Open main menu

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 73/October 1908/Academic Aspects of Administration

ACADEMIC ASPECTS OF ADMINISTRATION[1]
By Professor JOSEPH JASTROW

UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN

THE community of spirit that animates such occasions as this is an interest in the academic life—a conviction, studied or casual, sincere or perfunctory, that much of what makes life worthy has its source here. What more appropriate than to discuss the status quo, with a view to discover what forces are making for and what against the vital concerns of academic welfare?

Psychologically, I can not endorse the platitude that silence means consent. As I have tried to interpret this eloquent if enigmatic expression, it has appeared to mean complacency, even indifference; it means hesitation and timidity; it means expediency and temporizing; it means torpidity or denseness of understanding. Hence the way of the reformer is hard. It is upon that ill-paved road that I am to venture, and with no other warrant than a common interest, to invite companionship.

The general silence in the academic ranks is hardly a convincing proof that all's well; nor is the silence wholly unbroken. The literature of protest is growing; and the murmur of discontent may be plainly heard by the sympathetically attuned ear. To appreciate the atmospheric conditions that prevail in the academic grove and that at times impress and oppress the dwellers therein with the suspicion that they have inherited a vale of tears with a bad climate, requires some familiarity with the general features of the habitat. To begin with, the grove itself is no longer the peaceful retreat amid cloistered walls and quiet walks, to which the bookish fancy of the uninitiated and the impervious imagination of the reporter are so fondly attached. The trolley clangs by its portals; the noise and dust of the city pervade its corridors; the unhedged campus is criss-crossed by throngs of eager invaders seeking a short-cut to learning. The guileless, absent-minded, root-grubbing professor, absorbed in profitless didactics, survives only in those lingering echoes of receding ages—the comic papers. The American professor desires to live in the world and to assume responsibilities and privileges according to his capacity. He cherishes ideals not of scholarship alone, but of service—worthy, dignified, and by higher standards profoundly useful. Compositely (I ignore the pardonable exception of those still overawed by their own doctor's dissertations), he entertains no illusion that the fate of culture rests in his hands. He recognizes the many forces that sympathetically with his own endeavors are making for a common goal. He recognizes with deep concern the many other groups of influences that display the lure of cheap success, that crowd out the nobler, calmer virtues by an insistent demand for immediate returns, and bring the money-changers back into the temple of learning. Thus coming to his own, looking backward for the benefit of experience, looking inward for the illumination of what might be, he is emboldened at times to look forward to a future in which shall be more freely realized the career that he cherishes, to a release in greater measure from the hampering restrictions amid which he has become resigned to adjust his own service.

A sensitive barometer of the academic atmosphere is to be found in what we have learned from the Germans to call Lehrfreiheit; but which as made in Germany is by no means a cheap article or easy to secure. This delicate instrument must be adjusted to each climate; and to read its indications is something of an art. The facetiously inclined like to repeat the dictum that Boston is not a city, but a state of mind; but so is every locality with a title to distinction. America is a state of mind; the university reflects, fosters and imbibes states of mind. The state of mind marked on the intellectual map as academic freedom is difficult to localize. One is tempted to say that it is bounded on the north by the overshadowing mountains of the check-book, on the east by the tidal waves of current opinion, on the south by the chain-and-compass survey of past generations, on the west by the undrained marshes of political venture. Its contours are evasive and shifting. It is best recognized by the cultures it favors and by the serenity and charm of its landscape. The condition it implies is much more than the untrammeled freedom to teach fearlessly what reason finds true or holds plausible. It is a declaration of the right of this domain to develop its own academic life, academic liberty and academic pursuits of happiness.

The university's conception of its own function and the development of men and measures to further its own aims, naturally and properly reflect, as they have ever reflected, age and people and condition. But loyalty to its own ends as conceived with such wisdom as the leaders of men could command, was and is indispensable to the academic life. The purpose must be large, the service comprehensive, the honors worthy, the career attractive to enlist the life-long devotion of ability, character and ambition. The loyalty concerned flourishes only when those who bring it feel themselves spiritually akin with the larger life with whose fortunes they have linked their own. It is because old-time and old-land universities embody such traditions of loyalty and service that we, so distant in our pursuits, yet wander with profound appreciation in their ancient halls.

