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ceive and relentless in resisting encroachments by any,
the master journalist should stand as the guardian of all,
the vigilant watchman on the tower ever ready to sound
the alarm of danger, from whatever source, to the liberties
and the laws of this great union of free individuals." '

Discussion of the " tainted money " charge so
far as it affects our universities 'and colleges can
not, of course, be presented with complete objec-
tivity by the present writer. Nothing can be
promised beyond an earnest effort to attain detach-
ment and impartiality. On the other hand, a de-
cade spent in the active teaching of the principal
debatable subjects in three institutions of widely
different character may furnish a basis of ex-
perience of some value.^

' " Journalism, Politics, and the University," North Ameri-
can Review, vol. clxxxvii (1908), p. 59^-
'It is perhaps worth noting that the debatable subjects of


Corruption in the Professions

First of all there must be no blinking of the im-
portance of the subject. " It is manifest," wrote
the acute Hobbes, " that the Instruction of the
people, dependeth wholly, on the right teaching
of Youth in the Universities." Quaint as is the
language in which he defends this proposition the
argument which it contains is applicable with few
changes to modern conditions.

" They whom necessity, or couvetousnesse keepeth at-
tent on their trades, and labour; and they, on the other
side, whom superfluity, or sloth carrieth after their sensuall
pleasures, (which two sorts of men take up the greatest
part of Man-kind,) being diverted from the deep medita-

to-day are not those of a generation or so ago. Geology and
biology were then the dangerous chairs, the occupants of
which frequently found themselves in conflict with straight-
laced followers of various religious sects. Occasionally pro-
fessors of philosophy and ethics became involved in similar
controversies. At the present time conflicts of this character
are much less frequent and are confined for the most part
to theological seminaries and those smaller colleges which are
still dominated by narrow denominational influences. Nearly
all our leading universities have so far emancipated them-
selves from sectarian control that controversies with their
professors on this basis are virtually impossible. In such
institutions the chairs which present difficulties nowadays are
those in economics, political science, and sociology, although,
as we shall see, these difficulties are greatly exaggerated in
popular estimation. It is hardly necessary to add that (with
the exception in some small measure of sociology) the area
of friction in these subjects is not at aU in their contact with
religious, but almost exclusively in theif contact with business
and political activities outside university walls.

Corruption in American Politics and Life

tion, which the learning of truth, not onely in the matter
of Natural Justice, but also of all other Sciences neces-
sarily requireth, receive the Notions of their duty, chieily
from Divines in the Pulpit, and partly from such of their
Neighbours, or familiar acquaintance, as having the
Faculty of discoursing readily, and plausibly, seem wiser
and better learned in cases of Law, and Conscience, than
themselves. And the Divines, and such others as make
shew of Learning, derive their knowledge from the Uni-
versities, and from the Schooles of Law, or from the
Books, which by men eminent in those Schooles, and
Universities have been published." '

In spite of the development of other inter-
mediate agencies of public instruction since the
seventeenth century, and particularly of the press
and our elementary school system, the influence of
universities and colleges was never greater than it is
at present, and it is an influence which is constantly
increasing in strength. The number of universi-
ties and colleges is larger, their work is more
efficient, their curricula are broader, the number of
college bred men in the community is greater, and
their leadership therein more perceptible than ever
before. Professors are enlisting in industrial,
scientific, and social activities outside academic
walls in a way undreamed of so long as the old
monastic ideals held sway. By. extension lectures
and still more by books and articles they are reach-
ing larger and larger masses of the people. News-
papers formulate current public opinion, but to

' " Leviathan," pt. ii, ch. xxx.

