The Higher Learning in America — Chapter 5

CHAPTER V

The Academic Personnel

As regards the personnel of the academic staff the control enforced by the principles of competitive business is more subtle, complex and far-reaching, and should merit more particular attention. The staff is the university, or it should so be if the university is to deserve the place assigned it in the scheme of civilization. Therefore the central and gravest question touching current academic policy is the question of its bearing on the personnel and the work which there is for them to do. In the apprehension of many critics the whole question of university control is comprised in the dealings of the executive with the staff.

Whether the power of appointment vests formally in one man or in a board, in American practice it commonly vests, in effect, in the academic executive. In practice, the power of removal, as well as that of advancement, rests in the same hands. The businesslike requirements of the case bring it to this outcome de facto, whatever formalities of procedure may intervene de jure.

It lies in the nature of the case that this appointing power will tend to create a faculty after its own kind. It will be quick to recognize efficiency within the lines of its own interests, and slower to see fitness in those lines that lie outside of its horizon, where it must necessarily act on outside solicitation and hearsay evidence.

The selective effect of such a bias, guided as one might say, by a “consciousness of kind,” may be seen in those establishments that have remained under clerical tutelage; where, notoriously, the first qualification looked to in an applicant for work as a teacher is his religious bias. But the bias of these governing boards and executives that are under clerical control has after all been able to effect only a partial, though far-reaching, conformity to clerical ideals of fitness in the faculties so selected; more especially in the larger and modernized schools of this class. In practice it is found necessary somewhat to wink at devotional shortcomings among their teachers; clerical, or pronouncedly devout, scientists that are passably competent in their science, are of very rare occurrence; and yet something presentable in the way of modern science is conventionally required by these schools, in order to live, and so to effect any part of their purpose. Half a loaf is better than no bread. None but the precarious class of schools made up of the lower grade and smaller of these colleges, such as are content to save their souls alive without exerting any effect on the current of civilization, are able to get along with faculties made up exclusively of God-fearing men.

Something of the same kind, and in somewhat the same degree, is true for the schools under the tutelage of businessmen. While the businesslike ideal may be a faculty wholly made up of men highly gifted with business sense, it is not practicable to assemble such a faculty which shall at the same time be plausibly competent in science and scholarship. Scientists and scholars given over to the pursuit of knowledge are conventionally indispensable to a university, and such are commonly not largely gifted with business sense, either by habit or by native gift. The two lines of interest — business and science — do not pull together; a competent scientist or scholar well endowed with business sense is as rare as a devout scientist — almost as rare as a white blackbird. Yet the inclusion of men of scientific gifts and attainments among its faculty is indispensable to the university, if it is to avoid instant and palpable stultification.

So that the most that can practically be accomplished by a businesslike selection and surveillance of the academic personnel will be a compromise; whereby a goodly number of the faculty will be selected on grounds of businesslike fitness, more or less pronounced, while a working minority must continue to be made up of men without much business proficiency and without pronounced loyalty to commercial principles.

This fluctuating margin of limitation has apparently not yet been reached, perhaps not even in the most enterprising of our universities. Such should be the meaning of the fact that a continued commercialization of the academic staff appears still to be in progress, in the sense that businesslike fitness counts progressively for more in appointments and promotions. These businesslike qualifications do not comprise merely facility in the conduct of pecuniary affairs, even if such facility be conceived to include the special aptitudes and proficiency that go to the making of a successful advertiser. In academic circles as elsewhere businesslike fitness includes solvency as well as commercial genius. Both of these qualifications are useful in the competitive manoeuvres in which the academic body is engaged. But while the two are apparently given increasing weight in the selection and grading of the academic personnel, the precedents and specifications for a standard rating of merit in this bearing have hitherto not been worked out to such a nicety as to allow much more than a more or less close approach to a consistent application of the principle in the average case. And there lies always the infirmity in the background of the system that if the staff were selected consistently with an eye single to business capacity and business animus the university would presently be functa officio, and the captain of erudition would find his occupation gone.

