University of Michigan PresidentsU_of_M_Presidents.html




In accepting this position, I have been guided, not by a feeling that I am pre-eminently qualified to perform its duties, but rather by the conclusion reached after mature deliberation, that long familiarity with the University should make it possible for me to contribute to the solution for certain of its problems. I am sure I do not exaggerate when I say there is a rather general agreement among the members of the staff that certain University relations are in need of study and definition if not of change, and that delay in frankly recognizing and courageously attacking some of the more important problems is both unwise and dangerous. My purpose in this message is to define a few of the problems with which the University is faced. That many of the statements of fact and conclusion will appear obvious even to the point of triteness I am well aware; but it should be borne in mind that they are not intended to be educational, but to provide a basis for judging the administration: to form in a sense a platform to be discussed with all possible frankness.

Relative to the Functions of the University

Educators have long contended that universities should prepare the student to live a well-rounded life; but, whether we approve or disapprove, our schools, by the development of technical departments, now give much attention to the training of the individual for a career. There is, then, no question as to whether the University should train the student "to be or to do"; it is trying to do both. Still to be determined is the relative emphasis to be placed upon education, which provides his cultural background and the technical training looking toward his material success. To accomplish both objectives satisfactorily in four, five, or six years is admittedly a difficult task. We can, however, use our best efforts to the end that the increasing amount of technical training being offered will not absorb so large a proportion of the student's time that cultural advantages will be lost. These efforts may take several forms (e. g., prescribed pre-professional work, junior and university colleges, orientation and survey courses, university lectureships), but they must be made if training for culture is to remain one of the objectives of the state university. The facts to be faced are that technical education as a function of state universities is firmly established; even the literary colleges show tendencies toward becoming more professionalized, and signs are not wanting that the colleges are yielding to the cities their place as centers of culture.

While recognizing that, as at present constituted, it must accept technical training as one of its functions, the university should make it possible for all students to obtain a cultural training, and no student should be considered properly educated unless he has come to appreciate good pictures and other forms of art, to love good music more than jazz, to prefer drama in higher forms than represented in the movies, to enjoy good literature, and to have an intelligent knowledge of life and society.

Closely akin to the development of technical schools, there is also, in state institutions, an increasing tendency to provide direct and material assistance to citizens of the state - a tendency encouraged both by the citizens and the University. Based upon the arguments that the University belongs to the state and that it has facilities for the solution of problems confronting the commonwealth and its individual citizens, who may be efficiently of direct use, the feeling is becoming more widespread that the university should be in a sense a service department.  This feeling, in part because the plea of service is a potent argument in obtaining funds, has to a degree been fostered by state schools, by the. rendering of a wide variety of extramural assistance - assistance that ranges from the identification of insect pests, studies on the parasites of muskrats, and analyses of drinking water, to the work of such great units as the Department of Engineering Research and the University Hospital. It is to be observed now that, whether desirable or not, this also has become a state university function, that it promises to grow in importance, that it is disturbing to the academic routine and policies as the universities are organized, and that even more vexatious problems will arise in the future unless service activities are properly correlated with the other work of these institutions. Much more information than is available is needed before general decisions can be reached as to the amount and kinds of service which may properly be rendered, and the effects which the development of this function will have upon salaries, teaching load, quality of instruction, and research, and above all upon the departments not in a position to offer extramural service. But if it is admitted that the first duty of the university is, and must continue to be, the instruction of students, and that funds appropriated for this purpose are misused if applied to other activities, the conclusion is unavoidable that when the University is called upon for assistance the cost of providing the service, including overhead, should be paid by the person, firm, or state department receiving it.

The knowledge that the university is filling its place at anyone time should not be sufficient satisfaction to those interested in its welfare. As an institution engaged in the training of youth, a school should be particularly concerned with the future. It is not training men and women only for the world today but also, as well as it can, for the world, as it will be tomorrow. For this reason, not only should flexibility of aim and method be maintained and emphasis varied as the need arises, but the staff should busy itself in the study of tendencies in education in order that the institution may be changed before its policies and practices become hopelessly antiquated. A condition that has been a serious one in American universities, partly because it tends to make the institutions unwieldy, is increasing size. At Michigan, for example, in twenty- five years the student body has increased more than three times, the faculty has increased more than four times, and the budget exclusive has increased between nine and ten times.

