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prosperity of its students? Does it not seem pitiful, that we should have to consider the means by which our colleges may live, and secure the attendance of students, when we ought to be considering merely how they shall best instruct the students who come to them ? After all is it not unworthy of a college to ask any other question than this, How shall we best instruct those who seek our instruction ? Surely the question onight not to be, How shall we make our students most warmly attached to ourselves ? But rather, How shall we best train them for all the responsible duties of citizenship?
These questions bring us to the more important part of the subject.
II. The influence of College Dormitories upon the education and character of the individual student.
It is mere commonplace to say that all true education must be the result of individual effort. But while this is true it must be admitted that individual effort may be inspired or encouraged by companionship. If the constant association of students in considerable numbers tends to awaken or encourage a desire for higher attainments, we might at least presume that the companionship furnished by dormitories is helpful. But the experience of college officers will hardly justify this supposition. College students with us are accustomed to have definite tasks set before them, and their standing is made to depend largely or entirely upon the manner in which they perform those definite tasks. They have little incentive to do more. Where a working system prevails, there is an evident inducement before the student that he should not do more. It would manifestly tend to reduce his standing, were he to deplete his energies for his assigned work by applying them in other directions. The consequence is that when the lesson is prepared or the allotted task performed, the student seeks relaxation and recuperation for the similar task of to-morrow. But whatever the reason may be, the fact will not be disputed that whenever American students assemble elsewhere than in the class-room, their association tends to divert their attention from their studies, and does not tend to inspire them with greater scholastic zeal. It may not be easy to determine all the influences which make our students so unlike the students of Germany in this respect, but the fact is probably unquestionable, that they are unlike. It is safe to adopt this as an invariable maxim, that all worthy acts performed by students are done by them acting individually, while all unworthy ones are done by them acting collectively. Probably every college officer will admit that there are few things more disheartening to a teacher than the facility with which a crowd of rational students convert themselves into a mob. Experience shows that whenever a class, or a number of students from different classes, come together for a common purpose, especially if that purpose be the consideration of any imagined or real grievance of their own, there is no predicting the amount of folly and absurdity that will be committed. The crowd often, if not indeed generally, falls into the hands of the least wise and the least worthy, since it is these who are least under restraint. The most idle rumors are accepted as truths; and the wildest schemes are often the most acceptable. This is especially the tendency when any favorite member of a class or clique falls under the ban of the college authorities. At such times the most reasonable members are apt to be silent or take but little part. The most defiant attitude toward the college authorities is too often deemed the only course worthy of the spirit and courage of manhood.
It will probably be conceded that the most difficult problems presenting themselves to a college faculty when acting as officers of government, arise from the necessity of dealing with students in masses. Separate even the most turbulent student from his fellows and you find that he is a rational being. Talk with him privately, and you discover no symptoms of insanity; you even find perhaps almost to your surprise that he is quite capable of exercising his reason, You may even convince him of the correctness of your own views. But let him go from your interview to a meeting of his companions. If he does not fall straightway from the grace of your instruction, he is at least likely to fall a prey to what is known as the harmony of the class. Whatever may be his individual opinions, he ceases for the time to be an individual, and becomes simply a fraction of an irresponsible body. If the meeting, whether it be formal or informal, falls under the influence of the best minds, it is likely to be regarded as spiritless and tame; if it falls under the control of the more turbulent elements, it is sure to exert its influence in favor of disorder. Hence it is that whenever good order for any reason in College is threatened, the worst consequences are generally to be expected from the meetings of students for consultation. It is always fortunate if such a meeting does not turn out to have been possessed with the devil.
Then, too, the results of such consultation are not only apt to be the worst possible, but the tyranny of the decision over those who dissent from it, is most relentless. The welfare of the college even among the most reasonable of students is, consciously or unconsciously, made subordinate to the harmony of the students with one another. As a matter of fact the best elements of the class seldom protest in any other than a private way, even when a vigorous and united protest would have been enough to defeat the action.
It is chiefly for these reasons that the consideration of questions of college policy by classes or even by groups of students is to be deprecated. This would not be the case were the college a republic, in which all would have a voice in determining what the government should be. But a college is not a republic and cannot be. Students have no voice in the choice of college officers and cannot have. The very fact that students seek instruction in a given college is evidence that the wisdom of those who give instruction is held to be superior to the wisdom of those who seek it. But even if in regard to some subordinate matters it were not, it would still be true that the college has the right to ne the conditions on which its instruction will be given. A college is not a monopoly. No student is obliged to attend college, much less any given student to attend any particular college. If he is not pleased with the conditions he may go elsewhere; but while he remains he is under every obligation to accept of the conditions established.
It is probable that these positions will generally be assented to as correct; and yet it is not easy to carry them out, or even secure their adoption in entire good faith. We are so in the habit of sitting in a kind of authoritative judgment on the acts of all those in positions of responsibility and power, that it is difficult to exclude the habit of reckless criticism even from those relations where no criticism whatever, or at farthest, none but the most considerate criticism ought to be permitted.
