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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/184

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178
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The German plan of calling the best man without regard to whether he will accept or decline is better than our secret process. The English plan of having an expert board of electors for each chair possesses certain advantages. Migration of instructors as well as of students is desirable. Much would be gained if instructors in different universities would exchange places for a year, and especially if men from the small colleges were called to spend a year as lecturers at the great universities. When a national university is established at Washington, it would be well for its faculty to consist in part of men from other institutions who should spend one year in five or seven at the central university.

It is difficult to find the right man; and it is particularly unfortunate when the wrong man has been selected. Academic rights and academic freedom are troublesome problems. It seems that an opportunistic policy must be followed rather than definite rules. A university can not be conducted as a factory; and even a factory does not entirely ignore the human element. It is better that an occasional man should be retained who is not quite up to the standard, rather than that all professors should feel that their chairs are insecure, subject to the automatic law of supply and demand, or to the possible caprice of an individual. Assistants and instructors should be appointed for limited terms of years, and better men should replace them if better men can be found. They should never be promoted simply because they are the men on the ground. A professor's appointment should be for life, unless he violates the conditions implied in the contract. In making such an appointment, the university should accept the responsibility, fully realizing that a man, however carefully observed, is subject to a large probable error. Even on the commercial side it pays to take the risks, for with permanent tenure, men will accept smaller salaries; but the chief gain is the moral advantage of securing the complete loyalty of the professor and setting him free to do his work. Less competent men should not, of course, be permitted to teach required courses, and the departments to which they belong should be strengthened. Permanent tenure of office carries with it as a corollary a pension system. Some men are old at sixty and others are young at seventy, but as it is difficult and rather invidious for any authority to decide to which class a man belongs, it is perhaps desirable to pension all professors at a fixed age, permitting them thereafter to offer elective courses or not as they prefer.

Academic freedom is a subject that has not lacked discussion during the past year. So long as universities are dependent for support on gifts from rich men or on appropriations made by a legislature, there is real danger that the teaching of economics, sociology and some departments of history and philosophy may suffer improper limitations.