- Synopsis: Early Life, Student Activism, Experiences in DormsKeywords: early life; student activism; 1970s NIU; Vietnam War; student protest; protest march; Haiphong Harbor; language house; dorms; sexual assault; campus crimeTranscript: MCCORD: Ready? My name is Brock McCord. I'm here with my narrator, Janet Fair. Today is Saturday, October 26, 2019. I'm here today in the DeKalb Public Library, located in downtown DeKalb, Illinois, to conduct an oral history interview with Janet Fair for Northern Illinois University's 125th Anniversary oral history project. Thank you, Dr. Fair, for participating in this project. I'd like to start with a question about your background. Can you talk a little bit about where you grew up and your life before you came to NIU.
FAIR: Yes. My father was in the Air Force, so although I was born at Hill Air Force Base Utah, I only lived there nine months. I live various places, but mostly grew up in a airbase outside of Lincoln, Nebraska from kindergarten to seventh grade. I then lived on Okinawa for two and half years, came back to Nebraska for a year, and then graduated from high school in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, two years there. After that, I came back to Illinois, which is my parent's home state. I don't know if I should go on. I was looking to escape what I considered East Coast snobbery, was accepted at U of I, and told that I could only take, what shall we say, core courses. That's what they are at Loyola. Gen Ed, my first year, I didn't want to do that. That was false. Somebody didn't know what he was saying, but I said, "No, I want to take Latin." I came to Northern, which was the school where my mother and grandmother had gone to school.
MCCORD: What year was that?
FAIR: Nineteen seventy-one.
MCCORD: Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to be a student at NIU and particularly in the seventies?
FAIR: Yes. We were at the end of the social protest movement. It was actually pretty quiet. If you want me to go into it, when you want me to, I can tell you about the one protest march I went on, and the one occupation of Altgeld that I was peripherally involved with. The truth was, for me—Maybe you don't want to know this. This is personal rather than social history. I studied all the time. I was happy at this campus because I considered it quiet. People went home on the weekends. It was a quiet place to study. It was fine with me. It was certainly socially liberal. Do you want to ask another question or should I keep going?
MCCORD: You can feel free to go on.
FAIR: Okay. Are you interested in social history, academics or personal?
MCCORD: All of the above. Anything you want to talk about about your experience here.
FAIR: I will start with my teachers. I think they did a pretty good job. Everybody thinks their own teachers are good, but interestingly enough, in the language department, I took Latin, German, and ancient Greek, starting with Homeric Greek. The professors, I had many professors who were from Europe. I had many professors over and over again. I had people who had been through World War II, one a Jewish professor who had escaped, so I heard his stories. I had a lot of personal attention because I was the last Latin major at Northern. It's reorganized, at least it was a classics major, but they kept it on for me. I was in classes of one for a lot of my major. The academic experience was good. It was fine. I was satisfied. I worked terribly hard because I was the only person in my class, so I had to prepare as far as I would go. Socially, people were, I think, probably a lot more liberal minded than they are now. My generation was liberal. It's gone red [laughs] but not then. People did not have a lot of money, but it was a cheap time to live. I can talk about this. Although I grew up in a military family, I became a lifelong pacifist while living on Okinawa when I saw people who had been horribly injured in Vietnam and losing legs and things. I was a young teenager, went with my church group, and also a friend's father never came back. I was never that enthusiastic about the military. My father was in it for strictly instrumental reasons because he wanted to go to college. He had come from a poor family, farming family, tenant farmers from Northern Illinois. Always wanted to be a math professor, couldn't possibly go to college. My mother made it to go through Northern with a scholarship. His family were too poor, from the hills of Tennessee, didn't know. He went back into the military after World War II to get first a Bachelors, and then to a Master's degree, and became a math teacher in a community college. He was never a rah-rah military type person. He did his work, but it was not a meaning giving ideology. I became a pacifist, and I was opposed to the Vietnam War in general because I'm opposed to war in general, so that's easy for me. I know what I think about wars. I went on one protest march here, and this might be interesting to somebody. It was the mining of Haiphong Harbor in April of 1972. There were about one hundred people who went. It was on a Saturday, and we marched down or walked down, what was the fraternity and sorority row. At that time, the fraternity and sorority system was doing very poorly. It almost shut down. It was not popular. That wasn't part of the ethos, but we went. I couldn't help but see people came out from the houses and attacked and were hassling, even physically assaulting some of the marchers. It was at that moment that I decided I would never go on another march unless I felt it was absolutely vital. Stick to writing letters, and I've maintained that all my life. I saw that it was dangerous. As far as I could tell, it wasn't on the part of the protesters but rather the people surrounding. A couple of weeks later, some of my friends, and not me, because I had this, maybe military background, I don’t know what it was, and Greek. I was studying Greek, Socrates, the law, the laws of Athens. They were like God. I did not go with my friends, but some people occupied Altgeld. I don't know if you're aware of that history. They got in by an unlocked window, so they didn't do any damage. I went to check on them early in the morning knowing what was going on. I couldn't occupy any buildings myself. It happened, and I don't know how I came into this. I came into some donuts, which was not normal for me. Perhaps they were left in a lounge, in the dorm. I had access to these donuts, and took them to them, but did not go in, and they later just left. We also remember that morning, I went to German class nine o'clock. It was a Fraulein Dr. Joanna van Linte who—I don't know if she's retired yet but she's been here for years. She asked us, "Would you like to cancel class in protest?" I, at least, said, "No," because I had done my thing, and I wanted to go to class. She said, "What's the matter with you people? We need to cancel class," so we did. She, by the way, had been the shipmate of Angela Davis, radical going to study. She studied philosophy, and Joanna studied literature in Germany, and I don't know where they were. I didn't look it up. Hamburg, Heidelberg, I don't know where they were. There was, what shall I say, there was a leftist leaning. There was hostility to authority, which I found in high school, which I didn't share. I had political views, but I was not hostile to authority.
MCCORD: What do you remember how you got involved in that first protest, or what that process was like before you?
FAIR: I think it was word of mouth. People talked about it happening, and we probably had SDS on the campus. I'm quite sure that I learned about it in the dorm, but I was not in with any of the leaders. I was a freshman and just a politically alert person.
MCCORD: You mentioned SDS? What does that stand for?
FAIR: Students for Democratic Society.
MCCORD: I see.
FAIR: A leftist leaning and radical voice of the time.
MCCORD: You talked a little bit about being involved with those student protests, and then how you decided not to be for the remainder of your time. Were you a member of any other sub-communities?
FAIR: I was involved and this is not political at all. I was very active in the Language House, getting it started. To this day, I understand there's language floor or floors in the dorms. I actually avoided being active in very many clubs because I'd done a huge amount of that in high school. I came in and took on essentially a graduate student's load freshman year, which was a mistake. I did not have good counseling, academic counseling, so I counseled myself and made mistakes. Junior, senior year, I became involved with the German club. I guess it must've been earlier, sophomore year, because my junior year, I lived in what we called, at that day, The Foreign Language House. Foreign, it's not politically correct to do that now. It would be world languages or modern languages. I was very actively involved with that, helping students and teachers. The teachers must have been paid. They put so much time into it. I put a lot of time into my students. They did a great deal. It was on Normal Road and I think—I cannot remember the address. Four twenty-seven, it was right across from where the Newman Center used to be. It's probably still there. It was a boarding house. Spanish was the largest section, French, German, and Russian. There were six German students, four Russian students and there were more French than Spanish. That was very enlightening to me because we gathered the students. It wasn't everybody who moved in. There were probably thirty-five people at the beginning of the first year and then some left. We agreed on rules like cleaning up after oneself and what refrigerator space. We had cooks so you could get breakfast- a cook. Breakfast, lunch and then dinner was cooked. The idea was everybody would come home at dinnertime and speak their language during dinner and at least we did that. To this day, I'm fluent in German. I'm not brilliant, but I can hold a conversation. It's been forty years since I studied it and twenty years since my week in Germany, but I can still speak it because of that. What I learned from that, back to social psychology, is we'd all agreed on rules. We didn't sign anything, but we had the document. We didn't post it. Then people did not obey and I was really shocked. I realized then the importance of enforcement and why we have police police the slaves of the state. I was studying Greek. That was really enlightening to me. I left after a year although I continued to participate in their activities because of crime and that's something—I was in Lincoln Hall my first year here, fairly happy, on a girl's floor. I moved on to a co-ed floor that freshman, I think freshman girls had to be or freshman boys, we had to be in co-ed floors and that was fine, but I moved to a women's floor. I moved to a co-ed floor my sophomore year with many of my own friends. Probably every floor on the campus says this but we were said to have the highest GPA on the campus. We had a lot of problems with people pulling fire alarms in the middle of the night and throwing up on Friday, Saturday night in the laundry sinks. I was very unhappy about that and left but went to the Language House. There we did speak our languages every night. There was a professor there four nights a week, a German professor. I like to think that for somebody who had a grant, they gave him money. I do a lot with my students at Loyola and everywhere I've been but not every single night. Certainly what happened, what I experienced through the German club or just German Department, German section, is very similar to what I do. It was modeled or I was a natural for it, but I do the same stuff at Loyola with my students but—Okay, where am I going? There was a man who most probably raped a former girlfriend and was stealing from a man who was a diabetic. I even went with a boyfriend who had been his former roommate and made a deposition to the police because he'd had his record expunged, just to give the evidence that we had that it was likely that he was a rapist. We could never prove anything about—The guy had meat, because he needed more protein than he was getting—I was going to Russian section and so I left in disgust. Then yes, but put them all together. My senior year, just before the end of my senior year, somebody broke into our apartment and raped one of my roommates, so crime. I moved to the south side of Chicago, University of Chicago, bad neighborhood and that's where I live now. I felt some relief because I didn't experience crime from other students at the University of Chicago, so it’s three fairly serious, three, four instances of a crime. German club, we would go into Chicago to see—We saw the Ring Cycle and we went to German restaurant, bierhof, which closed and is back open. Art institute, wonderful cultural opportunities here. Cheap. We could see Chicago Symphony, Ravi Shankar, ballet for five bucks. It was really unlimited cultural opportunities here and I took full advantage of. I was briefly involved with the theater department as well and help put on—I did the sound for Endgame, Samuel Beckett's Endgame. I was going to do a double major, Latin and theater, and I didn't have the time. Theater rehearsals would run late until the morning. Latin class would be at eight in the morning and so I did that but I didn't get integrated. Took up anthropology the last two years and then went on to do graduate work in anthropology.