Corruption in the Professions

the writer, at least, it seems plainly apparent that
the best thought of the universities and colleges to-
day is the thought that in all likelihood will pro-
foundly influence both press and public opinion in
the near future. Academic observers of the sound
money struggle of 1896, for example, must have
smiled frequently to themselves at the arguments
employed during the campaign. There was not
one of them which had not been the commonplace
of economic seminars for years. The newspapers
and the abler political leaders on .both sides simply
filled their quivers with arrows drawn from
academic arsenals. Extreme cleverness was shown
by many journalists and campaign orators in popu-
larising this material, In adapting it to local con-
ditions, and In placing It broadcast before the
people, but of original argumentation on their part
there was scarcely a scintilla. It is significant also
that the battle of the ballots was decided In favour
of the contention which commanded the majority
of scientific supporters. Subsequent political issues,
great and small, have developed very similar
phenomena, although of course it would be absurd
to assert that in all cases the dominant opinion of
the literati prevailed at the ballot. There are also
certain academic Ideals of the day with which
practical politics and business ^are demonstrably
and crassly at variance. Not until the fate of
many future battles Is decided can we estimate the
full strength of the university influence on such


Corruption in American Pblitics and Life

pending questions. Victory woi*ld seem assured in
a sufficient number of cases, however, to make it
clear that just as the wholesomeness of the public
opinion of to-day is conditiohed by the inde-
pendence of the press, so the wholesomeness of the
public opinion of to-morrow will be determined
largely by the independence of our colleges and

As compared with the press, i^niversities possess
certain great advantages which justify the public
in demanding from them higher standards of ac-
curacy and impartiality. The. professor enjoys
some measure of leisure ; the editor is always under
the lash of production on the stroke of the event.
It is also a very considerable advantage that the
editorial " we " and the anonyrnity of the news-
paper are foreign to college practice. There is,
of course, a pretty well recognised body of opinion
on methods and ideals common to the faculties of
our learned institutions, but in the separate fields
of departmental work any opinidn that may be ex-
pressed is primarily the opinioi^.of the professor
expressing it. His connection with a given institu-
tion is, indeed, a guaranty of greater or less weight
as to his general scholarly ability, and he will, of
course, be mindful of this In all that he says or
writes. But beyond this his personal reputation is
directly involved. Those who make a newspaper
suffer collectively and more or less anonymously
for any truckling to corrupt interests. The college


Corruption in the Prbfessions

president or teacher guilty of an offence of the
same sort must suffer in his own person the con-
tempt of his colleagues, his students, and the pub-
lic generally.

Newspapers, moreover, are usually managed by
private corporations frankly seeking profit as one
of their ends. Universities and colleges, on the
other hand, are much more free from the directly
economic motive. There are, however, certain
large qualifications to the advantages which insti-
tutions of learning thus enjoy. Every university
and college is constantly perceiving new means of
increasing its usefulness and persistently seeking to
secure them. The demands made in behalf of such
purposes may seem excessive at times, but it is clear
that an educational institution which does not ap-
preciate the vital importance of the work it is
doing, and consequently the importance of expand-
ing that work, is simply not worth its salt. In a
great many cases the readiest means of securing
the necessary funds is by appeal to rich men for
large gifts and endowments. As the number of
munificent Maecenases is always limited and the
number of needy institutions always very consider-
able, a competitive struggle eipsues, different In
most of its incidents from the directly profit seek-
ing struggles of the business v/orld, but essentially
competitive none the less. In the campaign of a
university or college for expansion a large body
of students makes a good showin^g ; hence too often


Corruption in American Politics and Life

low entrance requirements weakly enforced and
low standards of promotion. At times even the
springs of discipline are relaxed lest numbers
should be reduced by a salutary expulsion or two.
Courses are divided and subdivided beyond the
real needs of an institution and salaries are reduced
in order to secure a sufficient number of teachers
to give the large number of courses advertised with
great fulness in the catalogue. A large part of
crooked collegiate athletics is diie to an indurated
belief in the advertising efficacy of gridiron vic-
tories as a means of attracting first, students, and
then endowments. So far as charges of corruption
against our higher educational institutions are at
all justified they are justified chiefly by the prac-
tices just described. Fairness requires the state-
ment, however, that a marked change of heart is
now taking place. Public criticism has placed
athletic graft in the pillory to such an extent that
enlightened self-interest, if no better motive, should
bring about its speedy abolition by responsible col-
lege managements. Many sincere efforts have
been made by members of faculties singly and
through organisations covering certain fields of
study to raise and properly enforce entrance and
promotion standards. Finally ;in the Carnegie
Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
there has been developed an agency of unparalleled
efficiency for detecting and exposing low standards.
A college may continue to publish fake require-


