Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/66

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62
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
MR. ROOSEVELT'S OPPORTUNITY AS PRESIDENT OF A UNIVERSITY
By Professor DICKINSON S. MILLER
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

AS one grows older one grows weary of mere generality and abstraction. It would be easy to expatiate at large in this article on the ideal of American universities and the best work that could next be done for them. That, or some of the elements of that, are my subject. But one may well reach out, in this thin medium of idealism, and catch at anything that has more body and more instant meaning. The name of Mr. Roosevelt has come into mention in connection with the leadership of four American universities. There is no evidence whatever, so far as I am aware, that Mr. Roosevelt himself would seriously entertain such a project; and definite announcement has been made of plans that appear to conflict with it. But there is time in store, and universities not a few. In any case it happens that this particular public character serves as no other illustration could to give point to certain suggestions about university life. The human illustration is too helpful to forego.

These suggestions relate, first of all, to the nucleus of the American university, the "college." As compared with all other departments, this part of the institution is in a plight all its own. It suffers from a comparative lack of motive. We have most of us remarked the difference in a student's work when he passes from the college to a professional school. When that step is taken, and the need of a living, the chance of gain and success come home to his daily work, the change in many cases stirs for almost the first time a youth's profound intellectual repose. Machiavelli is right in observing that fear is commonly a more powerful motive than love. At all events the fear of poverty is more powerful than the love of "general culture." To make the balance even, the motives of interest and attraction on the latter side need to be discerningly reinforced. The problem is psychological. Can it be said that in the circumstances of undergraduate study at present there is much to invest the things of the intellect with glow and fascination for average minds? Any one who has talked with students about their election of studies notices that after some experience they will often choose not from the comparative interest of the