MCCORD: Do you have a favorite memory or one stand-out instance from those times you mentioned with the German club and cultural?
FAIR: Positive stuff?
FAIR: Well, two things I've already mentioned. I think those nightly speaking German at dinner. It was difficult in the beginning and I guess this was good for me. Somebody came back in the spring and she said, "I remember you," in German. I said, “Oh, thank you.” She said, "Not because your German was good. It was terrible but I remember how hard you tried." There was that steady improvement, but specifically, we went in one night with Herr Doktor Heinrich Oesterle. I think Oesterle—Sensei, that’s for Japanese [laughs]—Dr. Oesterle has probably retired. Going on the bus, a charted bus, and I know how much work it is, these teachers did all this stuff, to bierhof and then seeing the Ring Cycle. I think that stands-out. We went to all three and sat in the very back because we had the cheapest tickets. We paid next to nothing. They must have gotten us the cheapest student rates. I would say that was one. We also had parties in the Language House and we had a ‘DecaDance.’ One year, I went as Heloise to my boyfriend's Abelard. I remember the German informative. At the time, there were these people where nobody else did and I was reading Heloise and Abelard in Latin in my Latin classes. The next year I went as Daisy from The Great Gatsby, Daisy Gatsby, so decadent people.
- Synopsis: Experiences in Academia as a WomanKeywords: women in academia; gender dynamics; graduate school; parenting; Headstart; early childhood development; campus crime; library work; language learningTranscript: MCCORD: You mentioned you did your undergrad at NIU. You went on to do graduate work and you are a professor now so you've been in academia a long time. I think it's fair to say that attitudes towards women in academia have changed a fair amount, certainty since the seventies. Can you talk a little bit about your experience starting in the seventies and what that was like?
FAIR: Yes, I can. Because I came from an educationally proactive family and my mother and grandmother had been to college before me, there was no resistance at home. I wasn't expecting trouble at the university and I can't say that I had trouble. People were very encouraging. They were happy I was here. I was live one. I was a very good student. I remember my mentor, Dr. Charlotte Otten, hearing about my background and how I had gone to three different high schools and I just wanted to come home. I didn't want to be on the East Coast where people said, "Ugh, University—" I had gotten a theater scholarship to University of New Hampshire. "Ugh. The University of New Hampshire." Get me out of here. I'm not a school snob, but she said “That's why you came.” She saw I was more academically ambitious than many people. The professors all took an interest in me, both women and men. I thought that was normal. I expected people to take an interest in me. No one was ever discouraging in the least about my academics at any level so there I didn't experience that discrimination or anything like that. There wasn't much problem in the classroom because, as I told you, for my major courses, I was often the only person, I was the only one that was there. I have come to learn as a professor that teachers, including me, give more attention to men than women. I began to watch why and the men often ask for it more, either positively or negatively. A top student of mine, and I should woman agreed, we never noticed because we were always getting all the attention. We were the Hermione Granger girls. Something that did change and I think it has to do with law. Several professors showed interest in me, a romantic interest. I was never harassed and they never did it for grades because I had the best grades. I thought they liked me because I was interested in their work. For me to get involved with a professor at that time, it would have been like having an affair with a horse or a pig. They were another species. It was surprising but it didn't upset me and they backed off as soon as I was not interested and they continued in a friendly relationship so that wasn't a problem at all. What I noticed, I went to graduate school in 1975. I figured it would be the same. I was not as bright of a star at the University of Chicago, let me tell you, as I was here because it was a more elite pool, but that stopped 100 percent. That was right when laws came out about it and that money would be cut off from universities. I don't know if they were just more self-controlled or contained at the University of Chicago although from stories that I hear, that was not the case. I think that people were smart enough to figure out that they better obey the law, and only people who had really big problems would have done that. There were a number of professors, both married and not, who showed an interest in me, men, these are men, but it was not a problem to me. I can give you details, but—
MCCORD: If you'd like.
FAIR: There was an old Greek history professor who took me to his home and his wife was there to help him sort books in Beloit, and I was helping him sort books. At one point, I was in his office and I remember him saying, "You better get out of here if you don't want an old man kissing you." That surprised me because he seemed like an old man. He presented himself as an old man. Another professor, I was twenty-two and he was thirty-two and we did philosophy. I was taking a summer class and we always talked philosophy and we talked Watergate. I remember at the end of the term—He was a married man, I'd met his wife, I'd met his wife with my boyfriend, and he put his hands on my ribs. I was in my kitchen, he put his hands on my ribs. He was a little apey [sic] guy. I was friendly with him, but I just did absolutely nothing, I was silent and didn't move. He took them off and nothing else ever happened. Another German professor came to the house and talked to me and I thought this is funny. I think he was a young unmarried man, but he never came back. Those are the instances. My professors used to—I believed it was my mind, I always thought people wanted me for my mind. They'd take me to lunch. Today, my students come to my office while I'm eating a bag lunch and talk to me. I only rarely take a student to lunch, but then I was often taken to lunch.
MCCORD: Were there any instances in, I guess, your postgraduate professional life in academia where you felt that being a woman somehow affected your treatment?
FAIR: I'll tell you the biggest one, and it's not what we expect, and it's only my experience. It took me forever to get my dissertation done. I was forty-two when I got it, my PhD. I had gone directly into graduate school. Now, I did other stuff. I took a leave of absence, I went and lived in Japan, I married, I had kids, I taught. I probably never would have done it if SIU hadn’t, I taught at Southern Illinois University for thirteen years, if they hadn't said, "Get this done or you lose your chance," so I had to get it done. I felt, this is just my opinion, I haven't asked them, that my professors at the University of Chicago were more lenient with me because I was a woman and I had kids. Not so much women, but that I had kids, I was a mother. They were some ten to fifteen years older than me. Many of them had children, they were doing childcare, both men and women. I took forever and ever. I'd send them another chapter in June and they'd say, "Yes. Miss Fair is making good progress." At that time, I didn't have to pay. Now, they make you be matriculate- you had to pay money every semester that you don't graduate, so that speeds people up, but I didn't have to. I often felt that they were lenient for me as a mother, actually, rather than as a woman. I know that's not what we expect, but that's what I think happened. I can't imagine my husband's professors would have said—Well, he failed to get tenure at Southern Illinois University. He's a slow person. He had one long brilliant paper, and that wasn't enough. He'd brought in a, big for those days, a big grant, but they voted against him. He had children and he did childcare too, but nobody would have cut him any slack. That's what I think. I hope it's changed.
MCCORD: Can you talk a little bit more about your experiences trying to balance a career in academia with having a family and having children?