But we are modern of the moderns; and nothing is more characteristic of our heritage of all the ages than the critical analysis with which we plan and conduct our efforts. The sense of the comprehension of progressive motives and rivalry of influences has been deepened, indeed reconstructed, by the insight into evolutionary procedure that reached its first articulate expression just fifty years ago. The obligation of such insight is the duty to inquire into the forces which we shall strengthen and which antagonize, that we may remain masters of our fate. The evolutionist is neither a fatalist nor a stand-patter; he sees, foresees and directs, and he does this with the sobriety resulting from an historical conscience, and with the faith in the privilege of rational leadership. We of the academy accordingly hold to the law of the grove; that a university ancient or modern is wholly and vitally an educational institution; that the aims for which it exists are cultural; that its methods must be shaped by its own standards; that the activities of those devoted to its welfare must be freely developed from within and suitably to the cultivation of the ends for which the university alone exists. Reduced at once to its lowest and to its highest terms, the university is and can be nothing else than an assemblage of men united in the sympathy of pursuit and inspired by community of interest and a common loyalty. That the university shall attract such men and find in them the medium of her purposes, and that such men shall seek the university and find in her the enduring incentive to their best endeavors: this is the ideal that serves as the criterion of the worth of practical measures which now we approach.

We, the American people, have developed or accepted a type of university administration, to which there is no close, hardly a distant, parallel elsewhere. On a former occasion, having in mind the somewhat harsher aspects of the system, I called it government by imposition. Professor Stratton has since then proposed the more acceptable term, externalism. It is then a well-known fact that our universities are governed by boards of trustees or regents, with complete legal authority over the measures proposed by the faculty, over the status of the professors individually and collectively, and always indirectly, usually directly, over educational policies, over the larger complex issues that determine the spirit and the conditions of university advance, and naturally over the ways and means contributory to the realization of all this. In many institutions no act of the faculty is valid unless confirmed or reviewed by the board. For example, so irrelevant an issue as a case of student discipline sends an appeal to the board over the heads of president and faculty, with the not infrequent result that there is imposed on the faculty by direct command of the board tedious and humiliating reexaminations of a situation already properly disposed of by suitable committees. The formal statement that educational matters shall be in the hands of the faculty is for the most part evasive or ineffective. Since most matters have both aspects—financial and educational—and since the faculty can not or does not determine what measures it prefers to consider, its influence in these directions varies from a conceded control so long as no opposition is evidenced, to something merely nominal.

Such externalism of government more than any single influence has brought about the growth of another peculiarly American institution—the university president. I need not enlarge upon the heroic proportions which this majestic figure has assumed among us. It has led a professor, sympathetic with the present plea, to say that the American university has a Brobdignagian president and a Liliputian faculty. Professor Stratton regards the organization as derived from that of a colonial corporation—the financial control reserved by an absentee board in the home country, and the president representing the governor sent to the colony to direct its concerns. This historical setting may invest the organization with some interest, but it can not divest it of its dangers, nor does it account for its continuance and emphasis. Let me cite from the article to which I refer: In a country that politically is most jealous of democratic rights, "university government has assumed a form that we might have expected to see in a land accustomed to kings. European universities have a constitution that might have come from some American political theorist; American universities are as though founded and fostered in the bourne of aristocracy." "The American university president holds a place unique in the history of higher education. He is a ruler responsible to no one whom he governs, and he holds for an indefinite term the powers of academic life and death." "The polity that we might call monarchic is thus not only frequent in the new-world colleges, but it is stripping away the few lorn shreds of popular control which still remain among them."

The state of mind that has entrenched this unsuitable form of government so securely may readily be analyzed. The factors contributory to the result are several and diverse. There is a peculiarly democratic distrust of the man who knows. To call a man an expert is almost sufficient ground for a suit for libel. Conversely there is the glorification of the man who does, without too close examination of the merit of what he does and how he does it. Our captains shall be captains of industry. Business acumen in the popular mythology is Jupiter and Mars and Vulcan compositely, and properly lords it over the affairs of Athena and even of Venus. The Olympian council comfortably settled in revolving chairs in the lofty seclusion of a skyscraper summons Apollo to make his report and engages the Muses at modest stipends upon condition of good behavior. But in truth there is no danger that the very important services of liberal-minded men of affairs to the maintenance of our universities will go unrecognized. The association of such a body as a board of cooperation is at once high token of regard for a high type of citizen, and is of definite benefit to the institution concerned. This contribution of external cooperation is quite in keeping with the genius of our national practical sense. The great and overwhelming misfortune is that its function has been so wholly misunderstood in the light of legal authority and of a popular conception growing out of relations in the business life wholly unrelated to what must and should obtain in the academic world. When the board recognizes that the university is not a business concern; that it has laws of its own; that the faculty alone can determine the mode of advance within the university, that the position of a professor is that of a counselor, free, authoritative and independent, there will be no externalism in the objectionable sense, but only external cooperation. American conditions are individual. We can not copy either the English or the German mode of government. We can secure our own type of efficiency without sacrifice of what is the essential end of all institutions of learning. Hence boards have their place, but a place determined by the subservience to the cultural ends of the university, which must ever be paramount. Business procedures must be secondary to educational ones; those who control the former should not in the least control the activities, status and decisions of those entrusted with the educational conduct of the university.

