Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/283

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By Professor WARNER FITE


ONE of the recognized subjects for public commiseration at the present time is the college professor's salary. Once in so often some disgusted member of the profession writes a letter of protest to his favorite weekly journal and starts a new wave of sympathy. Yet 80 far it has occurred to none of the complainants to propose, as a serious measure, the policies by which other men have bettered their condition—for example, the policy of organized self-assertion expressed in the trade-union. In the eyes of the profession the bare suggestion is vulgar. The aims of the scholar and teacher, as he will have you know, are essentially disinterested. His work in the world is that of a missionary working for others. Or if the "others" sounds too evangelical, at least his motives are those of professional honor. It is therefore out of the question for him to make any very overt demand for increased compensation. Rather is it the business of society to recognize the delicacy of his position and see that he is properly rewarded.

Yet there is something incongruous in a missionary complaining of his pay. The missionary is supposed to be delighted with hardships and to find ample satisfaction in "the beauty of self-sacrifice." If, like other men, he thinks that he is also entitled to a fair living, then it is not to be seen why the duty should not rest upon him, as upon others, of presenting his account. The college professor may plead in excuse that for him the business of settling accounts is specially troublesome. And it is true that his work calls to a special degree for freedom from distractions, and that to the problems upon which he is engaged questions of compensation are external and immediately irrelevant—while for the business man distractions are the ordinary routine and higgling for higher prices the game in which he delights. Unquestionably, in the interest of the college professor's work, it is desirable that his economic welfare be reasonably secure. Yet if the professor's furnace fire goes out, and no one is at hand to attend to it, he must set about it himself or freeze. By the same token, if society fails to attend properly to his salary, the responsibility rests upon him. And in the end this is the place where the responsibility should rest.

It would make this responsibility clearer if he would frankly ask himself what, after all, he is really standing for. And if the question