FAIR: Yes. Following my own mother's pattern, one thing that I did although I always had the burden of this dissertation on my back and you say you don't want a PhD, and that's real smart. I said, "Fine, fine, go for it. Don't go for it." I did things serially, so I was a very active student. Then I stopped for a while and I went and taught in Japan because I knew I needed more language work. I had been ground to a pulp at the University Chicago by my Japanese teachers, so I was on a leave of absence. Then I went back and did research. I was taking forever to do my dissertation, but I got to be a full-time mother. I was home from before the birth of my first child until he was six and I had another child who was two. I was offered a job teaching Japanese at Southern Illinois University. I had my children, I didn't have finished my dissertation. Parenting is very important to me, and I got to do it. At least those really early childhood years I was working on my dissertation and sending them a chapter every year. It all fits together, but I think it was serial. While I was in a tenure-track position at Southern, my kids were elementary school-age, my husband failed to get tenure. He still had a grant so he was not working full-time for about five years, so that was good because he took up the slack. Then I came here. He got a job that we really couldn't refuse at the University of Chicago. Not a professorship, but he was a senior lecturer of biology, which, as it turned out, he had a good Dean or Master, they called it, and so good pay and our kids' college tuition paid. We said, "We have to take this job." I didn't come up here with a job, but people have always offered me jobs. They said, "Would you like to teach this Japanese? It's been really great." Since then, I guess I've had University of Chicago, Harold Washington, which is community like City College, and Loyola. I've worked part time although I worked like I'm full-time. I can afford to do all the fun stuff with the students because he had a real job, and so I had time for my kids. Not everybody can do that. If you're a single parent, you just don't, but I've never been in that position. Parenting and career have been kind to me. I often tell people like in Japan, the big problem for wo—they have a labor shortage—the big problem is if they stop out they'll never get back to their level, they'll never get back, male or female professional track. The United States is more forgiving than that, more flexibility.
MCCORD: You mentioned you in your undergrad did German, Greek and—
FAIR: Latin major.
MCCORD: You have ended up teaching now Japanese and you're an expert in Japanese culture. Can you talk about that transition, how you went from one to another?
FAIR: Yes, it was quite natural to me. I had been doing Latin and German and Greek here at Northern, and I knew I wanted to be a teacher before I came to college. I had been teaching everything I could get my hands on. I'd been a Sunday school teacher, and anything I could teach. I come from a family of teachers. My mother, needless to say, was a teacher and she went here. My grandmother didn't like it. She was a teacher but she's the only one that didn't like it. Seven of the eight great aunts were teachers, so everybody teaches. I know I want to teach, and when I—This is a little bit about social history. When I came here, I didn't know if I wanted to work with—I had volunteered for Headstart, teaching Headstart, early childhood development. My mother was kindergarten and special ed teacher. My sister had a career as a special ed teacher, or teach college. I don't know why I didn't want to teach in the middle, but I thought young or old. The School of Education essentially shut down about the year I came here. Women were entering the labor force in more varied occupations right then. It wasn't like a revelation to me because I came from a family that, although they were from farms, were professionals, so it was normal. My aunt was a nurse, it was normal for women to work and have children. It wasn't a challenge. The rest of society, women were getting into jobs and so you don't have a semi-slave population to be teachers who couldn't rise to many other professions. I didn't take it. I've never had an education course and I didn't go into the School of Education. I decided, somewhere along the line, that I want to teach college, and I did my Latin, German, and Greek. I like people very much, that was textual analysis, and I like languages and I like textual analysis but I'm very social as you can probably tell from this recording. I took a bunch of biology courses here and I sat in on more that I wasn't eligible to take because they were graduate but also anthropology. I decided in my junior year that I was going to get, PhD was a long time goal, that I would do it in anthropology and work with live people. It was either going to be comparative lit or live people. I decided to go with the live people. I probably would have gotten my dissertation done a lot faster. Then I went to graduate school. My mentor, Charlotte Otten here, anthropology, physical anthropology professor who was very good to me and never made any sexual advances. I think she was straight. She encouraged me and said, "Well, try these Midwestern schools. They're not all right for you. Your degree is not anthropology," and I got into all of them. Only Chicago offered me money because it was 1975, second oil shock, economy terrible, rust built rusting. To me, working with live- there's more variables when you've worked with live people, but working with live people in modern culture is not much different from working with ancient texts. The texts that I discussed with great pleasure and at length with Leo Herman and Arthur Eisner, in particularly those—That was it, not in particular, those are the only Latin professors we had, and Hammond in Greek. We were always trying to understand society, values, ways of thinking, from the texts. We have archaeological artifacts but mostly you had the texts, and that's it. For me to go from that to working with live people was not a huge transition. Where I went, the University of Chicago, they did a lot and my own advisor, Michael Silverstein, did a lot of textual analysis. My master's paper was on a Japanese movie script, Tokyo Story. Have you seen it?
FAIR: Ozu Yasijuro, it's the opposite of Seven Samurai. It's slow-paced. Really good for people learning because it's really slow, so I recommend it. I didn't want to work with text, I wanted to work with live humans. Then, "Okay, you're an anthropologist. What are going to work on?" I had lived on Okinawa as a kid. I had not learned much Japanese. I'd learned to say hello, goodbye, how much does it cost, it's a nice day, but I liked languages, and so I took my Japanese—Where'd you learn your Japanese? At the University of Chicago, which was a fairly miserable experience. I guess I can say this. Who's ever going to listen to it? Latin and German and Greek were very helpful for the study of Japanese, maybe Swedish was for you, because Japanese has a case of grammar. You may not realize it yet but it's got nominative genitive accusative data, that stuff, but the whole genitive case, it's "noh", it's that particle you've learned. Whereas Latin may have thirty-seven forms of the genitive, and I know Sweden has persons and all, Japanese has a simpler grammar. Worst writing system, there's no doubt about it. I think of it as a very natural transition because I was trying to understand human beings. Some of them, we only have their texts and their artifacts. Some of them, we have the people.
MCCORD: You mentioned learning or studying at University of Chicago was a miserable experience?
MCCORD: Elaborate on that.
FAIR: I just met a woman from Germany who's entering their masters of arts and social science. I met her on the street and she said, "Is it really that bad?" I said, "Most of the pressure comes from within. It's you, you think you're not good enough. You think you're not good enough, actually nobody—" Our Japanese teachers bullied us. The others ones didn’t. The others simply didn't have time for us. I was there in seventy-five. Unlike at Northern where I was the only person in my class, we had a bulge, they called it the bulge. They'd accepted thirty-five, had expected twenty to come, and thirty came, so they wanted to get rid of us. There was neglect. I don't think there was much going on in the way of pedagogy. They were interested in their research. They were smart people, there's no doubt about it, as where my professors here, but there wasn’t much teaching going on. I don't teach the way they do. In the cultural anthropology that's done at the University of Chicago, it's—You can go back to Franz Boaz, the beginning, the early nineteen hundreds, go out and do something, create. It's not a scientific enterprise. That's okay, I like qualitative stuff, but I also value scientific method and collaboration, and there was no collaboration. It was just go do it. I don't really think that's the most effective way to learn things. I think people do well when they collaborate. There was no set pattern, it was just go do it on your own. I was up against the whole world and the entire Japanese language. I was used to succeeding and doing well, and to this day, there's plenty of Japanese I don't know. The teachers themselves, I think rather different from the language teachers I had here. It was only German here. I had done a little French as a kid. My dissertation deals with this, but I think they had cognitive dissidence in teaching us. It was the seventies, okay, the war had been over twenty-five years and the head guy had a PhD from, I think he was from Wisconsin, Madison, in Japanese linguistics, Japanese. I think as we got better at Japanese, it bothered them. I think we were all white, not at all the way my classes are now, by the way. It bothered them if we got better. It was because, my dissertation deals with this, the Japanese language was the preserve that the foreigners could not get into. This was not the case before the war, where they were trying to make everybody in East Asia speak Japanese. It's not the case now where you have Japanese as a second language and they think it's cool. Many Japanese come to my classes over the years just to help out because they think it's so cool, but at that time I think they wanted us—They were teachers, they were supposed to teach us but I think it also bothered them when we did well, and we suffered under that. We should have left, but we didn't. That did not happen here at Northern. There's not that kind of barrier, I think, in European languages to white Americans learning the language. I don't know about other Americans, but—I have another crime, I can tell you. [laughter]
MCCORD: Okay, sure.