Dominated by this business view—even in its comparatively enlightened form—comes an imperious demand for results, tangible, visible, audible to the popular sense. The curve of the annual freshman crop must not compare unfavorably with that of the other indigenous products of the soil; new departments with smart heraldings must be added; the catalogue must put on pages of adipose tissue; the campus must suggest the inspiring appearance of a western town site. If a stranger had been present at a memorial exercise which I have in mind, he would have concluded that the deceased had been a mason contractor and not a college president. The addresses dwelt with loving fondness upon the buildings erected during the administration, giving the area of the floors in square feet and the cost in dollars. Now quite apart from the conspicuous and vulgar extremes of this attitude, let it be acknowledged in a meek confessional spirit that enough of it obtains in the best of our institutions to decidedly guide the direction of activities and warp them away from the path of true academic progress. This factor helps to account for both externalism and the exaggerated contours of the presidential silhouette.

As thus analyzed, the situation is explicable, in part even justified. As evolutionists we bear in mind the rapidly shifting, indeed the unprecedented character of the conditions in which our academic practises have been evolved. Under such conditions organization must be elastic, initiative open, adjustments ready to meet emergencies. Power is naturally concentrated in a few, even in a single hand; and once more, the democracy of our ideals asserts itself in the keeping in touch with popular demands of what academic service may be expected to supply. But it is still more true and very much more significant, in so far as this is an excuse, that we have outgrown all that, except where the frontier still holds. The time is here for most of. our universities and is close at hand for the rest, when we must cease to ask special consideration for our educational provisions. "We are not a weakling nor an unfortunate people. Let our universities stand as worthy embodiments of our national resources comparable with those of other lands, as do our railways, our factories or our public library system. This is not a matter of time, but of tradition. Some of the foremost of the German universities are about as old or younger than the college whose anniversary is now observed. But the traditions under which these were established and under which they have developed are decided traditions of the supreme right of Lehrfreiheit and of the great distinction and worth of the academic career. If such is to obtain amongst us we must develop perceptions keen to that which is educationally sound, to what is culturally good; we must trust implicitly those who have these perceptions; we must secure for the career devoted to this cause, honor, encouragement, responsibility, authority and a suitable living.

From whatever side we approach the situation we reach the same conclusion, for the factors thereof are of a nature all compact. We measure academic success by unsuitable standards, derived from the market-place; and as a consequence there is a sorry contamination even within the fold. That the professor has not been able to withstand these several influences must with like frankness be confessed. The law of the grove is compromised, evaded or forgotten. Professors become statistically minded, dwell upon sizes of classes, offer inducements for the hesitant student, seeks the favor of those in power and further the ends preferred by those who mete rewards. We find them also discouraged by the unfair struggle for existence, with everything rising except the price of postage stamps and professors' salaries; we find them acquiring a disturbing interest in commercial ventures; we find them losing the finer qualities of their service because of the trying elements in the intellectual climate. The excuse is not far to seek. When men of the academy find, as years go by, that their own preferment is largely determined by utility, not in direct development of their personal ability; their activities too constantly dominated by an oppressive sense of accountability; when even their bread and butter is imperiled; when they are subjected to the humiliation of having others pass them by who have yielded where they have stood steadfast, who is there shall cast the first stone?

