- Synopsis: IntroductionKeywords: IntroductionTranscript: POTOCHNIK: Alright. My name is Ryan Potochnik. I'm here with my fellow interviewer Dayton LeClercq and our narrator Edward Bates. Today is Tuesday, October 29th, 2019. We are here today in the DeKalb public library located in downtown DeKalb, Illinois to conduct an oral history interview with Edward Bates for Northern Illinois University's 125th Anniversary Oral History Project. Thank you, Dr. Bates, for participating in this project.
BATES: No problem.
- Synopsis: BackgroundKeywords: Elmhurst, Illinois; Mount Morris, Illinois; Vietnam War; Northern Illinois University; History; Political Science; College of DuPage; Boy Scouts of America; Online College Courses; Highland Community College, Freeport, Illinois; Camp Lowden, Oregon, Illinois; Oregon, Illinois; Lorado-Taft NIU Extension CampusTranscript: POTOCHNIK: Now I'd like to start with asking if you would say a little bit about your background such as where you grew up in your life before you came to NIU?
BATES: I actually was born in Elmhurst, but I lived most of my childhood in Mount Morris, Illinois, a small town three miles southwest of Rockford. I went initially to Highland Community College in Freeport and then ended up at NIU as a full-time student in the Fall of 1968. I have some anecdotal information if you'd like to hear it, about how I originally came to NIU.
POTOCHNIK: Yes, of course.
BATES: A lot of this has to do with—and a lot of what I'll talk about with my undergraduate years coalesces with the Vietnam War because it was going on when I was here and before, et cetera. I had to deal with the draft, various things I can talk about. I was going to Highland College and I had to drop a class, so I was in danger of falling below being a full-time student and I had a four-year deferment. In the Summer of 1967, I was a Boy Scout staff member at Camp Lowden, which is near Oregon, Illinois. There is a Lorado-Taft extension campus of NIU, not far from there at Lowden Park. I took an art course there one summer. I'd go from Boy Scout staff over to the campus and got enough hours to maintain my deferment and not be drafted. What was interesting about that is then when I started in the Fall of '68, I came in as a reentering student and was under that previous catalog, which I don't remember the exact reason, but I know it helped me that I was in a previous catalog.
POTOCHNIK: You mentioned that you went to a Highland College. How does that time period of Junior College compare to what you see today?
BATES: Interesting question, especially, because I'm a community college instructor today. One of the main differences is I teach online today solely at College of DuPage and obviously, online classes were far from even being in existence in the '60s. That would be one of the main differences. As far as a face-to-face class is concerned, I don't think it was that much different. One of the good things about community college is the small sizes of the classrooms. When I started in NIU in the Fall of '68 and one of my first classes was a 500-student lecture, Political Science—that was quite a change from the whatever it was, twenty-thirty students at the other classes. Quite frankly, the reason I got interested in history was because of my experience I had in college and especially one of the teachers that I had there. DAYTON LECLERCQ: Who was that teacher—what exactly was the class and how did it bring about this interest in history?
BATES: I'm sorry, I don't remember this, whether it was Doctor or Mister Lacer, I know he had been a high school teacher before he taught at community college and I took US History I and II from him. That is my forte, US History throughout my educational career at NIU.
- Synopsis: Initial Arrival at NIU and Experience as a Returnign StudentKeywords: Vietnam War; Retail Management; Boy Scouts of America; Rockford, Illlinois; Lerner Shops; New York & Company; Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE); Teacher Certification; Master's of Arts Program (NIU); Doctorate of History Program (NIU); US Army ReservesTranscript: POTOCHNIK: Was there anything besides that prior enrollment during the Vietnam War? Was there anything else that attracted you to NIU?
BATES: It was close. I will tell you I'm a PhD, but I was not a stellar high school student. That's why I was at Highland College and I frankly was not a stellar undergraduate either. As such, I could get into NIU as somebody who was in the area.
POTOCHNIK: What were some of the most significant influences that impacted your decision to continue or to return to student life at NIU?
BATES: I was in retail management for over thirty years and I got into retail management because I had trouble getting a teaching job after I graduated. I had a BS in Ed from NIU. January ‘71 was my graduation. I was in need of a job and through, actually a Boy Scout connection, I got a job at a discount store in Rockford and excelled. I'll go into it later, but I did have a stint in the US Army Reserve for a while and then came back and was in management. Most of my retail career though was spent with a company at the time I started with, it was called Lerner Shops. It became and is today New York & Company. It's a women's clothing chain, which is why I referred to you [gesturing to LeClercq]. I'm sorry. [chuckles] LECLERCQ: Oh, that's fine. I work for a retailer myself, so I understand.
BATES: I rose up to be store manager, district manager or regional manager with them. In the mid-'90s, I saw the handwriting on the retail wall and figured I needed to perhaps consider a different profession. Retail does tend to be a young person's profession, generally speaking, I'm just abound with stereotypes, but that's all right, as long as they are kind stereotypes. Then I decided, "Let's renew my teacher's certificate." I contacted the ISBE, Illinois State Board of Education and they said, "Take a course and we'll renew it." I took a course with the idea of just renewing my teacher's certificate, but I really enjoyed it. That was twenty-six years after my January '71 graduation. I really enjoyed it. Dr. Leo Bassino was my first instructor. He is a full-timer at Northeastern Illinois University and he's an NIU graduate as well and had a great relationship with him, took another course, et cetera. Then thought, "Maybe a master's degree is a possibility here," so I kept doing it. The surprising thing I think back on it is I was working full-time retail, which is a very inundating profession. I'll put it that way. While I was doing that, I got my master's degree. I'm not sure how I did that, but somehow I did that. My master's was in May 2001.
POTOCHNIK: Would you mind describing the different roles you've taken on at NIU?
BATES: Sure. Obviously, bachelor's—BS in Ed in 1971—then the master's—1997 to 2001 is when I was doing that. I didn't decide to embark upon the PhD route until 2007. At NIU, there is a nine-year time limit on getting a PhD. I took roughly eight and three-fourths and graduated in 2016 at age sixty-seven. I did it because I wanted to do it, not because it was going to get me anything with the community colleges I teach at, but because I wanted to do that.