FAIR: I forgot. None of these bother—The rape of my roommate who's still a good friend was bad, but I was in the library. I used to go over to Swen Parson Library and study. I'd get up Saturday morning with my Latin books and run to the Latin section at PM's, which at that time was in the second basement in the far corner just by chance. I was studying there one Saturday morning, probably just about this time of year, my freshman year. A guy came by, he was an exhibitionist and it was probably a student, a white guy. He walked by with an erection and I remember sitting in a corner, I was studying, and I just looked up and looked right back down. It didn't fluster me, I had no context. As he walked away, I remember thinking, "Is something wrong with him? Should I ask him? Should I?" Then I, "No." It was later in January, I was in the dorm and women were talking. A woman had seen an exhibitionist in the parking lot outside of Lincoln Hall, which I don't even know if there's a parking lot anymore, and I thought, "Oh, yes, I had one of those." In retrospect, it was probably from my point of view the best and from his point of view the worst response because I understand people want to get some upsetness [sic] or excitement or something. Northern had some crimes. I can tell you about the library too when I worked there. You want to hear that one?
FAIR: Worked in the library. My junior year, I decided to get a job. Fortunately, very fortunately, I did not need money. It was cheap, my parents had jobs, and everything was taken care of. No scholarships because I was not a needs student, anyway, it was cheap. My senior year, second semester, I remember the tuition was $330. That was the most expensive. I don't remember what it was. My parents just paid for it and paid for my room and board, but I decided to get a job my junior year in self-defense because I studied all the time. I was in the literary magazine, I can tell you about that too. I wasn't very active at clubs, not like I'd been as a high school kid. I thought I need to do something besides study all the time, and I did. I would go to the gym and stuff, but—Yes, if there's something you want to say?
MCCORD: No. I'm just taking notes.
FAIR: I got a job at the library and very fortunately or perhaps it was my record, I worked in the humanities reference library. I don't know how it's arranged now, but there was one. There was science and math and there was humanities. They would let me work alone on Friday nights, which was fine with me and then my boyfriend would pick me up when he'd come from the lab, so worked out. I now, in retrospect, I thank God I wasn't a shelfer, because that repetitive work is harder for me. I'm a good worker, but not the same thing over and over for hours. Now I realize probably they looked at my language record and stuff. Also, worked in the music room, the Palzer Music Room, but sometimes I had to do shelfry, which is a little bit boring if there was nothing else to do. I would find people's toothbrushes, razors, Listerine, headbands, socks. There were people who were living in the library. I used to write them notes and ask them to please take it away. I'd ask the head librarian. Finally, started taking it away.
- Synopsis: Politics, NIU Literary Magazine, and Campus CrimeKeywords: Richard Nixon resignation; impeachment; Common Cause; George McGovern; Literary Magazine; time capsule; campus crimeTranscript: FAIR: I was also here during the resignation of Richard Nixon. Do you want me to tell about that one?
FAIR: I'm a very left-leaning person as most universities' professors are. Job trumps age and though people my age and race tend to vote Republican, almost all college professors, unless you're in the business school at the University of Chicago, vote democratic. I'm a very left—I've been a Green although I left them in disgust, so I'm very left. I watched with interest and we're doing it again. It's happening again and I'm trying to characterize what's different about the hearings into the Trump impeachment and the Nixon impeachment. If nothing else, it's a lot more complicated now. There are many more factors but I watched and talked with that philosophy professor with interest that whole summer. I was afraid the night that Nixon made the—He said he was going to hold a press conference. He hadn't talked to anybody in weeks because [unintelligible 00:41:23] had been working with him. People thought “he's going to resign. It's going to be good.” I was afraid. I was afraid he was going to say, "I am seizing control of the army," but he didn't. I remember asking a very staid and conservative woman, I can't remember her name, the head of the it was then the humanities reference, if I could have the night off the night that he was making the announcement, and I didn't know what she'd say. My own family, not my parents, but people who are Republicans, I think they're still Republicans in northern Illinois but they were Republicans because it was the party of Lincoln and the anti-slavery party but they were really Republicans. I didn't know what she'd say and she said yes and then she said, "It's a sad day for our country but I knew he was a criminal when he was elected and it's about time." We talked about that, professor friends and I, all summer. My Latin teacher and I would compare Roman history with modern American history and some of assassinations and intrigues. People were sad but I remember going out by the student center and feeling elated myself. I had an endorphin rush and I wanted to dance in the parking lot, which I was not planning on but I guess it was relief. That was another important thing in modern time.
MCCORD: Can you talk about maybe comparing your experience then as working and attending a campus and now as somebody who is still involved in a university atmosphere, these two events that you've [crosstalk]?
FAIR: About the impeachment or about being at the schools?
MCCORD: About the two impeachments. Do you see any continuity and change there?
FAIR: Yes. Well, it's back. I was around for the Clinton impeachment too, which seemed to be very much a payback for the Nixon proceedings. Everybody says this, I think there's stronger polarity here that people like or hate Trump or like or hate Obama more than we did in the seventies. I was aware that Nixon had tried to rig an election before. The second election, he got reelected. People talked about generation gaps back then but I didn't feel it. I did not feel alienated from my parents who were in college at the time. I did not feel alienated from my professors. People did say—Maybe I felt alienated from my peers. People said don't trust anybody over thirty and I thought that was ridiculous. I feel less of a generation gap and more of a regional or just ideology gap now. That's a difference. I suppose because I keep asking myself what's different between seventy-four and now? There must be a lot of similarities because I can't easily characterize these similarities. I do know that each president that has disappointed me, the next one makes the last one look not so bad. I was involved in campaigning for George McGovern when I was here. Because I have been involved with Common Cause, which is a liberal organizing group, just as volunteer in New Hampshire, and I had seen the fruits of my work in areas that I canvassed and registered people to vote before I could vote, we could see the results in voting patterns right there. It's a small state. When I came to Illinois and campaigned for McGovern and learned about the Chicago Machine, which was still around, I was overwhelmed by the lack of power that I had. In New Hampshire, I knew the senators and the representatives and the governor because it was such a tiny little state. There wasn't half a million people. I was quite disappointed and I guess, to the people I fell in with, at least in New Hampshire, southern New Hampshire, well it's Boston too. The rest of the state is pretty conservative and red. Yes, many students were more conservative than I expected but they weren’t the ones in the language department.
MCCORD: I guess to circle back a little bit, you did mention the lit mag. Do you want to talk about your involvement with that?
FAIR: Yes. The literary magazine. I picked that because my boyfriend was the editor. I don't know that he was editor-in-chief the first year and my roommate, the one who got raped, is still a good friend, was an editor as well. They are both professional writers but I must have heard about it through them and I thought this won't take up too much time. It's self-contained so I can do it. I was the poetry editor for two years. There wasn't a lot of complication. You read the poetry. I took a poetry-writing class with Lucian Strike. He's a Theravada Buddhist but it's about Zen and a poet of some note. I liked it because it was a self-contained project and we came up with small magazines. When they dug up a time capsule, I guess they dug one up, what would have it been, how many years, it couldn’t have been fifty. Must have been forty, thirty years. My poem was in there so I was happy about that. We met in classrooms once or twice a week during the winter and then it came out in the spring. Not too much to say about that.
MCCORD: Do you remember anything else from that time capsule?
FAIR: I wasn't here when they opened it so I don't know. I'm sorry.
MCCORD: No, it's all right. You have mentioned a number of crimes that took place while you're here. I think maybe in a slightly different way but there's a reputation now at NIU for being a place that has a lot of crime.
FAIR: Really? I didn't know that.
FAIR: On the campus or the town?
MCCORD: Probably outside of the campus but I was wondering if you had anything there?
FAIR: No. I thought of the town as being safe and I also thought, even though those things happened, I was young, I thought I was safe. I had grown up on airbases where there really wasn't any crime. I mean no crime. The worst thing that ever happened was a kid got on somebody's bicycle and rode it to the other side of the housing area. There was no crime. You couldn't go more than fifteen miles an hour on the base in the housing area. It was just in the middle of Nebraska where there's pretty little crime anyway so there wasn't any crime. I was surprised by crime but I thought of the town as safe because what I saw was—I don’t know that this—Well, I know the guy that I did the deposition on was a criminal. My boyfriend and I went and talked to my Latin teacher and said—Or no, maybe he didn't come. No, he didn't. What should I do? I have evidence in this crime. My boyfriend tells me it's been expunged because he was accused of stealing stuff too on the campus like workman's tools. He said, my Latin teacher, advised me to make a deposition, realizing it's probably the same labor done, that if that came out, it could have come back to me. The man went on to sell cars too. How typical. He was a good looking guy and a smooth talker unlike the rest of us in the language house. I took that step with that teacher's advice but I thought the town was safe. I didn't think, "Wow, Northern's a really dangerous place. My husband went to school at Notre Dame and South Bend had, and I think it was quite dangerous, a terrible reputation. Lots of times university towns do or there's poor parts of town. I live on the south side of Chicago. Just two weeks ago, there were students who wanted to come down to a Chinese Talent- a students of Chinese talent contest at the University of Chicago and they were saying, "We can't go there because—" Well, my car was stolen last summer, but I think most places I've lived are not really that dangerous statistically, and where there's poverty there's crime. Where I am right now in Chicago, that particular neighborhood, we're expecting to have a riot next week. However, high school kids only and they come into our neighborhood because they think it's safe. I didn't think of Northern as especially dangerous. I just happened—I've never told myself that story. Isn't it interesting what you do with events? The narrative, it's not Northern was a dangerous place, but I did run into some crimes.