Corruption in the Professions

ments, to crowd its class rooms with students who
belong to high schools, to pad its courses, to under-
pay and overwork its instructing staff, but if it does
these things It cannot, even if otherwise qualified,
secure pensions for its professors, and in any event
its derehctions will be advertised broadcast in the
reports of the Foundation with a precision and a
conviction beyond all hope of rebuttal. Let cynics
smile at a process which they msEy describe as brib-
ing the colleges to be good by pensioning their
superannuates, but unquestionably the work of the
Foundation has resulted in a new uprightness, a
new firmness of standards, a higher efficiency that
bodes well for the future of American education.
Parents may give material encouragement to
this movement by reading th.e publications of
the Carnegie Foundation, as well as college cat-
alogues and advertisements, before they determine
upon an Institution for the education of their

Although the conditions just described are the
principal evil results of the competitive struggle
for college and university expansion, the accusa-
tions of corruption against institutions of learning
have usually dealt with their teaching of the doc-
trines of economics, sociology, and political science.
Endowments must be secured ; as a rule they can be
had only from the very rich ; among the very
rich are numbered most of the " malefactors of
great wealth " ; — ergo university and college teach-


Corruption in American Pqlitics and Life

ing on such subjects must b.e made pleasing
or at least void of all offence to plutocratic

There is a certain disproportion between the
means and the ends considered by the foregoing
argument which is worth notice. To found or en-
dow a college or university requires a great deal
of money. Any institution worthy of either name
is made up of numerous departments, — lan-
guages, literature, the natural sciences, history, and
the social sciences, — of which only the last named
are concerned with the moot questions of the day.
If one cherished the Machiavellian notion of cor-
rupting academic opinion to his* economic interest
he would be obliged, therefore, -to support an ex-
cessively large number of departments the work of
which would be absolutely indifferent to him. En-
dowment of the social sciences alone would be
rather too patent. That they are not over-en-
dowed at the present time in comparison with their
importance relative to other dep.artments is a con-
dition the large mournfulness of which seems be-
yond all possibility of doubt to the writer. Nor
should it be forgotten that the teachers of the social
sciences form but a small minority of the whole
body of university and collegiate instructors in all
subjects. Nevertheless they are subject to the rigid
general standards of accuracy, fairness, and im-
partiality prescribed by the profession as a whole,
and enforced severely whether the offender be a


Corruption in the Professions

biologist, a philologist, or an economist. Criticism
is far more relentless and constant in this sphere
than laymen are wont to suspefet, except on the
rare occasions when some more than ordinarily
virulent controversy is taken up by the daily pa-
pers. Under such conditions any academic ten-
dency either toward servility or toward demagogy
is not likely to go long unchallenged.

Considering the high cost and small profits of
university manipulation in this light it is very
doubtful whether so indirect a method of social
defence would appeal to our financial pirates.
Whatever their defects or vices, men of this type
have at least received the rigorqas training of the
business career. They are not philosophers of far-
sighted vision, nor are they easily perturbed by
fears of distant dangers. Troubles near at hand
they see very clearly; indeed, one of the chief
grounds of clamour against such men is the crass
directness of the bribery to which on occasion they
resort. Interests under fire appeal rather to poli-
tical hirelings, to venal lawyers; to the courts, to
legislatures, or to the press for effective protection
and defence. College doctrines ire too remote, too
uncertain of manipulation to be of assistance. Al-
though they did not learn it from the poet, business
men are certainly not unmindful that :

" was ein Professor spricht
Nicht gleich zu alien dringet."