- Synopsis: Response to the Vietnam Draft at NIUKeywords: Vietnam War; US Army Reserves; Silver Star; Veteran Affairs (VA); Grant Tower North Dormitory; Plaza Dormitory; 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall (song); Kishwaukee River; DeKalb, Illinois; US Navy; US Navy Corpsmen; Draft Lottery; Military Draft; Physical Examination; Canada; Draft Dodgers; Draft Avoidance; US Marines; Vietnam Veterans; Military Draft Board; Chicago Draft Resisters; The Northern Star; Petaluma, California; Vandalism; Political Protests; Peaceful Protests; War Protests; Public Demonstrations; Oregon Highschool, Oregon, Illinois; Mount Morris Highschool, Illinois; DeKalb County Jail, Sycamore, Illinois; DeKalb, Illinois;Transcript: POTOCHNIK: Would you share a story about an experience or event from the time at the university? Anything stands out in your memory?
BATES: There's one in particular that I think of many times because it was quite frankly a frightening experience. This is in the spring of 1970. The Cambodian Invasion had happened and then Kent State had happened. There were disturbances on NIU Campus. I'll just put it that way. My junior year, which was my first year at NIU, I'd been at Grant North [dormitory] but then my senior year, I somehow convinced my father that Plaza dormitory was a good idea, so I was at Plaza. I'm not sure how familiar you are with Plaza, a private dormitory. Some of my friends and I, because we were curious about some of the demonstrations that were going on, went over to Grant North. We still had friends there, to see what was going on. We watched I would say about five or six demonstrators break into the university building over on West Campus. Drag a—as I remember, it was a university truck out into the middle of the street, took the gas-cap off, rocked it back and forth to get the gas to come out, lit it on fire and we watched a university vehicle burn right in between Grant North and Stevenson North. I don't know how much it's still said in DeKalb about that this happened. I know that they tried to get the Northern Star to give up some of the pictures they had taken, so they can arrest these folks. Northern Star made their journalistic claim. To my knowledge, nobody was ever prosecuted but I don't know that for sure. I know some of my friends had made the comment, "Oh, there's a lot of outsiders on campus today." Trying to blame it on outsiders. I'm like, "There's 26,000 students on campus. How do you recognize there're outsiders on campus?" I never bought that. I do not know. We took off from there because we were a little afraid about going to visit Grant North. One of the things that had happened very often during the war demonstrations was windows started getting broken. I'll add another anecdote to that. That happened at a similar time. I don't remember exactly when. In some ways, it's somewhat comical. There were some demonstrators that decided to block Lincoln Avenue on [State Highway] 38 and right at the Kishwaukee Bridge. It would make it difficult for anybody to get around easily because you couldn't walk across the bridge. You'd go all around the lagoon or whatever but that would be it. I had two female friends, Sandy and Patty. Who had been in downtown DeKalb trying on bridesmaids dresses that day, and had come back and were trying to get back on campus. They see this whole thing playing out in front of them, so they stood and watched it. The state police decided, "We're going to charge the demonstrators and try to break this thing up." All the demonstrators ran. The state police arrested people who were standing around watching including my friends Sandy and Patty. I was known to have a car which was somewhat unusual in those days on campus. I—in the past—had to go to the DeKalb County jail, which is in Sycamore, in order to bail people out that had done various things—I won’t go into that. I was elected to go over, it was a while before the bail could be rounded up. I think it was $100 each. The next morning we went over and bailed them out. The jailers were glad to get rid of them because they had been singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall all night long. I think the interesting thing about this is, I would classify it before this incident that Patty and Sandy were rather apathetic. Afterwards, not apathetic at all. In other words, the police had created a situation where somebody became more involved et cetera. About this time, on a personal basis, I graduated with eighty-one people from Mount Morris High School and you knew all your classmates very well, and I found out that one of my classmates, also named Edward, had died in Vietnam. In fact, he died on May 4th, 1970 which is the Kent State date. We didn't know about it ‘til after. I was considering joining some of these demonstrations—I didn't. My girlfriend at the time convinced me, "You want to be a teacher. You don't want to get arrested and have a record." So, I didn't. I will add that today, my classmates and I continue scholarship in honor of our friend that died in Vietnam. It's now Oregon High School because Mount Morris High School doesn't exist anymore. We do a scholarship there every year.
POTOCHNIK: You were never fully involved in these demonstrations?
BATES: No. Never fully involved. You want one more anecdote?
BATES: These are the anecdotes that I tell my students, so I might as well tell them to you. I have given you two for free. Here's the third one. Plaza was an interesting place to be then because- I don't know if you know how it works but there's four people to sweep the room, so two and two. All my roommates had been with me in Grant North. In fact, my roommate's name was Ed. His girlfriend's name was Eddy and they live in Petaluma, California today. There weren't enough males to make up the entire North Tower. You understand in those days, there were male towers and female towers. I had a very hard time getting used to that when I took my daughter to college the first time and realized there were male students right across the hallway from her. Anyway, there weren't enough males. There were females floors and male floors on Plaza North. They set the two elevators so some opened on the women's floors and some opened on the men's floors. Well, what that meant was, you waited for the elevator a lot because you only had one elevator. I can still remember, there were a couple of guys—I was waiting for an elevator to go down. A couple of other guys from one of the other rooms, I didn't know them very well. I knew they were from my floor—that was it. They're talking about what they're going to do that night: "Oh, we're going to break some glass. We're going do this. We're going—" It had nothing to do with any kind of demonstration against the war. It was teenage, maybe early-twenties hooliganism, vandalism, whatever you want to call it. They were just going to take advantage of the situation. I called those three stories, "The involved, the inspired and the whatever—the uninvolved." LECLERCQ: Did you notice anything else with the Vietnam War that impacted campus? You were directly involved with that as an undergrad. Did it affect campus culture in so many ways or even the academic aspects?
