Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/515

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

factors of the situation viewed academically, not commercially. The folly of trying to serve two masters is as patent here as elsewhere. Those who are worried lest men of unequal merit receive like salaries reveal the commercial bent of their minds; the academic concern is rather that men of like merit may receive unequal salaries. But salaries can not be regulated on the principle that it is pleasant to receive them. Rewards of merit and Christmas stockings doubtless have their place, but in the light of the lamp of learning, they seem a bit tawdry; nor does it seem helpful to punish service that does not fulfill promise by imposing complications in settling butchers' and grocers' bills. If professors are going to scramble for incomes, they lose all claim to the partial release from the economic pressure which their prerogative claims. The whole wretched business is mismanaged and causes more needless misery than it is proper to disclose. The security of the professorship is involved; the integrity of great academic traditions is involved; the soundness and poise of the intellectual life is involved. Indeed so much is involved that the enumeration might suggest to the uncharitable that the academic nervous system finds its solar plexus in the purse. The commanding consideration is that such is not the case; and the public should be prevented from so regarding it. Salvation lies in holding fast to the plain truth that this, like all other questions, must be considered and settled as an academic one. Any system will be good—though some will be better than others—that is, framed on that principle and on no other; that holds to it steadily, come what may; that solves salary questions by preventing nine tenths of them from arising; that does not invidiously discriminate between men on a money basis; that gives a man an independent seat in an academic counsel and relegates the pay day to its proper place in the calendar. "A single university which acts in this way" [i. e., makes tenure and preferment dependent on the president's ukase] "will in the end obtain a faculty consisting of a few adventurers, a few sycophants and a crowd of mediocrities"; if all universities do so, able men will not embark "on such ill-starred ships" (J. McK. Cattell). But the world is slow to banish the money-changers from the temple of learning; and, sad to confess, the custodians of the shrine have invited the disturbance of their offices by considerations of the market.[1] They

  1. It is clear that I am not reviewing the salary question, but am touching only on one phase of the principles affecting its solution. The question was discussed five years ago by an association, composed of the presidents and deans of a score of the foremost universities, which is sufficiently naive or presuming to call itself "The Association of American Universities." Only one protagonist stood out against his associates for an uncompromisingly academic adjustment. Let me record my optimism in my belief that he would not stand alone to-day. I am not in the least unaware of the many difficulties that beset the practical adjustment of salaries to condition; nor do I forget that at some stage a modus vivendi between academic and economic demands must be arranged. This does not in the least excuse the reply of a president to a plea for the