Corruption in American Politics and Life

Given both the motive and the means, however,
the task of corrupting the college teaching of
economic, political, and social doctrines would seem
almost hopelessly difficult. A given institution,
may, indeed, be endowed almost exclusively by a
certain man of great wealth. With very few ex-
ceptions knowledge of such munificence is made
public property. If then the president or professors
of such a university should endeavour to justify or
palliate the business conduct of the founder their
motives will be suspected from fhe start and their
arguments, however artfully they might plead the
case, discounted accordingly. If discretion were
thrown to the winds (there is perhaps one case of
this sort) the net effect of the work of such apolo-
gists, instead of aiding their financial friends,
might profoundly injure and embarrass them.
Those who are familiar with the character of the
American student know that he .would be the first
to detect any insincerity In the discussion of public
questions by an instructor or college official. If the
prosperity of the college were due almost entirely
to a single bounteous donor Its venal professors
would, of course, have no direct motive to defend
the economic misconduct of any other than their
particular friend among the captains of industry.
Possibly they might develop a policy similar to
that of newspapers In the same predicament,—
silence or soft speaking regarding the sins of their
great and rich friend combined with louder


Corruption in the Professions

trumpetings against the social misconduct of other
and indifferent financial interests. In the case of
all our important institutions of learning, how-
ever, funds of very considerable size in the aggre-
gate have been received from many sources in the
past, and new gifts, even when they are of large
amount, represent merely fractional additions
thereto. Those who know our colleges and universi-
ties will find it hard to believe that the old academic
ideals and traditions of well supported institutions,
their scientific honesty and earnest devotion to
broad public service, are to be cheaply bought by
gifts of half a million or more .from the nouveau
riche. There is such a thing as loyalty to the small
gifts often made with the highest motives and the
greatest sacrifices by generations long since dead.
Few institutions desire to disregaj-d this sentiment,
and no institution can disregard it with impunity.

Finally there are the great state institutions of
the country, maintained almost wholly by taxation
and hence free from any corrupting influence that
large endowments might exercise. There can be
no doubt that the possession of these two funda-
mentally different kinds of economic support is a
great safeguard to the independence of university
instruction in the United States. No country is
more blatant in asserting its 'Lehrfreiheit than
Germany, but there the exclusive reliance of uni-
versities upon state support, coupled with the
tremendous strength of government, makes neces-


Corruption in American Politics and Life

sary very considerable modification of the Teu-
tonic boast of absolute academic freedom. To be
sure state Institutions In the United States have
been charged at times with similar subservience to
legislatures and political leaders. Whatever per-
version of this sort may have occurred it was at
least not turned to the advantage of corporate mis-
doing. Indeed it probably had a directly opposite
and strongly demagogic trend. Fortunately our
state universities are becoming so powerful, so
Well fortified by high and honest traditions, so be-
loved by great and rapidly growing bodies of in-
fluential alumni that the days of 'their dependence
upon political favour are well nigh over. It is now
beyond all doubt that they are dpstined to a career
of Immense usefulness to our democracy, and it
seems highly probable that they will overtake, if
they do not ultimately excel, the great endowed
institutions of the country. If the latter should
ever show themselves subject to the influence of
predatory wealth the developnlent of well sup-
ported public universities should supply the neces-
sary corrective. At the present time, however, a
strong presumption of the general devotion of
both classes of institutions to the public welfare
is afforded by the fact that no recognisable dis-
tinction exists between the general doctrines of
economics, political, and social science as taught
in endowed schools on the one hand and in state
schools on the other.