BATES: I'll start answering your question by saying most students at NIU were apathetic. This was not a hotbed of radicalism by any way, shape or form. That's why that incident was really big because it stood out so much. That was more what you saw in the news and saw in other places. I think it probably especially because I'm a History Major and Political Science Minor, it affected our classes a lot because we talked about it a lot. That's one of the main ways that I remember it affecting us. The other big one really changed for all of us in Fall 1969 which is where the [draft] lottery started. There was a lot of discussion, rightly so, that poor and minorities were the main ones that were being drafted into Vietnam. People like myself—going to college—we were avoiding it. They decided to do a lottery into a lottery bin, then they put every date of the year and pulled them out one at a time to determine the draft order for the lottery so that it was fair. You still could have a four-year student deferment, it did not change that. Once you were done with that, then you were eligible for the lottery. My birthday, it was number seventy-nine. It was generally considering anybody 180 and under, you could be drafted if you could pass the physical, et cetera and all that kind of thing. I knew I had to deal with it. Those of us that were in that 180 and under talked about it a lot. “What are we going to do? How are we going to handle this? You go to Canada, you're going to shoot yourself in the foot, you're going to join the Reserves”—which is what I ended up doing, whatever. It's hard for I think, young people to understand this today that you had deal with it. You couldn’t not deal with it. Yes, it was only males at that point. Of course, males are often connected to females, so it didn't mean women weren't involved in this as well. They were. That was a high topic of conversation constantly. What are you going to do about the draft?
POTOCHNIK: I just wanted to touch one more point on the demonstrations. I interviewed someone a couple of weeks ago who was also present during those demonstrations, and he noted about a harder police clash. Was there any harsher clash with police than the bridge confrontation?
BATES: I was never aware of any. That was the closest I ever was connected to a clash of sorts. But were there others? Perhaps. I know one of my three suitemates at Plaza worked for the Northern Star. I don't even remember conversations about that, but I think he was the editor, like the news editor of Star at that point.
POTOCHNIK: Thank you. This is a really interesting topic in NIU's history.
BATES: Do you want another Vietnam story? LECLERCQ: Yes, please. Any stories you'd like, please feel free.
BATES: It's not directly related to NIU. Knowing my situation, I was going to have to do something about the draft. I get a notice to take, and this is the spring. This is about the same time that all these other things are going on, it's May 1970. It's crushed in my mind now, but it was all at about the same time. I get a notice to take a physical, so I go into Chicago to take a physical. On the way in, there's another a young man handing out a piece of paper. It was very obvious he was not connected to what's in the building by the way he was dressed, the length of his hair, et cetera, at that time. Many of the guys refused him, threw him away, whatever. I took it, folded up, put in my pocket, didn't really look at it until later. I went in, pass the physical with flying colors, and pulled out that piece of paper later. "Chicago Area Draft Resisters, these are your rights." It went through a whole litany of things that you otherwise didn't necessarily know. There's no internet then. You could probably go to the Draft Board and get this information, but that was problematic in many ways. One of the things on there that I have no idea existed is that you could get one more year of college deferment if you were continuing towards a degree but hadn't graduated yet, and that fit me. I had been a BA. I was really not interested in taking a foreign language and switched to BS in Ed and that slowed my progress towards my degree. I was going to have to go the next summer after May 1970, and I was going to be student teaching that fall. I used that information to eventually get a draft notice canceled, because I did get an actual draft notice based upon that physical. Went to NIU, had them verify that I was continuing towards a degree until the draft board and got the draft notice canceled. A lot of people didn't think you could do things like that. I knew about it because of that piece of paper I got. Probably, one of the more comical situations that happened in this though is that—so then I had to take another physical for the [Army] reserves. Same place, same physical, but the standards were slightly different. You could see I'm a rather slender person, I didn't weigh enough to join the reserves. It was very close. Just a pound or two off, but I didn't weigh enough. My reserve unit was in Freeport and the first sergeant there told me, "Well, just get your own doctor to verify you weigh enough and we'll take care of this." I went to my own doctor and I put weights in my pockets and made sure I weighed enough to join the US Army Reserves. As I said, all of us had to decide what we were going to do and how we were going to do it, and you did it however it worked. I have a high school friend who helps us with that scholarship I mentioned, who thought joining the [U.S.] Navy would be cool because it wasn't a naval war. He ends up at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, and they give him twenty minutes to determine his MOS, Method of Service. He says, "Oh, a Navy Corpsman, that sounds cool. That sounds interesting." He becomes a Navy corpsman. Well, Navy corpsmen get attached to Marine units and end up in Vietnam, and that's what happened to him, and he won the Silver Star. He's one of the highest decorated Vietnam veteran corpsmen in Illinois and worked for the VA [Veteran Affairs] his whole life. Now, that's his situation. I described to you my situation. I think for the most part, we don't feel any animosity towards each other based upon what happened to us. We all did what we had to do, or what we felt we needed to do.
- Synopsis: Experiences as a Student and Return to Student Life as a Graduate StudentKeywords: Vietnam War; Doctoral Progrm in History at NIU; Masters of Arts Program at NIU; Dr. Barbara Posadas; Dr. David Kaivig; Marvin Rosen; The Little Red House on the Prairie; the Oval Office; President Harry S. Truman; The Atomic Bomb; Hiroshima, Japan; Nagisaki, Japan; World War II; World War Two; WWII;Transcript: POTOCHNIK: What do you feel is the most important program or decision that you have been a part of here in NIU?
BATES: Most important decision. [chuckles] It may have been that decision to take that piece of paper. I would say that my decision to return to NIU was the most important decision towards my life in 1997—my educational life—because it set me up then to have a teaching career in community college. I also teach at Elmhurst College by the way too. That was really important as far as NIU was concerned is to make that decision to come back. There was never any doubt in my mind where I wanted to go. I live close. I lived in West Dundee, that's just thirty-five miles away. That certainly helped, but could've gone to UIC [University of Illinois Chicago] or somewhere else.
POTOCHNIK: I don't mean to keep going back to the Vietnam.
BATES: That's okay.
POTOCHNIK: Do you think your educational path would've gone differently if you had to go to Vietnam?
BATES: Yes. I think it's highly likely I would not have survived Vietnam. Again, my size. I don't know how much you know about the Vietnam War, but there were tunnels. They sent guys my size into the tunnels. Some of the most dangerous duty. I didn't know anything about this until later. Nonetheless thinking about it, it would've been a strong possibility that I wouldn't have come back.
POTOCHNIK: You did what you had to.
