More Than Lore

Chapter 2: Laying Foundations

Marion Talbot

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THE academic system with which Boston was familiar was firmly established. Training for the so-called "learned professions," primarily the ministry and only very lately the law, medicine, and teaching, was its goal. The traditions which had grown up were almost sacrosanct. It is true that President Eliot's bomb, the elective system, had created some disturbance and aroused consternation for fear that this precious heirloom from the past, the college, should be ruined. And johns Hopkins University with its new program of graduate work had excited interest as something novel but not very pertinent to the situation in hand. Wellesley College and Smith College had seen no other way to open educational opportunities to women than by the path which had been laid out

( 13) by men. Boston University had opened its doors not very long before to both sexes on equal terms. This was done in the face of the declaration by a distinguished Boston physician that "identical education of the two sexes is a crime before God and humanity that physiology protests against and that experience weeps over. It defies the Roman maxim which physiology has fully justified, 'mens sana in corpore sano.' "

In spite of this step of admitting women, which was considered very radical in the East, even Boston University did not dare venture far from the well-worn road. The New England colleges had the same list of subjects for admission, practically the same entrance examinations, with very slight variations the same curriculum, and closed their halls for three months in the year. No far-reaching changes in the system had taken place for generations.

It is not strange that the stories of the new venture in the West stirred interest and provoked criticism which ran even into ridicule.

Among the articles of incorporation of the new University of Chicago was the following: "To provide, impart, and furnish opportunities for all

( 14) departments of higher education to persons of both sexes on equal terms."

The Faculty, on much larger salaries than usual, had been summoned not only from all sections of the United States—Maine to California —but from Canada, Germany, Scotland, and England. They came from Harvard, Cornell, Wisconsin, Princeton, Minnesota, Columbia—from most of the leading colleges, in fact—while eight had held presidencies of colleges or universities. Of these persons, eighteen are (1936) still connected with the University, and four of them are giving active service. The esteem in which an appointment to the new Faculty was held may be shown in part—certainly, in an amusing way—by the academic record of one member of the Faculty, a young Scotsman:

A.M., pass degree, 1883, A.M., Honors of the First Class, 1886, University of Edinburgh; First place on the Honors List, with Bruce of Grangehill Fellowship, 1886; Student at Jena, Paris, Cambridge, Berlin, Freiburg; Ferguson Scholarship (open to honors-men of all Scottish Universities), 1887; Assistant Professor of Logic, Edinburgh University, 1888-90; Locumtenens Professor of the Moral Sciences, Cardiff, for Winter term of 1888; Sir William Hamilton Fellow, Edinburgh, 1888, for three years; Shaw Fellow,

(15)   1890, for five years; Lecturer of University Association for Education of Women, Edinburgh, 1889; Government Examiner for Degrees in the Moral Sciences, St. Andrews University, 1890, for three years; Lecturer on Logic and Methodology, Sage School of Philosophy, Cornell University, 1891-2.

The crowning academic glory of his career was that he then became "Tutor in Political Economy, the University of Chicago."

Forty-three fellows were appointed for the first year, of whom six were women.

There were, moreover, other new features which struck the attention of the educational world:

1.The University was to be in continuous session throughout the year, with graduation quarterly. The new President admitted that such a plan would destroy entirely the class spirit, but he also affirmed that there was a certain kind of class spirit which ought to be destroyed.

2. The University was organized with four divisions quite new in the university world. In addition to the usual academic divisions, the new features were: (a) the University Extension Division, which for a considerable length of time

( 16) functioned on a large scale; (b) the University Libraries, Laboratories, and Museums; (c) the University Press; (d) the University Affiliations, which included the work done in connection with institutions entering into the relationship of affiliation with the University.

3. Courses of instruction were classed as majors and minors. The former called for ten, eleven, or twelve hours of classroom instruction each week; the latter, for half as many hours. Normal work for a student was to be two courses, one major and one minor. The tuition fee for this amount of instruction was $25.00 a quarter. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that table board was to be from $3.00 to $4.00 a week and rooms in the dormitories from $1.50 to $3.00 a week.