A university is an endowed institution of culture; whether the endowment take the form of assigned income, as in the state establishments, or of funded wealth, as with most other universities. Such fraction of the income as is assigned to the salary roll, and which therefore comes in question here, is apportioned among the staff for work which has no determinate market value. It is not a matter of quid pro quo; since one member of the exchange, the stipend or salary, is measurable in pecuniary terms and the other is not. This work has no business value, in so far as it is work properly included among the duties of the academic men. Indeed, it is a fairly safe test; work that has a commercial value does not belong in the university. Such services of the academic staff as have a business value are those portions of their work that serve other ends than the higher learning; as, e.g., the prestige and pecuniary gain of the institution at large, the pecuniary advantage of a given clique or faction within the university, or the profit and renown of the directive head. Gains that accrue for services of this general character are not, properly speaking, salary or stipend payable toward “the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,” even if they are currently so designated, in the absence of suitable distinctions. Instances of such a diversion of corporate funds to private ends have in the past occurred in certain monastic and priestly orders, as well as in some modern political organizations. Organized malversation of this character has latterly been called “graft.” The long-term common sense of the community would presently disavow any corporation of learning overtly pursuing such a course, as being faithless to its trust, and the conservation of learning would so pass into other hands. Indeed, there are facts current which broadly suggest that the keeping of the higher learning is beginning to pass into other, and presumptively more disinterested, hands.

The permeation of academic policy by business principles is a matter of more or less, not of absolute, dominance. It appears to be a question of how wide a deviation from scholarly singleness of purpose the long-term common sense of the community will tolerate. The cult of the idle curiosity sticks too deep in the instinctive endowment of the race, and it has in modern civilization been too thoroughly ground into the shape of a quest of matter-of-fact knowledge, to allow this pursuit to be definitively set aside or to fall into abeyance. It is by too much an integral constituent of the habits of thought induced by the discipline of workday life. The faith in and aspiration after matter-of-fact knowledge is too profoundly ingrained in the modern community, and too consonant with its workday habit of mind, to admit of its supersession by any objective end alien to it, — at least for the present and until some stronger force than the technological discipline of modern life shall take over the primacy among the factors of civilization, and so give us a culture of a different character from that which has brought on this modern science and placed it at the centre of things human.

The popular approval of business principles and businesslike thrift is profound, disinterested, alert and insistent; but it does not, at least not yet, go the length of unreservedly placing a businesslike exploitation of office above a faithful discharge of trust. The current popular animus may not, in this matter, approach that which animates the business community, specifically so-called, but it is sufficiently “practical” to approve practical sagacity and gainful traffic wherever it is found; yet the furtherance of knowledge is after all an ideal which engages the modern community’s affections in a still more profound way, and, in the long run, with a still more unqualified insistence. For good or ill, in the apprehension of the civilized peoples, matter-of-fact knowledge is an end to be sought; while gainful enterprise is, after all, a means to an end. There is, therefore, always this massive hedge of slow but indefeasible popular sentiment that stands in the way of making the seats of learning over into something definitively foreign to the purpose which they are popularly believed to serve.(1*)

Perhaps the most naive way in which a predilection for men of substantial business value expresses itself in university policy is the unobtrusive, and in part unformulated, preference shown for teachers with sound pecuniary connections, whether by inheritance or by marriage. With no such uniformity as to give evidence of an advised rule of precedence or a standarized schedule of correlation, but with sufficient consistency to merit, and indeed to claim, the thoughtful attention of the members of the craft, a scholar who is in a position to plead personal wealth or a wealthy connection has a perceptibly better chance of appointment on the academic staff, and on a more advantageous scale of remuneration, than men without pecuniary antecedents. Due preferment also appears to follow more as a matter of course where the candidate has or acquires a tangible standing of this nature.

