Arthur Lefevre.

The organization and administration of a state's institutions of higher education online

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tioned state tax, it is difficult to conceive how a vague objection to
"duplication" could be deemed more weighty than the downright
objections to a central board which he himself indicates, to say
nothing of others that exist.

The following objections are acknowledged by President Van

"If there be a central board which is to govern several institutions at
different localities, it will be impossible to get the best men of a State


to give sufficient time to master the details in reference to them. (They
would be unwilling to take a position involving responsibility for several
institutions at different localities.) Further, if compensation be offered,
the fact that the service is not free will make men of the highest type
reluctant to take positions on such boards. To illustrate: at the Uni-
versity of Wisconsin, for many years, we had the services of Colonel
William F. Vilas. No cash estimate of the value of this service can be
made. The larger part of his estate will also finally go to the uni-
versity. Nothing could have induced Colonel Vilas to accept the place of
regent with compensation. If compensation of a board be small, it will
be composed of inferior men; if it be large, places on the board will be
sought by untit men, and it will be extremely difficult to fill the positions
without political interference."

"A difficulty with central boards, which has appeared as a result of
experience, is that some of the men are interested in one institution and
others in another; and this has led to trading back and forth in grants
to the different institutions."

"It is possible in such a board to have the special friends and cham-
pions of each of the institutions, and then you have the same collisions
and collusion of interest that you have in a city council or other bodies
of similar character."

"Another difficulty with central boards created at one time is that a
break is thus made in the continuity of the government of an institution.
The recognized aims and practices which have grown up through many
years are likely to be ignored by a new board having no knowledge of or
experience with the several institutions which they are to govern."

"It is not wise to separate educational and financial control. . . .
Iowa has attempted to meet difficulties by creating a non-paid central
board, and outside of this board a finance committee of three, which in
large measure administers the institutions under the general principles
laid down by the board. Under this plan a finance committee may be
advantageous where a central board is inevitable, but undoubtedly there
are grave dangers in such a committee; for whenever there is a financial
board giving full time to the administration of educational affairs there
is a constant tendency for them to take the initiative in reference to
policies, and to supervise and circumscribe the faculty in their educa-


tional work in a manner which is wholly unwarranted, and is contrary
to the best interests of higher education."

"An additional difficulty, as shown by experience, is that there is a
tendency in a central board to place the normal school in the same posi-
tion of dignity as the university." [This refers to the practice in sev-
eral States of putting totally disparate institutions under one board.
The limit of that mistake is reached when university, agricultural col-
lege, normal schools, schools for blind, deaf, and feeble-minded, and
reform schools are put under one board.]

Historical Summary

The States that have had any experience with central boards of
control are Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Missisippi, Montana, Okla-
homa, Oregon, South Dakota, West Virginia. Their practices, in
my judgment, represent the worst possible devices. The opinions
o.f men dependent upon the central boards are conflicting, but the
short histories reveal only warning examples. The vagaries of
rash legislation in the respective States are summarized as follows :

Florida. Bad conditions called for some remedy, and doubtless some of
the institutions ought to have been abolished. All existing institutions
were abolished, and a state university including normal school for men,
a State College for Women, an A. and M. College for Negroes, a Normal
Colored School, and an Institution for Blind, Deaf, and Dumb were
established. The permanent arrangement for the government of these
institutions is perhaps the worst that could be devised. One board of
control was put over them all, of five members, none to be appointed
from any county in which any of the institutions is located; but this
board was made "at all times under and subject to the control and
supervision of the State Board of Education." The latter consists of
Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer, and
State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Although a sovereign State
has committed this act, the mere statement of its provisions sufficiently
exposes its errors. Satisfaction with the enlargement of the university
resulting from the abolishment of several weak and low-grade colleges
may blind some eyes to impending evils; but the strife, and the dead-
lock over the election of the president of the university, already experi-


enced> are but foretastes of worse evils yet to come. For details the
reader ds referred to President Pritchett's fourth annual report to the
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Georgia. All institutions (white and negro) including normal schools
are branches of the university, and under a board consisting of the trus-
tees of the University of Georgia, the presidents of each institution con-
cerned ( except the university ) , the Governor, and George Foster Pea-
body. There is no need of the Chancellor's testimony that "the method
of government involves many difficulties."

Iowa-. In 1909 a law was enacted which put the University of Iowa,
A. and M. College, and State Teachers' College under a board composed
of nine members, to be appointed by the governor. It is provided that
not more than one alumnus of any institution concerned shall be on the
board. The board appoints a finance committee of three, not members
of the board, nor more than two from one political party, at a salary of
$3500 a year and expenses. President Van Hise's just criticism of the
last mentioned feature has been quoted. It may be noted (without prej-
udice) that, during the first year of the board's authority, the president
of the university, the president of the agricultural college, and the dean
of the law school resigned.