I had hoped to carry through my purpose without once more exposing the collegiate family expense account to the patronizing scrutiny of the affluent public. But, alas! it may not be. Bear with me in a brief "aside." The lack of proportion between the professor and his salary is regrettable yet remediable. More regrettable and I fear more difficult to remedy is the mode of determination and adjustment of such honorarium. Yet in this as in all related adjustments enlightenment is to be found in the common principle of academic supremacy. Here more than anywhere else must commercial encroachment and standards be resisted, not meekly, but strenuously. It seems plausible that if an incumbent of a professional chair is worthy to sit in the cathedra, he is worth the provision of a suitable living. The professor must not ask more nor for other reasons; the university must not offer less nor guide its offer by extraneous considerations, least of all of those that obtain in the auction room or the stock market. Professor Palmer says very plainly that Harvard University pays him for doing what he would gladly pay the university for the privilege of doing; and most professors pay and pay dearly for the privilege of the academic life. So let it be. But persistently and evasively are academic standards ignored, and ignored by those who do and those who do not understand. All honor to the few—alas the very few colleges, but among them the worthiest in the land—that have retained an academic adjustment of salaries. In the main, the influence of the college presidents has in no direction been more baneful, more insinuatingly subversive of what other merit their services have brought, than in this practise of speaking of supply and demand, the meeting of emergencies, the offset of a call from another institution, and a spurious attempt to apply a doctrine of merit and prizes. When a university president regards himself—a mere mortal—as capable to translate academic worth into dollars and cents even to the fraction of a dollar per weekly wage, I do not know whether to regard his position as an educational alchemist as sublime or ridiculous. I confess that it is astounding to me that men in this position, of such high attainments, such clearness of vision and sterling virtues, should maintain such a large and efficient blind spot when contemplating the salary question. Many a fellow professor in the mellow confidence of a growing intimacy has confided to me that he looks upon the attempt to apply such a procedure to himself as a farce, an affront or an evasion. Usually it is the last; for the answer given to Professor A is not that given to Professor B; while Professor C, but recently refused recognition, finds that his merit has risen several points because his stock is quoted higher at a rival university exchange. Not thus is academic loyalty furthered. The salary question is a most disturbing factor of the academic situation; and the cure is prevention. Most of the irritating situations must not be allowed to arise; the ones that legitimately find their place will be suitably solved under a suitable system of principles; and the president's life, if he wishes it, will be a happier one. An equalized system of comfortable salaries fixed for the professorship and the scale of living of the environment, will dispose of this question and leave all freer to devote themselves to what their functions demand. I do not advocate for the good of the academic life the existence of large rewards or special prizes, though I deem it for the good of the community to thus manifest its appreciation of academic service. I agree with President Remsen that once the professor is relieved from financial worry the cause would not be particularly benefitted, though the professor might be pleased to receive a larger income. It is thus clear that the procedure by which incomes are to be determined and adjusted follows directly from the principles that show the way to remove far more difficult though not more irritating disabilities of the academic life.

President Remsen's remark laid him open to a retort which was promptly made: that a president would not be injured though he might be pained by having his salary reduced to that of a professor. The disparagement between the appraisal of academic and of administrative service is yet another and a serious misfortune of externalism. It affects not presidents alone, but deans, and heads of departments; it diverts unusual talents into unprofitable channels; it obstructs many of the byways of academic activity. It is thoroughly bad in appearance or reality to countenance the view that the only or the normal method of rising is by assumption of administrative powers. It is equally bad to encourage the popular misconception o*f academic service by throwing the limelight either upon administrative position or upon athletic prowess or upon any but the central purpose for which the university exists. It was far different in the older simplified college, in which the president was commonly the leader of the faculty, the embodiment of the spirit of the institution, distinguished for just what the academic sanction of the day approved, and quite incidentally an administrator. To-day when the office seeks the man, the search is for one with executive taste or pioneering ambition; and when the man seeks the office, it is too commonly because he likes the disposition of authority and the enjoyment of movement with no oversensitiveness to the jar or other disquieting accompaniments of locomotion. I do not for a moment imply that the university presidency is other than a most honorable career, or that the incumbent should set aside the honorable satisfactions of high office. I do imply that a president who in any way uses the university as a means of personal exaltation is abusing his office; I do imply that such success even when most deserving and well directed is too dearly bought when it is paid for, as commonly it is, by the mutilation of the academic efficiency, often the personal unhappiness of many a professor. I imply more than this: that the spirit in which the presidency should be assumed is not wholly different from the attitude which I heard a progressive American demoiselle prescribe for her mother as a most effective way to encourage the social success of her daughters; namely, to efface herself except when summoned. Now I am not approving this rule of conduct; I am but suggesting that a large measure of this spirit of depersonalization, somewhat more loftily conceived, shall dominate all who serve the administration of the grove. Administration must ever be second; and often must it be last. Academic perspective can be retained only by an advancement to the foreground in every presentation of scientific insight, educational wisdom and commanding personal quality, by the retirement to the background of all auxiliary services however essential, difficult or worthy, so that those within and without shall see, hear and understand. Once more let me cite the testimony of another (Stratton): "We exalt administrative ability above scientific insight," which should not be. Universities "should be the last to typify in their own structure the thought that discovering truth and imparting the vital principle whereby others may discover it are of a dignity less than that of organizing and management."