4. Although the certificate system of admission was practiced by all large middle western universities, entrance examinations were to be held three times a year in twenty different cities and were required of all students. These examinations were divided into six groups. Latin, English, history, one modern language, and mathematics were common to them all. There was a

( 17) choice offered between Greek, science, and more modern language; otherwise there was no election.

. The Colleges of Arts, of Literature, and of Science were each divided into an Academic College and a University College, or, as they were later known, a Junior College and a Senior College. The requirements in each college were quite distinct. In the Academic Colleges definite curricula were outlined, and there was no election. In the University Colleges a student took not more than one-half his work in one department and all of his work in not more than four departments.

6. Mr. Rockefeller's first gift ($600,000), made in May, 1889, was toward an endowment fund for a college in Chicago. It was stated later that it had never been the purpose of the American Baptist Education Society to seek to limit the institution to the work of a college. It was not long before, under the guidance of Professor Harper, plans for a university began to take shape. Mr. Rockefeller's second gift, of $1,000,000, in September, 1890, contained the stipulation that the income of $800,000 should be used

( 18) for non-professional graduate instruction and fellowships. In a statement intended to be a part of his first annual report to the Board of Trustees, President Harper, as he had then become, wrote:

It is expected by all who are interested that the University idea is to be emphasized. It is proposed to establish not a college, but a university . . . . It has been the desire
to establish an institution which should not be a rival with the many colleges already in existence, but an institution which should help those colleges . . . .

It is only the man who has made investigation who may teach others to investigate In other words, it is proposed in this institution to make the work of investigation primary, the work of giving instruction secondary.

7. Lecturers and teachers were to be classified as follows: (a) the head professor, (b) the professor, (c) the professor, non-resident, (d) the associate professor, (e) the assistant professor, (j) the instructor, (g) the tutor, (h) the docent, (i) the reader, (j) the lecturer, (k) the fellow, (1) the scholar.

8. Professors were not required to give more than eight or ten hours a week to classroom work, thus making it possible for them to carry on investigation all the time.

9. When the number of students necessitated

( 19) it, courses were to be duplicated, one section being open to students of grades A, B, and C, and the other to students of grades D and Ε.

10. To promote more advanced study and individual research, and to bring together instructors and students, seminars were to be organized in various departments of the Colleges. Academic College and University College seminars were to be distinct in the same department.

11. Students were to be examined as to their physical condition on entering and at intervals during their course, and were required to take four half-hours a week of class work in physical culture throughout their course.

12. It was evidently anticipated that certain time-hallowed customs of eastern colleges would prevail in the new institution, judging from the fact that a bond of $200 was required of each student, guaranteeing payment of bills and "such sums as may be charged for damage to University property caused by the student's act or neglect."

13. In general, an assistant dean was to be appointed for every one hundred students in a division.

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Brief and incomplete as this sketch is, it seems clear why those Boston friends of the academic adventurers were fearful and why a bit of the rock on which New England was founded was given as a talisman. It looked almost as if the whole rock might be needed!

What happened to the new scheme? The quarter system has not only remained in force but has been widely copied. University extension lecture study was abandoned for various causes in 1911, but correspondence study for many years gained steadily in scope and enrolment. The University Press had become an increasingly useful and influential division of the University. The University Affiliations have become less and less formal and mechanical in character, while in general effectiveness they have gained.

Entrance examinations were maintained for several years, the number of subjects being increased and conditions amounting to three of the fifteen units being allowed. In the announcement for 1898-99 there appeared for the first time the statement that subject certificates from affiliated and co-operating schools would be accepted. The University has found itself unable, single-handed,

( 21) to maintain the entrance examinations. The announcement for 1915-16 indicated another fundamental change. The high schools had been growing more and more discontented with the dominance assumed by the colleges and the policies dictated by them in regard to high-school curricula. At this juncture the University of Chicago decided to receive from approved schools any student graduating with an average grade higher than the passing mark of the school, provided the student offered three units of English and two subjects which had been studied intensively. Otherwise, within rather wide but specified limits, the student might offer any courses accepted by the school for graduation.