BATES: Yes, you had to do what you had to do. One thing to just point out now. Remember you're talking to a history teacher here, so I have to throw these things here. The Tet Offensive, which is January 1969, is when the Vietnam War started to go down in popularity after that. By the time we get to May 1970, it's really unpopular amongst most people in the United States, whereas before Tet, a majority of people supported it, but then it changed after January 1969. I say that because I emphasized the fact that at that point, we're just kind of doing what we had to do in order to get through this period until the government gets smart enough to change. This is my own personal belief. I call it the “graveyard argument”. Very often you will hear politicians argue, "We can't leave the war now." You don't just hear this about Vietnam, you hear this about Afghanistan. "We can't leave now because we've lost all of these soldiers. How can we leave now?" That's a “graveyard argument” because you're just going to put more people in the graveyard before you make the decision that this was a bad idea and we need to do something different. That's exactly what happened with Vietnam. History teacher speaking.
POTOCHNIK: Does this affect now how you feel about it, teaching?
BATES: Yes. I think that there's one thing that I would caution, I don't know how many people you're talking to with this project, but that I would caution is most of what I'm telling you really falls into what would be considered anecdotal. It doesn't prove anything. You need voluminous amounts of accounts in order to prove something. That somebody's saying that they think this or think that because they lived through it, well, what they know about it was right here. It doesn't necessarily get the big picture. For my master's degree, my focus was on the dropping of the atomic bomb. I know God loved the vets from World War II and the folks who say, their lives were saved because we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that really is problematic because there's a lot more to this. They feel that way and I understand why they feel that way, but they weren't in the Oval Office when Harry Truman was making the decision and there was much more to the decision than to end the war quickly and not avoid the main invasion of Japan. Sorry, I could get off on a whole another historical thing if you wanted me to, but I don't think you want me to.
POTOCHNIK: That's fine. We're both History Majors. We love this.
BATES: Okay. All right. I could go on for a while on the dropping of the bomb.
POTOCHNIK: In your opinion, since you've been a history student here in different eras and throughout your entire educational career, what do you think makes the NIU History Department distinctive?
BATES: I don't know if you've ever heard this story, but back in the '60s, they called NIU, especially because of the history department, “the Little Red House on the Prairie”. Marvin Rosen was my undergraduate advisor. He was an avowed Marxist. Now, that's not a reason why necessarily. I think that you had many different schools of thought. Going through NIU and going through with these various professors, you could get a wide range of ideas of history. I feel like it is still that way based upon my experience. I'm somewhat more removed from it now. When you work on a PhD, you're only working with your committee and that's pretty much it. I don't have as much interaction though I have had interaction with quite a few people on a more casual basis. I think that variety has always been really important and the fact that NIU has always worked at getting top-notch people from around the country to be professors, history professors at NIU.
POTOCHNIK: How has this intellectual diversity affected you?
BATES: For one thing, I did that atomic bomb thing for my master's degree and I'm an immigration historian now. I don't know if you know Dr. Barbara Posadas—she was my advisor. I have to interject here for a bit on Dr. Posadas. I would not be a PhD if it wasn't for her. Absolutely, positively. My dedication, my PhD was definitely to her because she's really good at pushing people, which is really important. I had my first course, my first—I should rephrase that—my first reading seminar for the master's degree was with her and then I had several others and then she became my advisor and I still have contact with her. I realize she's not here, physically here anymore, but still around. Great, great, great teacher. One anecdote on Dr. Posadas and I told this at her retirement event too. That first reading seminar, I had taken a few courses, but those were traditional courses. Reading seminars are much different. I was intimidated by the rest of the people in the room by the other students. They were all younger than me, but they had—I didn't do much in history for those twenty-six years in between—so they knew everything on a much more intense level than I did. She sensed that and she made a suggestion to me because of course, in a reading seminar, you not only need to read, you need to talk. She suggested just the reading for next week, "Just pick a portion of that reading and make sure you know that up one side and down the other and that's what you talk about." It was great advice. I have given that advice to many of my own students over the years since then too, students who are introverted and don't want to talk in class because I try to make the classroom a discussion-oriented environment and I've had that discussion with many students on a successful basis with that same idea. It works. LECLERCQ: Do you feel that the interconnectivity with a staff of NIU staff made it feel more distinctive or did it help you, in your words essentially, make up what you had not continued with for those twenty-six years?
BATES: Working with Dr. Posadas definitely did that. You may not have heard of this individual, but he was my master's advisor, Dr. David Kaivig—he passed away several years ago, but he also was instrumental. I would put to him as the second most instrumental person in my career here at NIU, my graduate career at NIU. Also somebody who was very good at pushing people when necessary.
- Synopsis: Differences between Time as an Undergraduate and now as a Parent of an UndergradKeywords: Northern Illinois University; DeKalb, Illinois; Floor President; Floor Senator; Grant North Dormitory; Chicago, Illinois; Old Town, Chicago, Illinois; Political Science Courses; Marxism; University of Sourthern California; Mexican American; Cultural Differences; Campus Life; Campus Living; Parenthood; Parenting; Growing Up; Adulthood; MaturityTranscript: POTOCHNIK: In your view, how has NIU changed over time between your two enrollment periods?