- Synopsis: Public and Private Education in IllinoisKeywords: Loyola University; Southern Illinois University; Harold Washington Community College; University of Chicago; student work; tuition; student debt; teachers' union; dorm foodTranscript: MCCORD: Circle back to another topic once again. You have, I guess, attended and then worked at a number of universities throughout-
FAIR: Yes, I haven't done much else.
MCCORD: [laughs] -including—NIU is a public university. University of Chicago is a private university, is that right? And Loyola as well?
FAIR: It's private and I taught at Harold Washington, which is a city college. It would be like a community college.
MCCORD: Do you see any differences, either as a student or professionally, between private and public universities?
FAIR: There's several ways to answer that and I'm going to start with my favorite, which is the students. If they are students of Japanese, Japanese language, Japanese history, they are the same, at least in their interest and their abilities. I had wonderful students at Harold Washington. In fact, at the University of Chicago I was teaching for the business school and it was for their international MBA, so they did not get grades in what I taught them and I thought, "I'm going in there with my lesson plans and my assignments and they didn't do. They cut the class." They come back and they admit they hadn't done anything because they weren't required to. I adapted and I thought, "All right, three hours of Japanese in the classroom is better than no hours of Japanese." What I found with them, possibly because they were graduate students, possibly because they were University of Chicago graduate students, they had a tremendously long attention spans. They could run three hours and I routinely made the Harold Washington people go two hours, I just changed the activity, but they were still with it, they never got tired. It might have just been their age and that they were students rather than full-time workers. I have found uniformly excellent people in Japanese. On another set, I can go back to what you said and make comparisons, but another story I'd like to tell, I tell it all the time. At Loyola, I've been there fifteen years and I say that I've seen at Loyola, the Southern Illinoisification [sic] of Loyola. What does that mean? Well, I had excellent students, because people don't take Japanese if they're not motivated, right? I said occasionally somebody wanders and it's like, "What am I doing here?" It's a lot of work, but if southern people often had full-time jobs, they might have kids and they just didn't have the hours to devote to it. What I've seen in my fifteen years at Loyola, I was only at University of Chicago about three years and Harold Washington about three or four. I quit to devote my time to Loyola even though it's not a full-time job. It's gotten like that because the student—When I first started teaching there, I had seniors who had never had a job, not a part-time job, nothing. They were looking for jobs. They were white people from the suburbs. Immigrants took the jobs. They were looking and then they would get in a Dunkin Donuts. It's what my kids did, but it wasn't that easy for them who would be leaving for school. Now, I have many students who work thirty hours a week and it's because of the increased tuition, even though Loyola, like most private schools, almost 85 percent of the people get financial aid. They have families with money, they have loans, and times are good right now. I know that because of how many people are going to studying abroad in Japan. When times get bad, we have people from fewer states and they don't go abroad. Now times are good, people from all over the country—Chinese are down because their economy is down. I could just see what's going on, but they work so many hours. I didn't have to do that. I could study as much as I wanted. I think the state universities and the public universities share that characteristic, that it really cuts into your studies if you have to work a lot. When I was at Northern, because I didn't have very many people in my classes, I didn't see it. I did know students who were first-generation college who dropped out, but usually more for personal reasons. They were unhappy, they were depressed. One or two friends—Well, one had left school, but two friends committed suicide too while I was here. I can tell you about that a little bit if you want here. Back to work—I have students now who will let me know, "I'm going to be absent. I have to take my grandmother to the hospital. I have to keep my sister-in-law's kids." I never had to do that and I just went to school. I admire them. I had one woman who worked in a restaurant. What I see with my own students is that they'll hire them for minimum wage, which is better than it used to be, and they've got these bright college students and they're basically making them assistant managers without giving them any benefits or pay. They open up, they close, and they're getting the same pay as if they didn't, but they can get these competent and motivated people. I think money is really important for how hard your life is. What was the other thing? There was another, was it crime? I forgot what I was going to tell you. State. I've been involved with the Union in Southern, I've been involved in the Union at Loyola. It was a lot nastier experience at Loyola than it was at Southern. They had a lot of contempt. One of the worst experiences of my life was sitting in with the Union bargaining three years ago for part-time and non-tenure track faculty. At Southern, all we had to do was one lunch demonstration, hold the placard up and the Dean dealt with this. At Loyola, they, boy, they were—We had a one-day work stoppage and I actually taught, but I did not demonstrate. We got our requests and I did not expect that, but it was something I felt I had to do. Northern was still- it stopped expanding about the time I got here, but it was the big college boom, the baby boomers and the Vietnam War so money was good in those days. May I say something about the dorms and the food?
MCCORD: Yes, of course.
FAIR: I thought they were perfectly adequate. I lived in Lincoln Hall for two years and people complained. Probably the boyfriend, I had I liked him because he liked the food. His family truly did eat appalling food, I visited. People complained very much and I thought there was nothing wrong with it. Not the first year, but we got—We had salad bars, you could always find something good. I don't know, I thought it was just fine.
MCCORD: What didn't people like about it? What was the—?
FAIR: They thought it tasted bad and they would—Even my own friends that I sat with, they would play with their food and make disgusting things on the plates and send them back for the people. I was a picky eater as a child, but I don't know, I just thought it was fine. I was surprised by the hamburgers because I had never eaten real hamburgers before. I'd always had ground beef having grown up in Nebraska and children of dairy farmers. I just thought, "It's a different kind of food." Yes, they complained.
MCCORD: To shift topics a little bit.
FAIR: I'm going to say one more thing about the dorms. We had shared bathrooms and research has borne this out since that having common bathrooms is really good for social things, because if you have your own bathroom it's like being in an apartment and people don't meet each other. That's common knowledge.
- Synopsis: Advice for New Students and FacultyKeywords: student work load; work ethic; professors career advice; gender and sexuality on campus; student suicideTranscript: MCCORD: This is a hypothetical question. If you were to give a piece of advice or something that you would want your younger self coming to NIU, what would you have liked to have known?
FAIR: About NIU?
MCCORD: Or just about being a student. What advice would you wish you could give yourself going back?
FAIR: I wish I had taken my mother's advice who said, "You're taking too heavy of a load." I had eighteen hours when I came as a freshman and it was four hundred level Latin and three hundred level Greek and then German, but that’s okay, and honors calculus. I wish I had just taken it easier on myself. I was here for the life of the mind. I thought everybody else was. I was wrong. I wish I hadn't worked quite so hard, but that may go against my own character. I'm mentoring a woman who's doing a PhD in Counseling Psychology at Loyola. She's from Korea. I know her personally and also professionally. I had a formal mentoring one year. My father's didn't say it, but the message was, “You must finish this through. You never got a PhD. You must finish it.” I can say, "You can stop. You don't have to do this. You are a worthwhile person. You're not a failure. You have choices, you have outs." It might have helped me to know that, probably would have taken the same stuff. When people feel they have choices, they are happier. They have better mental health. I think I was and that doesn't have much to do with the social times or anything like that. All the way through, I wish I could have lightened up a little bit and not made so many demands myself.
MCCORD: Is that something you see with your students now or do you think that has changed over the years?
FAIR: No. I will also say, both in terms of how hard they work, Harold Washington Community College—very good students—a lot of people are already with degrees in law, medicine or something, bright high school students and they're just perfect college students. Not only do they work hard. I guess they have to to take my classes. They really seem to care about society. They care about the environment. I feel great rapport with my students. The ones that are in my classes now, or mostly there's some non-traditional but, mostly right around twenty, if anything they seem more mature than my peer age group was, because they have to work so hard. There's a certain kind of continuity of people that really want to make the world a better place. They're ambitious but not to the step on people extent, or they wouldn't be taking Japanese or something. I see a lot of continuity among students.
MCCORD: I guess sort of a related question, but what do you think a student coming to NIU for the first time now in 2019 should know, or I guess at any university?
