Many of the new faculty recruited to Circle Campus were told that they would be creating a UCLA in the Midwest, a first-rate research university in an urban location. Department chairs generally emphasized research and graduate training to raise the status of the new school. The progress they made during the campus’ first five years was astonishing. In 1967, Circle Campus was granting master's degrees in thirteen areas. The following year, the Illinois Board of Higher Education approved several doctoral programs.
As a commuter campus, Circle tried to accommodate students by creating space for lounges and study areas, such as the Montgomery Ward Lounge on the second floor of the Chicago Circle Center. UIUC photo.
To locate the campus in Chicago, the University made a number of quiet commitments to the city’s private colleges, such as DePaul, Loyola, Roosevelt, and IIT. This “gentlemen’s agreement” limited Circle’s expansion into dormitories, night programs, some graduate programs, and professional degrees such as law and business administration.
In 1970, the State of Illinois began cutting university budgets, halting Circle’s growth only a few years after it had began. As political science professor Richard Johnson remembered, “All of higher education had been caught in the budgetary squeeze. The tragedy at Circle is that we weren’t able to complete the job of development. The faucet was turned off too soon.”
In order to attract research-oriented faculty, it was decided to build large lecture halls in the Great Court. UIUC photo.
Not everyone was happy over the drive toward research, however. Political scientist Milton Rakove, a popular teacher from Navy Pier, wrote an article appearing in the Sun-Times in May 1965 entitled “Research vs. Teaching: Our Circle Campus Opportunity.” Rakove urged a focus on undergraduate education rather than subordinating teaching to research. “We have a rare opportunity to create at Chicago Circle, not another average state school, but a really exciting first-rate teaching institution.” He cautioned against rushing into graduate programs: “We will have enough to do to build a good undergraduate program in the years ahead.”
Professor Milt Rakove. UIC OPA photo.