BATES: It changed very little between the masters and the PhD, obviously, although there is some timeframe in there. In some ways, it's a little unfair for me to answer that question because I don't live in DeKalb. I can give you some feedback, but I think that somebody who lived in DeKalb both times probably would have better feedback. Having said that, because I was not much of an undergraduate, that's another perspective on this that kind of makes it somewhat problematic to offer information. When I was here as an undergraduate, we were so involved in the community of NIU. I was—what did we call him, the Floor President of Grant North, for a while, helped elect a [Floor] Senator, all kinds of things. I think for me as an individual, I grew up a lot at NIU. Coming from a small town, going initially to a community college, and then going to the big university was quite a change. Most of the people who I became acquainted with, became my friends, were either from Chicago or suburban Chicago. That was a huge change. I can still remember, again, I mentioned I had this car. We would go into Chicago to Old Town and hang out and do whatever, et cetera. I had never done anything. I had never even driven on an expressway before. Now keep in mind, there weren't as many back then either. It's really hard for me to compare the two with—it's almost like oranges and apples for me because it was such a different experience. I came back to NIU as an adult who had been successful in my retail life, et cetera. It just was a totally different ballgame. That's probably why I also did a lot better not only on achieving but on—I got good grades as a graduate student, I'll put it that way. I'll hit on something with that though. This has been discussed quite a bit amongst educational circles that it's easier to get a higher grade now than it was then. Because my own situation was different for one period to the next, I have to say, this may be my perspective. I do have a 4.0 [GPA] as a graduate student, which is incredible on my personal basis that I was able to achieve that. I was on academic probation one semester as an undergrad. I still have an “F” in one course. It was a Political Science course, that then I retook the next semester, and I think I got a “B” in it. It really ticked me off when I found out that now you can get rid of those old grades if you retake it. But because I was under that catalog, they won't get rid of it. I still have an “F” on my academic record at NIU even though I retook the course. I remembered—this is a joke, but I'll tell it anyway. We had guys on my floor at Grant North who were all “pro” because they were academic pro and social pro. Social pro, you could get if you get caught drinking, whatever, a female in your room or whatever. A terrible joke. It's just such a different experience for me between the two. It would be very hard for me to compare it. Do I think there's been grade inflation? Yes, I do. That's how it feels to me. Now I give the grades and I do have to give “F”s sometimes. Those students didn’t give me a choice, but I got to tell you, I give them every single opportunity to get out of that situation they can. Most students fail classes because they just don't do the work, period. I can't do anything for them if they can't do the work, whereas if they do something, I can do something. I'm not so sure that was true then. Having said that, another anecdote, and this involves Dr. Rosen. I had him for an English History class. Being a Marxist, he had us reading Bronte and all kinds of things in order to demonstrate the origins of capitalism and all kinds of things like that. I had him the semester that I had to get off academic pro[bation]. This was the whole Vietnam all over again. If I don't get off academic pro[bation], then there I go. I guess you could say that was an incentive. I worked really hard on that class and that everything that I felt I needed to do, but then I felt I need to do one more thing. These were the days when you took an exam in a “blue book”. Do you still take exams in “blue book”? In the back of the “blue book”, I wrote a note to Dr. Rosen explaining my situation academic pro[bation], et cetera. "I need an ‘A’ in this class. If I don't get an ‘A’ in this class, I may not get off academic pro[bation]." He did give me an “A”. I do believe I deserved it, but nonetheless, what I believe and what the professor believes is not always the same. Because he was my advisor, then he saw me later and said, "Did you get off?" I said, "Yes, I did." What turned out is I got a higher grade in one course than what I expected I was going to get, and I didn't need the “A”. He could've given me a “B” and I still would have gotten off, but nonetheless.
POTOCHNIK: Earlier you talked about campus involvement was a big thing in your time as an undergrad. Would you say it's sort of a—I don't want to call it a necessity but something that can help a student mature overall in their life in this time?
BATES: Yes. Definitely. It's like when a student goes away to school, they have an educational experience and they also have a new social experience, because usually, they haven't been away from mom and dad. My oldest went to the University of Southern California [USC]. Mi esposo es Mexicano Americano—my wife's Mexican American—I know recently my oldest daughter got married and some of my Mexican relatives were surprised that I wasn't bawling that she got married. No, I was upset when I took her to USC and left her there. That's when I was upset because that's when I felt like she was gone from me and gone from me directly impacting her life. I think that's what I described as a cultural thing, but I'm using it to emphasize that there's this social thing as well as an educational thing in going away to school. My younger daughter never went away to school and I think that had a different impact on her. She went to Elgin Community College and some other schools in the area.
- Synopsis: Technological Advancement in Higher EducationKeywords: Online Learning; Grading Scale Alterations; Higher Education; Online College Courses; Discussion Boards; Synchronous Learning; Asynchronous Learning; Retail Management; Illinois; Commuting; Work TravelTranscript: POTOCHNIK: Do you think teaching today with online courses and the new technological advancements, do you think that plays into grade inflation at all?
BATES: I don't, because students take these classes thinking they're going to be easier and it's the reverse. It's harder. It's also harder for the teacher as well. If you have a discussion board—I'll tell you about the teacher side of it first. If you have a discussion board—which is the replacement of the class discussion, right? Class discussion—you're there for an hour and you listen to the class discussion, you talk et cetera. Well, the discussion board, I need to read all of it, then I need to comprehend what students have said. Sometimes it's lengthy which is fine, et cetera, but it is time-consuming. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy it. I think that because it's harder because the student is more on their own in an online class and that's what they're not expecting. They think, "I just occasionally come to this and I'll be okay," et cetera. Well, if I did that, if I don't give the student deadlines you know—just do it here, nobody would—I’m being facetious to say nobody, but many students would not do the work at all. I think it's the reverse, at least in history. I can't speak for other subjects. I have taught online since 2006. I have taught in the classroom during all that time as well. I did both. I'm hybrid. Because I started in 2006, that's fairly early in the online business. I actually—at the College of DuPage—I designed online classes that not only I teach, but that some of my colleagues teach as well. I'm very involved in online. LECLERCQ: Would you say that the tech jump with online classes has perhaps made grading more fair, in some cases, because you do have such systems now as automatic plagiarism checks?
BATES: Yes. I would definitely agree with that statement. The other reason that it's made it more fair, and this is my favorite part about online classes. I call it the truly democratic classroom. I mean, now students can post pictures if they want to themselves they don't have to, but I don't know a student by their age, by the race, often by their gender. Some names you don't know for sure. Some names from other countries you don't know for sure. It causes such that the instructor just deals with what the student has written purely. There's been a lot of studies that the teachers, even well-meaning teachers, are affected by race, culture, gender, et cetera. That doesn't tend to happen in online classes. The other thing that happens in an online class is that it gives the introverted student a chance to excel. Because they can write what they think. They don't have to muster up the gumption to say something in class when they don't feel comfortable doing it. They can write something. I think many students have the chance to excel in that environment that they may not have in the other. Now there's the other element to online classes. Many more nontraditional students are in the online classes, whether they be people who are taking care of family at home, working a stressful job, a full-time job, whatever. That it's opened up all kinds of possibilities for that. I think all of those are good. My classes, not everybody does this, my classes are totally asynchronous. Students come to the class when they can come to the class. Yes, there's deadlines, but you can do it early. Yes, most of the students are doing it starting at 11:00 PM for a midnight deadline, but nonetheless, the possibility of doing it is sooner than that but they are not synchronous. I tried it a synchronous—kind of like a chat room when we first started teaching online office hours, nobody ever came. They'd email me. I mean, we all have one of these [holds up his cell phone] I know, so they can email me and we talked by email all the time that's constant. I held up a phone. Sorry.
