The year 1968 was a tumultuous year, fraught with global social clashes, assassinations of key leaders, and an escalation of the Vietnam War. Worldwide protests marked a time of social change, catapulting an era which the world could no longer accept the status quo. The year led to myriad changes in the social world, the remnants of which can still be seen today.
While conflict abounded, 1968 was also a year of growth for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. UWM’s enrollment for 1968 was 16,000, and it was estimated that the University contributed $89.4 million to the local economy. Plans for expansion at UWM continued, even with the uncertainty brewing in the world around it.
It was in this climate that the Center for Twentieth Century Studies was founded. And, not surprisingly, the Center’s creation was embroiled in its own tumult. In December of 1968, then acting Director (later named Director) of the Center, Robert F. Roeming (French and Italian) completed the draft of the “Organization of the Center for Twentieth Century Studies” formally acknowledging it as “a functioning agency of humanistic studies.” The draft of the charter was developed throughout the 1968-69 academic year in consultation with Professors Melvin J. Friedman, Frederick J. Hoffman (who passed away during the creation of the Center), Justin Replogle, and Leroy Shaw.
Sharp criticism soon arose regarding the method of the Center’s creation. In an acrimonious letter written by Oliver T. Meyers, then the Chairman for Spanish and Portuguese, to the Dean of the College of Letters of Science, Roy G. Francis, Meyers noted, “We have all witnessed the curious event the past year in which a ‘Mission’ of UWM was created by mysterious administrative fiat, without meaningful faculty participation, and we are now feeling the full weight of that blunder as the faculty is called upon to carry out a mission that it did not decide on and that it fails to understand.” Meyers suggested later in the same letter that the Center was somehow the property of the Division of Humanities and Communication, and as such, “In a very real sense, the future of many of the departments of the Division lies with the success of the Center.”
The letter led to some clarification of the Center’s mission by Dean Francis. Specifically, Dean Francis stated in a letter dated January 20, 1969 to Meyers, “The Center is not conceived of as being the property of the Division of Humanities and Communication. Our intent–and we have been in rather constant albeit frequently informal communication with the faculty over the last few semesters-is to create an instrument that should eventually assist all humanistically oriented faculty regardless of the division or department in which he is budgeted.”