Mississippi. In 1910 four institutions were put under one board of
eight appointed by the Governor.

Montana.. In 1909 all educational institutions, including orphans'
home, school for deaf and blind, and a reform school, were put under a
board of education of eleven members, eight appointed, three ex-officio.
A subordinate local board of three members is provided at each institu-
tion, one of whom is the president of the institution. The local board
can not expend for a single purpose an amount exceeding $250. But
there is a further complication: the ex-officio members of the board of
control (Governor, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruc-
tion) constitute a separate and supreme board in all financial matters.
President Van Hise judges that this Montana way shows "a larger num-
ber of objectionable features than any other system." Recalling my own
assignment of Florida to that bad eminence, I stand corrected. They are
on a parity except that Montana adds the petty local boards, and also
adds a penal school and orphans' home to the school for blind and deaf
and the other institutions.

Oklahoma. In 1911 the Legislature created a State Board of Education
consisting of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and six other


members serving without salary appointed by the Governor. The ex-
officio member has his salary of $2500. Absurd as it may seem, this
board is required to exercise exclusive supervision and control over the
whole common school system (including duties of a State Text-Book
Board, and a board of examiners for issuing teachers' certificates), and
over eighteen different institutions, viz., state university, two prepara-
tory schools, school of mines, college for girls, six normal schools, agri-
cultural and normal university for negroes, school for blind, school for
deaf, school fer feeble-minded, school for orpha-ns, reform school, and an
orphanage and school for defectives for negroes. The agricultural col-
leges were not put under this board because the Constitution placed them
under the State Board of Agriculture. The short but stormy history of
this application of the central-board-of-control idea may be read in Presi-
dent Pritchett's sixth annual report. The heads of six of the institu-
tions, including the university, and more than half of the members of
their faculties were summarily removed. Some removals were made
against the advice of both the removed and the new presidents. The new
appointees were chosen by the Board, without nomination by responsible
administrative officers, from "applications" made directly to the board.
It would be irrelevant to consider the merits or demerits of individuals
involved. If it were granted that all persons dismissed were either in-
jurious or inefficient, it is certainly incredible that the majority of the
new appointments, derived as stated, could have been made wisely. Good
intentions on the part of members of the board does not ameliorate the
situation. The method of procedure was fatally wrong. The condition
of the patient may have been very bad, but the intended remedy must
prove worse than the disease. President Pritchett says of the situation:
"No real university can exist under such conditions." President Van
Hise says, that, for the present, "it would be extraordinary if any man
of ability who has a fa/ir place in another State should accept a position
in any of the educational institutions in the State of Oklahoma."

Oregon. A board of four, appointed by the Governor, known as the
Board of Higher Curricula, passes on all the courses offered at the uni-
versity and at the agricultural college. It is in the power of this board
to determine absolutely what work shall be given at each institution.

South Dakota. An appointed board of five mebers, salaries of $1000
a year, govern the University, A. and M. College, School of Mines, and
three normal schools. A number of difficulties have been experienced.

West Virginia. A board of regents, consisting of four appointed mem-


IXTS with salaries of $1000 and the State Superintendent, was created
in 1909 to govern the university, agricultural college, two preparatory
schools, six normal schools, and two institutes for negroes. But the same
act of the legislature created a board of control of three, appointed,
salaries $5000, to have full control of charitable and penal institutions,
and also "control of the financial and business affairs" of the educational
institutions. This control goes to the extent of approving salaries of the
teaching force, or naming a total amount to be paid for instruction. The
board of regents is required to meet with the board of control when the
latter so desires. Every feature of this law violates fundamental

Kansas. The Legislature of Kansas recently passed an act abolishing
the boards of regents of the university, agricultural college, and normal
schools, and creating one board of control of three members. The Gov-
ernor vetoed the act. Chancellor Strong of the University of Kansas,
writing in October, 1911, says: "Agitation over duplication led to the
introduction into the last legislature of several bills. Some contained
grotesque features. The bill [that was passed] provided for a board of
control of three persons, to receive $2500 per year each, the board to
elect, outside of its own number, an educational expert to act as its sec-
Tetary, at the same salary. Each member was to give his entire time to
the work of the board. . . . There were then serving upon the dif-
ferent boards of regents some of the ablest men in the State, whose serv-
ices could hardly have been secured at any price if one had attempted to
hire them. The positions contemplated by the new bill were offered to
several of these men and refused. The Governor was told that, while
they would gladly serve the State for nothing on an honorary board, they
could not under any circumstances accept a position like the one indi-
cated. . . . The Governor took counsel by telegraph with many uni-
versity administrators, who, almost without exception, advised against
the bill. The grounds of objection were, in the main, first, that the
provision for an educational expert as secretary would almost certainly
interfere with the internal administration of the institutions, and pro-
duce friction and inefficiency; secondly, that a salaried board, especially
at the salaries indicated, would bring mediocre men . . . ; thirdly,
that the method proposed would almost certainly invade the real person-
ality of each institution, take away its fundamental and individual char-
acteristics, and so deprive it of its real independence. ... As it
was expressed by one college administrator, the University of Kansas