How long can this increase continue? How does size affect quality of instruction? Will the state be able to bear the increasing cost of education? These are questions, which can be satisfactorily answered only by detailed studies on more adequate data; but it is possible at this time to draw certain obvious conclusions that should be helpful in considering the future of the university

Large size is not an asset to a university and is a liability when it has been attained by excessive expansion of curricula and multiplication of departments. Although it will not be generally admitted, there has long been a tendency in American universities to increase the number of courses and departments, a tendency justified by, and in turn encouraging, increasing numbers of students. If funds increased proportionately the problem of size would be purely academic. Unfortunately they seldom do. No one will object to a certain amount of expansion as facilities permit, but to add courses and departments to attract students when this limits the development of established departments of proven worth is bad practice. There is no reason why every university should cultivate all fields of knowledge.  More to be commended is a careful restriction of the fields of instruction and research, so that, within its estimated income, the university may comfortably support the established departments of known value.

The scope of instruction and research in the university should be carefully determined and clearly stated, and expansion in the way of new units should be encouraged only when the need is great and when funds are available without restricting the growth of established units.

I have previously asserted, referring to service departments, that the university is not to be considered a servant of the state to the extent that its main function, the education of youth, is to be interfered with by other demands. In still another sense is this true. The state university has frequently been referred to as the capstone of the school system of the commonwealth. Too often has this phrase covered a conception of the university as a super high school. Above the high school to be sure, but, as we see it, not in a continuous line of ascent, the university is rather to be considered a detached educational unit designed to admit and to train only those of our youth who have the habitudes and aptitudes for higher learning. Its standards are to be set and carefully maintained by the faculty, without interference, and selection of students is to be made by the several schools and colleges, and solely on the basis of innate qualifications and training. Under no other plan can the interests of higher education be served by the university.

The high schools should prepare for the university, and the University should accept only those students evidently qualified to pursue advanced studies; for if the higher institution should adopt the policy of attempting to raise the general standard of culture by admitting the maximum number of high school students, the result would be a lowering of standards to the dull level of mediocrity and a sacrificing of the best interests of gifted students.

Relative to the Student

There is no unanimity of opinion as to the degree to which the university should stand in loco parentis to the student. Indeed, the question is not simple, several aspects of the university-student relationship requiring consideration. There has been of late much agitation in favor of student self-government, and, recognizing that the boy and girl of university age are at least on the threshold of adult life, the educator would throw the student upon his own resources as much as possible. On the other hand, parents apparently do expect the university to exercise some control over their children. At least they seem to feel that it is reasonable to expect the university to assure for the student fair treatment, and to attempt to save him from committing wrong acts through lack of judgment and proper relation of the student to the university are indispensable if for no other reason than the fact that the student population is a floating one while the university continues. That the university belongs to the student is a nice sounding sentiment, but it is not only impracticable but impossible to give the university to a group which can not assume full responsibility, which with difficulty acquires unity of thought or action, and which has no relation to the institution for more than a few years. Finally, it is to be noted that the student outside of the university is living, and will continue to live, in an environment in which he must conform to man-made laws not of his own drafting. Nothing is to be gained, therefore - not even the happiness of the student - in permitting him for four years entirely to order his own life, make his own laws of conduct, or to escape the consequences of wrong acts through ignorance or a sentimental attitude on the part of the administration.

In my experience the difficulties of student discipline and the guidance of student activities have been due in considerable part to the university organization. Above all the student wants and has a right to know just what he can do; and he will not object to discipline administered expeditiously and justly. But we have failed to make clear to him what we expect and have set up machinery for the administration of justice, which cumbersome because it distributes authority, befogs him, delays irritation. Delayed disciplinary action is unfair and cruel and when mixed with sentimentality is disastrous to the morale of the individual and the student body. It may be avoided by wise centralized authority.

