type of Dean, and she, when she took over his position,
there was a stability that was brought to the faculty that were in the School of Social
Work, that wasn’t there prior. After her, then came a man, Hugh Petrie, and–
[Steven Sample speaking]: Oh, sure.
[Denise Krause speaking]: Okay. And then following Hugh, was Fred Seidl, and he was there when you left.
[Steven Sample speaking]: Coming back. Just those two names.
[Denise Krause speaking]: Excellent. [Steven Sample speaking]: Well, to be
honest with the TV audience, to be honest, with you, as I already said, I don’t remember
much about the School of Nursing, I’m sorry about the School of Social Work. I did
see this connection off- or I got this connection, my daughter got for me off
the web, where the Social Work program at Syracuse University was begun as an
offshoot from the private, from the Social Work School at the private
University of Buffalo. But then Syracuse developed its own School of Social Work. I think it’s fair to say, based on that evidence alone, that the school was alive and well. I got the impression,
not based on fact, that the School of Social Work, and UB, like the Social
Work Schools at many campuses around the country was very politically active. It
was a, it was and there were a set of political, almost quasi-religious commitments. Not religious in the sense of regular churches, but something that’s held that deep in the hearts of the faculty, and in the
hearts of many of the students. We can argue, men and women of goodwill could
argue forever, as to whether or not that’s appropriate. Maybe in the long run it isn’t appropriate, but it certainly gave a vitality I think to, not just to the
School of Social Work, but to the whole campus. I would guess now, and you ladies can fill me in, I would guess that the school is much less politicized now than it was at that time. And a defining moment for the University of Buffalo, probably in the negative sense,
was all of the sturm and drang took place in the late 60s, early 70s.
That was, that left deep divisions amongst faculty. Deep divisions amongst students and alumni, and I think Katherine, I worked very hard to try, to try to overcome that. Part of it, as I say, was to always bring forth models of excellence in public universities. It was very much like the ugly duckling story,
you know. If the, if the ugly duckling had continued to compare himself with ducks,
he would always be ugly. Nothing he could do whatever make him look acceptable to the
ducks, but was when he accepted the fact himself that he was a swan, and didn’t
give a damn about, you know, about what the ducks thought of him. He was a swan, and a very
beautiful swan. Got along well with other swans, took the swan standard of beauty and incorporated that, rather than the duck standard. So, I think that’s a good metaphor for what my wife and I tried to
do during our nine years there at UB, and that was one of the reasons that we
reactivated the intercollegiate sports program, because that’s very
characteristic of public relations. But the biggest defining moment, in my
judgement, during my presidency was when UB was elected to the Association
of American Universities, the AAU. It was, it was very much breaking down a color
barrier, breaking through some kind of, some kind of getting over a stomach
bug, because the AAU is the University Club, and every University wants to
belong to it. There are what? 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States; only 60 belong to the AAU, 61 or something like that. But at the time I was
president, there had never been a public university in all of New York and New England
elected to the AAU. So, you know, we’re upon half the total membership the AAU is
public universities, Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, Wisconsin, Loyola, and all those
great public universities, but there had never been a public elected to the AAU. So, when
Buffalo was elected, it was a big deal for SUNY Buffalo. It was a big deal for
the SUNY system, but it was a very big deal for public higher education in New York and New England. Because you know, it’s like anything else. You know, any other kind of barriers, you
can break it down once, you know, it’s gonna happen again and again. And now,
there are, well, Stony Brook, recently got elected to the AAU. So, now SUNY has two members, and except for the University of California, that has 6 members, SUNY is
the only state system in America that has two members of the AAU. And uh, and
that’s, so that culminated that, that was the capstone success for the SUNY system,
and in an effort that was begun when Katherine and I came to Buffalo, in ’82. I
think, we were elected to the AAU, in like ’89 maybe, something like that,