needs to keep its own soul as much as Harvard does. . . . The bill
was vetoed." Vice-President Carruth summarized the history for the
National Association of State Universities as follows: "We were threat-
ened last winter with what is known as the Keene bill. A board of
control of three members at salaries of $2500, with an 'educational ex-
pert' as secretary at the same salary, was to manage our state insti-
tutions of higher education to be placed over the heads of these insti-
tions, each of whom commands a salary of $6000. You can anticipate
what the results would have been. But I want to say that the State of
Kansas owes a debt to the members of this Association. Governor Stubbs
sought advice from many of you; and the Governor deserves to be highly
commended for seeking competent counsel and then following it. Your
advice, together with the earnest protest of the chancellor of our State
University, resulted in the vetoing of the bill and the saving of our State
and university, for the present at least, from the threatened calamity."*

The Governor, before vetoing the bill, asked the board of regents of
each institution whether, if he vetoed the Keene bill, they would volun-
tarily organize the three boards into a commission, to consult on the
general welfare and make recommendations to each separate board as
might seem wise, authority still to lie in the separate boards. There is,
therefore, in Kansas an extra-legal commission, of which the Governor
is chairman, made up of all the members of three boards of regents. Its
counsels have resulted in a uniform system of accounting and business
management. Committees are working on various internal problems.

President Van Hise says : "The most serious danger of a commission
such as that of Kansas, composed of an equal number of representatives
from each board, is that several weaker institutions may unite against
a stronger one and so prevent its growth. . . . Each having equal
representation upon the commission, the representatives of the institu-
tions other than the university may unite and unduly limit the scope of
the university; not only so, but they may recommend more than propor-
tional support for the weaker institutions, and aim to make them the
equals of the university." This is certainly wise foresight, and many
other evil contingencies are equally foreseeable. It is, therefore, sur-
prising that the same writer should conclude his remarks by saying:
"If it works out that the recommendations of the commission are rea-
sonably respected by the different boards, the natural step would be to

See Appendix Some Recent Events.


legalize the commission and give its actions the sanction of law." I
understand him to use "natural" in a commendatory sense; but, in my
judgment, the statement that such a step is the natural course, is to
assert that only folly is to be expected of state legislatures. Voluntary
consultation and co-operation is always desirable. It is undoubtedly the
proper course, especially upon certain occasions. But why, in the name
of sober intelligence, if voluntary consultation works well, should it be
"natural" to replace it by compulsory subjection to a joint commission,
or any other sort of central control?

Minnesota. There is only one comprehensive state institution of
higher education in Minnesota, and the question of a central board of
control could not arise. Yet that State has had an experience which is
both interesting and encouraging, in its bearing on the question of a
dual control of any one institution. In 1901 a board of control was put
over the regents of the university in all financial transactions. The
regents resisted for two years, but their attempt to relieve the univer-
sity failing in 1903, they became subject to the board of control. "After
two years' trial, conditions were such as to make further continuation
of the arrangement wholly intolerable." In 1905 the legislature, by a
nearly unanimous vote, gave the long sought relief. One bad consequence
of the original mistake of 1901 remains. In the placing of insurance,
purchase of fuel, and erection of buildings the board of regents still
remains subject to another state board. The legal theory that the board
of regents is incompetent or untrustworthy for buying insurance and
fuel, is irritating; but those matters are so petty that they could not
cause directly any serious misgovernment. New buildings, on the con-
trary, are important affairs, and are so intimately connected with the
educational work for which the institution is conducted that a separate
government of that matter must have many injurious consequences.

