Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/79

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75
UNIVERSITY STANDARDS

there has grown up a rival institution, with antagonistic aims and ideals, to which the student body gives first allegiance.

If the college faces this new situation rather helplessly, as Mr. Flexner affirms, it is because analogy has here played its old trick. As a matter of fact, absolute election of studies by the student has nowhere existed. But in the wider matters of conduct and in the question whether to study or not to study the college has drifted without any clear principle of action. College students were treated as men and women, with good results. Therefore they are men and women. Therefore whatever the results, they must be treated as men and women with the privileges and responsibilities of men and women. Whatever happens, the college can do nothing except in the sphere of moral influence. As Mr. Birdseye sees it, "substantially all direct control of the personal freedom of the students has been given up except in cases where their action becomes scandalous or they break the public law. . . . The absolute personal freedom, which in many instances is but another name for laxity, undoubtedly tends strongly and constantly to personal shiftlessness and laziness as well as to bad mental and moral habits. . . . With the freedom of their fraternity and club life and the absence of faculty and parental restraint, have come constant distractions from study in connection with a succession throughout the year of class, fraternity, and intercollegiate games of football, baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, chess; of rowing, track and athletic meets; of glee, mandolin and banjo and other musical and dramatic clubs or associations; of receptions and other social functions, of literary dailies, weeklies, monthlies and annuals; and even of intercollegiate debates. . . . In most colleges there has grown up a decidedly false atmosphere, which affects adversely the personal lives of a greater or less proportion of the students." "I know of no place," wrote the dean of a western university to Mr. Birdseye, "where so much fine material coming from the country and small towns has been ruined by a single half-year of idleness and extravagance. The worst elements of city, social and fraternity life seem to be those most eagerly grasped after and most incessantly followed."

Suppose we follow the course of an imaginary freshman at the composite college of our critics; one who is well prepared, with a sense of the importance of his undertaking, and unsophisticated. What he seeks the college has to offer: facilities, scholarly standards, inspiring teachers. It is not at all certain that he will reach his goal. In the first place the scholarly atmosphere is not very evident—to a freshman. For days, weeks even, before the opening old students have drifted in. They have not done this in order to consult the authorities the better to plan and prepare for the studies of the year. They have plans of their own. They are at starting the wheel within the wheel.