This preference for well-to-do scholars need by no means be an altogether blind or impulsive predilection for commercial solvency on the part of the appointing power; though such a predilection is no doubt ordinarily present and operative in a degree. But there is substantial ground for a wise discrimination in this respect. As a measure of expediency, particularly the expediency of publicity, it is desirable that the incumbents of the higher stations on the staff should be able to live on such a scale of conspicuous expensiveness as to make a favourable impression on those men of pecuniary refinement and expensive tastes with whom they are designed to come in contact. The university should be worthily represented in its personnel, particularly in such of its personnel as occupy a conspicuous place in the academic hierarchy; that is to say, it should be represented with becoming expensiveness in all its social contact with those classes from whose munificence large donations may flow into the corporate funds. Large gifts of this kind are creditable both to him that gives and him that takes, and it is the part of wise foresight so to arrange that those to whom it falls to represent the university, as potential beneficiary, at this juncture should do so with propitiously creditable circumstance. To meet and convince the opulent patrons of learning, as well as the parents and guardians of possible opulent students, it is, by and large, necessary to meet them on their own ground, and to bring into view such evidence of culture and intelligence as will readily be appreciated by them. To this end a large and well appointed domestic establishment is more fortunate than a smaller one; abundant, well-chosen and well-served viands, beverages and narcotics will also felicitously touch the sensibilities of these men who are fortunate enough to have learned their virtue; the better, that is to say, on the whole, the more costly, achievements in dress and equipage will “carry farther” in these premises than a penurious economy. In short, it is well that those who may be called to stand spokesmen for the seat of learning in its contact with men and women of substantial means, should be accustomed to, and should be pecuniarily competent for, a scale of living somewhat above that which the ordinary remuneration for academic work will support. An independent income, therefore, is a meritorious quality in an official scholar.

The introduction of these delegates from the well-to-do among the academic personnel has a further, secondary effect that is worth noting. Their ability freely to meet any required pecuniary strain, coupled with that degree of social ambition that commonly comes with the ability to pay, will have a salutary effect in raising the standard of living among the rest of the staff, — salutary as seen from the point of view of the bureau of publicity. In the absence of outside resources, the livelihood of academic men is somewhat scant and precarious. This places them under an insidious temptation to a more parsimonious manner of life than the best (prestige) interests of the seat of learning would dictate. By undue saving out of their current wages they may easily give the academic establishment an untoward air of indigence, such as would be likely to depreciate its prestige in those well-to-do circles where such prestige might come to have a commercial value, in the way of donations, and it might at the same time deter possible customers of the same desirable class from sending their young men to the university as students.

The American university is not an eleemosynary institution; it does not plead indigence, except in that Pickwickian sense in which indigence may without shame be avowed in polite circles; nor does it put its trust in donations of that sparseness and modesty which the gifts of charity commonly have. Its recourse necessarily is that substantial and dignified class of gifts that are not given thriftily on compunction of charity, but out of the fulness of the purse. These dignified gifts commonly aim to promote the most reputable interests of humanity, rather than the sordid needs of creature comfort, at the same time that they serve to fortify the donor’ s good name in good company. Donations to university funds have something of the character of an investment in good fame; they are made by gentlemen and gentlewomen, to gentlemen, and the transactions begin and end within the circle of pecuniary respectability. An impeccable respectability, authentic in the pecuniary respect, therefore, affords the only ground on which such a seminary of learning can reasonably claim the sympathetic attention of the only class whose attentions are seriously worth engaging in these premises; and respectability is inseparable from an expensive scale of living, in any community whose scheme of life is conventionally regulated by pecuniary standards.

It is accordingly expedient, for its collective good repute, that the members of the academic staff should conspicuously consume all their current income in current expenses of living. Hence also the moral obligation incumbent on all members of the staff — and their households — to take hands and help in an endless chain of conspicuously expensive social amenities, where their social proficiency and their ostensible ability to pay may effectually be placed on view. An effectual furtherance to this desirable end is the active presence among the staff of an appreciable number who are ready to take the lead at a pace slightly above the competency of the common run of university men. Their presence insures that the general body will live up to their limit; for in this, as in other games of emulation, the pace-maker is invaluable.

Besides the incentive so given to polite expenditure by the presence of a highly solvent minority among the academic personnel, it has also been found expedient that the directorate take thought and institute something in the way of an authentic curriculum of academic festivities and exhibitions of social proficiency. A degree of expensive gentility is in this way propagated by authority, to be paid for in part out of the salaries of the faculty.

