Friday, December 10, 2010

Bremer: just saying “No” to long hair and windowlessness

Fred H. Bremer˜
     Reading the latest edition of the Lariat today, I noticed a brief article about former Saddleback College President and district Superintendent Fred H. Bremer, who died recently at the age of 87.
     The article referred to a Redlands newspaper, which I quickly located:

Redlands Daily Facts (November 24, 2010)
Fred H. Bremer (Obituary)

     The upshot: Bremer was born in West Virginia in ’23, served in the Army Air Corps during the war (B-24s), got a doctorate in philosophy in Texas, and settled into a career as an educator. He served as an administrator at the likes of McCook Junior College, Santa Ana College, Chapman College and then Saddleback College (in 1967).
     At Saddleback, he soon advanced to Superintendent/President.
     According to that wacky Redlands paper, “He served because he cared.”
     Well, OK then.

Hans W. Vogel
     Over the years, I’ve mentioned Bremer a couple of times.
     In Why is the Utt Library windowless?, I reported the explanation of the curious windowlessness of Saddleback’s James B. Utt Library. In its original design, the structure had windows in all but the bottom floor, but Board President Hans W. Vogel (who, BTW, is still among the living!) suddenly changed that during a board meeting.
     This reversal seemed to catch officials off guard. Bremer made an effort to rescue the plans, saying, “From an aesthetic viewpoint I feel a certain amount of windows are desirable, even in a library. Otherwise the building would have a prison-like appearance.”
     Good thinking. But Vogel and his board pals saw things differently. Said Vogel,
“A library is a learning center with a function to perform … and that function is best performed if there are no distractions. A student should be able to escape completely from reality. A fortress without windows is the ideal environment for library study since when you go to the library you are trying to reach the depths of your own mind.”
     Depths? OK.
     One of the architects was clearly horrified by such talk. He noted that “human beings like to know what’s going on outside even if they only see a patch of sky or clouds….”
     So true.
     It’s pretty clear that Vogel, another WWII vet, and the other birds weren’t so much concerned about students plumbing “mental depths” as they were fretting about students throwing fire bombs. Ten months earlier, student protesters burned down a B of A building in Santa Barbara.

Norm Coleman, 1970
     In Saddleback College’s war on hair, I reported a curious event from about the same time. Bremer, then the Superintendent of the “Saddleback Junior College District,” insisted upon a dress code that forbade long hair on men. Some hirsute kid was turned away during registration in 1969, and so he took the district to court. More hairy kids showed up and were turned away; they joined the suit.
     But, near as I can tell, things went downhill from there for these shaggy kids. In the end (I believe), the courts ruled in favor of Bremer and Co. (in 1971).
     In one of the filings, Bremer was on record as opining:
"Based upon my academic training and administrative experience, I am of the opinion that dress codes which include regulations applicable to male hair styles are desirable for junior colleges. Such codes aid in maintaining an environment which is conducive to learning and in avoiding disruptions of the educative process."
     Um. Guess so.
     In fact, no disruptions occurred with these three hairy kids let loose at the college.
John Williams, c. 1969

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So I guess you are saying that a male student with long hair would be a distraction to those looking out of the library window. hehehe too funny.Hope the long haired fellow wasnt smoking a bong.

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