The last major of the original type disappeared after the announcement for 1897-98, but the principle of intensive studying of a few subjects has not only been continued but has been developed. It has never been possible for a student to take such a course as I had in my Senior year, viz., Italian, two hours weekly; Metaphysics, three; Calculus, two; Evidences of Christianity, three; Greek, two; Geology, three.

After many modifications in the courses of

( 22) study required for the degree, the principle of continuation and distribution groups of subjects in the Junior Colleges and of intensive work in two fields, i.e., principal and secondary sequences, in the Senior Colleges was adopted in 1912.

Moreover, I had found that much of the listless drifting of the women students could be prevented and many a rather dreary college course of doubtful educational value could be converted into one of interest and real value if each student could be induced early in the course to choose a vocation and arrange her studies with reference to it. At my request a special committee was appointed to study the situation and, as the result, the rigid regulations were greatly modified, especially for students entered with advanced standing. They were given the choice of specific sequences or of presenting an acceptable and rational scheme of courses to be followed up to graduation. The so-called New Plan now in effect has done away with many absurd and wasteful practices under the older systems. Its ultimate value remains to be proved, but it is a great satisfaction to me to realize that my successors do not have to sit almost weekly on Saturday mornings

( 23) arguing about grade points, and possible exceptions to the detailed rules in regard to the curriculum. At the time we thought the procedure was inevitable if the welfare and intellectual growth of students were deemed of concern to the Faculty.

A few more changes from the original plans may be noted:

The classification of the teaching staff has been greatly reduced. The unhappy head professor was among those to disappear. Sectioning students by ability has not been effectively put into operation. Its uses as a subject for Faculty discussion and controversy are not yet exhausted. The undergraduate seminars never took form except on paper. The requirements in physical education have been, to my mind, unfortunately abandoned, while, on the other hand, there is more medical supervision and advice.

The $200 bond disappeared in 1896. By that time it had been made perfectly clear that certain types of so-called "college spirit" manifesting itself in destruction of property would be no part of the life at the University of Chicago.

The ratio of one dean to each hundred students

( 24) was not long maintained. It soon became one to two hundred, and remained at about that point until the great influx of students after the World War, when it became about one to three hundred.

In 1892-93 the total number of students was 744, of whom 306, or over 40 per cent, were college graduates. Students were enrolled the first year from thirty-three states and twelve foreign countries. The courage of these students in joining the new venture was a marvel, and in some measure proved that its plans met a genuine need.

The Physical Education Department started out with much éclat. The prestige of Mr. Stagg in some respects surpassed that of any other member of the Faculty. Certainly more eyes were turned upon him as he walked through Cobb Hall. His efforts to establish a football team met with success, but unfortunately a scandal in connection with the sport soon caused the University a great deal of trouble. A man was admitted to the University as a special or unclassified student and was immediately put on the team. The day after the final game he left the University, having given ample evidence that he

( 25) was not a student and had no intention of being one. This, with other incidents, showed Mr. Stagg that the whole sport needed overhauling and new methods devised for conducting it. The first step proposed at a Faculty meeting was to refuse to allow any but regular college students to take part on University teams. I immediately foresaw that trouble might arise from having women, not really students, enter as unclassified students, enrol for a course in French or literature, and then claim the right to participate in all student activities, such as the glee club and dramatic club; so I asked that the rule be made to cover both sexes. It served a good purpose many times in eliminating so-called "students" who had no interest in the real advantages of the University, and at the same time making the various activities really collegiate without the harmful influences of professionalism.

The practical administration of the University was, of course, a matter of the first importance. President Harper was continually working over methods for its improvement. He delighted in visualizing the interrelation of its different parts. It was something like a jig-saw puzzle. I remem-

( 26) -ber vividly how at a meeting he interrupted the discussion to sketch on a paper how one part was subordinated to another—a committee to a Board, a Board to a Faculty, a Faculty on one hand to the Senate, and on the other to the University Council, and these to the Trustees. Where was the President? He jocosely (or perhaps seriously) said one day, "Between the upper and nether millstones."