FAIR: What I tell them, if they're graduate students, because I see them already in, I work with high school kids too. I'm always recruiting on the trains in Chicago, and they see I have a Japanese book, and I'm at Loyola, you could—So many people like Japanese. The first thing I tell them is, read about it. You go to the website, but talk to people, especially people who are there now or who have just graduated. I learned that lesson not personally, but I saw it the hard way. When I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago, there was a man who'd come to study with an eminent anthropologist, and I won't give his name. He was an economic anthropologist. The man had been away in France for two years, and he had this metanoia—he changed his mind. He hated economic anthropology and he [unintelligible 01:03:41] anthropology, and he became a cultural anthropologist. He gave this guy Hell, he scorned him, and he was terrible to him. The man who was older than me, taking a few years off, he had a terrible time and eventually left. He was right. He knew about this guy, but he didn't know what he was like right now. People will ask me, “What is it like at the University of Chicago?” I've been in touch with it. Both Northern University of Chicago and Southern, you need to find out what it's like now, and see if you want to be there. That's one thing I would say. The other thing is when it comes to education, it's always good if you can get someone else to pay for it. I have a bunch of students, I have to write letters of recommendation. You don't want to go into debt. I've never been in debt. I've never had to take out a loan. Try to get someone else to pay for it, not yourself.
MCCORD: Similarly, what would you tell an incoming professor or somebody coming in on the professional level?
FAIR: If they're on a tenure track position, in general, find out about your own university. Find out about recent tenure awards, you have to get the information. In my experience, the only thing that counts is publications. You have to not abuse a student, you have to show up at your committee meetings. This is from my personal experience. I left a tenure track job. I was never up for tenure, but don't waste your time fixing old equipment, or all the stuff I like to do. Don't take a lot of time with students. What counts is publications. It seems to me that if you do that, then you might not be that into teaching if you've done that for five to seven years. But that was my experience. You have to find out what your own university wants. If it's a teaching position, that comes so naturally to me. It's very good to have a work life balance, but I don’t. I was at work till nine o'clock last night. I have a part time job, but it is my passion. I like teaching. I was correcting something for that graduate student I mentioned. I told my son when he went to law school, he said, “Mom, do you have any advice for me?” In my dissertation I wrote, my advice to you today in the dedication was to take at least a year off between your undergraduate studies and your graduate studies. He did. He worked for three years and then he got into his law school. He said, “Do you have any advice?” In his case, because he's got excellent academic and professional credentials, I said, “Get a little bit into shape.” He sits in front of a computer, sits on a couch nights and he did and he's back not to diminish, but, take care of your body. I do say to my students if they're sick, I say, “Stay home.” I want good attendance, I take attendance, I score it and, but keep your germs at home. If you don't have a body, you can't do anything, right? It's like the environment. If you don't have an environment, you can't have any other social issues. The barman's gone, no people. If you don't have a body, you can't do anything and so that's one thing. I abused that. To this day I abuse it. I don't get enough sleep.
MCCORD: Do you think there's a conflict for professors? You've mentioned if you want to get ahead, focus only on your publications. Don't spend time with students- [crosstalk]
FAIR: If you’re in tenure track position. We'd like to do all, but what counts in my experience in Loyola, or Southern Chicago counts, is the publications.
MCCORD: Do you think that leads to any problem in higher education of not being focused on [crosstalk]?
FAIR: Yes. Sure, it does. I think it leads the people. Most people I've seen it leads to a problem for the professor because they're trying to do both or my husband and I are trying to do both. It can lead to crummy teaching. A huge conflict of interest. It's like a master. It's like the dean over the undergraduate biology at the University of Chicago. My husband had a boss who didn't do anything for his five years as master. He was running a business in Sweden. He wasn't doing research. He wasn't doing administrative work. He wasn't teaching. He really wasn't doing anything. Yes, for sure there's a conflict of interest. I thought of the topic that I was going to bring up and I can see a change. I see two dramatic changes in my lifetime. Has to do with sexuality, and acceptance of alternate sexuality. The two people that I know who committed suicide, one was a classmate that I enjoyed, he was in German, one was quite a close friend that I knew through another friend in the dorms. The first one who committed suicide, his older sister committed suicide. It may be genetic or environmental, but he was gay. I don't think most people were nearly as overt about it back then, as being right now. I'll tell another gay story. He committed suicide and then the other friend who was in my German class, I wasn’t in contact with him anymore. He was like a boy. He was a skinny little guy and I was a skinny little girl. He was a year behind me, but we'd run around and play. We still had a lot of childless and down the hall and stuff. He committed suicide and I only learned about it in the paper, the summer after my senior year. The paper came out and they found notes to his family, and it suggested he was gay. I was annoyed because I didn't think was the papers' business to help him. I didn't think there was anything wrong with being gay. I didn't know he was gay. I had no judgment about him. That's two for two. There was another woman in theater who wanted to be a director. Most of the people wanted to go on to be famous and they were going to be in movies and, of course, we have a very good theater department here. But she dressed masculinely and I was friendly with her and I remember other women talking about her and saying, "Stay away from her." I think there was much more homophobia than there is now just that's dramatically different. Especially in Loyola, which is a Jesuit school. The Jesuits have a reputation for being gay. They're not all gay. Maybe be even the Catholic, but it's very liberal. I fit in there. Much more openness about all kinds of sexuality and including just having sex or opposite sex people with no sex living together. In the language house, we would live together, section by section. We had coed dorms, but the Spanish section, the house broke up partly due to the crimes that were there. It wasn't working out well. They weren't making enough money, but the Spanish section that summer wanted to rent out a house off campus and live together and keep speaking Spanish, but there were men and women and they were turned down. My anthropology professor asked me to house sit for her, but I wanted to live with my boyfriend and she said, it's fine with me, but my landlady won't allow it. When I moved to Chicago however, nobody cared anything. That was 1975. I would say now nobody cares. In my lifetime there's been dramatic changes in norms for sexual discipline. I know that people just a little bit older than me tell stories both at Northern and other places that the dorms were policing women's behavior and women's sexuality. We had hours where men were not supposed to be on our women's floor, like at midnight or two in the morning, which was fine with me and people could go stay with men or people would sneak. Then I went to a quiet floor. The main thing it meant is that guys were not on the floor in the morning or if they were there and they got out. I did not experience the dorm in local parental or poor policing. It just wasn't there but I think right before me it was.
- Synopsis: Personal Connections to NIU and Family HistoryKeywords: alumni connections; family connections; DeKalb; small town; gender ratios; student population; women in STEMTranscript: MCCORD: Can you talk a little bit about your experience with staying in touch with the NIU community after graduating? Alumni networks or just friends?
FAIR: Only personal friends. I give money every year. I'd like to come back here, but I have personal friends about five people that I stay in touch with. One is one of my best friends. She lives in California. She was an English major. We knew each other through German, didn't live in the house. The other was Harry and I've just been telling people these stories, so I don't know who I said what to. We were here at Southern and Northern, then we turned up at University of Chicago, then we turned up at Southern, it's these parallel lives. If it was a German short story, he'd be the angel of death who turns up. We've stayed in touch and I have contact with a woman who stood up for me at my wedding. I called her my best woman, who was also friendly. Her later husband who worked at Loyola, went to University of Chicago and she and my husband and I have backpacked in—She's in Colorado. The people are dispersed, but I'm friendly with them. But I have not done alumni stuff.
MCCORD: Maybe more broadly can you talk about what being a graduate of NIU has meant to you and your time after you attended here?
FAIR: Well, one thing that it has done for me, I've traveled in circles that have both elites and non-elites and it is a pathway to connecting with people who aren't elite. Same way with the military. I've had students who are veterans and I can say, I grew up in the air force. I was at Southern and I got a PhD from the University of Chicago, if they know what that is and some people don't. I can say I went to Northern Illinois University and they go, "Yes." In fact I was very happy at North. My first semester was awful because I took too many classes. That was really all that was wrong. I didn't know anybody here and I was a foreigner because I come from New Hampshire, so in the air force people would always say, "Where are you from? Where have you been?" Here almost everybody was from Northern Illinois and many the Chicago area. I'd say I was from New Hampshire and I think they thought it was a town. I didn't know the difference. People say I'm from Aurora and I say, "Is that Chicago?" There was a disconnect but I learned to make friends. I was very happy here. I was not very happy at the University of Chicago. I missed it. I would come out and visit my friends who were still, some of them hadn't graduated and some were getting masters. From that time I'd had very positive experience and I wanted to teach in a small Midwestern town at a big Midwestern university, which I got to do at Southern. When we arrived there, I met some of their faculty wives. My husband got his job first and then I was offered one a couple of years later. I heard the other faculty were weeping when they went into the town. Have you been to Carbondale?