But the tendency in college life has set powerfully in the other direction. Students everywhere are coming to have a very positive opinion on all questions of general interest. They grapple cheerfully with the most difficult problems; and they solve them with the most astounding facility. And this spirit is but another form of that audacity which Mr. LOWELL personified in his,
It will probably be conceded that these peculiarities of student life interfere to a greater or less extent with the success of our work of instruction. Is it not coming to be more and more obvious that throughout all the ranks of society there is too little respect for the power of regularlyestablished authority ? Are we not as a people in constant danger of forgetting that devotion to liberty is no more requisite to civilization than allegiance to law? If the tendency is in this direction, it is the manifest duty of educators to do what they can to correct the evil. The remedy is not easy to prescribe, but if it is to be found anywhere, it is to be found in our family life and in our schools. Not only should there be the most wise and positive instruction on the subject, but every circumstance which tends to aggravate what is doubtless a great and a growing evil, ought to be carefully pruned away. That the evil is great probably no thoughtful person will deny, that the remedy is easy no one will assert. But there is abundant reason to believe that the intimate and peculiar association of large masses of students in college dormitories, tends to lawlessness, and pro tanto, to an aggravation of the evil of which we complain.
In 1852 when Dr. Henry P. TAPPan came to the University of Michigan as its president, a considerable portion of the students occupied dormitories. The authorities of the University were under the necessity of devoting a considerable portion of their time to the insignificant details of petty but annoying violations of order. It was believed that these annoyances would in great measure cease to exist if the students were to be separated and distributed into the various private families of the city. ACcordingly the determination was soon reached to devote the dormitory buildings to other uses. Commodious rooms for the Library and Museum were thus secured, as well as increased facilities for the work of instruction. For a time some inconvenience is said to have been experienced by students, but the supply of rooms rapidly accommodated itself to the demand; and after one or two years no difficulty whatever was experienced. Even when the number of students came to be as many as eleven or twelve hundred they all found such accommodations as were requisite and without especial inconvenience.
It is perhaps only necessary to remark that the consequences of the change have been highly gratifying to all the officers of the University. Good order has been less frequently disturbed and individuality on the part of students has been promoted. The change according to universal opinion has been favorable alike to good order and good scholarship.
The following discusssion followed the reading of Dr. Adams's paper. President GEORGE P, Hays of Washington and Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, said:
The paper asserts what is my own experience. In the early history of Washington and Jefferson College the students seemed to regard the destruction of all college property as perfectly lawful provided they were not detected, and nothing, for a time, seemed safe save what was regarded as strictly private property. The introduction of rigorous measures by the college authorities corrected these evils partially, and yet the collection of a number of students into one building did then and will always bring with it some of the evils discussed in the paper.
My own experience however as a student outside is not very encouraging. The home influence in the family where I boarded was not strong. The lady of the house it is true gave attention to the many wants of the students but beyond that nothing was done, and the husband met us but seldom,
My experience and observations in theological seminaries also confirm what the paper asserts.
President LEMUEL Moss of the Indiana State University, said :- I took my collegiate course in an institution where there are no dormitories. There are no dormitories where I am now and I know of nothing that could induce me to advocate the introduction of them.
Though prominent men differ from me I am persuaded that where young men and women meet each other daily in the recitation room and are at the same time subject to the elevating influences of a well-regulated family discipline is much easier. There is less of boorishness among the young men and a higher regard paid to all rules of propriety.
President E, T. JEFFERS of Westminster College, Pennsylvania, said :The evils are not all on the side of the dormitory system. As asserted in the Doctor's excellent paper to some institutions they are a necessary evil. My experience as a student in a theological seminary is favorable to the dormitory system. There seems to grow out of it a stronger attachment to the institution. During a recent conversation on the subject with a Rhode Island college professor he gave his experience as entirely favorable to dormitories. I think, however, that the paper expresses the sentiment of most educators.
Professor EDMUND J. JAMES of Normal University, Illinois, said :My experience is more extensive as a student than as teacher and in institutions where no dormitories were. There seems, however, from all I can learn as much if not more clannishness among the students of Michigan University where the dormitory system was abandoned years ago as there is anywhere else. I fully agree with Dr. JEFFERS that a certain kind of attachment grows out of the dormitory system which is not found elsewhere. Yet if an institution can do without them she does better.
President Moss of Indiana, asked :—Is the attachment stronger? Who will elucidate ? Among the students of Rochester University where I was graduated, the attachment almost partakes of the nature of a mania, and yet we had no dormitories in the institution.
President J. L. PICKARD of Iowa State University, Iowa, said :-If the dormitory system can be conducted without the espionage that is usually connected with it, it is good. I was connected with an institution as trustee and instructor for nearly twenty years and the dormitory system became only a success after a most excellent woman became matron who took a special interest in each individual boarder, spoke of the students as her boys and thus introduced the soul element-the family system. I was a student under the dormitory system and was not properly treated until I became a senior. The greatest disorder prevailed in the boarding-hall and yet the President of the institution who lived in the building had no trouble because he did not care. Men would send their sons to this place because they felt sure that their sons were under the constant care of some responsible person. I do not think my friend Doctor Hays was neglected if his room was swept and his bed made but I claim that some one ought to have cared for me. For the last year I have been where there are no dormitories and the people take an interest in the students and if they do not their daughters will. There is no antagonism between the people of the town and the students where there are no dormitories. I want the family system in a school and above all let us feel that under any system we want the home element cultivated.
President Hays of Washington and Jefferson College, Pennsylvania, said :-My former remarks were in the line of President PICKARD's and my own experience I suppose was against it. The family or social element will wield a remarkable influence on the student. By distributing a number of students among the families of a town they will become more identified with the school.
On motion the President appointed GEO. P. Hays of Pennsylvania, E. T. JUFFERS of Pennsylvania, and J. L. PICKARD of Iowa, a committee to nominate officers for the ensuing year.
On motion of Jas. M. GARNETT of St. John's College, Maryland, the Department adjourned to meet to-morrow at 31 o'clock P. M.