POTOCHNIK: When you were starting, out doing online courses back in '06, were you at all intimidated by this new technology?
BATES: Somewhat I had a really good teacher. I worked directly with—they've changed the name of some of these departments in the community colleges so many times I can't remember the name it was then—it was the person who was in charge of distance learning for that school. It actually was the College of Lake County. I have also taught there quite a bit too. I don't anymore. She worked one on one with me and that really helped. Then my department head was teaching online at the time. She peeked into my classes and saw how things were going and gave feedback as well. Within the first semester or so I was in real good shape as far as teaching online.
POTOCHNIK: If you had this technology back when you were an undergrad, would you have wanted to use it?
BATES: Right. True confessions, I have never taken an online class myself. It's hard for me to answer that question. I think when I was working in retail, yes, it would have been very beneficial. Having said that, that I was a graduate student at that point, and graduate classes—I mean, how you going to do a reading seminar online? You could do it but I wouldn't advise it. I don't think it would be the right kind of environment for that. Some of the other classes I took perhaps 400-level that counted as graduate credit that might have been a feasible thing. It would have helped me with traveling around. I mean I had the whole state of Illinois for stores at the time. I was doing that. That's why I say I'm still not sure how I got my master's degree. Somehow.
- Synopsis: Outside Events Impacting Campus LifeKeywords: 9/11; September Eleventh; September 11th, 2001; NIU Shooting 2008; Valentine's Day Shooting (NIU); Northern Illinois University; Family Life; February Fourteenth Shooting (NIU); DeKalb, Illinois; 2000 Pesidential Election (US)Transcript: POTOCHNIK: During the time on campus did, broader events on the local or national stage affect your life on campus? I know we talked about the Vietnam War. Is there anything else that might have happened?
BATES: I mean, elections because I came to the NIU in the Fall of '68. There was—I mean, I can remember watching, actually this was at home. I was watching the Democratic National Convention disaster unfold on a little twelve-inch screen at home. That was as much related to what was going on in Vietnam as anything else. We talk about some of the divisive politics today. Certainly, they are but they certainly would then too, in many ways, it rhymes with that era. If you've heard, have you heard that? That word use history doesn't repeat itself it rhymes. Yes, I think that works better. Because history doesn't repeat itself. Late-19th century is pretty contentious as well. Gee, we also had a Civil War once too. I guess it was kind of contentious then, wasn't it? Read the Jefferson-Adams Letters. They were kind of interesting.
POTOCHNIK: I have to wonder, during your master's program here, you were here during the time of the World Trade Center attacks, did that have any huge impact on attitudes or—?
BATES: I because I got my degree in May 2001. It was right after that. It impacted all of us, but on a personal basis, it probably impacted me most because I talked about leaving my daughter in Southern California. That was like, a few weeks before 9/11. Not only was she two-thousand miles away, but this whole thing was going on. Well, the [Presidtial] Election of 2000 was kind of an interesting election. I remember discussing it quite a bit in class amongst ourselves. Other than that, not a lot.
POTOCHNIK: You were here, you're present in 2008 during your—
BATES: I was.
POTOCHNIK: Do you have any recollections on the February Fourteenth Shooting? On that day?
BATES: Yes, because I mentioned that my younger daughter went to Elgin Community College, and then she came here, and she was here when that happened. What I remember best about that because of course, we did have cell phones by that point, is all the cell phones being down. Because there was so much traffic for cell phones and it was a couple of hours before we got a hold of her and to find out that she was okay. That I can remember like it was yesterday because that was extremely disconcerting. She lived off campus by South Lincoln Avenue.
- Synopsis: Scholarships and Outreach at NIUKeywords: Little Vietnam; Shreveport, Louisiana; Brothers; Family Life; Lincoln Way Apartments; DeKalb, Illinois; Mount Morris, Illinois; England; Royal Air Force [England]; Scholarships; Monetary Inflation; Chance Program;Transcript: POTOCHNIK: Now if you could change one thing here at NIU, what would it be? How would you go about it?
BATES: I have no idea what the general scholarship structure is at NIU. I know that when I went here in the late '60s, early '70s there were many inner-city youths coming here for the first time through some kind of scholarship programs. It feels like those are not as viable today or not as prevalent. Something seems to have changed. I mean, I never had a scholarship myself so it's hard for me to speak on a personal basis for that. I mean, I came from a middle-class background that my father afforded to send me as an undergraduate. I'll segue into something else in answering that question too but I would like to see real good strong scholarship programs here. My family sponsors a scholarship here—and this is another connection I have to NIU. I had two older brothers and the middle brother, Jim, went to Augustana, left after a couple of years, joined the Air Force. This is also during the war. My oldest brother, who by the way, he was drafted then ended up in a—because he had a college degree, ended up in a testing center at Fort Polk, Louisiana which was known as a “Little Vietnam”, but he never left there because he had a college degree and they used him for that purpose—testing the soldiers. Jim went into the Air Force, ended up in Clark Air Force Base which is in the Philippines for a while and then re-upped another year so he could go to England. He loved being in England at a Royal Air Force Base. While he was in the service, he took a “Famous Artists Course”, I don't know if you ever heard of it but it's a correspondence course in art and came back here, did get a job in Rockford for a while and realized that the lack of a college degree was affecting his ability to move up with companies so he came to NIU. I have to think about the exact time frame. He started here in early '72, something like that and lived in Lincoln Way. Do they still call them Lincoln Way apartments? It is just South of [State Highway] 38 on Annie Glidden [Rd.] on the West side of the street, tall brick building about six stories. He went there and he lived there, came here to NIU. He had had a history most of his entire adult life of recurring headaches and had been to chiropractors, various folks, et cetera. Never got any relief and on spring break in 1973, he passed away in his sleep in my parents' home in Mount Morris. My father started the scholarship in his memory, my parents are gone. The scholarship falls on my brother and I now but because of my connection with NIU, I'm the primary one who has taken care of it. I added to the scholarship as well. It is for art students and is given every year. One of the reasons why I added to it is because 1973-74 dollars when my father put in there, don't go as far as what they do now so I added to it. I do have plans to add to it more. Actually one of my brother's paintings is in the art building, so I would encourage you to see it. It's subtle and it reflects my brother's personality.
