Charles William Eliot.

University administration online

. (page 6 of 13)
Online LibraryCharles William EliotUniversity administration → online text (page 6 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

than any other set of men connected with the
institution. The trustees presumably met but
seldom, and had no time to inquire into the
claims and merits of different candidates.
Moreover, when the range of college studies
was small, and all members of the faculty had
passed through the same curriculum in their
youth, they were fair judges of the qualifica-
tions of candidates whose range of knowledge
and intellectual interests was similar to their

The problem of selecting new members of
a faculty is utterly different to-day. In a large
university faculty of arts and sciences the
members rarely feel competent to pass on the
qualifications of candidates for election who
do not belong to their own department, or to
some closely allied department. Thus a pro-
fessor of Latin, Sanskrit, or comparative lit-
erature, will ordinarily declare that he knows
nothing about the qualifications of a candi-
date for a professorship of mathematics, geo-


logy, or chemistry; and all members of the
faculty are conscious of this sort of ignorance
on their own part. The official nomination
by a faculty under such circumstances is a
formality or a convention, and not a piece of
real advice. The president of the university,
the dean of one of its schools, or a committee
of the trustees, when charged with the nomi-
nation of a professor, will naturally consult
the professors of the department in which the
vacancy is to be filled, and often the profes-
sors of allied departments, and will so obtain
much more direct and valuable advice than
the vote of a faculty could give. This func-
tion of nominating professors for election by
the trustees is therefore not one to be recom-
mended for the faculties of an expanding and
hopeful institution. Other methods of selection
already exist which work better in practice, and
are theoretically sounder. The method was
natural in a private-venture medical school,
because the professors were there really part-
ners in a business the proceeds of which they
divided, and as such had a right to decide on


the admission of new members to the firm;
but since all the best medical schools have
been taken on by universities, this method of
selecting professors has been modified or aban-
doned in the new medical faculties. The func-
tion is still sometimes exercised by a committee
of all the full professors in a medical faculty,
but is of doubtful expediency even when thus

What is called discipline in an American
university is ordinarily committed entirely to
its several faculties. This discipline may vary
in the different faculties of the same institu-
tion. In general, it is a government which
uses no force except the force of public opin-
ion; and this opinion is compounded of the
opinion of the older scholars who are the
teachers, and of the younger students who
are the junior members of the university for
the time being, with an admixture of the
opinion of the graduates of the institution,
which, though somewhat remote and infre-
quently appealed to, is yet felt by faculty
and students alike as a real unofficial force of


a wholly disinterested character. The only
penalties which a faculty uses, after warnings,
reproofs, and exhortations, are temporary ban-
ishments, and in the last resort, final sepa-
ration from the institution after all other
measures have failed. These penalties are, how-
ever, highly effective, because of the univer-
sal recognition of the fact that membership
in a college or university is a high privilege.
From the long and varied experience of Amer-
ican colleges in trying to maintain a just and
effective discipline, certain general rules or
principles of administration have been evolved,
the most important of which are as follows :
No faculty, or official, should ever try to make
a student, who is merely suspected of hav-
ing taken part in an offence, incriminate
himself. Students should never be required
to testify against other students. When the
guilty cannot be detected, there should be
no wholesale punishment which involves the
innocent. A student's statement about his
own conduct should be accepted, unless it be
inconsistent with known facts. No publicity


should be given to students' offences or de-
fects, and the record of actual censures and
punishments should be made as little con-
demnatory as truth permits. No information
about disorders should ever be sought from
any particular set of students, such as high
scholars, recipients of money aids, church
members, members of religious societies, stu-
dents employed by the college, or students
who in some natural and right way have be-
come intimate with college officers. All col-
lege officials should bear constantly in mind
the plain fact that most college offenders, even
those who commit ordinary crimes, such as
cheating and stealing, if considerately and
mercifully dealt with, and if not ruined in
body, recover themselves completely, and turn
out to be honest men and good citizens. Since
the influence of a college faculty is primarily
a moral influence, it is indispensable that all
its methods and rules in regard to violations
of good order and right conduct should be
straightforward, reasonable, and fair.

