Address of Dedication

Robert Hutchins

An eminent social scientist, William Graham Sumner, used to ask his classes three questions on any topic: What is it? Why is it? What of it? It is appropriate that the eminent social scientists of more recent vintage now assembled here should ask us these questions about the building we dedicate today. What is it? A building for research in the social sciences; for research only; and for co-operative research. Why is it? Because of the contributions that had been made by the social science group at Chicago, because they had shown their capacity in research and in co-operation, and because the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial, which in its brief but brilliant career did more than any other agency to promote the social sciences in the United States, believed them capable of still more effective work if they were housed in a building that gave them facilities that would permit it. What of it? This building means that social scientists at Chicago have an opportunity and an obligation. If co-operative social research is possible at all on a large scale, it should be possible here and now. If social research has value, it should be revealed under conditions so favorable as these. If the type of organization of the social sciences here is useful, that should be made plain; for no physical difficulties stand in the way of success. If this building does not promote a better understanding of our society, we shall know that there is something wrong with the social sciences or something wrong with us; for here for the first time

( 2) everything that can serve the social investigator is ready to his hand. If he cannot make progress now, he never can. The building is then in the nature of an experiment, a test case, to determine whether with such facilities in such an atmosphere we may more rapidly work out the problems that confront us.

And that is the importance of the building to social scientists everywhere. The social sciences are now on the crest of a wave which we hope will be permanent. Last week a university president was asked the meaning of his law school's program. "It means," he said, "that the lawyer will become a social scientist." Such a statement, which now calls forth nothing but applause, would have been greeted ten years ago with howls of derision. When the time has come that the ranks of social science are regarded as the lawyer's paradise, to which the legal luminary may only by slow, painful, and laborious steps attain, it is clear that the popular attitude toward social science has changed. Nor is this change confined to my former associates in the law schools. Last spring the dean of an important medical school announced that medicine was a social science, and developed a program calling for the addition of sociologists to his staff. This quite universal attempt to find places on the band-wagon of the social sciences is produced first, I think, by their new-found wealth. Departments are no exception to the rule that the prosperous form friendships to which the poor cannot aspire. But there is a less superficial reason. On the one hand, students of individuals in the hospital and the court have come to understand that there is no such thing as an individual cut off from society. On the other, the social scientists have turned from speculation to an examination of the activities of living people. So everyone who

( 3) is interested in people comes to see that the social sciences have something of interest to him, and in some cases to feel that he may have something to contribute to the social sciences. This process will continue. The , social scientists at Chicago will increasingly take account of groups with which their connection has hitherto been slight—in particular, biology, medicine, education, law, psychology, and divinity; otherwise the experiment in co-operation remains partial and inconclusive. And this co-operation will make itself felt in the education of research men, of teachers, and perhaps even of undergraduates. We may look forward to the unification of educational activities as the inevitable result of unification of research activities. Scholars who are now belatedly struggling to give themselves a familiarity with related fields will hardly wish to impose the handicap of the kind of education they had upon those whom they are preparing to come after them. They will wish them to acquire degrees in the social sciences broadly interpreted rather than in disciplines which though no longer isolated in research are still disparate in education.

In this way we may constantly broaden our conception of the social sciences, and may eventually produce a kind of scholar who does not need to be converted to this point of view or does not have to learn at the end of his career what should have been pointed out to him at the beginning. We begin today, therefore, an experiment in co-operation, an experiment in research, an experiment in education, all resulting from an experiment in housing. With gratitude for the generosity that has made it possible, with honor to those whose abilities it honors, with the hope that from it may come contributions to the understanding of human problems, we dedicate this building.


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