I can not better reenforce the scattered contentions of my plea than by gathering a few citations from one and another who, surveying the same sets of influences in which as it seems to me lies the future strength or weakness of the American universities, have brought away a similar and even less hopeful outlook. Professor Cattell regards with special concern the autocratic domination that externalism brings and the deterioration of character that follows in its wake:

The individual has once more been subordinated, crudely commercial standards prevail, and control has been seized by the strong and the unscrupulous. Those of us who are not ashamed to express faith in democracy regard all this as a temporary phase, which will only last until intelligence has developed equal to the complexity of the environment. The only real danger is that instincts may become atrophied before reason is ready to take their place. The trust promoter and insurance president, the political boss and government official, the university president and school superintendent, have assumed powers and perquisites utterly subversive of a true democracy. The bureaucracy is defended on the ground of efficiency; but efficiency is not a final cause. To do things is not a merit regardless of what they are, and bigness is not synonymous with greatness. There is no ground for hopelessness. Of the things done the good may last and the rest may be eliminated; bigness may become greatness.

Yet this tinge of hopefulness tends to fade when the same writer records that the

Czar of Russia has restored to the professors the right to elect their rectors and deans at the same time that the trustees of one of the largest American universities have taken the vested right to elect their deans from the faculties without even asking their opinion or communicating to them their fiat.

The same writer says:

The administration imposed on universities, colleges and school systems is not needed by them, but simply represents an inconsiderate carrying over of methods current in commerce and politics. The private institutions of the east, with Chicago and Stanford, have been dependent on gifts from the modern knights of industry, and the state institutions have been dependent on legislative appropriations. It is no wonder that the methods of commerce and politics have infected them. We have an absolute and absentee board of trustees, with sometimes a small group that takes an active interest in the situation, but usually an almost complete delegation of legislative, judicial and executive functions to one man, the president. When the wisdom of letting a man lord it over an aggregate of employees instead of conferring with a company of scholars is questioned, the answer is the efficiency with which the autocrat gets things done. The president gets money and students, and builds marble palaces. . . . The marble palaces may be mausoleums for the preservation of the corpses of dead ideas and monuments erected to the decay of learning.

Another student of the field—not a professor—wholly disinterested and surely unprejudiced tells us that

Young men of power and ambition scorn what should be reckoned the noblest of professions, not because that profession condemns them to poverty, but because it dooms them to a sort of servitude.

And again:

Unless American college teachers can be assured that they are no longer to be looked upon as mere employees paid to do the bidding of men who, however courteous or however eminent, have not the faculty's professional knowledge of the complicated problems of education, our universities will suffer increasingly from a dearth of strong men, and teaching will remain outside the pale of the really learned professions. The problem is not one of wages; for no university can become rich enough to buy the independence of any man who is really worth purchasing.

Lastly I shall cite at length and should like to cite in full a notable editorial in the Dial. The writer notes, as do others, that the vital difficulty lies in our mode of thinking about these problems:

Material and commercial modes of thinking prevail so largely in our national consciousness, and impose themselves so masterfully upon our narrowed imagination, that most people are ready to accept without hesitation their extension into the domain of our intellectual concerns, particularly into that of the great concern of education. Why, it is naively asked, why should not the methods that we apply with such pronounced success to the management of a bank or a railway prove equally efficient in the management of a system of schools or a university?. . . These questions are not difficult to answer but it is difficult to frame the answer in terms that the successful man of affairs will find intelligible. The subject is one that he approaches with a prejudiced mind, although his bias is not so much due to a perversity as to sheer inability to realize the fundamental nature of the question at issue. He is so fixed in the commercial way of looking at organized enterprise that he can not so shift his bearings as to occupy, even temporarily, the professional point of view. Now the idea of professionalism lies at the very core of educational endeavor, and whoever engages in educational work fails of his purpose in just so far as he fails to assert the inherent prerogatives of his calling. He becomes a hireling, in fact if not in name, when he suffers, unprotesting, the deprivation of all initiative, and contentedly plays the part of a cog in a mechanism whose motions are controlled from without. Yet the tendency in our country is to-day strongly set toward the recognition of this devitalized system of educational activity as suitable and praiseworthy, and the spirit of professionalism is engaged in what is nothing less than a life-and-death struggle. When a university president or a school principal can indulge unrebuked in the insufferable arrogance of such an expression as "my faculty" or "one of my teachers," when school trustees are capable of calling superintendents and principals and teachers "employees," it is time to consider the matter somewhat seriously, and inquire into the probable consequences of so gross a misconception of the nature of educational service.

