Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/97

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



Recent events at Syracuse, Cincinnati and Oklahoma direct attention to the anomalous conditions of university control that obtain in this country. Elsewhere throughout the world the university is a republic of scholars, administered by them. Here it is a business corporation. The ultimate control is lodged in a board of absentee trustees, whose chief duty is the election of a president. The qualifications most regarded in the president are the ability to get money for the institution and a good presence at public functions; but he is expected to "run" the university. The professors and instructors are employed "at the pleasure of the trustees," and so long as the president maintains his position this means at his pleasure. Advances in salary or position, appropriations for apparatus, etc., are subject to the same pleasure. In larger institutions the department-store system naturally grows up. Deans and heads of departments are responsible to the president, and their subordinates are responsible to them.

As a matter of fact, men are not dominated by governments and laws, but conversely. In a great university, such as Harvard, courtesy and consideration do not fail. In the smaller colleges, there is the spirit of the family. So long as the best men are found at our colleges and universities, it may not matter greatly under what system of academic government they live. But there is real danger that the existing system may prove repulsive to men of the highest intelligence and character, and that mediocrity and time-serving may be developed, where we need the most vigorous ability and independence. Then we have occasional i academic scandals which exhibit the seamy side of the system.

At Syracuse University the chancellor did not like the dean of the School of Applied Science, and has dismissed him, giving no grounds except that he had. been a disappointment to the administration. However this may be, it appears that the dean has conducted the affairs of his school with skill, and has the sympathies of his colleagues at Syracuse and in the engineering profession, of the students: and the alumni. A competent engineer can earn far more by practising his profession than as a professor, and the Syracuse dean has not been forced to sacrifice his independence to feed his children. He has consequently conducted a good public fight, which will doubtless lead to an improvement of affairs at Syracuse and elsewhere. The Syracuse chancellor has written: "Our professors have nothing to do with the hiring, continuing or dismissing of professors and students." But when Syracuse recently needed a professor of botany, men looked askance at the position, and the same thing will happen now when the deanship of the school of engineering must be filled. Neither the largest stadium in the world, nor a chancellor who is a methodist orator, nor a president of a board of trustees, whose corporation controls the kerosine of the country, suffices to make a university.

At the University of Cincinnati there was a few years ago a deplorable state of affairs. A president was brought there to dismiss a large part of the faculty and then he was in turn dismissed. Now the head of the de-