The functions of a State university faculty


differ somewhat from those of the faculty in
an endowed institution which is not depend-
ent on appropriations to be made by a legis-
lature, because the State university faculty
has a stronger sense of direct responsibility
to its State and a keener desire to be of direct
and visible service to the learned and scientific
professions, popular education, the character-
istic industries, and the public administration
within its State. It will therefore take active
part, through many of its members, in visit-
ing secondary schools, holding short courses
of elementary instruction at the university or
at a distance from it, lecturing at teachers'
institutes, women's clubs, grange meetings,
and trade-associations, distributing through
numerous short-term students superior seeds
proved at the university, and working on
State commissions which need the help of
experts. Such useful functions as these the
faculties of endowed universities in the East
have been slow to assume. They have been
inclined to reserve themselves for teaching
and research at the seat of the university,


and to leave to others all sorts of " university
extension " work. They are, however, improv-
ing in this respect, because they now realize
that in a democratic society all institutions of
higher education, whether endowed or sup-
ported from public revenues, are ultimately
dependent on the public's appreciation of their
services, direct and indirect, and on the result-
ing good-will of the whole community. Hence
the growth at endowed institutions of summer
schools in theology, medicine, and arts and
sciences, of term-time classes for teachers in
service, and of courses of popular lectures in
divinity and medicine at times convenient for
adults who are earning their livelihood ; and
hence also the increasing participation of uni-
versity professors in various forms of public

Every faculty should keep careful records
of the academic career and attainments of
every student under its charge, and should
found on these records its recommendations
for the conferring of degrees, and of all other
academic distinctions ; and it should provide


for the preservation of these records, and their
secure transmission from century to century.
Very few American institutions have done
their full duty in this respect; but the cus-
toms of the colleges and universities as to
records and the proper use of them are im-

Such being the functions of a faculty, how
can they be best discharged ? In the first
place, by frequent stated meetings for exam-
ining the condition of its work, for hearing
reports from its officers and committees, and
for the consideration and discussion of pro-
posals to improve its methods.

The rapidity and completeness with which
methods of instruction and fields of instruc-
tion change from generation to generation,
and even from decade to decade, is one of the
most astonishing facts in the history of edu-
cation. Thus there is not a single subject
within the whole range of instruction at Har-
vard University, from the beginning of the
undergraduate course to the end of the pro-


fessional courses, which is now taught in the
same way in which it was taught forty years
ago, or which offers the same field of instruc-
tion which it offered to the student of the last
generation. All the methods and apparatus of
teaching, and the spirit or temper of teacher
and taught alike, have changed. Some of these
profound changes begin in the faculties ; but
others begin outside the university in the
working world, and must be discerned, appre-
ciated, and adopted by the faculties; some
are university inventions ; but many are the
consequences of social, industrial, and political
changes in the outside world. Every faculty,
therefore, has to keep up with the rapid march
of educational events, and for this purpose
it must have frequent stated meetings, and
patient discussion of new proposals.

This necessity for the constant revision of
educational plans, methods, and material pene-
trates, or should penetrate, to the work of
every individual teacher in the university. A
professor who reads year after year the same
lectures is sure to become an incubus on his


department and his university. The young
instructor who does not apply the experience
of one year's teaching to vivify and improve
the next year's is a bad candidate for promo-
tion. So, in the agglomeration of university
teachers called a faculty, if they meet but
seldom, leaving to deans, secretaries, and com-
mittees all the routine work without demand-
ing of them incessant improvements, receive
from the members few new proposals, and do
their best to avoid discussion of those few,
it is certain that the institution in their charge
will not grow or thrive, and will soon cease
to play a leading part in the educational pro-
gress of the community or the nation. By the
vitality, inventiveness, and enterprise of its
faculty, it is safe to judge any institution of
learning. Nothing can take the place of vital-
ity in a faculty, no one-man power in a presi-
dent or dean, no vigor and ambition in a board
of trustees, and no affection or zeal in the
graduates of the institution.

Faculty meetings serve several other pur-
poses besides that of the promotion of educa-


tional improvements. In the first place, they
greatly promote mutual acquaintance and good
understanding among the teachers of a col-
lege or university. Good fellowship and a real
intellectual intimacy among the teachers of
a university are in themselves great objects.
They create a good atmosphere for the intel-
lectual life of the whole body of teachers and
students. In faculty meetings the different
qualities of the members who take part in the
discussions are plainly revealed. The whole
body learns that certain members are public-
spirited, generous of time and labor, and co-
operative, while other members exhibit the
opposite qualities. Some members are seen to
be clear, keen, and fair in debate, while others
are obscure, dull, or unfair; some members
are modest and retiring, and yet ready for
service, while others are more forth-putting in
talk, but not so serviceable ; some are quick,
ready, and fertile, while others are habitually
slow to speak, and even tardy in debate, and
yet sound and influential ; some say little, but
their opinions are weighty when expressed;