FAIR: Well, I liked it and I was delighted to be there because I thought you had the whole world. You have a small town, which was fine with me. I grew up in air bases where there were few thousand people. You had the cultural resources of the university so I was very happy. I always thought I'd like to teach at Northern, but I was just saying this to my husband as I came up here, but I did get to teach at Southern. The other thing for me personally is the continuity with my grandmother and my mother and I know her stories about her time at Northern, and she by the way, I will mention this, she was not a rich kid. We know about Glidden, Elwood, Haish, and the founding of the university. There were rich kids, rich and there were many more women. It was almost a women's school when she was here. There were always men but it was a teacher's college. She was from a farm near Kingston. She lived in a rooming house and the rooming house they'd lock it up at ten o'clock but if you want to stay out, the key was in the mailbox. They just trusted them. It was all women, but the sexual norms and social norms were so different that it didn't occur to them that anybody needed policing. I personally had that sense of continuity with my own relatives. I had seen Northern as a little kid and liked the looks of it. I grew up near the University of Nebraska where my dad was going to school. When I first saw Harvard, it's taken over the whole town now, but it was a few red brick buildings and I thought, "This is it? There's nothing here." I think that's what it means to me. I like to say that to let people know that I feel you can get a good education at a non-elite school. I was embarrassed when I went to the University of Chicago. It was the first private school I went to. I was a believer in the sixteenth quadrant public lands. My parents came up in one-room school houses in Northern Illinois. I also find that the oppression of public schools is equally great and powerful to private schools. The power really resides in the hands of the people at the top and not the people at the bottom. I always felt respected as a student here, that the teachers have my well-being and interest first. The administration does whatever it wants and it's the way it is. All these schools I think power tends to concentrate itself.
MCCORD: Can you share any other stories about your mother or your grandmother?
FAIR: Well, and this would be about money. It was during the depression so she came to college in 1940 and she knew enough to apply for a state scholarship. My dad's family didn't. They'd been to high school. The academy, that was a big deal. The dad had been to the academy in Tennessee. They were certainly literate and they could write well, but higher education was not very available. My mother's mother had gone to teacher's college in Indiana probably for a year and then came to Northern Illinois to teach because there was a labor shortage so people came here. She told how her dad would sell a load of corn to buy her books. I still have her old portable royal typewriter, which her dad bought her and he had not been able to go to school. He'd wanted to be a minister, but had been made to quit after sixth grade to work on the farm. His brother went on to do it. I have that old typewriter. When I came here I had an electric typewriter with a push button return and I got rid of it. It’s not—I would push and it would go [garbled]—I would never have finished my dissertation if word processing had not been invented. Quite literally, I don't think I would've. Everybody wanted to borrow that typewriter. She also said we were hearing about integration in the air force. It was an integrated environment where people of color could get ahead. But talking about schools being integrated and Northern was, her high school was not. There just weren't any black people around, but there were and they were athletes. She worked at the, was it the Prince castle, she worked making sodas. Even though it was not a women's school, it was largely women in the classes. Just as now Loyola's about—What's the percentage of the gender ratio here? Most of it usually want women and at Loyola it's about 65 percent more women and Loyola used to be a men's school. There was a women's school there and there's pictures of the old women's school. I've had students say to me, guys, say, "Did this used to be a women's school?" I said, "No, no, it's just shifted." By the way, this is an aside, we encourage women and girls to go into STEM fields. I know there are less women in physics, computer science and math but there's more in biology and they're coming up in chemistry. It's the guys I worry about. There's just less of them, less men go to college. I think it's time to start worrying about young men and par and then I have an opinion of why that is. I just think they're developmentally slower. We know they just mature more slowly and thus the discipline of a high school environment and a college environment is harder for not my kids, not you probably but for many men in there though. I really think we need to look out for guys.
- Synopsis: Additional MemoriesKeywords: Lincoln Hall; Douglas Hall; crime on campus; physical education requirements; Neptune Hall; bridge protest; enrollment numbers; diversity; racial dynamics on campus; student teaching; Catholic priests; childcareTranscript: MCCORD: What else do you think deserves attention during the 125th anniversary year for this project?
FAIR: What should get attention? I may not have an answer immediately. You mean to be talked about?
MCCORD: Well, is there anything else that you haven't mentioned so far that you think is worth pointing out?
FAIR: Can I have a moment to think? We flashed on the campus, but one night there was probably a rock concert which I didn't go to. It was dark and I remember running around the campus preparing, having no underwear on, having a long easy to remove dress and we ran around in the dark so that was that era. It came back of course, thirty years later. There was plenty of weed smoking. People did it more surreptitiously than now, because they were afraid of getting caught. Another crime. My junior year I was in their language house. I had a very, very straight boyfriend who never smoked weed and rarely drinks so that was fine with me. He had visited me one Sunday in the language house. He had not had a roommate for about three weeks. Third week somebody checked in. It was a friendly guy. I guess I had just barely met him. He walked home from visiting the language house in the afternoon and came right back and I said, "What happened?" He said, "The police were there and they were busting my roommate." Apparently in Lincoln and Douglas Hall, we had nice big closets. I was very pleased with the layout of the dorms. They were utilitarian, but very functional. I've seen a lot worse dorms during my time. The large closet had a shelf and apparently the whole top of that shelf, you could close it so you didn't always see in there it was a pull curtain, was just packed with bricks of weed and I don't know what else. In fact I was with him. That's right. I walked over with him. It wasn't that he came back to me, walked over and the police said, "What are you doing here?" He said, "I live here." The policeman said, "Go take a walk." I said, "We've just taken a walk!” We went around like—and he said, "Go take a walk," and we left. Then Mike came over later. He was busted, never seen again. I have to assume that the police knew who the roommate was and that he was not involved at all because they just told us to be gone. There was a fair amount of crime among the students. He never caused any trouble that I knew of, but he was busted in the dorm. What else should I tell you about? I told you about a lot of stuff. I don't have anything immediate to say. How are we doing? That's all I know now.
MCCORD: We have plenty. We can wrap up if you like.
FAIR: No, I'm happy to talk but I don't have anything to tell. You have plenty, I see what you're saying.
MCCORD: Yes, I’m out of questions.
FAIR: I was here when they stopped the gym requirement PE (physical education) and it was fine with me. I took gym all the time because I thought, "Free fitness, I can do this," and then fitness has come back in but people didn't want to be told to take PE. Also, when I first came here, there were almost no bicycles on the campus and I brought with me my one speed huffy bicycle, that tiger rogue Rohrer. I think Neptune was the girly girls dorm I didn't live with them, so I was considered quite on. By my senior year there was so many bicycles, it was hard to get around between campuses so that was a dramatic change in those years. I assume it had something to do with marketing of ten speed bicycles. The year before I was here there were serious demonstrations as there had been at Southern at that time. The campus was shut down perhaps for three weeks, you may know, I don't know, I didn't read it. Of course, there was not an internet then. Had I know that I probably wouldn't have come here because I wasn't going to have my education, I maybe and I work, but I did not want my education disrupted. I didn't know about that and I guess it was a good thing. There was one night where they blocked the bridge coming in from town to here. Although I thought of the town as safe, apparently there was town and gown conflict. Not so much about the gown being snobbish and not that the town resented people writing and demonstrating in their town. Then when I went into the town, and I rarely did, I just did the first year I stayed on the campus and I studied and I did all these cultural things on the campus. I went in I think once to town my freshman year and I bought a coat. I bought a winter coat on sale. The word was that the towns people were hostile to us, but they weren't hostile to me. But I'm sure I presented no threat to them. That was something town and gown. We also used to have a tornado every spring. Do you still have those?
MCCORD: We had a warning this year.
FAIR: They would rip through the town. I never got in it and I stayed here through summers, but it was like, "It happened again." I'm glad.
MCCORD: You mentioned before people had negative attitudes towards Carbondale as a small town. Did you have a similar or did other people have similar attitudes in DeKalb as also a small town?
FAIR: I think so. I think some of the Chicago people did. It didn't influence me, having lived in a corn field but I think so. I think they did look down on it in both places and I was aware of more hostility in the local. Of course I was there thirteen years and I lived there. I had a house, no more hostility in the surrounds of Carbondale to the university. Then I was aware of it Northern, but I may not have been in a position here at Northern, but there was considerable hostility in Southern Illinois. The thing that made it to live there is that we were the dominant, we were the colonists. They were more of us. It didn't bother us but they were very hostile to us and they could be when we come out, if they thought they would come out because I was the exception or something.
MCCORD: Just coming in today is not a lot of time to get an impression but does it feel different or what are your impressions of DeKalb now coming back?
