Well equipped, when working

Editor’s note: This is a series of columns by John Malcolm on his “50 years at Fredonia.” Retired, he is a professor emeritus at Fredonia State.


There was an intercommunication system between the halls and the engineering shops but by the time a technician had been called lots of class time had been lost. Needless to say the best laid plans of engineers – or technicians were discarded.

As the third director of the McEwen building, starting in 1977, and with a greatly diminished staff, I tried to solve some of the problems. Just as an example the building opened with five janitorial positions; by 1977 there were two with some part-time student help. The equipment had not aged well. One of my memos to Dr. Richard Jarvis, academic vice president who was teaching a class in McEwen, read something like this:

“On entering the room you may find that the lights will not go on. You will have to go to the projection booth; climb down into the pit to the rear of the screens where you will find a 2X4 painted yellow. Open the door on the metal box and move the relays with the 2X4. Returning to the classroom I hope you have not scheduled more than 70 students since 50 of the seats either are broken or without tablet arms. If you plan on using the television sets be aware that at times you will have to strike the sets on the front to restore picture or on the side for sound.”

There were shortly some major improvements made to these rooms. It was obvious, however, that some alternative plan was necessary.

To understand the problems of McEwen, and other campus media centers one has to go to the beginning and the source in Albany.

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller had great dreams for the university. One of his moves was to hire Samuel B. Gould as chancellor. Chancellor Gould had previously served as President of Antioch College in Ohio and most recently as program director for WNDT (now WNET) in New York City. He did not have an earned doctorate but this did not, (and probably helped) hurt his vision for a technically advanced institution.

Note that Antioch was way ahead of the pack in delivering instruction to non-standard students in remote locations. In later years I attended one of his lectures and I was very impressed by his ideas.

Unfortunately many of his ideas were lost to expediency. Dr. Gould did have a spectacular inaugural at Lincoln Center televised in color. (One time Dr. Gould apparently slipped in a hotel bathroom and injured himself. The story that came out of this was that if he had stayed at a hotel on the per-diem allowance he wouldn’t have fallen since they didn’t have marble floors.)

John Malcolm is a Fredonia resident.