There is one general consequence which subsumes all the others. It is that young men of character and self-respect will refuse to engage in the work of teaching (except as a makeshift) as long as the authorities in charge of education remain blind to the professional character of the occupation, and deal with those engaged in it as objects of suspicion, or, at best, as irresponsible and unpractical theorists, whose actions must be kept constantly under control and restricted by all manner of limitations and petty regulations. Membership in a profession implies certain franchise, an emancipation from dictation, and a degree of liberty in the exercise of judgment, which most members of the teaching profession find are denied them by the prevalent forms of educational organization. And the denial is made the more exasperating by the consciousness that these rights (which are elementary and should be inalienable) are withheld by persons whose tenure of authority is more apt to be based upon the executive energy or the ability of the schemer or the success of the man of practical affairs than with expert acquaintance with the conditions of educational work. The "business" president or administrative board is bad enough, and the "political" president or board is worse; yet upon the anything but tender mercies of the one or the other most men who devote their lives to the noble work of teaching must in large measure depend.

The inevitable consequence is. . . to make the teaching profession more and more the resort of the poor in spirit, to whom the words of the Beatitude must have a distinctly ironical ring. To become a teacher in this country is, except in the case of a few favored institutions or systems, to subordinate one's individuality to a mechanism, and to expose one's self-respect to indignities of a perculiarly wanton sort. Inadequate compensation is a grievous fault of our educational provision, but it is not so grievous as the faults that undermine professional self-respect, and sap educational vitality at its very root. Yet these graver faults are easily remediable, and would be promptly remedied if we could once rid ourselves of the obsession of the commercial or military type of administrative organization.

These earnest words of endorsement and appeal will serve at once to make it plain that the issue upon which I speak is a most serious one, and that I look upon it with no extreme or wholly individual obliquity of vision or personal despondency. I feel, indeed, that on a small canvas, but with large import, I have ventured to sketch the one supreme educational problem of the immediate future. Believing it also to be a practical problem, to be approached in stages of progress—stages always in their essence determined by principle, though measurably shaped by expediency—I have reserved for the last some considerations of possible reform.

And first, defensively, let us not dwell unduly upon the incompetence, the conservatism, the inadequacy in practical affairs, of faculty men. It is hardly consistent to ascribe these qualities indiscriminately to the men of the academy, and then for the most part to find in this group the very persons who develop with experience into efficient administrators. As a class, professors are able to take a helpful share in the shaping and carrying out of measures conducive to educational welfare. Their practical insufficiency is a result, not an excuse, for the present system. This has not been overlooked by other writers.

We appear at present to be between the Scylla of presidential autocracy and the Charybdis of faculty and trustee incompetence. The more incompetent the faculties become, the greater is the need of executive autocracy of the president, and the greater the autocracy of the president, the more incompetent do the faculties become (Cattell).

And from another:

But was there ever a more vicious circle of argument than that which defends the persistence in a system productive of such unfortunate results by urging that the personnel of the profession has now been brought so low that the restoration of its inherent rights would entail disastrous consequences? (Dial.)

Once given their due professional responsibility, academic men will develop—as is abundantly evidenced in the conduct of laboratories and departmental affairs—the qualities requisite for the service. The ghetto into which externalism has driven them is admittedly the least suitable habitat for the nurture of the qualities which they should exhibit; but is this an argument for the retention of the barrier?

Let us hopefully, though not blindly, look forward to as adequate a management—doubtless a simpler and saner management, with less emphasis upon managerial factors—under internal as under external control. And if there are losses, as there will be, let it be borne in mind that there will be gains to offset these, endlessly more important, in the near future as in the long run, indefinitely more worthy.