a couple of years before I came out here, but that was the big deal. That was the
big cleansing as it were, you know. Suddenly, suddenly SUNY, at least SUNY
Buffalo wasn’t the place you went to when you couldn’t get into college. It wasn’t
the college of last resort. I remember going to a trustee meeting, a SUNY trustee
meeting in Albany, and listening to this trustee say, “Well, remember, you know SUNY is where you get to go to college when you can’t go, get into college or SUNY
is the College of last resort.” And I’m sitting there thinking, what the hell’s
this guy smoking? You know? We’re trying to make this into a first-class
operation, and he’s back there with this, you know, and he, he meant it as a compliment. You know that to him was, was a great compliment. I thought it was awful, but that electing, election to the AAU was just the, I think, it was the biggest single thing, and I worked hard, so did Katherine, for years to get that to happen. There’s a very complex political basis. And I remember we had a Dean, not the
Dean of Social Work, who will remain nameless, and when we started this big
push early on in my tenure, at Buffalo, this big push to get UB elected to
the AAU, he came into my office, and he said, “Steve,” he said. “You’re wasting your
time. It’ll never happen, and you’re raising expectations falsely.” And I said,
“Well, thank you very much for, you know, the advice and counsel, and but I feel
pretty strongly it’s what I’m going to do.” So, when we got elected, let’s say seven
years later, he came to my office again, and he said, “I never thought it would
have happened, but I got to tell you, Steve, it was all salesmanship. We don’t
really belong in the AAU.” Can you imagine that? It’s like that idiot trustee down
at Albany saying it’s, SUNY was the college of last resort. But anyway, that
was a big deal. Getting the earthquake center, what, was a big deal.
And by the way, Bob Ketter doesn’t get the honor and credit that he deserves.
Getting that Earthquake Center, taking that away from California, was, was a big
deal, and Bob Ketter was the guy who really led the charge, and he, he had
gotten an early copy. See, the money, the 25 million dollars from the
National Earthquake Center was put into the NSF budget originally, as an earmark,
earmarked for California, and Senator Pete Wilson was senior citizen, senior
senator from California, was the guy who put the money in. But the California
institutions were politically against earmarks. So, they urged Senator Wilson,
Pete Wilson, please don’t put it in as an earmark. Put it in as a competition, but
we’ll rig the competition, so the California schools will win. And I admire
Ketter to this day. He, he got wind of it, that it was going to be rigged, you have
one week to respond. You get the the RFP, or the request for proposal, request
application, RFP and the final proposal was going to be due six days later, and it
had to have a half-million dollar commitment of either gift money or
public money to go along with it. So, Ketter calls me up, and he says, “Are you
familiar with this thing?” I said, “Bob, I know nothing about it.” And told me what
the deal was. He said, “Steve, we got a surreptitious copy three weeks ago.” So, he
said, “I think we’ve got a great proposal. We’ve got Cornell and Columbia
University as our partners.” And he said, “I think we have a shot. But we need five
million dollars from the state.” He said, “Can you get it?” I said, “I don’t know but
I’ll get to work on it.” I called every chip we had, and got a
reluctant commitment from the State for five million dollars of matching funds,
if we won this grant. And of course, we won the grant, and the Californians were
angry beyond belief. And Senator Wilson was angry beyond belief, because he was
the one who lifted up to twenty five million dollars, and wanted to do it as
an earmark. And instead, the California institutions convinced him to allow the
NSF to compete the proposal, to compete for the grant, and we won. And he was – in
fact, he was, it was funny. He came back to California, became
governor, and shortly after that, I came to USC as president, and I was at a
reception line where the governor was shaking hands, and I said, “Hi, governor,” I
said. “I’m Steve Sample, president of USC,” at that time. The governor said,
“Sample, Sample,” he said. “Aren’t you that son of a bitch that stole my 25 million
dollars?” And I said, “Well, yes, governor. But, but there’s now two national centers,
and the second one is at USC here in California.” “Well,” he said. “I guess that’s okay.”
He was just having fun with it.
[Denise Krause speaking]: Great story. [Steve Sample speaking]: I don’t know how that’s gonna
sit with your audience, because I use the word ‘son of a bitch’ here.