The story of his choice of a teaching staff is told in detail in Dr. T. W. Goodspeed's History of the University of Chicago. It shows how high a standard for education in the Middle West he intended to set. In spite of the high salaries offered ($7,000 for a head professor), many noted scholars were reluctant to leave assured positions for what, in spite of President Harper's confidence and optimism, might prove to be a dream university. There can be no doubt that those who accepted the challenge never regretted their decision.

The summons for the first official Faculty meeting which followed many months of preliminary organization was like a clarion call to those who appreciated its significance.

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Α sheet of paper headed simply, "The University of Chicago," and printed in light-blue ink carried this message crudely mimeographed to the sixty men and women, more or less, who constituted the first Faculty of Arts, Literature, and Science of the new University of Chicago:

Sept. 28, 1892

DEAR SIR: You are invited by the President to meet the Faculty of Arts, Literature, and Science on Saturday, October I, at 4:30 P.M. at Room A 7.


It may be noted that the building was not designated. There was no need. Cobb Hall it must have been, since there was no other building save the three men's residence halls to the south. Even Cobb Hall was unfinished, lacking a front door, and was entered by means of walking over the threshold on a plank.

"Room A 7" was the large room at the southeast corner of the first floor. For many years it was known as "the Faculty room"; and in that room, with President Harper's office adjoining, were born and nurtured or, after trial, discarded those policies which were fruit of the extraordinary vision of the young President and the varied

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University of Chicago Bulletin

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University of Chicago Bulletin

( 30) experiences of his Faculty. The room was not merely large but attractive, with leather-covered chairs, a long center table, and rugs agreeable to the eye—a room quite different from the hit-or-miss quarters familiar to most of these newcomers as places where business must be hurried in order to escape to a more congenial environment.

Some of the members of the University Faculties had themselves formerly been accustomed to preside at their own staff meetings: Ezekial G. Robinson, of Brown University; George W. Northrup, of the Baptist Union Theological Seminary; Galusha Anderson, of the old University of Chicago and of Denison University; Thomas C. Chamberlin, of the University of Wisconsin; Alice Freeman Palmer, of Wellesley College; and Albion W. Small, of Colby University. From many parts of the world members of this group came to cast in their lot with the new institution under its stimulating and enthusiastic leader. Several were from Germany, from England and Scotland, while great universities—Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, California—gave

( 31) their quotas. Here took place the first of that series of mighty word-battles between Professor T. C. Chamberlin and Professor W. G. Hale on the relative importance of the classics and the sciences which continued as long as the two men met to discuss educational policies, or any other question, in fact!

Such was the setting for that first Faculty meeting. What happened? The official record is meager. Dr. Charles R. Henderson, the Recorder, was dearly beloved; but his gifts lay in a different direction from that of taking detailed minutes of a meeting. Possibly, too, realizing the significance of the occasion, his power of expression was benumbed somewhat, as happens when one is called by long-distance telephone from halfway across the continent. Fortunately, some private notes taken at the time help fill out the picture. Practically all of the Faculty were present, as it was too thrilling an occasion to miss.

President Harper opened the meeting with prayer, and this continued to be his custom whether ofpicial gatherings were large or small. He then, in the words of the Minutes, "gave a brief address upon some special points for con-

( 32) -sideration." The President emphasized the importance of securing unity in spirit, but not necessarily in opinion, as the members of the group organized and developed the institution. He said that the burdens involved in the preliminary organization had been carried by a few and must henceforth be borne by the many. He described in general terms the lines of separation between the Senate, the Council, and the Faculty. The several duties and responsibilities of these bodies, he thought, would have to be more fully defined as the result of experience; but he urged that flexibility should always be their characteristic. Several specific topics were mentioned for discussion; but he dwelt chiefly upon secret societies and their place in the University, reported that the Trustees had already had the subject under discussion, and presented the following suggestions to the Faculty:

1. The rules of each society, the location of its rooms, etc., should be made known.

2. Special emphasis should be placed on literary societies.

3. Societies detrimental to the interests of the University should be given up or disbanded.

4. Restrictions as to membership might be possible.

( 33) It was "moved by Mr. Howland that under the restrictions named by the President secret societies be permitted in the University." "On motion of Mr. Laughlin this matter was committed to a committee for consideration." The President named in this committee Messrs. Judson, Hale, Small, Tufts, and Stagg.

