Charles William Eliot.

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old in their places without having had the op-
portunity of going into the service of other in-
stitutions, and vacancies which might be filled


by young men occur but seldom. This diffi-
culty has been relieved or removed of late years
in some small colleges, because the larger and
richer institutions have acquired the habit of
calling into their service comparatively young
men who have proved their merit in good
small colleges. The small college is thus en-
abled to recruit its faculty with a series of
young men of promise, though not of proved
performance. It is natural, but not wise, for a
college or university to recruit its faculties
chiefly from its own graduates, natural, be-
cause these graduates are well known to the
selecting authorities, since they have been
under observation for years ; unwise, because
breeding in and in has grave dangers for a
university, as also for technical schools and
naval and military academies.

A university president, or a selecting com-
mittee, in search of a new professor, or of new
professors, has means of forming a judgment
which are fairly trustworthy, if patiently col-
lected and sifted. In the first place, there is
the candidate's record as a student at his col-


lege or university ; secondly, his reputation as
a teacher, wherever he may have been em-
ployed ; thirdly, his activity [in the learned
societies with which he has been connected;
fourthly, his productiveness as an investigator
and author ; and fifthly, his general repute as
a man of character and influence. Experienced
officials pay but scanty attention to testimo-
nials and letters of recommendation, partic-
ularly if they have been forwarded through
the candidate or procured by him. Americans
are apt to be too charitable and good-natured
when writing letters of recommendation. They
are also fond of superlatives, and are too apt
to deal only with merits, omitting defects,
when they write testimonials at the request of
a candidate. The prudent selecting official or
board will therefore be careful about giving
weight to testimonials, and will greatly prefer
to see and talk with the candidate himself
face to face, except in the case of a man whose
character and professional standing are well
known and unquestionable.

Within twenty years past, numerous learned


societies have arisen in the United States, each
of which is devoted to some special branch of
knowledge, such as the classics, pure mathe-
matics, engineering, chemistry, physics, archi-
tecture, landscape architecture, forestry, pedi-
atrics, and psychiatry. To the annual meetings
of these societies men come from all parts of
the country, and spend a few days together in
earnest discussion of topics in which they have
a common interest. The professor, or professors,
of these several subjects in any one university
will gradually have opportunities to measure
and weigh all the other active members of the
same society, and particularly to see and hear
the younger members of the society. Much
valuable information is, therefore, to be ob-
tained through these meetings of specialists
concerning candidates for teachers' places in
the colleges and universities of the country.
At these meetings much can be learnt about
the personality of the men who come to them.
The whole meeting will learn that such a
one is high-minded and winning, and a mas-
ter of his subject, and that such another


is rude and unattractive, though doubtless

In selecting university teachers, young or
old, it is always a question what sort of quali-
fication should have most influence on the se-
lection, knowledge of a subject, capacity to
expound it in an interesting manner, published
works, success as an investigator, or the total
personality, including manners and customs,
temper, bearing, and quickness of sympathy.
In every case there must be a balancing of
these different qualities, which are rarely com-
bined in a single individual, and a comparison
with like balances in other candidates.

That university is fortunate whose faculties
have been recruited in a considerable variety
of ways; but first, by advancing young men
who are graduates of the institution through
all stages of the service, beginning with the
lowest. This process should require three or
four years to be spent in professional study
after receiving the Bachelor's degree; then
three or four years of service on annual ap-
pointments to subordinate places; next, as


many years in the position of instructor ap-
pointed without limit of time ; and next, five
or ten years of service as assistant professor
before the grade of full professor is at last
attained. It may therefore take the young
graduate in arts from fifteen to twenty years
to obtain a full professorship, and it will be
from six to eight years after his graduation
as a Bachelor before he gets an appointment
which commits him to teaching and investi-
gating as his life-work. The rapidity of his
advancement will depend, first, on the number
of vacancies which happen to occur in the
upper part of the department to which he
belongs, and secondly, on the chance that the
institution with which he is connected will make
a rapid growth. Both these favorable chances
have frequently occurred together in the expe-
rience of young men who have gone into uni-
versity work in the United States within the
past thirty years.

The second mode of recruiting the univer-
sity staff is to discover and make proposals to
men still young who have distinguished them-


selves in the service of other institutions. The
larger institution does not need to offer such
men full professorships. They can ordinarily
be obtained for assistant professorships, or
even for instructorships without limit of time.
Such persons are not taken at once into the
permanent staff of the university which invites
them. They receive what may be called pro-
bationary appointments, and if they do not
succeed in such places, after a reasonable time,
the university is under no obligation to con-
tinue them in its service.