[Denise Krause speaking]: Are you kidding? People love it. “Come and see Steve Sample, say son of a bitch.” [Steve Sample speaking]: Well, that’s,
you know, that’s what he said. And you know, amongst men sometimes, you use terms for each other, kind of poke the other guy a little bit. But that was a, that was
a big, big victory, because it meant that public UB could take on public UCLA, or
public Berkeley, and hold its own. So, I think, I think that was the, that was, that
was the challenge, and cuz throughout New York, New England, public higher education
is considered second-class, and so, there was a great cleansing, a great laundering that
took place when we were elected to the AAU, and I think, reinforced even more so
when Stony Brook was elected.
[Denise Krause speaking]: I’m thinking about then UB’s relationship with the community of Buffalo, and western New York. How do you think, during
your tenure as president, the, that relationship changed? Because I, I’m just
wondering from your point of view.
[Steve Sample speaking]: Well, I think, not necessarily due to me, but I think during the years when
I was president at UB, we became a lot closer to the community. Small example, we
took the, what’s it called, the United Way campaign seriously, and we became one of
the biggest institutional donors to United Way. Encouraged a lot of
public service programs with the schools. We were the largest employer in Buffalo,
probably the largest employer in what’s the county name? Yeah, yeah, yeah, probably, the largest employer in Erie County, and those were economically very harsh times
for Buffalo and Erie County. I can remember when a McDonald’s was going open, wanted to open, and people would camp for maybe two days, to get a hamburger
flipping job at a McDonald’s. They camp in a long line like this, it was, it’s
really terrible, you know? If you got here in California, and get a little uptick in
the unemployment, people think it’s a big deal, but at one point, we had fifteen
percent unemployment in the City of Buffalo, that was, those were tough times.
With inhospitable weather, half, half, half of the year. So, I think SUNY
Buffalo accepted its, accepted the challenge of being the biggest employer,
having the best shot at encouraging new jobs. The state, which is very socialistic
in New York, but bless their heart, they wanted to funnel money into western New
York, and UB was a good funnel, because we were owned by the state, but physically
located there. And I think a lot of faculty took our obligations to the community
very seriously. And I think at that time, if you had
asked people in or outside of Buffalo, one of the two or three engines
of economic development that might be successful, I think UB, SUNY Buffalo would
have made the top two or three almost for sure. So, I think we became more of the
community. We also built a political machine in the sense that a lot of state
legislators were, and we were able to seduce them, to come in and help SUNY
Buffalo and it’s competition for funds from the state, which would be helpful
for everybody in the City of Buffalo, and the county of Erie, and we went around
and made friends with all the small colleges. One of the things that bedevils the president of a small college, most of which were a religious in Western New York, was a, was a library problem. You know, the historians in this
little college wanted certain journals, and the physicists wanted certain
journals, and there’s just no way that that small college can have those kinds
of subscriptions, or they wanted access to research books. So, we invented something at SUNY Buffalo where we went to a private college, and
said, “Look,” a small little College. Said, “Look, you have library problems. We will
make all of your faculty, we’ll give them all faculty privileges at the UB library
and the deal is if they take out a book, and don’t, and lose it, don’t return it,
than you, Mr. President, over this little college, you have to pay for it. Other
than that, it cost you nothing.” Well, they love that, see? Because it took all the
pressure off those presents, and it gave the faculty at small college X, Y or Z,
not only did it give them access with long checkout periods at the UB libraries,
which were pretty good, but it gave them a certain amount of status, you know? They
had this SUNY Buffalo ID card. So, that was one of the dumb, easy things we could
do to help build a political machine, and, and I think we had a very good machine
built. I could get to the governor a lot quicker than the system Chancellor could
get to the governor, and that was helpful. So, we had a lot of direct access to the
state, we could bypass the city administration. We used to have a saying that, you know,
if the Chancellor proposed something, and if Buffalo was also in favor of it,
then it didn’t matter what the other campuses felt one way or the other. But,
if the Chancellor proposed something, and Buffalo was against it, then it was a
heavy lift for the Chancellor to get it through, and that wasn’t just because we
were by far the biggest campus in the system, but it was because we had good
political connections, and we had nurtured by doing favors. I don’t mean
favors, under the table, but trying to help given state senator, state
assemblyman. Trying to help them with a problem they had, so that they would help
us with the problem we had. [Denise Krause speaking]: It’s, it’s interesting to me to hear you say that, because it is around that time that the School of Social Work in its field
placements reached out to the the graduate, competing schools, as well as,
the undergraduate schools, and formed alliances in a new way that allowed their field
instructors to come to our trainings, so, I can kind of see the isomorphic, or the parallel process effect, and I didn’t know where they came from, and I can kind of see how you’re thinking influenced the school in that way.