Something in this way of ceremonial functions and public pageants has long been included in the ordinary routine of the academic year among the higher American schools. It dates back to the time when they were boys’ schools under the tutelage of the clergy, and it appears to have had a ritualistic origin, such as would comport with what is found expedient in the service of the church. By remoter derivation it should probably be found to rest on a very ancient and archaic faith in the sacramental or magical efficacy of ceremonial observances. But the present state of the case can by no means be set down to the account of aimless survival alone. Instead of being allowed in any degree to fall into abeyance by neglect, the range and magnitude of such observances have progressively grown appreciably greater since the principles of competitive business have come to rule the counsels of the universities. The growth, in the number of such observances, in their pecuniary magnitude, in their ritualistic circumstance, and in the importance attached to them, is greater in the immediate present than at any period in the past; and it is, significantly, greater in those larger new establishments that have started out with few restraints of tradition. But the move so made by these younger, freer, more enterprising seats of learning falls closely in with that spirit of competitive enterprise that animates all alike though unequally. 1

That it does so, that this efflorescence of ritual and pageantry intimately belongs in the current trend of things academic, is shown by the visible proclivity of the older institutions to follow the lead given in this matter by the younger ones, so far as the younger ones have taken the lead. In the mere number of authorized events, as contrasted with the average of some twenty-five or thirty years back, the present average appears, on a somewhat deliberate review of the available data, to compare as three or four to one. For certain of the younger and more exuberant seats of learning today, as compared with what may be most nearly comparable in the academic situation of the eighties, the proportion is perhaps twice as large as the larger figure named above. Broadly speaking, no requirement of the academic routine should be allowed to stand in the way of an available occasion for a scholastic pageant.

These genteel solemnities, of course, have a cultural significance, probably of a high order, both as occasions of rehearsal in all matters of polite conformity and as a stimulus to greater refinement and proficiency in expenditure on seemly dress and equipage. They may also be believed to have some remote, but presumably salutary, bearing on the higher learning. This latter is an obscure point, on which it would be impossible at present to offer anything better than abstruse speculative considerations; since the relation of these genteel exhibitions to scientific inquiry or instruction is of a peculiarly intangible nature. But it is none of these cultural bearings of any such round of polite solemnities and stately pageants that comes in question here. It is their expediency in point of businesslike enterprise, or perhaps rather their businesslike motive, on the one hand, and their effect Upon the animus and efficiency of the academic personnel, on the other hand.

In so far as their motive should not (by unseemly imputation) be set down to mere boyish exuberance of make-believe, it must be sought among considerations germane to that business enterprise that rules academic policy. However attractive such a derivation might seem, this whole traffic in pageantry and ceremonial amenities can not be traced back to ecclesiastical ground, except in point of remote pedigree; it has grown greater since the businessmen took over academic policy out of the hands of the clergy. Nor can it be placed to the account of courtly, diplomatic, or military antecedents or guidance; these fields of activity, while they are good breeding ground for pomp and circumstance, do not overlap, or even seriously touch, the frontiers of the republic of learning. On the other hand, in seeking grounds or motives for it all, it is also not easy to find any close analogy in the field of business enterprise of the larger sort, that has to do with the conduct of industry. There is little of this manner of expensive public ceremonial and solemn festivities to be seen, e.g., among business concerns occupied with railroading or banking, in cottonspinning, or sugar-refining, or in farming, shipping, coal, steel, or oil. In this field phenomena of this general class are of rare occurrence, sporadic at the best; and when they occur they will commonly come in connection with competitive sales of products, services or securities, particularly the latter. Nearer business analogues will be found in retail merchandising, and in enterprises of popular amusement, such as concert halls, beer gardens, or itinerant shows. The street parades of the latter, e.g., show a seductive, though, it is believed, misleading analogy to the ceremonial pageants that round off the academic year.

Phenomena that come into view in the later and maturer growth of the retail trade, as seen, e. g., in the larger and more reputable department stores, are perhaps nearer the point. There are formal “openings” to inaugurate the special trade of each of the four seasons, desired to put the patrons of the house on a footing of good-humoured familiarity with the plant and its resources, with the customs of the house, the personnel and the stock of wares in hand, and before all to arrest the attention and enlist the interest of those classes that may be induced to buy. There are also occasional gatherings of a more ceremonial character, by special invitation of select customers to a promised exhibition of peculiarly rare and curious articles of trade. This will then be illuminated with shrewdly conceived harangues setting forth the alleged history, adventures and merits, past and future, of the particular branch of the trade, and of the particular house at whose expense the event is achieved. In addition to these seasonal and occasional set pieces of mercantile ceremony, there will also run along in the day’ s work an unremitting display of meritorious acts of commission and omission. Like their analogues in academic life these ceremonials of trade are expensive, edifying, enticing, and surrounded with a solicitous regard for publicity; and it will be seen that they are, all and several, expedients of advertising.

