Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/62

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58
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

SMALL COLLEGES
By Professor JOHN J. STEVENSON

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

A COLLEGE-MATE recently indulged in wholesale denunciation of present conditions in American colleges; classes have grown so large that teaching is done mostly by instructors or assistant professors and students are drilled no longer by men of mature intellect; the intimacy between professors and students, which was the glory of the old college, has disappeared and with it has disappeared also the fatherly interest formerly shown by professors; the output of colleges is inferior in quality; there is no hope of improvement except in return to the small college of our youth.

As the one who drew this indictment had not been inside of college walls since graduation, his sorrow, like his knowledge, depended solely upon information and belief. He had forgotten that, more than half a century ago, when even Harvard and Yale were "small," some of our professors declaimed in similar fashion against those overgrown concerns and extolled the smaller college in which tutors were unknown and students met only professors. The dissertation has been delivered continuously during the intervening years, but its frequent appearance in print is of recent date and is due to the exigencies of so-called colleges which have sprung up like mushrooms all over the newer portions of our land.

The lack of frankness in use of the term "professor" is as painfully evident as it was fifty years ago. The colleges of that time, with few exceptions, had only professors, no matter how large the classes might be; but the term signified no more as to age, experience or qualifications than it does in the modern "small college." When the writer entered New York University in 1858, the college faculty consisted of nine professors, including John W. Draper, E. A. Johnson, Elias Loomis, Howard Crosby, S. E. B. Morse, Benj. N. Martin and others almost equally eminent—all except two less than fifty years old. Only three of the nine were more than twenty-seven years old when appointed to full professorships in the university and several of them received that appointment when only twenty-three. One of the others had been professor for eight years in another college and was only thirty-two when he came to New York. The same conditions prevailed elsewhere, all colleges having some very young men occupying important chairs,