The third mode of recruiting a faculty is
to invite to full professorships men of proved
capacity, industry, and intellectual productive-
ness. To such men the university commits
itself for life.

All these ways ought to be used in recruiting
any university faculty, and all three are com-
monly used except in the faculty of medicine.
That faculty is affected by a peculiar and very
unfortunate set of considerations in regard to
its recruitment. A medical school is ordinarily
situated at some considerable centre of popu-


lation, where hospitals have been provided for
the treatment of the sick and wounded. These
hospitals are usually administered each by its
board of trustees, and this board feels itself
to exist for the hospital alone, and is distrust-
ful of the claims of medical education or of
medical and surgical research. The hospital's
medical and surgical staff is ordinarily selected
by the board of trustees without reference
to the capacity of its members as teachers.
They are selected for unusual capacity in treat-
ing the sick and wounded. Nevertheless, the
only men who can fitly hold clinical professor-
ships in a medical school are men who have
access to large hospitals capable of providing
them with the cases of disease or injury which
must serve as material for their teaching.
The medical school, desiring to appoint a pro-
fessor of surgery or obstetrics, for example, is
limited in its choice to the men who hold hos-
pital services for at least a part of the year in
the city or town in which the school is situated.
It is not free to call the most distinguished
surgeon or obstetrician that the country con-


tains ; because it cannot offer the newcomer
a hospital service. This is the reason that the
conduct of a great hospital has become in
some universities an indispensable function
of the faculty of medicine, in spite of the fact
that the conduct of a hospital is enormously
expensive, and requires an administrative staff
quite distinct from that of the medical school.
Other universities have had the good fortune
to make serviceable alliances with independent
bodies of hospital trustees, who have realized
that the advancement of medical and surgi-
cal teaching and research is a fundamental
interest of hospitals as well as of universities
and States.

The motives which induce suitable young
men to devote themselves to an academic life,
and therefore to become members of a college
or university faculty, are somewhat different
from those which impel young men to enter
the learned and scientific professions or to
seek business careers. Those professions and
business careers offer large money prizes,


although the general average of income in
them is by no means high. In the United
States the profession of teaching and scientific
research offers absolutely no money prizes,
and the average annual income of the univer-
sity teacher is sure to be moderate. Germany
offers exceptional payment to brilliant teachers
of staple university subjects which are indis-
pensable to large groups of students, gives
generous pecuniary rewards to successful in-
vestigators in applied science, chemical, physi-
cal, or biological, and confers valued titles
and decorations on her leading scholars in all
departments. No such practices have ever ob-
tained in the United States, and it is hard to
imagine how they could be introduced under
the democratic regime. The young American
who chooses a university career must then
abandon all expectation of riches, and of the
sort of luxuries which only wealth can pro-
cure. What he may reasonably expect is a se-
cure income, a life-tenure, long vacations, the
gratification of his intellectual tastes, good
fellowship in study, teaching, and research,


plenty of books, and a dignified though simple
mode of life. To young men who grow up in
humble circumstances, the probable income of
a college professor sometimes looks large ; but
to the sons of well-to-do families it always
looks small, and, on the average, the college
or university salary in the United States is
really small in comparison with the intellectual
outlook of the recipients and their reasonable
needs. Undoubtedly college and university
salaries need to be raised above their present
level in the United States ; but it should be
distinctly understood that the profession can
never be properly recruited by holding out
pecuniary inducements. In drawing good men
from one institution to another, the prevailing
inducements are apt to be, not increase of
salary, but wider companionship, better access
to books, better schools for the children, a
wholesomer life for the family, more social
and educational advantages, and the general
prestige of the inviting institution. That insti-
tution is fortunate which attracts to its service
young men from all conditions of life. The


recent tendency of sons of well-to-do, and even
rich, families, to go into the ministry, the
medical profession, academic life, and the pub-
lic service, is one in which all patriots may
well rejoice. Such young men, if they have
intellectual ambition, and the needed capacity
for teaching and investigation, contribute very
much to the total wisdom and efficiency of any
university faculty.