A plan for a University bulletin was announced, and it was stated that on Thursday at noon of each week the material for announcements for the weekly bulletin should be handed to the Recorder.

The Examiner, Mr. Abbott, reported that 510 students had been matriculated, divided as follows: Graduate School, 126; Colleges, in three upper classes, 85; Colleges, in Freshman class, 85; special students, 61; Divinity School, 153—a total of 510.

"The President expresses the hope that the time will come when the Academy College work may be transferred to some other place and the higher work be given all our strength on this campus." The meeting then adjourned, having revealed several outstanding figures and started the discussion of questions which, after more than

( 34) forty years, are not yet fully settled. Best of all was the strengthening of enthusiasm and confidence in the venture with which the members had cast in their lots. The significance of the spirit which prevailed cannot be fully understood without some knowledge of the strong personalities involved and their individual characteristics. There was laid the foundation of the feeling of unity and devotion which prevailed through the following years not only in this highly responsible group but throughout the University, and, with few exceptions, in every member of it, even to the humblest. A simple incident will illustrate this: A young scullery maid employed in the Kelly Hall kitchen left her work of paring potatoes one day to go, on the invitation of a friend, to a cooking lesson in the city. On her return she was asked how she had enjoyed herself. "My," she said, "I've learned more than I've learned all the time I've been in the University!" Even the basement of Kelly Hall was the University; and every task, even the simplest, was a share in its making. "In the University" was the all-pervading spirit.

The incidents which have been narrated are

( 35) but as veneer in comparison with the real substance of the University in those early years. The keynote was struck in the President's offices, where, under the gracious and yet amazingly discreet guidance of Miss Cobb, the President's amanuensis, a crowd was always to be found during his office hours, bringing their problems, small and large, to him for answer, or else responding to his numerous calls for conference. At one of these he said to me, "I sometimes take the other side so as to hear what can be said—I agree with you." Each visitor noted on a slip of paper the business he had in mind. The procession moved rapidly; but there was no sense of pressure, and it was very seldom that anyone left the office without a feeling of satisfaction, even if the answer had been unfavorable. Every member of his staff was made to feel that his relationship to his chief was personal, not merely official.

This was true of students also. Individual conferences and consultation with groups tended to build up an extraordinary sense of unity. The gatherings of prospective candidates for advanced degrees for a matutinal breakfast at his house on Convocation Day, the student councils

( 36) whose meetings and policies interested him greatly, the congregation whose membership included not only Faculty but Doctors of the University, the Convocation receptions, where a special welcome was given to the relatives and friends of the graduating students—these, and many other ways to whose success Mrs. Harper contributed generously, built up a spirit which was quite unique. It certainly struck my mother in that way, for she recalled how my brother, up to the time of his graduation from Harvard College, had never met President Eliot. Visitors to the University, familiar with conditions in academic communities, often commented on the harmony and loyalty which prevailed at Chicago. It was amply shown that kindness and friendliness, and even a certain amount of informality, were not inconsistent with conventional standards of social intercourse. I was told once by an academic official of wide experience that the official manners of the University of Chicago were the best in the country. It was clearly understood that not only in the President's office were visitors to be received with courtesy, but everyone desiring help or information in any office and seeking

( 37) them in a suitable way were to find the open door and understanding word. This extended even to clerks, who took the cue from the officers they represented. I am free to confess, however, that I was sometimes deeply offended when I realized that I was recognized as an officer of the University and, as such, received more courteous treatment than would have been the case if I had appeared as a stranger. But on the whole, visitors to the University were given the feeling that their interest was appreciated and not considered an obnoxious intrusion.


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