[Steve Sample speaking]: Yeah, and I think, you know, there were so many things that we always call them dumb, easy things, little things that you could do for an assemblyman, a senator, a
president of a small college, and —
[Sue Green speaking]: I’m going to have to stop you. Because it dotted out.
[Denise Krause speaking]: It dotted out?
[Video advances a bit.] So,
it’s, it’s I think important for us to ask, and let me ask, yep Holly you’re – [Video skips a few times, choppy editing.] [Denise Krause speaking]: One of the areas that Sue was referring to, is in around between ’80 and ’83 around the time for the School of Social Work mentioned the deans, and again, you may or may not know even of this, there was a decrease in faculty by about 14 positions.
[Steve Sample speaking]: In the School of Social Work? [Denise Krause speaking]: In the School of Social Work. And the, the rumor had it and it was believed that, by the faculty, that the university wanted to close the School of Social Work. And we’re
wondering if you have any recollection of that time, or it’s even something that —
[Steve Sample speaking]: You think that happened in the early 80s? [Denise Krause speaking]: Yep, yeah, it happened.
[Steve Sample speaking]: Well, I was certainly president then. I really, honestly, I don’t remember that as a, as an issue or came up. [Denise Krause speaking]: Well, and, and that’s possible, because it really occurred between ’80 and ’83. The School itself was put on probation from the national accreditation which was the Council, or is the Council on
Social Education, and that all happened around the same time. So, it really was
during your transition period, and what we’ve heard from the former faculty that
we interviewed and saw in some of the documents, is that the community really
responded to that with many letters, and statements of support.
[Steve Sample speaking]: Yes, some of that is coming back.
[Sue Green speaking]: Oh, gee, I just lost him. [Steve Sample speaking]: I’m gonna keep talking and wiggle something (referring to the microphone). Maybe it’s in the microphone. How about now? All right. Maybe it’s in
this little corner, maybe it’s where … how ’bout now, how about now?
[Holly Bridges speaking]: What happens if you push the connection together?
[Steve Sample speaking]: This one here? [Sue Green speaking]: Okay, we’re good.
[Steve Sample speaking]: Now?
[Sue Green speaking]: Yeah. [Holly Bridges speaking]: Here. So, how close can I be. It seems like maybe if I hold that … because sometimes those connections … [Steve Sample speaking]: How about now?
[Sue Green speaking]: It’s good, yeah. And we’re gonna change these batteries, because we have a double thing right here.
[Denise Krause speaking]: Just in case.
[Sue Green speaking]: Because I want to
capture the moment that just happened. [Slight skip forward in the video.]
[Sue Green speaking]: I mean, it just had to come in closer for you. So.
[Steve Sample speaking]: That’s fine. [Denise Krause speaking]: Yeah, yeah, so, we were talking about the time when the
community responded to the perceived or real threats of closure. It’s hard to
know what, what they were, but in fact, we were put on probation. So, we know that
that really happened, and just wondering if you remember anything about that time?
[Steve Sample speaking]: Well, what I do remember is the community response, and it was very strong. I don’t
remember internal battles, in particular, about should the School of Social Work be
closed or not, but I remember certainly a perception, as I now recall, with an aging
memory, there certainly was a perception that the university was going to do bad
things to Social Work. In their community response, I think the community response
was very effective. There used to be a saying in Chicago, which is my wife’s hometown.