In spite of the fact that professorships are
ordinarily held for life in a well-managed uni-
versity, the rate at which the membership of
a faculty changes is much more rapid than is
generally supposed. The larger the proportion
of assistant professors and instructors in any
faculty, the more rapid will be the changes ;
because assistant professorships are best made
terminable at stated periods, and instructors
frequently win promotion in other institutions
than their own. In twenty-five years nearly
two thirds of an active faculty may be re-
placed, and more than half in twenty years.
The existence of a system of retiring allow-
ances, such as the Carnegie Foundation now


provides, tends to make the replacement of a
large staff more rapid than it used to be before
retiring allowances were provided. It is not at
all uncommon for one fifth of the members of
a faculty to disappear within five years. These
facts indicate that there is no difficulty in
keeping a faculty young on the average, in
spite of the fact that long tenures and life-
service are the rule in well-managed univer-

It is of great importance that there should
be a large body of young men on a univer-
sity's staff who hold only annual appointments.
In these places young men have the oppor-
tunity to prove their capacity as teachers and
advanced students, and, on the other hand, the
university by carefully observing the young
men who hold annual appointments can select
the most promising men to be instructors with-
out limit of time. These selections ought in
practice to be made by the departments in
which the annually appointed instructors work,
that is, by the body of professors, assistant
professors, and instructors without limit of


time, who are members of a single department
like history, mathematics, or physics. These
persons really know the capacities and char-
acters of the annual appointees ; for they have
become intimate with them as undergraduates,
and they also see them at work as assistants
and annually appointed instructors. It is im-
possible that the president or the board of
trustees should know these young men ; so that
the authority and responsibility for the selec-
tion are best placed with the departments that
have the necessary knowledge of the candi-

In recruiting a university's staff, a long
period of probation for all candidates, who rise
from the ranks and advance gradually towards
a full professorship, is necessary, and it is
desirable that this long period of probation
should cover the period within which marriage
is probable. Marriage is quite as apt to affect
either favorably or unfavorably the efficiency
and general usefulness of a university teacher,
as of professional and business men in any
other line. It is a good deal safer to give a life


office to a married man on whom marriage has
proved to have a good effect, than to a single
man who may shortly be married with un-
certain results.

An interesting question with regard to the
recruiting of a faculty by calling proved men
from other institutions to full professorships
is the limit of age beyond which such calls are
inexpedient. Opinions and practices differ
widely in this matter ; but general experience
in several different nations seems to indicate
that the most vigorous and productive period
of a teacher's and investigator's life is from
twenty-five to forty-five; although there are
many cases in which a great student continues
to develop after forty-five the corollaries or
consequences of the principles which he con-
ceived and first applied at a much earlier age.
Accordingly, a university which calls to its
service a man over forty-five takes the chance
of getting a man of declining rather than
of mounting efficiency. The same principle
applies to university administrative officers.
They should begin young, and attain their


highest rank while their mental and moral
efficiency is still mounting. These rules are
necessarily qualified by the fact that some
exceptional men continue to exhibit mental
elasticity and vigor unusually late in life.
Nevertheless, a university which counts on
such exceptions will run serious risks, and
occasionally pay heavy penalties for venture-
someness in this respect. An institution eli-
gible for Carnegie Foundation pensions can
prudently invite rather older men to its service.

A competent faculty having been created
on sound principles of selection and promo-
tion, the question next to be discussed is what
a faculty's functions ought to be. As good a
definition as exists of the functions of a fac-
ulty is to be found in the Statutes of Har-
vard University, Section VI, in which it is
stated that each of the Schools of the Uni-
versity is " under the immediate charge of a
faculty." This phrase means in the practice of
Harvard University that the several faculties
have immediate charge of the requirements


for admission ; of the courses of instruction
provided; of the daily demands upon both
teachers and students ; of the times and sea-
sons of university work during term-time ; of
the conditions on which degrees are conferred ;
and of the government of the students in all
respects. Each faculty lays down the rules to
which instructors and students must conform,
and each faculty has power to define the pen-
alties for infringement of these rules, and to
apply them. In order to discharge these ex-
tensive functions, each faculty has a dean at
its head, and a secretary, and is authorized to
delegate any of its powers relating to ordinary
matters of administration and discipline to
standing committees which prepare its busi-
ness, or act with full power on matters con-
cerning which clear precedents have been
firmly established. In institutions to which
large numbers of students resort, and which
offer instruction in great variety, a faculty
tends to become a large body ; and since large
bodies are ill adapted for the discharge of ad-
ministrative functions in detail, this power to


delegate its functions to administrative offi-
cers and boards, or committees, is essential to
the efficiency of the faculty. A wise faculty
will, however, keep in its own hands a firm
control over its officers and committees, and
will itself lay down all the general lines of
educational policy.