The preceding paragraphs have briefly summarized all experi-
ence with central boards of control. President Van Hise admits
that the experience has not been encouraging. I understand that
his own preference, where consolidation in one institution is not
practicable, is for co-operation through "a commission composed
of representatives of each of the institutional boards." But his
conclusion is that, where consolidation is not practicable, it is so
"necessary to have sharp delimitation of scopes (to avoid over-


lapping), and co-operation in financial requests to the legisla-
ture/' that "if co-operation be not successful, central boards are

We are left to marvel why so bad an end is inevitable, even if
living, thriving institutions refuse to give up their separate exist-
ence and continue to duplicate or parallel some of the teachino-


that is done in a university. Is it to be supposed that everywhere
men will see those evils of a central board of control which Presi-
dent Van Hise himself mentions, not to mention many others,
only to forget them? Will "duplication" or "overlapping" seem
such a horrible idea to everyone, or a little extra expense appear
so fearsome, that, to escape them, the known evils of a central
board will be embraced?

Of course, a temporary commission might be needed in some
situations, such as that of the State of Virginia, in order to pre-
pare legislation for defining the general nature and scope of several
ill-adjusted institutions. Virginia has more (four), and prob-
ably less advantageously correlated, state-supported colleges grant-
ing academic and professional degrees than any other State. A
commission for such a purpose is one thing, and a central board
permanently controlling subordinated boards is another and very
different affair.

If duplication were truly an essentially bad and wasteful thing,
the only wise course would be to abolish our A. and M. College
and College for Girls and confine the State's higher educational
work in one institution. Happily, no one need think so ill of
"duplication" or even of "overlapping." In no event, it seems to
me, would it be wise either to replace our properly independent
boards of regents by a central board, or to subordinate them to a
superior board of control. There is no need to add to the reasons
already stated, to show the inexpediency of a central board, either
with or without inferior boards; but concerning the latter I may
add one important consideration, not yet mentioned, to wit: de-


sirable men would, in general, refuse to serve on the subordinate

The Standard System.

The independence of their governing boards characterizes the
standard form of government for state universities, from which
only discredited innovations have deviated; but there is great di-
versity in the number of members and term of office, the latter
varying from two years to life-tenure. The prevailing method
of appointment is by the governor of the State, impaired in some
cases by ex officio accessions. Appointment by popular election,
as in Michigan and Illinois is the chief variation, and peculiar
exceptions exist, such as (in Iowa) the election by the legislature
of a trustee for each congressional district, and (in Indiana) elec-
tion by the State Board of Education. The popular election of
trustees has worked well only when political conventions have con-
ceded the selection of university regents to disinterested friends
of the institution and made the nominations regardless of politics.
For instance, Mr. Peter White, a Democrat, was nominated for
regent of the University of Michigan by a Eepublican conven-
tion. Where nominations for popular election must be secured
through primary elections, the laws governing such primaries
generally confine to one party all candidates on one ticket; and it
is practically impossible for the office to seek the man, the party
voters merely choosing between self-constituted office seekers. Men
who would accept the great responsibility from a governor, or
from a state convention under favorable circumstances, would
hardly seek nomination in a primary election. Ex-officio mem-
bership is deemed by all thoughtful observers, without exception
as far as I have found, "the worst of all" methods of appointment.

The legislatures of a few States have adopted various devices to
direct or restrict the executive authority in the appointment of
governing boards. The contrivances have not operated beneficially.
Many reasons have been suggested in this chapter for judging that


any such policy would be a mistake. It is wiser to trust to the
honesty of governors, and the force of public opinion.

The private corporation of an endowed college or university
may properly be required by its charter to have in its body repre-
sentatives of certain close interests (such as the alumni, the lo-
cality, etc.) ; but if representation of any special interest in the
governing board of a state university were required by law, a
wanton temptation would be extended to a horde of other interests
to demand "recognition." If a representative farmer were re-
quired, representation might soon be demanded by labor unions,
mothers' congresses, and federations of various sorts. All inhabi-
tants of the State have indeed an interest in education, but in the
government of a university the interests of no classes ought to be
distinguished by law. It is vastly better to leave the matter to
the good sense and honesty of the governor.

A term of office for the regents three or four times the length
of the governor's term, is the intelligent precaution to be taken
by the legislature against political abuses. Bi- or tri-partisan, of
or not of the county of the institution, of or not of the alumni
(to mention half a dozen extant specimens), or any such require-
ment, is an abuse of power by the legislature likely to do harm.
In the best practice the law merely directs the governor to ap-
point qualified voters (sometimes adding that he shall select the
members of the board from "different portions of the State"),
and requires that the appointments be confirmed by the senate.

We have reason to believe that the government of a state uni-
versity by an independent board of regents is a form of govern-
ment well adapted to the conditions that developed in the United
States of America. The following statement by Chancellor Strong

Online LibraryArthur LefevreThe organization and administration of a state's institutions of higher education → online text (page 2 of 49)