When the original Mayor Daley was in charge, not the current one, but the original one. And something would come up and it would cause a great furor in the city, and the press, you know. Twenty TV cameras, everything. It was pressing it on the mayor, you know. “What did you mean when you said
this, this and this?” And he said, “I never said it.” And the saying in Chicago was, ‘if
the mayor said he didn’t say it, he didn’t say it.’ Because if he turned around, and was on your side, you don’t care what he said before. He just had him on your side. So, there was probably a little bit of that, you know, the University, I’m conjecturing now, but … “We never intended to close Social Work.” And
if the mayor said he didn’t say, he didn’t say it. But in any event, by
whatever process, Social Work survived, and it sounds from our earlier
discussions that it’s flourishing. [Denise Krause speaking]: We’re, we’re definitely at a high, in terms of enrollment, and also about the same high as in terms of faculty. At one point, the
School of Social Work was both a Master’s and, and a Bachelor’s program, and now it
is only a Master’s. So, I think–
[Steve Sample speaking]: That may have been an outcome of the, of a human
crier. That may have been part of the administrative leadership, leaving just
the professional degree, because the Bachelor’s, I don’t think was a degree of
licensure, was it? You had to have the MSW anyway in order to practice, or to get a license. [Denise Krause speaking]: And I guess the other question, Sue, that you had thrown out there was about Social Work, and in general what, what you
know. USC has a School of Social Work.
[Steve Sample speaking]: Yes, we do. And it’s very successful. One of the reasons
is, is that the Dean, with help from others has proven to be a great
fundraiser, and she’s a person who, who’s appeal in our academic community is more
Catholic. In other words, that’s a lowercase C. She’s made good
connections, and is well respected by other Deans, and by the senior officers.
Got a big gift, raised enough money to completely remodel her building. I think, I
think she got some very substantial endowment gifts. So, it’s a, it’s a good
program, and I think nationally it’s ranked very high. But I think people here
feel that it’s just, it’s a natural for this university. One of the things which,
we closed our nursing school. Which was a terrible thing in the midst of a huge
nursing shortage. But when you have a private university like USC, that has to
be able to survive on its own economically, then there has to be a perceived significant difference in quality between students who graduate in that program from USC versus students who graduate from that program from UCLA. I mean, suppose you are making ladies handbags. You had a competitor down the street who could make them at fifteen percent less than you can, you’d be killed in the marketplace. We are up against competitors, great public universities,
where our tuition is like, five to six times. Our tuition is $31,000 a year,
don’t hold me to that, it’s something of that order, and UCLA is $5,000 or $6,000. So,
you know, I mean the marketplace has to perceive the product of all of this,
private university as being very superior in the educational experience
of the student or the premium in the marketplace when the student finishes
her program. And that just wasn’t the case in nursing, and we couldn’t, we
couldn’t survive, but everything else here is flourishing very nicely,
including social work. But it has to be that belief that a USC Social Work graduate
is patently better than others. [Denise Krause speaking]: I remember reading in some of your CV that you had worked with the School of Nursing at UB on a couple of things. So, I would imagine that must have been tough for you on some level. [Steve Sample speaking]: You mean nursing here or —
[Denise Krause speaking]: Closing it.
[Steve Sample speaking]: It was tough. It was, it was very tough, and I think there’s still an
opportunity for us to maintain a graduate program in nursing, but you know,
here we have this great nursing shortage, and USC is closing its nursing school.
How do you, How do you account for that? And the hospitals are saying, “Oh, you can’t do
that, you know. Blah blah blah blah blah.” But would they pay a premium for a USC
nurse versus a Community College nurse? No. Will they pay a premium for an
engineer from USC? Yes. Law? Yes. Medicine? Yes. Business? Yes. Nursing they just
continue to treat nurses as interchangeable parts as opposed to professionals whose experience is
and skill, and whose education is
better than the competitions. [Denise Krause speaking]: Is there anything you
were hoping that I would ask, that I haven’t? [Laughter.]