From time to time questions of policy come
before a faculty which obviously have a direct
pecuniary bearing. Thus the raising of the
terms of admission to any department of a
university may affect the resort of students,
and therefore the receipts from students,
particularly in an institution which depends
largely on tuition-fees. On such subjects the
faculty should invariably send their recom-
mendations to the board of trustees before
publishing them, in order that the body re-
sponsible for the pecuniary welfare of the uni-
versity should have opportunity to consider
and approve, or disapprove, the proposed mea-
sures. All measures which affect the ordinary
period of residence for a degree given by the
university, or which make it more difficult, or


less difficult, to obtain a degree, are measures
having pecuniary significance. So are pro-
posals to add new branches of instruction, or
to increase the amount of instruction offered
in old departments, unless the faculty sees its
way to procure more instruction without in-
creasing the staff, and therefore the total
amount of salaries. In general, new proposals
which might affect strongly the serviceable-
ness of a university, or the feeling towards
it of its Alumni, the State, or the public at
large, ought not to be put in force by a fac-
ulty without previous consultation with the

There is one matter of etiquette concerning
the relations between a faculty and a board
of trustees which has some importance with
reference to a faculty's sense of responsibility,
but is not always observed. An individual
member of a faculty should not approach a
member or members of the board of trustees
with opinions of his own in opposition to an
official opinion already conveyed to the trus-
tees by the majority of the faculty to which


the professor belongs. If minority opinions
existing within the faculty deserve or need to
be expressed to the board of trustees, they
should be forwarded by the faculty itself as
minority opinions. In serious emergencies this
rule admits of exceptions; but, in general,
single members of a faculty should strictly
observe it out of respect for the influence and
authority of the faculty.

The large faculty of arts and sciences, large
because of the multitude of subjects of instruc-
tion which it deals with, is necessarily sub-
divided into departments by subject, such as
the classics, the modern languages, history,
government, physics, geology, architecture,
fine arts, and so forth. Within each depart-
ment the interests of its members are homo-
geneous and accordant ; and each department
is naturally ambitious to enlarge its opera-
tions, and win more and more of the attention
and time of an increasing number of students.
The faculty should exercise a vigilant watch-
fulness over all its own departments, and
endeavor to keep their development propor-


tionate and moderate, and should not allow
any department to urge its needs and wishes
directly on the board of trustees, at least until
they have been examined and approved by
the faculty. One of the standing committees
of every faculty should be a committee on in-
struction, whose function is to examine and
report on all propositions which come from
departments concerning courses of instruction.
A very important function of a faculty is
to determine the normal number of weekly
exercises for which each registered student
shall be responsible. This number is naturally
different in different schools or divisions of
the university, as, for instance, in the under-
graduate schools on the one hand, and the
graduate schools on the other. And, again,
attendance on fifteen hours a week in one
institution may not be a greater task than
attendance on ten in another, everything de-
pending on the standard of work by the
student for each weekly appointment. The
total labor of the student per week may be
greater at one institution which requires at-


tendance at ten exercises a week than at
another which requires attendance at fifteen.
At each institution the faculty is the only
competent body to determine the most expe-
dient number of weekly exercises to be at-
tended by each student; because it is the
only body which can know what the standard
of labor per exercise is within its own pro-

It is for a faculty to determine what amount
of control it will exercise over the methods of
instruction adopted in its several departments,
or by the professors, assistant professors, in-
structors, and tutors. As a rule, tutors and
instructors are responsible in regard to their
subjects and methods of teaching to their
several departments, and the departments are
responsible to the faculty. The freedom of a
teacher to give instruction in just the method
which suits him being very precious, a faculty
cannot wisely interfere often with the teach-
ing methods of individual teachers. Never-
theless, a faculty can properly criticise the
results of any professor's, or other instructor's,


work as they appear in certain easily visible
ways. Among such visible evidences are dis-
order in a professor's lecture-room ; the resort
of obviously incompetent or uninterested stu-
dents to his courses ; examination papers of a
trivial or pedantic sort ; uniform high grades
or uniform low grades returned by the pro-
fessor; an extraordinary number of distinc-
tions earned in his courses ; or an extraordi-
nary number of rejections and failures. These
are legitimate subjects of inquiry by a faculty
committee or by faculty officials, and can be
dealt with by a faculty without impairing
just academic freedom. The knowledge that
this power of revision resides in a faculty is a
valuable control over individual eccentricities.
The faculties in some American universities
exercise the power to nominate to the board
of trustees new professors, the trustees as a
rule accepting these nominations. This power
of nomination has generally been acquired by
custom, and does not rest upon any written
law. The practice probably arose at a time
when faculties were small, and its members


were intimately related one to another, and
more interested in keeping the faculties strong

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Online LibraryCharles William EliotUniversity administration → online text (page 5 of 13)