Annual Letter 1965

100 Ivyhurst

Amherst, New York l4226

December 17, 1965

 

Dear Friends: It almost seems as if we have become a family of nomads. Once again we are writing you from a different city. Shortly after we wrote you last year, I accepted a position at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The decision to uproot the children again was not easy. We had Just moved to Chicago in September 1963 after having returned to New Orleans from Europe only the year before. Nevertheless there were several considerations in addition to the professional advantages of the Buffalo position which made us decide to move, particularly the school situation which not only we but also the children felt to be unsatisfactory and the commuting which kept both of us away from the children more than we liked.

The move to Buffalo prevented us from accepting an invitation to spend the Summer again at the University of Arkansas. Instead we spent a wonderful week at the American Friends Service Committee's family camp at Lake Geneva, Wis., which combined relaxation with serious discussion, and Jeremy and Danny later spent several weeks with the Thompsons in Fayetteville, Ark. We arrived here the middle of August and have been very pleased with our move in most ways. The university is going through an interesting phase. Until 1962 this was the private University of Buffalo which as an urban uiversity served Buffalo in many of the ways Roosevelt serves Chicago. Since 1962 this has been the largest and most important unit of the relatively new State University of New York. Since then the university has grown by leaps and bounds as the state has attempted to transform it into a major university and graduate school. Faculty has multiplied; the library have become increasingly selective. The transition is far from completed and years will yet be required before the university will have the research facilities, reputation, and appeal to graduate Students which it hopes to acquire. My own professional position is very much prefer~ able to Roosevelt. I enjoyed the congeniality and liberality of Roosevelt but find the State University no less congenial or liberal. For the first time in my career, my teaching is closely related to my research. In addition to a lecture course in German history I teach only one seminar in an area of intellectual history of my choice. Actually lecture preparation and consultation with graduate students have left me somewhat less time for my research than I had expected. Wilma is teaching at Canisius College ten minutes down Main Street from the university. This is a Jesuit college, as Loyola University in Chicago was, which with 1,760 students has a much more intimate small college atmosphere than the Lewis Tower commuters‘ campus in Chicago did. Wilma unfortunately has less opportunity to teach German literature here; but she has a lighter load than at Loyola and the German language courses she teaches require much less preparation and thus leave her more time.

Life is undoubtedly more relaxed for all of us here than it was in Chicago. Buffalo is a quieter and friendlier city. Unable to find a rental near the university, we bought an older, quite spacious house with a large yard in the suburb of Amherst, almost midway between the present State University campus approximately l.5 miles and the new campus in Amherst to which the university will move in a few years. This is the first time that we have lived in a suburb and we would have preferred living in the city itself had we not been discouraged about the Buffalo schools. Buffalo is one of the two most poorly financed of New York's several hundred school districts and has many of the problems of urban schools in a severe form. Amherst has most of the advantages of an affluent suburban school district as well as the usual disadvantages. The schools have a good academic program. Classes are small. Much more attention is paid to the individual child than at Ray School in Chicago where the needs of the children seemed often subordinated to the conveniences of the staff. On the other hand, the pressures for social and political conformity are much greater than in the socially more heterogeneous school setting the children knew in Chicago. Their one comp1aint about school in Amherst is that they still feel as outsiders and have not made any friends yet. We too have not gotten to know any of our neighbors who are even more impersonal than our Hyde Park neighbors in Chicago were. The university, on the other hand, is a surprisingly friendly and sociable place despite its size and incidentelly has a very rich program of cultural events – concerts (the Budapest String Quartet is in residence here), plays, lectures, and movies of which we have taken ample advantage.

One of our hesitations in moving to Buffalo was that we had hoped to move from Chicago back to the South where for so many years we were engaged in the civil rights movement. It is true that the problems of the South have migrated to the North, but the contribution which the individual citizen can make toward their solution is a much more limited one. Here, as now also increasingly in the Southern urban centers, the problem is not legal segregation, which can be more easily combatted, but the much more complex pattern of discrimination. Housing and schooling, (at least on the elementary school level) are even more segregated than in Chicago. The fact that there are virtually no Negro students at the State University although about 20% of the population of Buffalo is now Negro is a reflection on the poor quality of ghetto education. Buffalo Negroes lack the leadership and organization of Chicago Negroes. Great hopes are being placed on raising sufficient money to bring Saul Alinsky here to organize the Negro community along lines similar to The Woodlawn Organization in Chicago. I have been working with the NAACP here in an as yet not very successful attempt to reactivate the education committee which has not functioned for some time. But the NAACP plays a much less central and effective role here than in the Southern communities we knew. This past year in Chicago and also here we have actually been more involved in the peace movement. We were active in organizing teachins in Chicago last spring and in collecting names for protest ads by Chicago and Buffalo area professors against the war in Viet Nam. Wilma participated in the march on Washington last month. We have no illusions about the effectiveness of these protests on public policy but see in them an expression of conscience in the face of what seems to us not only an unwise but especially with the barbarization of the war against the Vietnamese civilian pupulation an immoral policy.

In the hope that the coming year will see a lessening of international tensions in the Far East and elsewhere, we wish you all the best for the holiday season and the New Year.

 

Georg, Wilma, Jeremy, Danny, and Jonathan Iggers