Another essential of proper student government is that both students and faculty consider all rules and regulations, not an immutable as the laws of the Medes and the Persians, but experimental and subject to change. The automobile ban will serve as an illustration. Not alone at Michigan has it been noticed that unrestricted use of cars is not to the best interest of the student and the university. For two years we have had a ban of broad scope with good results and the wide spread approval of students and parents. Obviously a complete ban is the easiest one to enforce, but quite as evidently both the ban and its scope are still to be considered experimental. The automobile is a feature of our civilization, to be lived with and utilized to the greatest possible extent. Common sense would dictate that the student no less than the mechanic, the farmer, the professional man, and others, should, if possible, be adjusted to it rather than forbidden its use. In other words, the cars should be controlled only to the extent to which it interferes with the intellectual and proper social development of the student, with due regard of course, to the administration of such practical features of the problem as expense, patrols, parking, and permits. As are all relations between the university and the student, the automobile problem is one to be patiently, dispassionately and experimentally studied. It is suggested that a next experiment might be to give permits to certain groups registered in the graduate school, as representing a large proportion of the married and mature students.

Finally, no one will doubt that the number of university rules should be the minimum required, this minimum to be determined by the attitude of the student. Whenever the students have demonstrated conclusively that they can and will accept responsibility in controlling their relations to each other and to the university, they should immediately be allowed to do so but when and where they decline or fail to accept responsibility, the university authorities must assume control.

The best interests of the university and the student will be served by a minimum number of rules enforced with justice and dispatch, these rules to be considered experimental and made necessary only by the attitude of the student.

Much has been said about the effect of the university upon the religious thinking of the student. The influences of critical comparative studies of religions, the failure of the faculties to lead in revivals of evangelical piety among our youth, the effects of science teaching with its deliberate emphasis upon the sense experiences as the basis of logical systems, and the general absence of incentives to church-going in the universities are frequently discussed. Seldom is it clearly discerned that the university is not interested in making a student more or less a Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Monotheist, Polytheist, Pantheist or Agnostic, just as it is not concerned with the color of his politics. If truth is internal, the individual should find himself religiously to be worth much for his religious convictions. In deed, he must inevitably pass through a storm and stress period in his search for God if he is to be satisfied with his religion. The student should be willing to take the widest possible knowledge of life, history, and the thinking of all the sages, and beat these into a logical and "affirmative attitude toward those divinely mysterious forces of life" with which he is surrounded. He may elect to order his life and thinking entirely upon the formulas and beliefs of others: but if he is spiritually as lazy as this it is doubtful if he will be in the future the power in the religious life of his community that he would have been if he had grown strong on knowledge and struggled through a spiritual growth, learning to "refuse the evil and choose the good."

The university should recognize and honor all creeds and religions and place no obstacles in the way of the spiritual growth of the student, recognizing that early training, experiences, individual needs and interpretations are very different, very real and very important in developing the soul.

Relative to the Need for Better News Dissemination

One frequently hears the criticism that the university staff is not interested in state problems or state institutions, in encouraging students from the state, or even in acquainting the citizens of the state with university activities and programs. These criticisms are, with many others, quite without foundation in fact, and are fostered, I believe, more by a failure of the university to express its interest in the state and to explain certain conditions than by any action or expression of opinion to the contrary. Friends of the university must frequently have deplored the nature of the publicity, which it has received. Too little interesting and important information concerning its activities has been given to the public, little attempt has been made to correct false impressions concerning it, and much that has appeared has been prepared by persons not properly fitted to describe, interpret, and emphasize the facts. If it is essential that the taxpayers know their university, it is necessary that their sole source of information should not be garbled accounts of sensational events. Not a censorship to suppress publication of unfortunate events and conditions, but a news bureau to provide authentic, properly interpreted news items, unfavorable as well as favorable, would greatly assist the citizens of Michigan in forming correct judgments concerning their University. That some so called newspapers are interested in sensational stories rather than news does not lessen the need for an intelligent news service in the University; it merely adds the problem of news distribution.