POTOCHNIK: We do have the Chance Program for inner-city students, do you think NIU should be promoting that more and putting up more at the forefront to get that—?
BATES: Absolutely. Reparations is never going to be passed. It's never going to be passed. I can't imagine it ever being passed. Giving money will never be passed. This is a different way to do reparations. That's how I feel about it is through scholarships, et cetera, that kind of thing. That's the way to rise up inner-city youth to be more successful. Get them to college.
- Synopsis: Past, Present, and Future of Higher Education the Experiences of Dr. BatesKeywords: MP3 Players; Northern Illinois University; College of DuPage (CoD); Civil Rights Movement; Southwestern United States; Downwinders; Jefferson Day Dinner of 1830; slavery; American History; Civil War (US); College of Lake County; US History Courses; Nevada Atomic Testing sites; Highland Community College; University Student Enrollment; The Great Recession (US)Transcript: POTOCHNIK: I missed a question from before, if you go back to the first day that you came to NIU, what would you tell yourself?
BATES: First day that I came to NIU, I do remember it pretty well too. Don't bring so much stuff. [laughs] Thinking about MP3 players and things like that today, I had this huge turntable. It was massive but you know you got to have your records. Play big records on. You do know what those are right?
POTOCHNIK: Vinyl’s making a comeback, so a lot of people still bring them.
BATES: Yes? Okay. I've heard that. I still got some of those albums. The kick out of it, we'd still call these things albums even though that's not what they are. [laughs]
POTOCHNIK: We've kind of touched on this already but what's your career like at college of DuPage and how has NIU sort of prepared you for that?
BATES: Sure. Certainly, from a history background perspective, NIU prepared me very well for that starting especially with the working on the master's degree and not so much with the undergraduate because that's a long ago. I had to relearn history to a great degree. Because think about how the study of history changed during that period too—those twenty-six years that I was out of it. It was beginning to change in the 1960s and 1970s to be more ordinary people-oriented. Sorry, you're asking a history teacher questions so I'm going to go into this. History before the Civil Rights Era was about dead white men. The Civil Rights [Movement] have not only changed us as a society and changed our politics it also changed how we studied history. We started paying attention to minorities and women. We hadn't paid attention to them before that. Whoa, what a concept, right? To ordinary people. My whole dissertation was about ordinary people. I wrote about immigrants from Northern Mexico and the Southern Texas a hundred years ago. I found out enough information about a couple of key individuals, ordinary people that I wrote about because you need to do that to make the history interesting. It can't just be all tables and all that kind of thing. You have to have more to it. I think that that has made my undergraduate career not so enlightening as far as history but my graduate career very enlightening. Yeah, I did the atomic bomb thing but what got me interested in doing the atomic bomb thing was the “downwinders”. I don't know if you've ever heard of the downwinders. These are the folks who live downwind of the Nevada testing center, and we had high rates of leukemia and other birth defects, et cetera. That's what got me interested in the whole atomic bomb thing. I got interested in more from an environmental basis. I did something a little different with the actual master's thesis but, nonetheless, that's what got me into it. Then obviously I'm an immigration historian now. I do give presentations around the area on immigration. That's one of the ways I like to interject myself now. I'll segue your question into another response. The PhD has done a lot for me with Elmhurst College. I have taught classes on immigration history there to senior-level students. There's no way they would've done that with me if I didn't have a PhD. Actually, in the spring semester, I'm doing a multi-discipline class on immigration where I'm doing the history part. Somebody else is doing sociology, somebody else psychology, et cetera. Again, there's no way I could do that if I didn't have a PhD. This semester I'm doing some independent study with a couple of students. Again, they wouldn't have signed me up for that at a four-year school if I didn't have a PhD. It did a lot for me as far as that is concerned. COD, the background. I'm an adjunct, I teach US I, US II, Western Civ[ilization] I, Western Civ. II and the US from 1945. Now in College of Lake County, I did teach popular culture a couple of times, tried to get an immigration history classes going there which just never happened. College of Lake County—I'll back up a little bit. I left retail in January of 2004, I'll just put it that way. I left retail January 2004, but I did get severance for six months, I could afford to just do whatever, but I spent those six months trying to get a job in education. I tried to get a high school history job, I'm very glad I never got it. I don't know if either one of you want to be a high school history teacher, it is really hard to get a job. There were hundreds of applicants every time somebody applies and my wife was a principal and even that connection in that district didn't get me a job. So, I'm very glad that I was contacted. The first place I was contacted by was the College of Lake County, sending out all these resumes and everything. I had an interview with the dean, and he said, "You can teach Western Civ., right?" I probably hesitated for maybe one second and then said, "Sure." All the well knowing I hadn't had a Western Civ. class since Highland College. [laughs] See, for adjuncts, there's just this assumption you can teach any of the basic history courses. That first semester I just stayed ahead of the students and was fine. Now, I design Western Civ online classes, I don't have the same depth obviously in Western Civ. that I do in US History, but we do a pretty good class. You want to hear about one of my assignments? I'll use this one. Have you taken Western Civ.? This is an online exam, they're supposed to read and understand Plato and Aristotle, their views because they are different. They were supposed to read that thoroughly, understand Plato and Aristotle. Then I throw in some arbitrary people, which one of those two would Cicero agree with and why? Which one of those two would the God of the Jews agree with and why? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. To me, it is the ultimate critical thinking exercise because you're not going to find this anywhere else. I have a whole series of these, my other favorite one is—will segue into US history, is the Jefferson Day Dinner of 1830. I'm testing your memory of what happened at the Jefferson Day Dinner of 1830. The President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, toasted to the Republic, in other words, to the Federal Republic and his Vice President, Calhoun toasted basically to state's rights. He didn't say it that way but those were the two rival toasts. These guys are both slaveholders, let's see. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which one would she side with? Which side of the room would she gravitate to in this Jefferson Day dinner? Would she be with Jackson, would she be with Jefferson? Thoreau, which side would he be on? I love doing classes or exams like that because I have never given a multiple-choice exam in the US history class and never will. LECLERCQ: Can I ask though, is there any wrong answer to that?
