Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/289

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THE COLLEGE PROFESSOR

I am standing, not for trade-union methods, but only for the trade-union principle, namely, the principle of self-assertion. If your college professor can assert himself in no better style than the labor-union, his intelligence is an illusion and he has no case. The working man can conceive of no way of bettering himself except at his employer's expense. In his view there is a fixed margin of profit between a fixed cost of production and a fixed market-price, and what is added to wages must be deducted from profits. And having no personal authority, by virtue of education or social position, he can conceive of no way of asserting his claims without the exercise of economic pressure or physical force. It should be the aim of the college professor to prove, in ways already suggested, that he may indefinitely better his position, not at the expense of his college, but in the very process of making it a more worthy and influential institution; and that for this the chiefly potent force will be the authority of his position and of the argument that he is able to present.

But for this purpose it will be unnecessary to form a special organization. For the college professor is already organized. Practically every member of the profession is a member of a college faculty and also of one or more learned societies. The latter, of course, as associations of men united by the interests of a special line of work, bear a nearer resemblance to the trade-union; and they would not be going out of their way if they should include the advancement of the scholar in the advancement of learning. But for our immediate purpose the college faculty is more important. For as a member of the faculty the college professor already holds a franchise of considerable possibilities, and a place where he is authorized to speak, where, indeed, he is responsible for expressing himself regarding the welfare of his college, and where, as I think, he may also rightfully represent his own claims and those of his order. Simply to make a responsible use of his official prerogative would go far toward improving his position. And if the college professor is ever to assert himself, this is the place to begin.

For this in fact is the point at which he is most conspicuously weak. Nowhere does he appear to less advantage than as a member of the faculty in faculty-meeting. It may be doubted whether any other assembly of men indulges in more ill-considered talk and more ill-considered action than the average faculty. Men who habitually talk sense seem here to talk nonsense. They advance confident opinions on matters that they have never considered; on the spur of the moment they offer motions, often of a far-reaching import, whose meaning they are afterwards unable to explain; they entrust special business to committees and then ignore the committee-reports; and they constantly illustrate the law of action and reaction by reversing at the next meeting the measures of the last. The fact is that the individual college