The University needs a highly trained news editor, thoroughly familiar with its aims, methods and activities, and in touch with the papers of the state and other mediums of publication.

Relative to the Faculty

In a very real sense the University is its faculty. Buildings are needed, equipment is required, and funds for current expenses must be provided; but since these material requirements are worthless without men to use them, the effectiveness of the University may be said to be determined by the men which compose its faculties, No one will question the truth of this statement, but too often it is ignored in the development of the institution. Administrators who fully appreciate the fact that a University can be no better than its faculty will see to it that available funds are first used to secure for its staff the best scholars and teachers available, that once secured the faculty is kept happy and contented, and that no sacrifice of staff is permitted because of an expressed need for other facilities.  Paying professors only what is necessary to hold them, raising salaries only to meet offers from other institutions, permitting marked differences in teaching load without adequate reasons, providing inadequate retiring allowances, giving undue weight to seniority in promotions, and adding to the staff with long tenure of office new and untried men are all calculated to break the morale of a University. The necessary equipment and other material facilities may be provided by limitation of expansion.

I believe that the faculty should be composed of the best men available; that members of the staff have a right to expect that the teaching load will be fairly distributed and that salary and position will be determined by the value of the man to the University; and that new men should be secured only on term appointments.

Relative to the Organization

No one familiar with the organization of the University of Michigan can fail to be impressed with the curiously antiquated and cumbersome machinery with which the routine work is performed. I do not refer to the organization of the business office, which is efficiently conducted, nor to the methods of administering the affairs of the individual units, where substantial progress is being made in perfecting methods of handling the expenditures and in the supervision of the academic work.  Rather do I refer to the relation of the president, the secretary, the deans and the heads of independent units to each other and to the Board of Regents, and to the methods of attacking problems, which concern several units or the University as a whole. The office of the President has been unduly exalted; there is no regular method of bringing the deans together for action on matters of general University interest; and neither the deans, secretary, nor president can make important decisions "without calling a town meeting" (much of the academic business being done by a complicated system of committees), and without having even details passed upon by a board which meets but once a month for ten months and which should be mostly concerned with major problems of finance.  This curious organization, which distributes responsibility but not authority, is all the more strange when compared with the organization of large financial institutions and business and industrial concerns, I submit that in the interests of efficiency in administration, the secretary, the deans, and indeed the heads of all independent units should be given authority in proportion to the responsibility which is theirs; the executive officers should be called upon to determine collectively University policies; and the President should serve as the Chairman of the faculties, instead of trying to function as a combination of educational expert, spanker of recalcitrant youngsters, business executive, salesman, and medicine man for the country at large.

Under present conditions, continued studies of University needs can be carried on only with difficulty. Salary scales, the acceptance of gifts, the addition and development of new units, the teaching load, the interrelations of units, and other important problems and needs require more intensive study than can be given by anyone department or by miscellaneous committees; and their study should be pushed to completion and proper measures taken by the administrative officers rather than by disgruntled and disheartened professors. Furthermore, it is a curiously inverted reasoning that everything good should be initiated by the President and forced upon the faculty. The administration may suggest, but academic projects should be developed by the faculty with the support of the administration, as business matters should be worked out by the business office. I refer here directly to such projects as the University College. Regardless of arguments for or against this project, it is, in my opinion, purely an academic one until some plan involving expense is proposed, and is, therefore, one to be developed, if at all, by the faculties before being presented to the administration for adoption.

The University should operate more efficiently with several officers with the authority of vice presidents, functioning with the heads of independent units as a board of overseers, the President occupying the position of chairman of the faculties and representative of the faculties before the Board or Regents.