BATES: No, it's how well you have structured your answer, that's what I grade it upon. Are there some of them I think are more obvious than others? Perhaps, although the Jackson and the Calhoun thing is really tough because this is the era of slavery and almost everybody I'd throw in there, I put in Ellison, who was a black slaveholder, I throw in 12 Years A Slave—Northup [Samuel]. Which one of those two would he probably side with? He didn't have a choice, [laughs] I don't say that you can choose none, you have to pick a side.
POTOCHNIK: Sounds like a more rigorous test of history instead of just multiple choice.
BATES: I think it is. Having said that, the way the course is structured, they have come across these other individuals before they take that exam. They have some rudimentary knowledge beyond just reading the text. Some of the other assignments have involved some of these people. You want to take my online class? [laughs]
POTOCHNIK: I don't know if I'll pass it. [chuckles] Given your time at NIU and Elmhurst and in your opinion, what does the future of higher education look like for this region?
BATES: I'll start this by saying history—I guess I have to answer that from the standpoint of history classes. I'm really concerned and so are most history departments. Enrollment is down, majors are down, and there isn't a clear pathway to figuring out, first of all, why? Second of all, what are you going to do about it? College of Lake County, one reason why I don't teach there anymore, there's several reasons but one of the reasons is that about 10 years ago, I think there were 12 adjuncts in the faculty, now there's two and the number of full-timers has not changed. The number of classes students were signing up for is really dwindling. There used to be, I don't know, six or seven online sections and I think there's four. It isn't happening as much at [College of DuPage] COD but I've seen it at COD, I don't think it's happening as much as at Elmhurst, perhaps speculation on my part. Enrollment in general is down in community college compared to what it was during the Great Recession because so many students were going to community college during the great recession for affordability reasons and now we're back at four-year colleges, universities. I think that might have something to do with it perhaps. I'm prejudiced about history majors but I think we have a leg up on all of the other majors as far as rigorousness and ability to think. The whole critical thinking et cetera, I think we have it on most other majors as far as that's concerned so perhaps more of those students that are inclined in that direction are going to four-year schools, perhaps. I hope that's what it is.
POTOCHNIK: What do you think schools around here can do to maybe boost History Majors?
BATES: Absolutely positively encourage more people, like myself, to come back to school. I don't feel there is enough of a program at NIU to do that. When I was working on my master's degree, in between the masters and the PhD, I encouraged various people in the history department that we need do this and I never got anywhere. I even told them I'll be a spokesperson for them if they wanted me to and I didn't get anywhere with it. Males in my generation seem to love history, do you know how jealous my friends are that I went to school with, that I'm a History teacher? “You get to talk about history all day?” [laughs] It's out there. It's out there if schools did more to encourage it. I understand that the primary emphasis is still going to be high school graduates, but this is an untapped field. I think perhaps community colleges are doing more with tapping it, but I don't think, unless there's something I don't know about that I don't know that NIU is, especially talking from a history standpoint. I could probably be saying some of these things to the art department too because of the scholarship. I obviously have some in there as well.
- Synopsis: 125th Anniversary Reflection and ConclusionKeywords: Northern Illinois University's 125th Anniversary; NIU's 125th Anniversary Oral History Porject; NIU Alumni; Olney Historical Society; Las Vegas, Nevada; History Teachers; College of DuPage (CoD); PhD Program (NIU); Doctoral Program at Northern Illinois University; Dr. Barbara Posadas; Elgin, Illinois; Chicago, Illinois;Transcript: POTOCHNIK: What else do you think deserves attention during the 125th anniversary year?
BATES: That's a good question. I certainly think it's very good that you're doing this, which is why I volunteered to do this. It's so often that anniversaries just tend to venerate what happened 125 years ago or 100 years ago or whatever, and somehow the in-between gets left off so that's why I think this is very good because obviously, I don't think you're having any people from 100 or 125 years ago coming in to do anything. I'm not sure how well this was publicized. I knew about it because of my connections with NIU, but we had some friends over for dinner that are younger than me just last Friday and it turned out that one of the guys there, his dad was here when I was here, and I was telling him, "Tell your father about it. I'll contact you guys so that you get more feedback," but I don't know. I learned about this because I'm connected to NIU, how about all those NIU graduates? Did this go out to alumni? It did go out to alumni. Maybe there's some other venue. Most NIU graduates are connected to Chicago somehow. Yes, some of us my age don't read newspapers. Maybe something in the newspaper might not be a bad idea, you know. Human interest story, NIU's conducting these interviews. I'm connected to a service club in Elgin and local papers are interested in stories like these all the time so that might not be a bad idea.
POTOCHNIK: So just more outreach, basically?
POTOCHNIK: All right. Thank you very much. I think we've just— LECLERCQ: Is there anything that you'd like to talk about that we've maybe missed or haven't asked about?
BATES: I talked about so many things. Let's see. [laughs] LECLERCQ: Is there anything you'd like to add to any of that?
BATES: You asked for it when you invited a history teacher to come here. I don't think so. I'm trying to think if there's something on the PhD that I would advise. I think the nine-year rule is a viable rule. They didn't always have that rule and they had people just went decades without getting beyond the ABD so that was kind of silly and that's why they passed the rule. My experience was very positive, but I think that's mainly because of Barbara because she helped direct me virtually all the way. I went to a wage meeting and met with her before I started this in 2007, talked to her about it and she pointed me in the right direction, got me going. That was very positive as far as that's concerned. I know that the history department has get-togethers of current students sometimes, often at Dr. Schmidt's house. Maybe something broader than that might not be bad. You know, graduates coming back and getting together. I would like to get more connections to some of the people I went to class with when I was working on the PhD. Most of them I've lost track. The one that I still definitely have contact with also teaches online at COD from Las Vegas. He lives in Las Vegas and writes Austen-esque novels that I find fascinating, and I also say that because I've done some contributory work. I've done a couple of book reviews for the Olney Historical Society. Like I said, I give these presentations around. I'm on the COD Speakers Bureau but I have a journal article that I just can't get going on getting the revisions. I sent it in once and got it revised and resubmitted which is not bad, right? You're actually expecting at that the first time around. I would like to have more interaction with others. Yes, being an online instructor does affect that at this point, but that would be good. Very good.
POTOCHNIK: All right. I think that just about wraps it up here. Thank you, Dr. Bates for your participation and I think this concludes the interview.
BATES: Thank you.
- Program Coming Soon!