1937-1946: The Struggle for Life and Survival
1947-1956: Building on the Beginnings
1957-1966: Changing with the Times
1967-1976: Developing a Bigger Vision
1977-1986: Growing Through Hard Times
1987-1996: Preparing for a New Century
1997-Future: The Vision
2003: Rewriting the law
1947-1956: Building on the Beginnings
One of the initial goals of the new Dean, Earl Klein, when he arrived in 1942 was to establish a genuine, stable two-year course of study. Some members of the University Board of Supervisors vigorously opposed "the work of a lot of New Deal parasites." During the December 8, 1947 meeting in which the Board discussed this proposed two-year professional social work curriculum, one Board member, Thomas Dutton, demanded that the department head [Dean Klein] should be "sent back to Illinois," and he "shouted protests that the welfare school 'should be thrown out of the University!' " (Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, December 9, 1947). Despite Mr. Dutton's energetic exercise of free speech, however, the Board
approved the Master of Social Work degree at that meeting.
The School was now ten years old. Legendary resident faculty such as Hilda Arndt, Sue Spencer, Harrison Dobbs, Mary Spence, Moss Tyler, Kathryne Mullinnix, Fanny Loupe, Mittie Gruber, Harriet Dresser, Francis Upham, Willie Mae Alexander, and others joined the School during this era. A virtual army of faculty field liaisons and instructors also worked as part of the School faculty throughthe years to direct students' applied learning in field agencies. These faculty members deeply impressed their students. Grady Hines, for example, praised Francis Upham, calling her one of the best teachers he ever had. "She wasn't there to give answers; she was there to ask questions. She made you think."
The two-year course of study leading to the MSW was approved by the American Association of Schools of Social Work in 1949. That year three students received the first official MSW degrees. 1949 also saw a partnership, one which would last 25 years, with a new federal agency, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which provided an initial $5400 grant to help the School develop its first curriculum specialization, psychiatric social work. This popular specialization, together with the School's child welfare program and the more modest curriculum offering of medical social work, resulted in the School's strong reputation as one of the leading schools for clinical social work training in the South. Despite its original goal of training public welfare administrators, much of the curriculum now centered on case work; as one faculty member declared, "Students were expected to know human dynamics, backward and forward!" Required courses in psychiatry and medicine were usually taught by adjunct faculty or LSU Medical School faculty. The medical model of "study, diagnosis, and treatment" held ascendance. While the School shot a scatterload of administration, group work, and community organization over students through one or two courses, these areas were clearly not the primary focus of the curriculum.
As funding and curriculum grew, so did the student body and teaching staff. By 1951, the School boasted 59 full-time students; that number stood at 75 by 1955. The Social Welfare Student Associationwas formed in 1949 at the School to promote student fellowship and improve student/faculty relationships. Dues were 25 cents a semester; the dues doubled to a scandalous 50 cents per semester in 1955! LSU students, unless they were living at home, were expected to live in dormitories; several dorms were designated as graduate dorms. Housing regulations were particularly strict for women, who were required to sign in and out of the dorm at all times and who had an 8 pm curfew every night except Saturday, when they could stay out till midnight.
Approximately one-third of the School's students were males, most of them veterans of World War II or the Korean War. Many of these veterans were married, and the trend of married students attending college was growing; by 1958, 2000 LSU students were married. Housing arrangements for these students were tight, so the University offered veterans a trailer park, where vets could park their house trailers for $30 a semester. Some dorm rooms were available for married students. And the University was making plans for a married student apartment building, which ultimately opened in 1958.
The student body was changing in another important respect: the first African-American student was admitted to the School LSU in 1951. Integration of the School occurred quietly, but not painlessly. The early African-American students did not enjoy complete freedom of movement in this newly-integrated
world. By 1956, fourteen African-American students had been enrolled in the School, and one had been awarded the MSW. Those 14 students werepart of a contingent of 117 black students on the entire campus, virtually all of whom were graduate students enrolled in education, law, and social work.
The integration of LSU resulted from court action, with African-Americans first being admitted to the University in 1950. According to then-University President Troy Middleton, speaking in 1956, the University preferred to maintain segregation in public education, but the state had clearly not provided separatebut- equal facilities for black citizens. The University, he stated, "believes in law and order and...respects the decisions of the court..it will abide by the law and respect constituted authority no matter how strongly it may disagree..." ("LSU and Segregation", LSU Alumni News, May-June 1956).
This was also an era of public fear of subversive activities. According to a 1950 law (House Bill No.1 038), "much of the world is in a state of political unrest...foreign agents and others who seek the overthrow or destruction of the government of the United States are known to be working in our country...." LSU employees were required to swear an oath of allegiance to the United States; students and faculty
were subject to dismissal for knowingly or willingly advocating or teaching the overthrow of the government.
By 1956, twenty-two hundred individual students had been enrolled in classes or workshops at the School over its 20-year history. Three hundred and thirty-two Certificates of Social Welfare and 97 Master of Social Work degrees had been awarded. Though the curriculum was heavily psychoanalytic, graduates of the School were fulfilling the original mission of the School: they were engaged in public welfare. By 1957, forty-five of the sixty-two directors of Parish Departments of Public Welfare in Louisiana were alums of the School.
The School's facilities in the Law Building grew increasingly cramped, with only three classrooms and limited storage space for necessary files. (The Dean pointed out rather testily that file cabinets of student records were crowded into his office, to his great inconvenience.) Housed in the "basement" (which actually was more like the ground floor on the lower slope of land), the School's administrative offices, faculty offices, and classrooms were all clumped together. Consequently, as one graduate put it, "Everybody was in everybody's face; we all knew each other's business." Dr. Hilda Arndt, a faculty member for 32 years, was more diplomatic in describing the Law Building as "insular-the building made it easy for faculty and students to be close to each other." The School faculty and students dreamed of someday having a separate building-and they still do.
As the, student body grew, so did the span of field placements. Adequate, appropriate field placements were a problem, because there were few specialized health and welfare agencies in Baton Rouge that offered graduate students the clinical placements that matched the psychiatric emphasis now paramount in the School. This problem was so serious that when the new building housing the LSU School of Medicine opened in New Orleans, where many more clinical resources existed, the School considered relocating there. Instead, the School opted to develop block field placements all over the state and the region. The connections between faculty field liaisons, students, and agency-based workers provided a rich cross-fertilization of professional ideas, cooperation, and work techniques. Through these connections, the School developed a growing regional reputation, a reputation enhanced by a number of major grants from US government agencies (in addition to NIMH), such as the Children's Bureau, Veteran's Administration, and Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
The School was committed to upholding standards, becoming in 1952 a charter member of the new social work education oversight body, the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE). The faculty of the School had high hopes: as early as 1950, the School's annual report to the University declared that:
- the School hoped to become the best school of social work in the South, and
- the School hoped to develop a doctoral program in social work.
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