To return to the academic personnel and their implication in these recurrent spectacles and amenities of university life. As was remarked above, apart from outside resources the livelihood that comes to a university man is, commonly, somewhat meagre. The tenure is uncertain and the salaries, at an average, are not large. Indeed, they are notably low in comparison with the high conventional standard of living which is by custom incumbent on university men. University men are conventionally required to live on a scale of expenditure comparable with that in vogue among the well-to-do businessmen, while their university incomes compare more nearly with the lower grades of clerks and salesmen. The rate of pay varies quite materially, as is well known. For the higher grades of the staff, whose scale of pay is likely to be publicly divulged, it is, perhaps, adequate to the average demands made on university incomes by polite usage; but the large majority of university men belong on the lower levels of grade and pay; and on these lower levels the pay is, perhaps, lower than any outsider appreciates.(3*)

With men circumstanced as the common run of university men are, the temptation to parsimony is ever present, while on the other hand, as has already been noted, the prestige of the university — and of the academic head — demands of all its members a conspicuously expensive manner of living. Both of these needs may, of course, be met in some poor measure by saving in the obscurer items of domestic expense, such as food, clothing, heating, lighting, floor-space, books, and the like; and making all available funds count toward the collective end of reputable publicity, by throwing the stress on such expenditures as come under the public eye, as dress and equipage, bric-a-brac, amusements, public entertainments, etc. It may seem that it should also be possible to cut down the proportion of obscure expenditures for creature comforts by limiting the number of births in the family, or by foregoing marriage. But, by and large, there is reason to believe that this expedient has been exhausted. As men have latterly been at pains to show, the current average of children in academic households is not high; whereas the percentage of celibates is. There appears, indeed, to be little room for additional economy on this head, or in the matter of household thrift, beyond what is embodied in the family budgets already in force in academic circles.

So also, the tenure of office is somewhat precarious; more so than the documents would seem to indicate. This applies with greater force to the lower grades than to the higher. Latterly, under the rule of business principles, since the prestige value of a conspicuous consumption has come to a greater currency in academic policy, a member of the staff may render his tenure more secure, and may perhaps assure his due preferment, by a sedulous attention to the academic social amenities, and to the more conspicuous items of his expense account; and he will then do well in the same connection also to turn his best attention in the day’s work to administrative duties and schoolmasterly discipline, rather than to the increase of knowledge. Whereas he may make his chance of preferment less assured, and may even jeopardize his tenure, by a conspicuously parsimonious manner of life, or by too pronounced an addiction to scientific or scholarly pursuits, to the neglect of those polite exhibitions of decorum that conduce to the maintenance of the university’s prestige in the eyes of the (pecuniarily) cultured laity.

A variety of other untoward circumstances, of a similarly extra-scholastic bearing, may affect the fortunes of academic men to a like effect; as, e.g., unearned newspaper notoriety that may be turned to account in ridicule; unconventional religious, or irreligious convictions — so far as they become known; an undesirable political affiliation; an impecunious marriage, or such domestic infelicities as might become subject of remark. None of these untoward circumstances need touch the serviceability of the incumbent for any of the avowed, or avowable, purposes of the seminary of learning; and where action has to be taken by the directorate on provocation of such circumstances it is commonly done with the (unofficial) admission that such action is taken not on the substantial merits of the case but on compulsion of appearances and the exigencies of advertising. That some such effect should be had follows from the nature of things, so far as business principles rule.

In the degree, then, in which these and the like motives of expediency are decisive, there results a husbanding of time, energy and means in the less conspicuous expenditures and duties, in order to a freer application to more conspicuous uses, and a meticulous cultivation of the bourgeois virtues. The workday duties of instruction, and more particularly of inquiry, are, in the nature of the case, less conspicuously in evidence than the duties of the drawing-room, the ceremonial procession, the formal dinner, or the grandstand on some red-letter day of intercollegiate athletics.(4*) For the purposes of a reputable notoriety the everyday work of the classroom and laboratory is also not so effective as lectures to popular audiences outside; especially, perhaps, addresses before an audience of devout and well-to-do women. Indeed, all this is well approved by experience. In many and devious ways, therefore, a university man may be able to serve the collective enterprise of his university to better effect than by an exclusive attention to the scholastic work on which alone he is ostensibly engaged.