others talk much and often, and neverthe-
less are influential because inventive and
suggestive. That the members of a faculty
understand each others' dispositions and vari-
ous capacities is often a great advantage in
university crises or emergencies; that the
president and the deans should have the op-
portunities which faculty meetings supply to
become acquainted with the powers and char-
acters of the different members of the univer-
sity staff is of primary importance. In every
large faculty the personal composition of its
committees is of great importance; and no
president, or nominating committee, can make
up these committees judiciously, unless he has
the opportunity which faculty meetings afford
to become thoroughly acquainted with the
mental and moral make-up of its different
members. In faculty meetings, and in service
on faculty committees, the men who have ad-
ministrative capacity show their quality, and
from that class deans and secretaries are best
selected. It is hardly necessary to say that the
president of a university should preside at the


meetings of all its faculties, and should give
each faculty the advantage of the experience
of all the others. A wise president will dread
nothing so much as an inert and uninterested

There is no way to prevent a faculty of arts
and sciences, or of medicine, or of applied
science, from becoming a large body in a
prosperous and serviceable university. Mere
size brings with it difficulties for a body
which is both deliberative and administrative.
Moreover, large faculties imply numerous
appointments of young men every year. It
is, therefore, an interesting question how a
large faculty may be subdivided into effective
groups, each of which can prepare a certain
part of the faculty's business for the faculty
and the president. Within the last twenty
years experience has shown the advantageous
way of creating these effective subdivisions ;
and the increasing authority of these subdivi-
sions, each within its legitimate sphere of
action, is one of the great gains made of late
years in American university organization.


Every large faculty should be divided into de-
partments by subject, each department consist-
ing of the teachers of that subject who are
members of the faculty. Each department thus
organized is, as has already been said, a body
with homogeneous interests and kindred ambi-
tions and hopes. They all know much about
each other's work, and are good judges of the
young men who, year after year, aspire to teach
their subject in the university. As a group,
they know how the interests of their subject
may most effectively be promoted at the mo-
ment, and are therefore well qualified to urge
the needs of their department on the faculty,
the president, and the community. The older
members of the department also know the
young men who in former years exhibited in-
terest in the work of the department while
students, and what has become of them in
after-life. They can bring the needs of the
department before such of their former stu-
dents as have succeeded in business, or in the
professions, and can interest them better than
anybody else in promoting the interests of


the department. They can discuss within the
department the methods of instruction in
use ; the completeness or incompleteness of the
series of courses offered by the department ;
the expediency of changing the series, whether
by subtraction or addition ; and the exchange
of courses from time to time among members
of the department. In the intimacy of depart-
mental debates, the older men can inform the
younger, and the younger the older.

Each department needs a chairman, and
most large departments need also a secretary.
The policy to be followed in selecting this
chairman is a matter of grave consequence.
In small colleges which had but one professor
for each subject, it was natural that the single
professor should always be treated as the head
of his department; but in large colleges or
universities which employ many teachers in a
single department, the principle of seniority
is a dangerous one for determining the selec-
tion of the chairmen of departments. The se-
lection is best made from time to time either
by the president, or by a faculty committee of


which the president is chairman. This com-
mittee may wisely treat department chairman-
ships as offices to be held only for four, five,
or six years, unless, indeed, a department be
too small to provide a series of good chair-
men. On this principle the chairmen will not
often be senior professors, and indeed will
generally be junior professors, or assistant
professors. In this way a considerable num-
ber of persons will, within twenty years, ex-
ercise the function of chairman of a depart-
ment, and will be enlarged and improved by
that exercise. Moreover, dangers from the
domination of masterful personages will be
reduced to a minimum under this system;
while the advantages of a real leadership need
not be lost.

To the departments will naturally fall the
nomination of young men for annual appoint-
ments, and in this way they will exercise
considerable power over the future of the uni-
versity. The faculty and the president will
always have to be on their guard against the
urgencies of the departments, balancing one


claim against another, and watching to see that
the development of the departments is propor-
tionate to the importance of their respective

In the presentation of department business
to the faculty, chairmen of departments often
feel obliged to urge on the faculty the action
which the department has taken by a ma-
jority vote, without revealing the existence of
a strong minority opinion within the depart-
ment. This natural, and, perhaps, inevitable
practice enhances the importance of thor-
oughly discussing within the faculty every
proposal which is brought before it. In such
a discussion the minority view within a de-
partment can almost always be brought out,
to the enlightenment of the faculty. A well-
organized and active department will generally
procure, outside of the official programmes of
the faculty, various conferences, and public or
private lectures by experts brought from with-
out the university, which stimulate teachers
and students alike, and add to the effective-
ness of the department as a whole.