[Steve Sample speaking]: Is there anything you haven’t
asked that I’m glad you didn’t?
[Laughter.] [Denise Krause speaking]: That too.
[Steve Sample speaking]: Well, ah … [pause.] Yeah, I guess if I had a little freewheeling time, I’d just say, you know, how did Katherine and I look back 17 years later, because I’ve been here, for 17 years which is hard to believe. So, you know, my latest experience and UB was 17 years ago. It was great to come back to the Chancellor Norton’s Medal. It was great to come back for an honorary
Doctorate. We’re always very well treated. I’ve come back, given a couple of
speeches, talked about my book on leadership, and it’s, we have a lot of
friends there, a lot of friends and some good feelings, and we worked very, very, very
hard. And a lot of other people, not hundreds, but thousands of other people work very, very hard. And I think there’s now that clear sense that public higher education in New York, in New England is okay. And
public education, particularly in New York State is okay. It’s good, and, and now, we have UB, and Stony Brook both as members of the AAU. That’s, that’s good. So, we look back on it as, as a lot of fun, a real challenge. A real challenge, and I
think, I think when I left or when I come back
to one of these wonderful awards, I’d have a chance to talk to students, and
I’d say, you know, as I did when I first came, many years ago. I’d say, “Why
did you come to UB?”
“Well, because it’s a very good school, you know?” Positive, honest-to-goodness, the first time we were there, not only were the kids not
saying anything substantively positive about UB, but they kind of looked at the
ground. They wouldn’t even look you in the eye. And now, as I go back and talk to
students at UB, they say, “Yeah, I’m very proud to be here. It’s a good, this is a good place. Lots of, lots of kids I knew in my high school couldn’t get in.” You know? That sort of thing. So, not that I caused that change in energy, but I was part of that change
in energy. And that’s very satisfying. [Sue Green speaking]: I have two things actually, if you don’t mind. As a native Buffalonian, I want to say, thank you for helping that happen.
Definitely, and one of the, my second piece here is that a lot of times we,
each interview we’ve asked folks to make a comment, if you would, as if this were
future graduates in the camera here, you know, that will be viewing you, if you
will. Do you have any thoughts and or things that you would like to kind of
say to future Social Work graduates of the School of Social Work from University
of Buffalo? And if you could, kind of begin that with —
[Steve Sample speaking]: Yeah, what might I say to future graduates … Just of Social Work or the whole University?
[Sue Green speaking]: Social Work. [Steve Sample speaking]: Well, I don’t know the Social Work School, the Social Work program of UB well enough to really say anything intelligent about it today,
17 years later. But I would say going forward, I think it’s good that schools
of Social Work have, have moved away from the extreme politicization, and are
looking at it more as a profession, knowing that different practitioners will
have different values. I think one of the problems of Social Work nationally, not
just at UB, and to be fair, not here at all, but, you know, once an academic discipline
becomes politicized, then there becomes a party line, and if you aren’t saying that
during the job interview, there’s no room for you in this particular program. So, I
think social work has become much more professional. They’re willing to let people
in with very different political views or different values, but who are client
oriented. So, I guess I would say to recent graduates, future graduates, don’t, don’t allow the profession to become politicized. Understand that when we talk about diversity, it isn’t just color or gender or religion or ethnicity. If there needs to be, in a great, healthy university or in a great healthy social work school, a diversity of political opinions, a diversity of values, that I think this, I
I don’t know that we lost it, nationally. I don’t know enough about social work, but if we did, it’s, it’s good that we, we’re back to a professionalization of social work. I think. Did I give you what you need?
[Denise Krause speaking]: Wise words. Thank you so much. This is really a pleasure, and an honor. Just awesome.
[Sue Green speaking]: Very much so. Holly, is there anything –? [Holly Bridges speaking]: I don’t mind son of a bitch. [Laughter.] [Closing slide stating:
UB School of Social Work
University at Buffalo]

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