Corruption in the Professions

It was unfortunately essential to the foregoing
argument that the worst motives should be assumed
on the part of college benefactors. Justice re-
quires ample correction of this point. A conspir-
acy to influence the social doctrines of our colleges,
as we have seen, is neither so inexpensive, so direct,
nor so likely to succeed as to commend itself to
business men looking for immediate results. No
doubt there have been men of wealth who by large
and well advertised benefactiorjs to colleges and
universities have sought not to influence college
teaching but to rehabilitate themselves and their
business methods in popular estdem. Conspicuous
giving with this penitential purpose in view is not
likely to prove very effective, however. The sharp
insight as to motives and the half humourous
cynicism peculiar to American character are suffi-
cient safeguards against the purchase of unde-
served sympathy by rich offenders. In spite of the
enormous sums given in the United States not only
to the higher educational institutions but also for
many other educational and philanthropic pur-
poses. It seems extremely doubtful that public
opinion has been affected thereby favourably to
plutocratic interests. Few of the great mass are
directly touched and consciously benefited by such
gifts, but all are able to see (and if not they are
helped by radicals to see), the superfluity out of
which the donations were majde. Benefactors,
prospective and actual, must face the certainty of


Corruption in American Politics and Life

much criticism and misinterpretation. So far as
this criticism is unjust it is to be regretted; so far
as it is just it contributes materially to social wel-
fare. Investments in business .are judged as to
their wisdom by the ready tests of profits and
permanence; investments in social work are not
subject to tests so accurate and so easily applied.
To some extent their place is ta?ken by the advice
and criticism of workers in the field. Still there is
large possibility that gifts for social work may be
applied in useless or even in harmful ways. A wise
conception of the function of ithe philanthropist
must therefore include a realisation of the value
of criticism by specialists, and also a determination
either to ignore misinterpretatIo;i and unjust criti-
cism, or to await its reversal by a better Informed,
if somewhat belated public opini-on.

Besides the possible but not always probable
motives for making large gifts referred to above
every other conceivable Influence has affected edu-
cational benefactions. George Ade's breezy Chi-
cago magnate who slaps the college president on
the back and says: " Have a laboratory on me, old
fellow," is slangy, to be sure, but not altogether
fabulous. It Is a very common misconception that
financial assistance is the only -thing needful In
higher educational work. President Schurman of
-Cornell University expressed the views of many of
his colleagues among the great university execu-
tives of the country when he lamented that " rich


Corruption in the Professions

men who give their money to educational institu-
tions cannot be induced to give also their time and
energy to the management of theln."^ So neglect-
ful an attitude on their part, by»the way, is hardly
consistent with the theory that they are engaged
in a conspiracy to pollute the wells of knowledge.
When we consider the immense number of con-
tributors, large and small, to the cause of higher
education it is impossible to escape the conviction
that behind many of their generous acts lay real
sacrifice, an adequate conception of the great func-
tion of university teaching, and the purest and
most humanitarian motives. 0£ten, too, there has
been full realisation that " the gift without the
giver is bare," and patient, unstinted, intelligent
service has accompanied money benefactions. In
the same fine spirit nearly all ou'r colleges and uni-
versities have accepted and employed the resources
so generously placed at their disposal.

While due weight should be given to the honour-
able Influences ordinarily accompanying benefac-
tions, candour also compels the frank discussion of
those cases where constraint of professorial opinion
has been attempted. There have been a few
flagrant instances of the dismissal of teachers on
account of utterances displeasing to men who have
been drawn upon heavily for jinancial support.
One can readily understand the feeling of the latter

" Cf. his annual report for 1904-05, pp. 19-20, for a brief but
very interesting reference to the " tainted money " charge.


Corruption in American Politics and Life

that, considering their large gifts, they have been
most ungratefully and unjustly abused, and also
the action which they accordingly instigate, al-
though it is as silly in most cases as the Queen of
Hearts' peremptory command:- — "Off with his

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Online LibraryRobert Clarkson BrooksCorruption in American politics and life → online text (page 9 of 19)