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Ld3668m31969 00035

tution faced an uphill fight. In the early 1870s drought and grasshopper plagues brought Nebraska's farmers to the verge of destitution, and there were many Nebraska who felt that public funds should not be spend on a luxury such as a university. A constant barrage of criticism emanated from Omaha, still smarting over the removal of the capital to Lincoln. Because a group of men can seldom speak with a firm voice, the Board of Regents had difficulty justifying the founding of the University and answering criticism. It was most unfortunate that from 1869 to 1871, when the first chancellor was appointed, the University possessed no single spokeman.

Some of the criticism was justified, and it could be argued - as the Omaha newspapers continually did - that the University was unnecessary and premature. The editor of the Omaha World Herald in January, 1871, considered the University "an expensive as well as an empty, luxury"; and he deplored that the residents of Douglas County were expected to contribute $13,488.69 for the "needless educational dance." At this time he said, Nebraska needed a university "about as much as a cat needs two tails." But criticism was not by any means limited to Omaha. In Nemaha City one speaker told a teachers' institute that the University should be converted into a normal school since the state badley needed teachers. It was absurd to contemplate the creation of a university in an undeveloped frontier area. "A state university ought to mean something more than a sham and a waste of money. The Nebraska State Teachers Association shared the view that the University was premature; and during its 1870 convetion, it adopted a resolution that the resources of the state should instead by directed toward the perfection of the lower levels of public education. During the 1871 legislative session, the State Journal reported that some lawmakers "are arguing that the State university should no be opened because there are no students. It is a great oversight of the Regents that they have not collected a few hundred students here prior to electing a faculty and getting ready to ring the first bell."

The criticism would have been much less effective had not the issue been at hand around which all opponents of the University could rally their forces. The circumstances surrounding the contruction of the University building afforded the critics a field day, for Governor Butler and the Comimissioners of Public Buildings clearly exceeded their legal authority in matters pertaining to the building. The legislature had authorized one hundred thousand dollars for the building, the money to be derived from the sale of city lots in Lincoln. The legislature also has said that all plans for the building would have to be approved by the Board of Regents prior to actual construction. While it is impossible to determine what happened, it is apparant that the Commissioners of Public Buildings and Governor Butler allowed the expenditure of a sum in excess of the hundred thousand dollars and countenanced other irregularities. Just where the regents fit into the confused sequence of events cannot be determined. However, we do know that on June 3, 1869, the Board approved the general plan submitted by M.J. McBird of Logansport, Indiana, but suggested "such modification of the external design as may seem to [the architect] desirable." Years later, in 1910, John C. Elliot, a member of the first Board of Regents, recalled that the Board submitted a plan for the building to Governor Butler for his approval, but the approval was "seemingly not forthcoming." Butler presented a radically different plan to the regents, which they rejected. They expected him to use their plan, but "the construction of University hall proceeded according to the plans formulated by Governor Butler and his architects."

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