A department is also very likely to interest
itself in some medium of stated publication
for papers written by members of the depart-
ment, or invited from scholars at other uni-
versities. These publications, if well managed,
not only strengthen the department which
produces them, but add to the prestige of the
university as a whole. Again, it often hap-
pens that the group of teachers and students
called a department takes a vigorous interest
in adding to the resources of the university
library on the departmental subject, and this
is one of the most legitimate of all fields for
departmental interest and labor. The books
having been procured, the department inter-
ests itself in securing a separate reading-room
for its own use. Thence arises a demand for
a departmental building where its lecture-
rooms, collections, and reading-room can all be
brought together. The departmental organi-
zation is therefore likely to affect in the
future, not only the internal, but also the
external structure of the American univer-
sities. Since departments are inevitably com-


mittees of a faculty, and will always need
faculty control, their increasing power and
usefulness imply the increasing power and use-
fulness of the faculty out of which they are



GREAT changes have come over the American
college and university during the last forty
years. The greatest change is the general in-
troduction in larger or smaller measure of the
elective system; and the next in importance
is the change in methods of instruction. The
present chapter deals with the nature, objects,
and results of the elective system, and the
following chapter with methods of instruc-

In the first place, the elective system is a
system, that is, a carefully arranged scheme
of numerous courses of instruction which are
open to the choice of students under rules
partly artificial, but chiefly natural and inev-
itable. The elective system has been described
by its opponents as a wide-open, miscellane-
ous bazaar, at which a bewildering variety of
goods is offered to the purchaser, who is left


without guidance, and acts without any con-
stant or sensible motive. Nothing could be
farther from the facts than this description.
An elective system presupposes a well-ordered
series of consecutive courses in each large
subject of instruction, such as Latin, Ger-
man, history, or physics. The division of the
courses of instruction into groups by subject
is natural and easily intelligible. Within these
groups the series of subjects is natural and
plain, except for the unexplained gaps which
often occur in the series, gaps due to the
inadequacy of the institution's resources.

In a strong university the subjects of in-
struction taken together ought to cover all
fields of human knowledge in which it is pos-
sible to give systematic instruction; and in
each subject the schedule of courses should be
in the highest degree orderly and consecutive,
rising from the elementary, comprehensive
course, through courses of greater and greater
difficulty, becoming more and more intensive,
until the summit is reached in the conferences
or seminaries which take advanced students


to the limits of knowledge in that subject. It
is obvious that a university which undertakes
thus to deal with all subjects of knowledge
must offer a very large total of different
courses, and that in a certain sense, therefore,
the choice of the individual student has a
large range; but it is equally obvious that
in the list or schedule of courses in a given
division or department of knowledge the
choice of the individual student has strenuous
limitations. Thus, the beginner must take
the elementary course first, and he must then
advance through the long schedule of the de-
partment by well-marked steps. He cannot
choose an advanced course in any subject
until he has laid the necessary foundation.
No student is admitted to any course unless
he has fulfilled all the requirements for that
course, and the department announcements
contain numerous prescriptions concerning
the sequence of courses. He cannot take
two courses which occur in the time-tables
at the same hour; and the time-tables may
be systematically used to prevent unwise


combinations of courses. In well-conducted
institutions he cannot take an advanced
course without the consent of the instructor,
who must be satisfied that the student is
well prepared to do the work which the in-
structor habitually demands. The elective sys-
tem, then, is extensive and complex, but it
is also orderly, well mapped, and thoroughly

The primary object of the elective system
is to enable the serious student to select his
studies in accordance with his tastes and ca-
pacities. He is enabled to select those studies
which interest him, or those teachers who
interest him, with the result that he works
much harder than he would on subjects which
do not interest him, makes more rapid pro-
gress, and arrives sooner at the satisfactory
stage of real intellectual achievement. Any
human being, whether child or adult, whether
hand-worker or brain-worker, will always work
harder and accomplish more in a task which
interests him. The first effect, therefore, of
the elective system on the individual student


who has intellectual ambition is always to
get more work from him. It also makes him
sooner a productive person, that is, a contrib-
utor to the sum of knowledge. This is the
primary object of the elective system, to
make the serious student work hard, accom-
plish something worth while, and so win power
and happiness. The complete development of
the elective system takes place in the later
years of instruction in arts and sciences, that
is, in the school commonly called the Gradu-
ate School, because at the time of its institu-

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryCharles William EliotUniversity administration → online text (page 6 of 13)