Relative to Ann Arbor

In many ways certain educational processes would be easier if we could wall in the students and faculty and, after giving the latter certain advantages, permit them to fight it out for four years. However, less and less can a University exist satisfactorily in a community without close co-operation with its citizens.  It is really unfortunate that the phrase "town and gown" flows so easily from the tongue, for today it has little meaning. With members of the faculty tax-paying citizens, often holding positions in the city government, and frequently connected with business institutions as investors or officers; with the students as patrons of business and very often employees of local business concerns; and with the citizens of Ann Arbor serving the University staff and students as landlords, merchants, bankers, lawyers and so forth and frequently directly as employees of the University it is stupid to attempt to establish a line of cleavage as if two mutually independent groups could be recognized. At the same time it should never be forgotten that the University, as an institution, is engaged in education, and that the interests of no group may be allowed to interfere with the fulfillment of this function in the ways judged to be the best by the University's experts. We would be derelict in our duty did we permit the faculty or the administration to engage poor teachers or in any other way provide inferior training for students. Just as truly would we be false to our trust were we to permit the interests of the residents of Ann Arbor, whether members of the faculty or not, to prescribe the housing conditions which are to be available for students, or, in fact, to dictate any University policy or practice. Much has been said and more intimated about the housing conditions in Ann Arbor. I may say frankly that as revealed to me by the office of the dean of students, our students are for the most part comfortably and decently cared for in fraternities and private houses. This is not, however, the only consideration pertinent to the discussion of dormitories. Our educators have said that for the social advantages to be gained and because, however we may like it, the University must to a certain extent assume some responsibility for the student, without delay all women, and as soon as possible all men, should be housed in dormitories. From this opinion the University has no appeal.

The University is now committed to the dormitory plan.

There is every reason to believe that dormitories will be built as funds for the purpose become available. This policy should not be changed except under the advice of the faculty.

The adoption of this policy in regard to the housing of students should not mean that the interests of the citizens of Ann Arbor are to be ignored. Common justice dictates that the University recognize a question of fairness in the building of dormitories faster than the residents can make reasonably satisfactory financial adjustments, and common sense demands that the institution endeavor to maintain for itself a favorable environment by considering the welfare of the residents of Ann Arbor as far as this can be done without sacrificing the best interests of the students.


The problems confronting the administration of the University, which I have briefly outlined cannot be settled once for all but are continuing. Satisfactory solutions will be in the nature of policies and courses of action subject to change. Essential, then, to the proper solutions and thus to the wise conduct of the University are, I believe, recognition of the need for keeping the institution from becoming too hidebound and conservative, continued study of the University by competent investigators, and intelligent and prompt changes in methods as the need arises.

The ideal institution of higher learning should be ever growing, ever developing, always filling the needs of the present, as civilization changes and yet always out of adjustment with society because of anticipating the future. This conception can only be realized for Michigan by the constant co-operation and interest of the faculty and administration in the proper valuing and relating of new activities to old fields of endeavor through continued studies of the aims, methods, and results of education and the needs of the world. The danger here is, of course, that fads, panaceas, and get-rich-quick schemes will be introduced from time to time. This can be avoided by insisting that pertinent data be gathered and used as the basis of all proposed plans for modifying procedure and methods already in use.

Likewise necessary in a successful attack on University ills are due regard for all consequences of, and reasonable haste in effecting, proposed modifications in methods and organization. Enthusiasts are not wanting who advocate immediate and wholesale changes in the organization when the affairs of the institution are not going well. An attitude of laissez faire is of course to be discouraged; but it must be recognized that in great and complex institutions, such as the University of Michigan, much harm can be done by tearing out or modifying a part without a full knowledge of the relation of the part to the whole structure and without allowing sufficient time for adjustments.  On the other hand, it is usually entirely possible by taking a little time, and by adopting measures based upon a full knowledge of the interrelations of all of the parts, to make many changes without serious interference with the work of the plant and with sufficient promptness to keep the University from becoming antiquated.

Owing to the size and complexity of our educational institutions, one of the most valuable units, which can be organized, is an efficient Bureau of University Research. The world has a right to expect that the University will heed the advice, "know thyself," and study its own problems as it studies its own problems as it studies those of other institutions which form a part of the social fabric.