THE ACADEMIC SITUATION.
Scarcely a mouth passes without the occurrence of one or more events disquieting to those who would make our universities the homes of scientific research, creative scholarship and social progress. Such circumstances do not usually become known, for it is to the private advantage of those concerned that they be hushed. Strange as it may seem at first sight, the state universities are on the whole making progress in the direction of greater academic freedom and dignity, while the private corporations tend to exhibit the reactionary tendencies of their boards and administrative officers. If, however, the people learn the importance to the nation of maintaining their universities on a high plane, all is well. It is easy to tax corporations which become antisocial into innocuousness. Indeed each university will find its own level by its own weight. Harvard and Columbia are still our richest institutions and probably still maintain their leadership in advanced work and public service; but they are losing ground relatively to the state universities and perhaps even in comparison with their own positions ten years ago. It would surprise most people to see the list of those who have recently declined to consider chairs at these two universities.
It is the high traditions of Harvard which give significance to the curious circular recently sent from the controller's office to those whom one university president habitually calls "the instructional force." The circular is accompanied by four large pages of instructions and a schedule containing some 180 blank spaces to be filled and is couched in jargon about "prorating salaries to the various classified functions," and the like. The professors and instructors are informed that
They are told thatPreparation for lectures should include only that time which was taken during the half-year for lectures delivered in this period. It should not include time spent in the general collection of materials.
Surely the only correct answer to the question how many hours a day a professor spends on his work and in preparation is twenty-four. This circular was naturally resented by members of the faculty and was partially, but somewhat grudgingly, withdrawn, the president stating that it was "issued under a misunderstanding," presumably a misunderstanding of the sentiments of the faculty.
This Harvard incident is serio-comic. At Wesleyan there has occurred within I the same past month a wholly serious breach of academic decency. The professor of economics and social science, who has served the university and the public with distinction for twenty years, made some remarks in regard to the observance of the sabbath, which found their way into the newspapers. The president wrote inquiring whether he was correctly reported, and on being told what he had said, asked for his resignation. This was promptly sent, and the president relieved him from his duties at once. The five letters passed in the same day, and the president must have acted without adequate consultation or consideration. It is as extraordinary as it is ominous that in our present academic system the liberty of speech of a professor and the fate of his wife and children should be dependent on the will of an official. In this case the professor was speaking within his own professional field, and not even to students of the university