Among the consequences that follow is a constant temptation for the members of the staff to take on work outside of that for which the salary is nominally paid. Such work takes the public eye; but a further incentive to go into this outside and non-academic work, as well as to take on supernumerary work within the academic schedule, lies in the fact that such outside or supernumerary work is specially paid, and so may help to eke out a sensibly scant livelihood. So far as touches the more scantily paid grades of university men, and so far as no alien considerations come in to trouble the working-out of business principles, the outcome may be schematized somewhat as follows. These men have, at the outset, gone into the university presumably from an inclination to scholarly or scientific pursuits; it is not probable that they have been led into this calling by the pecuniary inducements, which are slight as compared with the ruling rates of pay in the open market for other work that demands an equally arduous preparation and an equally close application. They have then been apportioned rather more work as instructors than they can take care of in the most efficient manner, at a rate of pay which is sensibly scant for the standard of (conspicuous) living conventionally imposed on them. They are, by authority, expected to expend time and means in such polite observances, spectacles and quasi-learned exhibitions as are presumed to enhance the prestige of the university. They are so induced to divert their time and energy to spreading abroad the university’s good repute by creditable exhibitions of a quasi-scholarly character, which have no substantial bearing on a university man’s legitimate interests; as well as in seeking supplementary work outside of their mandatory schedule, from which to derive an adequate livelihood and to fill up the complement of politely wasteful expenditures expected of them. The academic instruction necessarily suffers by this diversion of forces to extra-scholastic objects; and the work of inquiry, which may have primarily engaged their interest and which is indispensable to their continued efficiency as teachers, is, in the common run of cases, crowded to one side and presently drops out of mind. Like other workmen, under pressure of competition the members of the academic staff will endeavour to keep up their necessary income by cheapening their product and increasing their marketable output. And by consequence of this pressure of bread-winning and genteel expenditure, these university men are so barred out from the serious pursuit of those scientific and scholarly inquiries which alone can, academically speaking, justify their retention on the university faculty, and for the sake of which, in great part at least, they have chosen this vocation. No infirmity more commonly besets university men than this going to seed in routine work and extra-scholastic duties. They have entered on the academic career to find time, place, facilities and congenial environment for the pursuit of knowledge, and under pressure they presently settle down to a round of perfunctory labour by means of which to simulate the life of gentlemen.(5*)

Before leaving the topic it should further be remarked that the dissipation incident to these polite amenities, that so are incumbent on the academic personnel, apparently also has something of a deteriorative effect on their working capacity, whether for scholarly or for worldly uses. Prima facie evidence to this effect might be adduced, but it is not easy to say how far the evidence would bear closer scrutiny. There is an appreciable amount of dissipation, in its several sorts, carried forward in university circles in an inconspicuous manner, and not designed for publicity. How far this is induced by a loss of interest in scholarly work, due to the habitual diversion of the scholars’ energies to other and more exacting duties, would be hard to say; as also how far it may be due to the lead given by men-of-the-world retained on the faculties for other than scholarly reasons. At the same time there is the difficulty that many of those men who bear a large part in the ceremonial dissipation incident to the enterprise in publicity are retained, apparently, for their proficiency in this line as much as for their scholarly attainments, or at least so one might infer; and these men must be accepted with the defects of their qualities.

As bearing on this whole matter of pomp and circumstance, social amenities and ritual dissipation, quasi-learned demonstrations and meretricious publicity, in academic life, it is difficult beyond hope of a final answer to determine how much of it is due directly to the masterful initiative of the strong man who directs the enterprise, and how much is to be set down to an innate proclivity for all that sort of thing on the part of the academic personnel. A near view of these phenomena leaves the impression that there is, on the whole, less objection felt than expressed among the academic men with regard to this routine of demonstration; that the reluctance with which they pass under the ceremonial yoke is not altogether ingenuous; all of which would perhaps hold true even more decidedly as applied to the faculty households.(6*) But for all that, it also remains true that without the initiative and countenance of the executive head these boyish movements of sentimental spectacularity on the part of the personnel would come to little, by comparison with what actually takes place. It is after all a matter for executive discretion, and, from whatever motives, this diversion of effort to extra-scholastic ends has the executive sanction;(7*) with the result that an intimate familiarity with current academic life is calculated to raise the question whether make-believe does not, after all, occupy a larger and more urgent place in the life of these thoughtful adult male citizens than in the life of their children.