If we ask next, constructively, how shall this be brought about, let me confess that I am somewhat fearful of a policy of gradual veering, of successive short tacks to each gust of shifting sentiment. By all means evolution and not revolution; but also by all means steer and do not drift. If we are on the wrong track, let us manfully confess it and set the compass to a different course. There is already in the air a growing sentiment against autocracy, a decidedly increased willingness, even an anxiety, on the part of presidents to seek counsel and to prevent the ruptures invited by the official organization—all this parallel with an increasing development of organization upon principles antagonistic to real professional independence. It is obvious to all that so impossible a situation as that now made publicly available by the commendable willingness of Dean Kent to set forth the facts of the case is not likely to recur; and the next president of Syracuse University will be both a wiser and a happier man because of the public indignation aroused by this extreme example of presidential autocracy. Presidents are likely more and more to be benevolent, even condescending; and their efficiency is admitted. But as Professor Cattell says: "The benevolent and efficient despot is the worst kind; the cruel and incompetent despot soon disappears." The increasing graciousness and reasonableness of the administrative attitude, while it mitigates the situation for the present dwellers in the grove, must not be permitted to set aside the real need for reform. Such reform, I have urged, comes alike from the guiding dominance of principle, and the facilitation of a suitable organization. The most practical outlook is towards university presidents of different views of administration, of independent insight, not overawed by convention or popular prejudice, of a democratic temperament. I hold, as do others, that one of the first requisites is that faculties shall elect their own presidents; and the legal relations being what they are, I look forward (perhaps telescopically) to the day when no worthy man will be willing to preside over a faculty unless invited by them to this place of academic leadership. More than this, I believe it essential that the faculty invest the president with such authority and only with such as they regard as desirable for academic welfare. Professor Stratton, quite independently, has expressed the same conviction:

Still more important and beneficial for our present needs would it be to have the professors rather than the trustees elect the university president and determine the powers which he should yield. The office of president would thus remain, but he who occupied it would be the representative directly of the faculty, and he could be efficient only so long as he retained their confidence.

Equally important with this reform is another: the authoritative voice of the faculty in the determination of what measures shall be decided with the cooperation of the board, which by the board alone, and which by the faculty alone, and with this an essential representation of the faculty at the meetings of the board. An effective provision seems to be that of a joint council of trustees and faculty, or an advisory council to the president as at Stanford University. With the establishment of these reforms or their equivalent, the rest may confidently be left to the wisdom that universities have already shown themselves to command, and to the cooperative spirit which these changes inevitably incite.

Should it be said that by my own argument, administrative methods are secondary and that the great struggle needed to effect these changes will not be justified, I reply first with a decided assent, and second with a vital reservation. Naturally administrative measures are of minor importance if academic ends are secured; but it is because the current methods are directly subversive of such ends, and because, most of all, they imperil the academic career, and wantonly deprive it of its due standing, that the change of such methods becomes the major concern of the present educational situation. "The constitution of our universities is an appearance of their indwelling mind, and therefore it is of moment for their future" (Stratton).

The outward semblance and public garb of the university, no more than personal beauty, is skin deep. Or if, indeed, we consider it such, the retort is at hand, that at all events ugliness goes right down to the bone. The unfortunate and distorted features of the academic system are not superficial; and the remedy likewise must be radical. While I make my plea for administrative reform dominantly because I am so deeply convinced that the rehabilitation of the academic career is possible only upon that condition, I yet emphasize that the welfare not alone of the profession will be secured by the change of front which is the consummation alike to be wished for and to be worked for, but equally that the good of the student community and of all that, makes for the strength of the university will be similarly advanced. Measures will then be the issue of an inner harmony, of a slow maturing conviction, of sensibilities and perceptions fostered by the experience of the academic life. As has been well said, a university—like much else in this world and very different from the advertising fusilade of commercial blank cartridges—a university works best when its work is quiet and deep; and all its forms and organization should express and strengthen this idea.

Ordinarily, amid the routine of pressing duties, in the leisure between obligations, under the ever-present sense of accountability, the dweller in the modern grove checks his enthusiasms, and withstands the temptation to unfold the future. But in surroundings, such as these and under the incentive of occasion and with a sympathetic body of hearers, he is emboldened to disregard the overcast horizon and contemplate distantly, yet hopefully, the things that are to be.

  1. An address at the Collegiate Conference in connection with the seventy-fifth anniversary of Oberlin College, June 24, 1908.