FAIR: I'm going to go over and see the campus afterwards. When I come back, I don't feel a big change. They built up a lot of west campus, but west campus was always built up. No. Maybe my own personality, I see continuity. I looked at Main Street and I said, "It looks a lot like Main Street the library." I was never in this library before I spent all my time at the University library. But when I go to Tokyo, people say, "It's changed. You can't see this, it's completely different." I don't feel that way. So it's probably my own perception. I've heard that in the state universities in general there's been since 2007, 2008 a 13 percent drop in enrollment. Southern has suffered much worse, and we know I've come to find out there was an administrator who was sabotaging it. Well, Harry tells me Northern's enrollment has been down, which is the opposite of the private schools. So Tom and I were lucky we didn't plan it. When times get bad, people will seek higher degrees and they'll seek, I guess, mostly at elite or private schools, and of course Illinois didn't have a budget for several years. Illinois State in Chicago nearly folded. When I was a student here, we were just we were coming out of the boom time, out of the sixties, and the economy was getting worse. By the grace of God, it hasn't ever affected me, they'll do these surveys, "Are you better off or worse off?" And I'm always the same or better. I just haven't lost ground, but I'd have to see. Northern when I come back here, the populate what I noticed—I teach at Loyola, which is pretty diverse. Are your Japanese classes diverse?
MCCORD: A little bit.
FAIR: Mine are very diverse, and they're more diverse than the rest of the Loyola Campus. We're up in the north side, there's a lot of Indians from Indian background and the normal percentage of African-Americans. When I come here, I forget how wide it is. That's the difference.
MCCORD: Was it that way when you were here in the seventies or—?
FAIR: Here's a good story for you. I came from airbases where there were always about 10 percent Black people and they were normal and they were our teachers and they were our ministers and they were our neighbors and it was a haven for mixed-race couples. Truly, I remember, in Okinawa there were six girls around together in my class and two were Asian, two were Black, two were White, and we didn't think anything of it. It wasn't like, "Wow, look at that." Now looking back at the pictures, we can say it wasn't that nice, the Sesame Street group? But we didn't even notice. I was used to that, and there were hardly any Black Air Force kids in New Hampshire. It's a really small base. My dad was the highest ranking enlisted man. There weren't very many high school kids in the public school. There weren't people of color in the New Hampshire high school, hardly any. But it was okay, fine with me. It's all right. But I came to Northern—This could be interesting to somebody went and noticed after a week or so in the cafeteria, the black kids all sat together. I thought, "That's strange. I wonder if I should go sit with them," and something told me, "Probably not." Also, we were given roommates strictly by alphabetical order. So my roommate—Janet Fair, had Sandy Green—really bad situation disaster roommate stories like the worst thing that happens to all my students, my children, the disaster remains, but they said you couldn't change roommates no matter what. She was a smoker, and she was a drinker, and she was depressed. She was very smart, but anyway, because they said that people had wanted get away from different races. I heard the stories, I didn't live them, I hadn't experienced it. A friend who was from the town my parents moved, you can't get keen when my dad became a teacher in college, college teacher told of riots, regular riots in her high school in Kankakee, and it was racially involved, I don't know exactly what was happening. She'd wear gym shoes every day so she could run, but this was not part of my life. Then in the cafeteria, I noticed I wasn't friends with the black girls on the floor. After a year or so, I started meeting black friends through the literary magazine or German lessons or something. They were the people who were not feeling they needed to protect themselves. I didn't hear a lot of racist statements from people I knew at Northern, but I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a lot of racism out there. Did know quite a few as they said gay people who were at those days it was more common for people to talk about exploring their sexuality and they weren't even talking about gender identity back then in college. The first guy was my boyfriend, there wasn't any sexual contact, but he turned out to be gay and then he figured out he was gay, so that was okay with me and people said, "That must be the worst thing." It didn't bother me, I thought, "Well, he's just gay, that's okay," but I'm sure there was a lot of hostility. I learned that at Southern where the multicultural people there'd be racial hostility in conversations among students and then she'd bring up sexuality and suddenly the racial hostility was cleared up because sexuality was a more volatile issue and more hostility towards their sexuality and their gender identity. That one with the cafeteria, that was a learning experience for me because that was what I grew up with.
MCCORD: Something else?
FAIR: No. I'm glad I got that story in. I didn't prepare for this, I thought I would just talk. A good experience I had at Southern is my senior year I was chosen by my mentor, my anthropology professor and Charlotte Otten to be an undergraduate TA for anthropology. I loved doing that because I got to teach, and all my over it's setting myself again, because I had a good job in the library and that one, but I am grateful for that experience. It was just study groups for her bigger anthropology classes. She told stories, she'd been at the University of Chicago and had been denied tenure, and she had a brilliant publication record and she was a good teacher. She told stories of a lot of hostility to women by the faculty. I do remember at the Uni of Chicago the first time I saw a professor in the bathroom—I was used to having a female German professor, but most of my professors were men, and thinking, "Wow, she's in the bathroom with me." I went there anyway. I wasn't worried about it. I don't know why I wasn't expecting trouble. As I say, I don't think I had problems because I was woman, but maybe indulgences because it was a mother, but it was in the background and then I thought, "Oh, it's over, the world has changed." Everything has been made new and sometimes things that haven't changed surprised me. People used to be able to smoke here in the dorms, smoke in the library. That went out while I was working there my junior year there, which would have been seventy-three. They made it forbidden, and then I was shocked with the University Chicago still allowed smoking in the library some. People smoke in the classroom. I never had a professor who permitted it. All of the German professors smoked during our final exams.
MCCORD: Can you say more about things that you expected to change and maybe haven't at this point?
FAIR: Yes. Well, the Catholic Church, that's different. I came to Northern as a very active participating broad-minded ecumenical Protestant Christian. I lost that right away, I was not a member of any Church because I grew up on an airbase and I was active in the base of chapels. My senior year I just went to various churches examining them. While I was here I went from being a Christian to being probably an agnostic. I went and saw a priest, I wasn't a Catholic, but when I saw a priest at the end of my freshman year, I started out studying Latin and Greek, God's languages. I would get up and pray in the morning and then I studied way too much and I couldn't—Saint [unintelligible 01:39:25]—who I hate now. I went and saw a priest. I said, "I think I'm losing my faith." This is relevant to social history. He said, "Oh, what church did you belong to?" I said, "Well, I don't belong to any church. I was baptized as another dispelling went to these base chapels. I never went to a Methodist Church." He said, "We should go see a Methodist," non poaching, and I now know that at university is the the face and I hope it's—I don't know if it's with Muslims and Jews and Buddhists, but they don't try to recruit each other's members. That didn't do any good. I went back and through college my junior year, I didn't go to church here and my junior year I began to miss it. I would get up Sunday mornings and walk around the lake. I liked doing that and then nothing happened. When I got to the University of Chicago, I came to realize in a dramatic way that I would never make it out of graduate school without a faith community, spiritual health. I went looking around and I finally found one. That was, I joined the Catholic church in 1979 when everything was changing and it stopped changing obviously. That was one thing that I really expected to be different. Another thing is I didn't need it myself, but I had this vision of childcare on college campuses and they have a little daycare center, but it's not cooperative. It doesn't provide for people who have kids. I thought that would be different. I also thought, well, something that surprises me, it has more to do with high school, but even my college students, maybe this is what classics are and it's good that they're reading the same stuff that I was reading my own children's education. It's like yes, there'll be a new novel, the things they carried, but there's a lot of consistency. Although Latin's gone.
MCCORD: All right, well, thank you very much.
FAIR: Thank you, Brock. Something else and this of course is a disorganized oral history, but I remember being surprised and disappointed by the gender hostility that I encountered among students. It was within a close group of friends. These were people I knew through the dorms and there were boys and their girlfriends or there was me and I guess then I became the girlfriend of one of these group of boys. We used to like to go hiking or camping. This never happened to me with my boyfriend because it would've been the end, but the boys would ridicule the women for gaining weight. There was a lot of hostility, jokes and I don't hear this from my students. Maybe it's happening, but calling women they thought unattractive dogs, pigs, cows, ridicule, fat shaming. Which was, I couldn't have been fat shamed at that time. The boys making fun of the girls, but I do remember by our senior year, the men were putting on weight and the women who had worried about dieting and such things, and I was out of that world, were maintaining just in this small group. The women were actually doing better. I wasn't real close to these people and I didn't have academic ties to them, but I knew them through my boyfriend and, well, I didn't like it. I don't see this in my life now. I haven't seen that in a long time. I'd forgotten about it, but it was real.