Clark Kerr? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The most candid and blunt statement I have ever heard attributed to a university administrator was reportedly spoken in the 1950s:
The chancellor’s job is to provide parking for the faculty, and athletics for the alumni, and sex for the students.
Is this a genuine statement from the straight-laced decade of the Fifties? Who crafted this line?
Quote Investigator: Clark Kerr was the chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley in the 1950s, and he delivered a speech containing a provocative statement about administrative responsibilities that was reported in “Time” magazine in November 1958. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
At inaugural ceremonies for the University of Washington’s new president, Charles E. Odegaard, President Clark Kerr of the University of California last week offered some of the green fruit of his experience: “I find that the three major administrative problems on a campus are sex for the students, athletics for the alumni and parking for the faculty.”
The meaning of this quotation was ambiguous. Kerr may have been stating that the sexual behavior of students caused problems for administrators. Similarly, limited parking caused headaches, and major athletic contests caused headaches for governance. The word “provide” appears in some modern versions of the quotation, but it did not appear in the original.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1964 an instance of the expression reappeared in “Time” magazine with an attribution to Kerr: 2
In a rueful moment, University of California President Clark Kerr once defined his three main headaches as “sex for the students, athletics for the alumni and parking for the faculty.” Now sex and sport seem simple concerns, compared to parking—for everybody.
In 1968 the inveterate quotation collector Evan Esar placed the saying in his compendium of “20,000 Quips and Quotes”. No ascription was listed: 3
The three major problems for a college campus are parking for the faculty, athletics for the alumni, and sex for the students.
In 1980 an instance was included in “The Official Explanations” by Paul Dickson with an acknowledgement to “MLS”, the initials of an informant named Marshall L. Smith of Washington, D.C.: 4
Kerr’s Three Rules for a Successful College. Have plenty of football for the alumni, sex for the students, and parking for the faculty.
(Clark Kerr. MLS.)
The quotation was correctly cited in the 1985 reference work “A Teacher’s Treasury of Quotations” and the 1988 reference “Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations”. The word “that” was deleted in the version printed in the “Treasury”: 5 6
I find the three major administrative problems on a campus are sex for the students, athletics for the alumni, and parking for the faculty.
—Clark Kerr, in Time, Nov. 17, 1958.
When Kerr died in 2003 the University of California, Berkeley sent out a press release with an instance of the saying attributed to Kerr although the year 1957 was specified instead of 1958: 7
“The chancellor’s job had come to be defined as providing parking for the faculty, sex for the students, and athletics for the alumni.”
— 1957 remark picked up by Time & Playboy
In 2014 the website “Inside Higher Ed” published an article about parking on campuses which included another instance of the remark: 8
Parking has long been a problem on college campuses. By 1957, amid the glory days of American car culture, California higher ed leader Clark Kerr’s fundamental insight when he was chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley was to realize his job had come to be “providing parking for the faculty, sex for the students, and athletics for the alumni.”
In conclusion, Clark Kerr can be credited with the statement given in the 1958 citation.
Image Notes: Multi-story parking garage image by Bilderandi on Pixabay. Maryland Fedex Field stadium image by tpsdave on Pixabay. Abstract Lovers image from Hans on Pixabay.
(Great thanks to Bruce Reznick whose query led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Reznick supplied the 2003 and 2014 citations that pointed to Kerr. Thanks to Bob Rosenberg who pointed out that a spellchecker had transformed the word “inveterate” into “invertebrate”.)
- 1958 November 17, Time, “Education: View from the Bridge”, Time Inc., New York. (Online Time magazine archive; accessed July 23, 2014) ↩
- 1964 March 13, Time, “Colleges: Can U Learn at Drive-In U?”, Time Inc., New York. (Online Time magazine archive; accessed July 23, 2014) ↩
- 1968, 20,000 Quips and Quotes by Evan Esar, Section: College, Quote Page 153, Column 1, Doubleday, Garden City, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1980, The Official Explanations by Paul Dickson, Quote Page 113, Delacorte Press, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1985, A Teacher’s Treasury of Quotations, Compiled by Bernard E. Farber, Section: Administration, Quote Page 5, Column 2, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1988, Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations, Compiled by James B. Simpson, Section: “Clark Kerr, President, University of California”, Quote Page 211, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. (Verified on paper) ↩
- Website: UC Berkeley News, Main article title: “Former UC President Clark Kerr, a national leader in higher education, dies at 92”, Sidebar title: In his own words (quotation appeared in sidebar), Date on website: December 2, 2003 , Website description: University of California Berkeley News and Press Releases, (Accessed berkeley.edu on July 31, 2014) link ↩
- Website: Inside Higher Ed, Article title: “Rockstar Parking, for a Price”, Article author: Ry Rivard Date on website: July 23, 2014, Website description: “Inside Higher Ed is the online source for news, opinion and jobs for all of higher education”, (Accessed insidehighered.com on July 31, 2014) link ↩