NOTES:1. It was a very wise and adroit politician who found out that “You can not fool all the people all the time.”

2. La gloria di colui che tutto muove,
Per l’universo penétra e risplende
In una parte più e meno altr’ove.

3. In a certain large and enterprising university, e.g., the pay of the lowest, and numerous, rank regularly employed to do full work as teachers, is proportioned to that of the highest — much less numerous — rank about as one to twelve at the most, perhaps even as low as one to twenty. And it may not be out of place to enter the caution that the nominal rank of a given member of the staff is no secure index of his income, even where the salary “normally” attached to the given academic rank is known. Not unusually a “normal” scale of salaries is formally adopted by the governing board and spread upon their records, and such a scale will then be surreptitiously made public. But departures from the scale habitually occur, whereby the salaries actually paid come to fall short of the “normal” perhaps as frequently as they conform to it.

There is no trades-union among university teachers, and no collective bargaining. There appears to be a feeling prevalent among them that their salaries are not of the nature of wages, and that there would be a species of moral obliquity implied in overtly so dealing with the matter. And in the individual bargaining by which the rate of pay is determined the directorate may easily be tempted to seek an economical way out, by offering a low rate of pay coupled with a higher academic rank. The plea is always ready to hand that the university is in want of the necessary funds and is constrained to economize where it can. So an advance in nominal rank is made to serve in place of an advance in salary, the former being the less costly commodity for the time being. Indeed, so frequent are such departures from the normal scale as to have given rise to the (no doubt ill-advised) suggestion that this may be one of the chief uses of the adopted schedule of normal salaries. So an employee of the university may not infrequently find himself constrained to accept, as part payment, an expensive increment of dignity attaching to a higher rank than his salary account would indicate. Such an outcome of individual bargaining is all the more likely in the academic community, since there is no settled code of professional ethics governing the conduct of business enterprise in academic management, as contrasted with the traffic of ordinary competitive business.

4. So, e.g., the well-known president of a well and favourably known university was at pains a few years ago to distinguish one of his faculty as being his “ideal of a university man”; the grounds of this invidious distinction being a lifelike imitation of a country gentleman and a fair degree of attention to committee work in connection with the academic administration; the incumbent had no distinguishing marks either as a teacher or as a scholar, and neither science nor letters will be found in his debt. It is perhaps needless to add that for reasons of invidious distinction, no names can be mentioned in this connection. It should be added in illumination of the instance cited, that in the same university, by consistent selection and discipline of the personnel, it had come about that, in the apprehension of the staff as well as of the executive, the accepted test of efficiency was the work done on the administrative committees — rather than that of the class rooms or laboratories.

5. Within the past few years an academic executive of great note has been heard repeatedly to express himself in facetious doubt of this penchant for scholarly inquiry on the part of university men, whether as “reseárch” or as “résearch”; and there is doubtless ground for scepticism as to its permeating the academic body with that sting of ubiquity that is implied in many expressions on this head. And it should also be said, perhaps in extenuation of the expression cited above, that the president was addressing delegations of his own faculty, and presumably directing his remarks to their special benefit; and that while he professed (no doubt ingenuously) a profound zeal for the cause of science at large, it had come about, selectively, through a long course of sedulous attention on his own part to all other qualifications than the main fact, that his faculty at the time of speaking was in the main an aggregation of slack-twisted schoolmasters and men about town. Such a characterization, however, does not carry any gravely invidious discrimination, nor will it presumably serve in any degree to identify the seat of learning to which it refers.

6. The share and value of the “faculty wives” in all this routine of resolute conviviality is a large topic, an intelligent and veracious account of which could only be a work of naive brutality:

“But the grim, grim Ladies, Oh, my brothers!
They are ladling bitterly.
They are ladling in the work-time of the others,
In the country of the free.”
(Mrs. Elizabret Harte Browning, in The Cry of the Heathen Chinee.)

7. What takes place without executive sanction need trouble no one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: