University of Michigan PresidentsU_of_M_Presidents.html


Object of Higher Education

Is the ultimate object of higher education to train youth merely to utilize successfully the existing conditions of life, or is it to train it to attempt to build the future of our civilization? There seems to be little need for hesitation in deciding that it is the latter. No leadership and no progress for humanity can come from a people or from an institution content to expend all their energies in utilizing the existing physical, mental, and moral conditions of their surroundings.

University and State

Policies for a State University therefore must come not from all the people of the state but from a group of men who are giving their lives to show the State how to educate itself and its people. The people of the State must trust these men absolutely and hold them rigidly responsible for the fulfillment of that trust.

A State is born when its constitution is adopted. Its period of Infancy may extend for decades or even centuries. It may never—as a unit—go to school, become educated and progress in self-control and self-criticism, which are essentials of growth and development.

Its attitude towards its duties and obligations may remain as unformed and as primitive as those of a three year old child. It may even remain in the cradle discovering and playing with its very absorbing industrial "toes" without ever evincing the slightest desire to assume further intellectual tasks. There are such States.

Michigan is not one of these. It never has been and we firmly believe never will be. From its very foundation it has wished its people to be well equipped intellectually.

There is evidence on all sides that the wish was not for merely cold, material efficiency but rather for a point of view, which would bring self-respect, self-control, and a sense of high idealism to its citizens.

In realizing this wish by the generous expenditure of material resources for its educational Institutions it is, perhaps without being conscious of the fact, showing that the State itself as an entity—as an organism, has become hungry for self-improvement and for the assumption of the higher obligations and duties of humanity.

In such an atmosphere it is not difficult to face frankly certain truths and to attempt to derive from them, principles that may guide our policies. This I hope to attempt in the course of the time at our disposal.

Humanizing Higher Education

The first matter of importance is the "humanizing" of our higher education. By this I roughly mean the shifting of emphasis from subjects taught to the individual student. The lack of sympathy shown by our system of higher education towards the boy or girl during their various periods of transition from one of its phases to another is a matter of prime importance and of immediate concern. Leaving out of our discussion for the present the critical periods encountered during primary and secondary education, let us for a moment take up that most inspiring group of human and inhuman activities known as "admission to college." Some day, in what we hope may be a not too distant future, those who are obviously unfit to profit by the opportunities of a college education will be in larger numbers than at present, detected and discouraged from entering. Under the present system we are so negligent that the vast majority of freshmen before their appearance on the Campus have never been seen by an official of the University.

High School Records

The University has received a standard blank containing their high school record—itself a compilation of grades known to vary considerably under the influence of the personal equation provided by pupil and teacher. So uncertain and alluring are the elements which go into the awarding of such marks and grades that I have often wondered that graduate students In education, physiology or psychology have failed to utilize as thesis topics such material as "The effect of dyspepsia in the teacher upon the prospects for graduation of the student" or "The variation in blood pressure of teachers forced to attend interscholastic (or intercollegiate) athletic contests—a comparative study of the phenomena of enthusiasm and rage."

To the high school record itself is appended a "certificate." This states that in the opinion of the principal of the high school, the student is mentally equipped for college training. It is undoubtedly true that most certificates of this type are honest estimates. There is, however, every possibility that the offspring of an aggressive parent who holds a position of political power, may at times be seen with a more rosy hued halo than the child of one who has had no particular influence upon the future of the teacher or principal. This is a necessary situation in any community, but as such, should be recognized and discounted rather than essentially ignored as at present.

The written examination, another refined instrument of torture, is also looked upon with great favor by most institutions. A written examination is usually the amount of information, which can under unnatural conditions caused by nervousness, be unloaded in legible form by the student within a limited period of time. The result is then numbered and handed in to be corrected by a group of men, centrally located, whose chief recommendation is familiarity with the process of grading on a mathematical scale the written agony of students whom they do not know.

A Plan for Admitting Students

If we were asked to trust a boy or girl with several thousand dollars of our own money for a term of years, we should selfishly desire to have a personal conference with them before accepting the proposition. If we were going to give them a similar amount of public money we should, as a matter of duty, have to make at least an equivalent effort to judge their qualifications. Add to this the fact that the hopes and life work of parents and friends may be based upon the future of a given boy or girl and we are forced to certain conclusions concerning our handling of the sub-freshman.

First: That the present method of admission, resulting as it does, if one considers recent figures based on a large number of our colleges and universities, in approximately 33-1/3 per cent "mortality" during freshman year, is wasteful and cruel.

Second: That it is good business and good humanity to spend more time and money in informing ourselves concerning the maturity, honesty, financial responsibility, fixity of purpose, and strength of character of the applicants lot admission to college. Such information must, for a time, be frankly a matter of experiment and research.

A beginning in this direction was made by us at Maine last year. Personal conferences were conducted for prospective freshmen, at Maine schools. The University sent as interviewers, only men whose human interest in, and judgment of, boys and girls were proven. These men, on the basis of the conference gave each candidate an approximate rating in the qualities above mentioned. They tried to determine whether the applicant was decisive, frank, interested, and fixed in purpose: They inquired into his plans for financing his college course and his reasons for desiring to come to college. They insisted in doubtful cases that he seek the advice of parent or guardian in these matters. Time cannot be taken to go into further detail but the blanks filled out by the examiner contain in estimate of the applicant's ability, which opinion I believe will be more closely correlated with the student’s record as a freshman than will any other single test at present in use. Students qualified under the present scheme for admission were not excluded. If they seemed unfit for college the interviewer advised strongly against their coming and outlined a course of action, which he deemed advisable. This information was given to parents or guardian and the decision left to them. The responsibility was thus also placed on them, where it properly belonged. Unsolicited communications from the principals of several of the larger schools stated that marked improvement in attitude toward schoolwork, with resulting advance in scholastic standing had been shown by those students interviewed. Some four hundred students were thus examined at the cost of less than twenty dollars per student, —not a great expense if by this method those not ready for college can be deterred and those ready can be recognized, encouraged, and advised. This matter is one of great and immediate concern to those of us who are charged with wise expenditure of public money.


A continuation in an acute form of the transition period from school to college and is met with on the arrival of the freshman on the college campus. Like a rowboat thrown blindly from a wharf he is likely to be completely swamped by the tremendous confusion of his environment. Three years ago we tried at Maine for the first time an experiment that we have called "Freshman Week" It has been continued at Maine and adopted by many other institutions.

The freshmen that have been officially admitted are required to report on the campus one week In advance of the upper classmen. Fraternities and sororities, by agreement, do not "rush" during that period. The freshmen are divided into groups of not more than twenty individuals. Each group has a faculty leader and an assistant leader. Each group is given headquarters in some college building usually in a classroom. Whenever their schedule does not require them to be elsewhere they are required to report at the room assigned to their group.

There are two major objects of Freshman Week. The first, already hinted at, is to give the freshman a chance to hear about the organization of the university, the aims of the particular college in which he is registering, the customs and traditions of the student body, the methods of taking notes on lecture courses and on reading, and the method of taking a written examination. He also receives demonstrations covering the use of the library, the where abouts of the offices of the administrative officers, and of the college buildings in which his courses are likely to be held. These are all efforts toward orientation.

The other object of Freshman Week is to give the university a chance to learn something more about the freshman. With this in mind he is given a careful physical examination, a general mental test, and specific tests in English, and in mathematics, and chemistry, if desired. On the basis of these tests he is assigned to either advanced, intermediate or elementary sections in the large introductory courses in these subjects.

His evenings are taken up with meetings or social events which are aimed to make him well acquainted with the members of his own small group and to give him a larger circle of friends among other members of his class.  It will not be of value to go more fully into the details of the program at this time. Certain general effects apparently after each of the three years experiments at Maine may, however, be mentioned.

First: The almost complete disappearance of the "lost” and "homesick" feeling which. If it does not actually drive students away, seriously interferes with their adjustment.

Second: The opportunity for freshmen to become a unit as a group and class before being rushed off their feet by returning upper classmen.

Third: The formation of habits of regularity and mental activity Instead of drifting rudderless and stern first up to their college work.

Fourth: More Intelligent distribution of students in the Introductory courses. The tests given, although not ideal, are a far more satisfactory basis for judgment of ability than are examinations taken at some period in the past, or than high school records which at times are three or more years old.

It is true that to conduct such a "week" is a large and difficult undertaking. Trouble and time are however, in themselves no argument against it if boys and girls are aided by it An objection on the grounds that an institution has not enough faculty members fitted to lead such groups of freshmen may be temporarily valid but is in itself one of the greatest arguments In favor of a needed change.



A third great transition period is more and more becoming a matter of Importance In the shaping of curricula. It occurs at that point at which the student is ready to shift the emphasis from efforts merely to acquire information to what may more accurately be considered an attempt towards Interrelation of, and correlation between, facts. This type of transition is far more difficult to handle intelligently than either that from high school to college or from residence at home to matriculation on the campus. It Is, In fact, a change in activity, which unfortunately is never even attempted by some individuals. This criterion alone is sufficient to remove it from the universality of application, which characterizes the first two transitions. The efforts towards the establishment of comprehensive examinations, tutorial or preceptor systems, honor courses, and indeed of various fields of concentration and distribution are all interesting and valuable steps in the direction of separating the sheep from the goats and in precipitating the crisis of the transition as well as in dealing with it while it is in progress. Such efforts are, or should be, considered as being frankly experimental. They are, however, logically conceived and should be continued, encouraged, and expanded wherever possible.


This change is one at present given little attention in our curricula or administrative methods. It is not of importance to the majority of college students for they will never experience it. It is the step from the correlative and Inter-relative stage just referred to, to that of research and creative work. Some are to be found who, in the early stages of undergraduate life, show an inherent desire for and devotion to creative work. Others have to dig through a mass of preliminary subject matter and undergo a gradually built up power of correlation before they develop the undying spirit of research. No mutter how the result is attained, however, the product is precious—beyond almost any measure. Such Individuals have at the moment when the spirit for research has its birth, graduated from "college," as an institution, and have become a part of the eternal fellowship of scholars. I wish that there might be in every university, a great hall, many paneled and that on each small panel might be written the date of "birth" of a scholar—a student at that university. I should not wish the date of his physical birth but rather that on which he turned from the routine procession of students and took up the tools of the builder. Further than that I should never write upon the panel the date of his physical death—for as an influence and force in the furtherance of human knowledge, once having lived he can never die. It should be a happy duty of all our universities to remove such research students from the routine of course work. Why bother them with "concentration and distribution" of knowledge or with this or that requirement? They have found the spring from which the sources of these very matters arise, —let them drink of it as fully and as deeply as they will.


Finally, there comes the great and difficult transition from college to the life of an alumnus. Here ordinarily there exists a break as poorly dealt with as is that between school and college. The average graduate attempts to apply the information, which he has acquired during his college work, to some field of human endeavor. He finds, however, that the rules of the game are all different and that the "pill-feeding" of the well-organized lecture and recitation system is no more. He experiences a sensation of "great smallness"—if we can use that phrase—that is a big first cousin to the "lost freshman" helplessness. He feels the need of the chance to recognize some method of behavior common to his position as a recent alumnus and to his past experience as an undergraduate. He searches, and he finds—first athletics—football! Men he played with or saw on the playing field only a few months before. Does one wonder that he grasps that interest and clings to it like the hand of a long-lost friend? Second—he finds some sort of physical or mental relaxation, which formerly was available to him, club-life, golf, squash, evenings "a la motor" and so forth. During his working days he tries gloomily to fit ready-made mental clothes on a most abnormally shaped job whose humpy shoulders and too large legs refuse to conform to the standard garment applied.

Developing A Hobby

Two things might possibly be done during his days as an undergraduate to anticipate this ineffective behavior. One is the development of the foundation for a "hobby." Undergraduates demand and cleave to so-called "outside activities,"—dramatics, journalism, athletics, debating and so forth. They must be made to see the proper relation of their participation in these things to the courses that underlie them. Literature, play writing, journalism, editorial work, history, economics, physical training, hygiene, public health, care of the sick, and other similar fields are the parents and relatives of the particular "boy or girl" college activity which is their personal friend. Students must be taught to be at least polite to the elder members of the family and must be encouraged to allow mere acquaintance with such members to ripen into real friendship. The university should later enroll them as new alumni as corresponding and contributing members of the departments in which their interest lies. Generalized and unrestricted giving by alumni appeals to a magnificent sense of loyalty, but giving to one or more of some fifty or one hundred specific objects outlined from year to year as needs of the university by those In charge of its administration, will do much more. The factor of loyalty will remain unchanged but to it will be added continued interest in some special field of its active work, and a definite and ever increasing desire to keep informed and awake mentally in the progress of that field. Together these things will combine to give to the alumnus a "hobby," a child for his old age, and a feeling of permanent investment in the training of boys and girls who could and would understand his Interest and appreciate it per tonally and genuinely. There will, of course, be some alumni who prefer to give to all of the university’s needs and who ore willing to leave it to the authorities of the university to distribute the gift. These would not in any way be precluded from giving by the fact that the needs are individually outlined and classified. This matter is a step on the road towards taking the alumni into the confidence of those administering the university—a step in my opinion sorely needed in many institutions. The second thing which can be done to make the transition from undergraduate to alumni existence more natural is, in some respects, more radical. It involves two admissions. First, that the student should spend his summer vacations profitably, and second, that he should in some way be fitted for some type of unselfish social service. In my opinion, every student should be obliged to submit to the university authorities a plan of his summer activities. The plan should be sufficiently detailed to enable the university to know fairly well how his time would be spent. A signed statement should be filed with the university in the autumn as to whether the plan had been carried out, —its success, —and if necessary, the reasons for its failure. Those who for no valid reason spend their summers in idleness should have that fact recorded, —those who use their summers in constructive work should have that fact recognized as one more proof of their fitness for continued public trust and confidence as a student much of whose education was being paid for by the tax payers of the State. In continuation of the second point involving steps to fit the student for some social service, I believe that every male college student who does not need to use all of his summers during his undergraduate years for earning money to defray his or some dependent's expenses, should devote one or more of his undergraduate summers to boys' work, to care of the sick, or to work without pay in some charitable or benevolent organization. Essentially the same program with the possible addition of care of young children as a valuable field of activity should be followed by women undergraduates. These programs would make the transition from the undergraduate to the alumnus status more easy because in using the summers wisely, natural contacts with the world outside of the university can be built up and because the training in social service gives the student a way in which he can, apart from business, enter the intimate life of the community in which he will settle after graduation. These things would also be obviously in the nature of character builders and a step in the direction of turning out alumni and alumnae who were something more than merely well informed. The suggestions are radical only in that they are based on an unpopular premise that the summer is an excellent time of the year in which to work as well as to play and that the world must have unselfish youth rather than selfish if it is to make its preachments concerning service and brotherhood more than hollow and lifeless phrases.


To sum up, we have on the basis of the three types of transition referred to First: A period of change from recitations in school to lectures, requiring reading, laboratory periods, section meetings and quizzes. This is the information acquiring stage. Second: A period of analysis and correlation of the information acquired during the first stage. (It should of course be pointed out that those in this stage can be trusted to acquire information themselves, in their own way, if given instruction as to where they can find it.) Seminars, discussion groups, problems, and projects form the methods of instruction. Third: A period of investigation and research (including and continuing the two previous types of training). This involves personal conferences, individual study, theses, and exploration. As already stated, the time at which these various transition periods occur is a matter of individual variation. Harvard and some other institutions are planning to require the first and second stages for graduation. Basing their judgment on the average experience of undergraduates they are planning to bring on the transition at or near the close of the sophomore year. So far as I am aware it has not yet been decided how to treat those who are ready for the transition before that time or who are not ready at that time, although working conscientiously and to the limit of their ability. The very nature of the situation suggests a "pass" and an advanced or "certified” degree to recognize the two types of achievement. The research grade might then be recognized by the award of an "honor" degree. At present, the last mentioned type of transition has not been fully recognized and utilized. Graduate students naturally come to our mind in thinking of research. The unfortunate truth is, however, that graduate students have among their numbers individuals classifiable under all three of these same headings. The mere fact that they already have a bachelor's degree and are a certain number of years older than are undergraduates, docs not necessarily mean that they have progressed mentally through the various transition stages referred to I believe that graduate schools' as well as colleges should recognize the three grades to endeavor by some appropriate means and that this fact, should be recorded in awarding the master's degree. The present methods determining the award Degrees of distinction appear to be based upon the degree of excellence shown by the student in the individual courses taken—In other words primarily upon grades. As compared with distinction based upon an increasing ability to think and to create, the present method is neither biological nor logical. Our scale of values should be reconstructed to utilize natural stages of mental development rather than arbitrary academic grades involving no necessary change in attitude. This should apply at least through the master's degree. At that point the choice is offered either to eliminate from candidacy for the doctorate those who have not shown ability to do research, or else to continue the separation into classes through the doctorate itself. There is not the slightest doubt but that under the present system the same "Ph. D." or "Sc. D" "label" is placed upon the revised and embellished human encyclopedia who as an undergraduate by high grades alone scaled the dusty heights of Phi Beta Kappa, or upon the some-what uncouth and intensified youth destined some day to be hailed as a creative genius in some particular field of research. The unsuspecting department head looking afield for young instructors as game, fires the shot of opportunity at the excelsior dummy of a scholar just as enthusiastically as at the living scholar himself. Experience gained by accumulating the dried bones of undergraduates who have tried to feed upon the excelsior dummy is the only way at present in which the two types can be distinguished. This whole matter is, of necessity, wrapped up in the reorganization of curricula and in giving more individual attention to students.

The Elective System

For the mind still occupied solely in the acquisition of facts the freedom of the modified elective system is, I believe, too great. The old prescribed curriculum was designed to meet the needs of such minds. It was a selection by those responsible for teaching rather than one left to the combined judgment of a number of intelligent undergraduate work dodgers. It included frequently Greek and Latin as foundation languages of our own tongue, Mathematics as mental discipline and as a test of reasoning ability, Natural Science to provide a general introduction to the phenomena of nature. Literature and Rhetoric to enable the student to read and write intelligently his own language, and Logic, which was the nearest approach to what we should today try to include under general Psychology. Stiff and unbending as it was, the old system during the purely preliminary stage was, I believe, the very best obtainable. Once its function in relation to later stages of development is clearly recognized, some such curriculum with slight modifications will probably reappear in many of our universities. In the process of readjustment we shall admit the weakness involved in diversifying the food given to minds not yet ready to "digest" and shall probably reduce and simplify the number of subjects and courses offered to the student who has not passed the transition from the purely acquisitive to the correlative stage.

In the meantime it is possible, by a careful study of the electives chosen by those undergraduates whose major subjects Is either athletics or outside diversions, to determine programs, which should be impossible. As an example of one of the most beautiful of these mosaics built by the combined judgment of several college generations of artful dodgers I submit the following choice of a prominent athlete in a small college: Appreciation of Music, Journalism (given by a fraternity brother). History of Religion, and Fertilizers.

Study Groups Desirable

Instruction in the second and third stages, being more advance will probably become more informal. Instead of offering to the world an enormous number of formally organized courses in shining array, groups of students with a common interest will be formed. These groups will read, study, correlate and discuss material in a general field. At least two or three weeks of the more than thirty which go to make up the college year will probably be passed in deciding upon the personnel to be included in the various groups. Assuming a directive function, the faculty members in charge of such groups would normally shape the course of study, sum up discussions, and at times point out topics worthy of emphasis. Most of the work, however, should be done
by the students themselves.

In the research phase the contacts should, of course, be more individual. All faculty members of a department should be available to the student for consultation. Most of the work by any one student would, however, normally fall under one or two such men. This phase, as I have said, would very rarely be reached in the undergraduate stage. Still, if only one per cent of our undergraduates were ready for such privileges they should be given the right to work at the level, which is commensurate with their mental ability. Not until the label "open to graduate students only" is removed from research courses shall we be doing our duty to the advanced student, the brilliant mind that is, in many ways, our most precious responsibility.


When a living organism has reached a certain size it must either differentiate by division of labor and organize into smaller units or it must remain more or less inert; alive but not aware. Two thousand, or four thousand, or eight thousand boys and girls of college age form, if left unorganized, as inert a group as would a colony of single celled animals consisting of a similar number of cells. They become locally interested in small groups for social or other purposes just as a group of cells in the colony of protozoa might be busily engaged in digesting some food particle. All that the rest of the undergraduates glean from the localized activity is what permeates slowly from cell to cell or is spread by infection. Life has always progressed by organization of its diffuse elements of this sort into some sort of workable unit. In such a unit there should be enough diverse elements to give a fair opportunity for the development of a great number of different types of activity. What has held true of life in general since it first began its upward climb to greater socialization of function is surely true of man—supposedly the highest of social organisms.

Freshman Dormitories

The freshman or other "group" dormitories tried at various universities are a wise physical attempt to meet the problem. They serve to segregate a group whose contributory units should have problems and interests roughly comparable to one another. So far everything is well conceived. Unless, however, experienced and inspiring persons are put at the head of such groups, in residence, thus providing a directive agent, mere geographical proximity in a group of freshmen may engender quite as much time wasting activities as desirable habits, and as many hatreds as friendships.

Personal Leadership

One real need for the college boy or girl is intimate contact with young men and women of from thirty to sixty years of age.—(I mean spiritually young)—who are before everything else their guides, advisors and friends. How can one expect group loyalty on the part of two or three hundred young men or women living in a dormitory—no matter how beautiful a building It may be—if no effort is made to make life there mean something more than walls and floors? We have shamefully neglected the obvious value of the intimate friendly leader as an example to college youth. The time is ripe for efforts to utilize him in his proper place. Men or women of such groups need not necessarily be faculty members or world-renowned scholars. If they are fine and outstanding human characters, familiar with the institution, they will have fulfilled all that is needed to arouse the force of hero worship Inherent in every boy or girl, who for a term of years is separated from the natural object of that hero worship, the parent, or other older relative or guardian. With the coming into being of such a process of sub-organization of unwieldy student bodies there would come a natural relief of petty police duty from the office of the Dean. Under reorganization into units of about five hundred or less students, discipline and advice would, in most cases, fall upon the shoulders of the leader of the group. The leader living with the students could administer such matters at short range, and with a degree of intelligence impossible under the present system. To bring about such a reorganization of an existing institution is tremendously difficult, but is, I believe, worthy of the attempt. If the principle is sound, we can begin to work toward its establishment gradually and carefully after deliberate study of the material and psychological factors, which, in any one institution, are to be considered.


The social adjustment of the college student in relation to sex, liquor, and automobiles is another matter of extreme importance at the present time. The usual reaction of administrative officers of universities appears to fall under one or two types. In some cases the attitude is one of severe restriction and chastisement of the offender who is suffering from over-emphasis of social interests not wisely conducted. An example of this sort is to be found in the case of a dean of women who is reported as having recently said that it is immoral for girls to be beautiful and immodest for them to ride in automobiles with men. Undoubtedly she has been misquoted to some degree, but the statement as given typifies one treatment of the problem.

The other reaction frequently met with is one comparable to that of the biblical gentleman who "passed by on the other side of the road." It is typified by the college administrator who once said to me "My girls are all wonderful, they never do anything they ought not to.” Upon being asked by me through inexcusable ribaldry as to how they passed their spare time evenings, the gentleman (I regret having to confess his sex) looked deeply pained and said "Why, I haven't the remotest idea—that's never worried me."

Between these two extremes there seem to be courses of some degree of promise. Let us try to analyze for a moment the elements of the situation.

First, we may all, I think, agree to the general proposition that the time to undertake the solution of any important problem is when it can be normally presented, clearly perceived, and freely, and if necessary, uninterruptedly pursued. All of these things are true of the academic phases of higher education during the student's residence in a college or university. It is the focal point of his whole career in this respect. Let us see whether this is true of his nodal problems, as above defined.

Can such problems be normally presented at a university? Can they be clearly perceived"! Can the student without interruption give his time to their solution? I believe that for college students all these questions must be answered in the negative.

College a Special Environment

The environment of carefree, financially vagrant, imitative youth that characterizes our large undergraduate groups does not fairly present problems of automobiling,  liquor or sex, as they will have to be met in later life. In all probability nowhere again will such a large group of irresponsible contemporaries with so much excess energy be met with.

The environment of undergraduate minds, untrained in Judgment of values, untrained in the causes of human suffering, untrained in self-discipline, is unable to give a clear picture of the true magnitude or importance of some of the problems to be faced, the decisions to be made, or the habits to be formed. The problems, therefore, cannot under these circumstances be fairly perceived.

Finally, it is obvious that the student cannot give his or her whole time to the study of these social problems, without neglecting academic work and thereby defeating the prime purpose of his attendance at a university.

College no Place for Social Adjustment

With these facts in mind it is logical and I believe imperative to insist that some other locality besides our schools, colleges, and universities, be selected as the battleground of social and sex adjustment. We cannot train a mind in the development of its greatest and highest scholastic powers in an atmosphere of a veritable Gettysburg of social activities where after a prolonged artillery preparation of jazz and fast traveling joy-rides, a Pickett's charge of "dates" and of petty but absorbing gossip resulting there from, and relating thereto, is in progress.

Over-emphasis of, and Intemperance in, automobiling, use of liquor, and petting among the students of our universities must be stopped because it is not the time or the place to investigate or to decide these matters. No taunt of impropriety need be chanted by the virtuous. It is merely a matter of common sense. For a student to insist that these matters he continually forced upon a university is a just cause for his or her dismissal on the ground of unintelligence.


Just as In the case of difficulties in academic policy a mistake, in criticizing athletics, has been made by trying to consider all causes and all curative or corrective measures on a single plane. All efforts seem to have been directed toward modification by restriction of athletic privilege rather than toward a more complete analysis of the underlying factors, which should be the real matters of concern.

Few of us who really think the matter through carefully will, I think, deny the great value of athletics in teaching lessons of self-control, judgment, rapidity of thought, power of decision, team play, good sportsmanship, and other most essential traits.

Many of us, however, are aware of certain unpleasant sentiments within us, when we consider the great business organizations, which have grown up in almost all American universities to handle the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by the spectators for the privilege of witnessing the various forms of intercollegiate contests. Let us for a moment try to analyze the situation by asking and attempting to answer certain questions.

Earning Power of Athletics

The first question to be asked is whether "earning power" is one of the chief objections to intercollegiate athletics and if so, why? A moment's thought shows that "earning power" or amount of money received from the public is a very real factor in shaping a great deal of adverse faculty and alumni opinion. Thus we find no very great faculty opposition to intercollegiate rowing, which has, for the colleges involved, practically no earning power. On the other hand football with a tremendous earning ability is accursed.

Why is this attitude so general among faculties?

I think that several elements are involved. First, organized athletics makes no financial contribution to academic expenses. It shows little interest in academic excellence but much and most effective interest in maintaining the minimum eligibility requirements. Second, the salaries of coaches, paid largely from the receipts of athletics, appear large to the faculty member who considers the relative length and expense of his own period of training compared with those of the average athletic coach. Both of these things trace back to a feeling akin to jealousy. A man, who for years has been begging for a $5,000 piece of equipment with which to conduct some experiment dear to his heart, cannot but become slightly green when the receipts from a single football game total, let us say, twenty times that amount. In such situations as this, there is a constant pull away from the rational and toward the emotional treatment of the problem.

The second matter of inquiry is on the ground of the amount of publicity. Does this produce adverse sentiment and if so, why?

Athletic Publicity

Once again, I believe, the answer can be given in the affirmative- Little publicity is Publicity given to the fact that the number of men engaged in rowing may, and sometimes does, exceed greatly the number playing football. It, therefore, is not so generally noticed. In playing football, however, men are singled out and marked as proficient; in a crew, the eight men are very nearly a unit—"with the possible exception of the stroke, who as a pace setter may be singled out to some degree. Again, the coach of football at present is able to substitute men and exert a directive pressure on the course of the most important games. The coach of the crew obviously cannot do so, during the race itself. Why are these things objectionable to faculty members? Once again I believe that a very human jealousy is involved. For some nineteen year old youngster, blessed with a powerful physique, a clear eye, speed and courage to receive public recognition far surpassing that given to the discovery of fossil eggs thus proving that certain of the dinosaurs were oviparous, is to certain minds, anathema. As an after thought the cry is raised that it is bad for the boy—it supersaturates his ego until he crystallizes conceit. This at times certainly is true. The publicity of athletic success is an acid test for youth, —the weak dissolve, the strong remain. It is one of the few means of natural selection of the truly humble and unselfish among youth that a soft civilization has left to us. Moreover, for conceit producers we should have to eliminate clubs, fraternities, class officers, honorary societies, student dramatics, debating, and finally even Phi Beta Kappa itself, if we are to spare our college youth from temptation rather than to teach them to overcome it.

The third matter of importance is attendance at Intercollegiate contests. Does large attendance arouse Ire and if so, why?

Large Attendance

There is no doubt that in many cases the crowds which attend athletic contests have a very great influence in creating antagonism toward the game which brings them. Two main reasons seem to be involved. First, the old jealousy again. Eighty thousand watch a football game and less than five hundred attend a lecture by the world's greatest living authority on the origin of atolls. It is not right; it is not just; but it is human nature.

The second reason is given as the waste of time for thousands of students involved in the attendance at a football game and in their journeys and discussions both ante and post bellum. This objection does not seem to me to be particularly serious. A counter question might be pertinent. Will the critics guarantee that the mental energy and physical powers of the thousands of individuals in question will be better employed if football and all that goes with it be wiped out? I believe that they cannot do so. In a day of the highly explosive mixture of youth, gasoline, and liquor borne swiftly on balloon tires to remote retreats; in an era of college comic publications and terpsichorean efforts skating on the thinnest possible ice of decency, it would take Hercules himself to guarantee a fairy substitute and I believe that he would cheerfully admit that the Augean stables were, in comparison, an early season practice game. Youth might be doing—and possibly would be doing—infinitely worse things than watching open-mouthed and openhearted the fortunes and misfortunes of their college teams.

Efforts toward Correction

One could go on asking and answering questions about intercollegiate athletics, but time is too short to do so at present. Let us review some of the main efforts, which have been made to "correct" the situation.

1. Amateur head coaches have been substituted for professionals, but are frequently poor teachers and relatively unskilled in the finer points of the game.

2. Elimination of pre-season practice has proven largely ineffectual because it (a) brings the team to its games physically unfit (b) loses the greatest opportunity for building play, thus smothering individual interests.

3. Attempt to limit the schedule to one or two games would probably be no real remedy, for an excellent way to intensify all the present evils would be by the production of a narrowed point of contact which naturally penetrates the under-graduate mind more deeply. A tremendous climax of two games looked forward to for the whole season would not solve the difficulty.

4. Intramural athletics at present are half-hearted because no natural intra-mural units except the fraternity have been evolved. The class is too big and too diffuse—the dormitory has no personality. Not until leadership shapes the organization of units and a personality is provided, as before stated, to which loyalty can be pledged, shall we have true intra-mural competition. When these conditions are provided, we shall have greatly increased enthusiasm for competition within the university; and a chance to judge its relative value compared with intercollegiate athletics. Before that time it is wasted energy to compare the two, for a true type of intramural competition has not yet been built in this country.

These are some of the weaker but more recent efforts. Others, such as the limitation of coaches' salaries; the restriction of inter-sectional contests; the raising of eligibility standards; the rigid punishment of professionalism; and the three-year rule, are wise and constructive.

Modifications Considered

Certain other modifications are worthy of consideration. They are, in the light of present conditions, radical. On the other hand, I believe they are possible and if established that they would do much to correct some of the present evils.

(a) Help to meet the criticism that too few men are aided by intercollegiate athletics by having three teams of each institution compete and awarding the victory either to the highest total score or to the institution winning two out of three.

(b) Help to meet the criticism of the too great importance of the professional coach by the development of undergraduates to direct the team while in competition. Time does not suffice for a detailed presentation of this point but it is possible and I believe desirable to move towards its consideration.

(c) By intelligent organization of the undergraduates into groups as already suggested, provide intramural units large enough to develop group activities and possessed of leaders who can build the living loyalties necessary for competitive games.

(d) Increase the co-operation between athletic and academic points of view by requiring that a certain proportion of the gross receipts from athletics be applied to purely academic matters such as graduate fellowships or research. This arrangement is only fair, for a certain proportion of student fees and of the time of faculty members, as well as exemption from taxation on real estate, are already being applied in the service of athletics.

In Favor of Athletics

In general and in particular I am in favor of Intercollegiate athletics. They bring us into contact with our neighbors—they build loyalties and characters. They are in my opinion quite as valuable for women as for men. They contain too many deep personal memories of friendship otherwise missed and of examples of courage otherwise unrecognized, for me to turn traitor to them now. They must be prepared to evolve and to work toward improved methods just as must all other phases of our universities, but they have a fair right to point to some of the jealousies and narrownesses which have made some otherwise brilliant individuals forget the enthusiasms of youth; and to repeat the injunction "Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone."


Up to this time we have been considering the problem of modifying our treatment of our students in institutions of higher education. This, as we have seen, will require that we recast many of our former ideas.

You have a right to expect and to receive some general statement of ideals, which may be considered as the activating motive force for a program along the lines already mentioned. Naturally, as one approaches generalities, one must either state truths as one sees them, leaving them plain and unadorned in a somewhat dogmatic fashion, or else one must be prepared to explain their points of strength In detail, attempting to combat and to overcome criticisms. I shall adopt the former of these two courses of action to save you both time and patience.

Elements of Permanency

Let me then, at the outset, state my belief that our present day civilization has in it no more elements of permanency than had all those that have gone before.

In terms of achievement in relation to resources we are no better than the ancient civilizations, which have passed on. We are much more comfortable and more skilled in defeating natural selection but we are most obviously the slaves of our comforts.

Thus we find that our higher educational system—that potential builder of leaders—is designed very largely for mass production, convenience of teachers and administrators, and what is most tragic, —for the production of material success at middle age.

The Ideals of Higher Education

Higher education and the spirit or ideals of any educational project should be freed from such encumbrances. The ideals Education that should replace the alms above outlined are roughly:

First, To realize our own inadequacy.

Second, To be unafraid.

Third, To seek for truth.

Fourth, To recognize it when found.

Fifth, To preserve it for the use and not the abuse of mankind.

Some results of our present day civilization show us in no uncertain way that we have delayed facing the issue up to the last possible moment.

The keynote of the revision of our ideals may be given in a condensed form as follows. One great change must
come over all of us if our works and our descendants are to survive. The emphasis of our civilization and our criterion of success must be shifted from materially comfortable middle age to clean, fearless, idealistic and spiritual youth. Youth movements the world over is the somewhat pathetic and inadequate demands of youth for recognition, which it only sees at present as freedom from restraint. True progress towards ideals will come only when "civilization," so-called, becomes unselfish enough to center its hopes on and live its life for the next generation and not for the present.

This course of action means far much awe than continuation or extension of the present by use of slightly better equipment or by quantitative changes in things already started. It means a complete recasting of our present aims and habits and it also means the statement and recognition of certain facts uncomplimentary to our present aims and habits and it also means the statement and recognition of certain facts uncomplimentary to our present civilization. I state these facts realizing that they may be misinterpreted and misunderstood. If they arouse an antagonistic emotional response in you, I am sorry, but still feel that their truth demands attention.


The world is already over-burdened by a population whose physical and instinctive appetites have far outrun its ability for and spiritual digestion. Man has built and started a giant human machine seeking food, comfort and relaxation, and he cannot stop it. The problem of over-population is an essential menace to human progress and therefore to higher education. It involves the source of the future generations.

The uncontrolled and unintelligent addition of more people to a surfeited world by the production of undesired and neglected children is therefore in my opinion quite as great a sin as murder of these children by slow means. It is also quite as unchristian, crude and cruel as is the killing outright of weak or undesired off-spring by races which we, in our pseudo-sanctity, brand as barbarous. They send their children to the hereafter with whatever equipment nature has given them. We further handicap ours by poor environment, slums, filth, over-crowding, and failure to give them the best possible chance during development. We find all about us in our great cities these battered, pathetic figures of children, the unwanted results of our animal nature, only partly controlled by chance and fear. This is no treatment for childhood, the foundation of the next generation, which should come to us only when desired, and when love is waiting for it at the portal. Our recognition of the right of the child to be wanted, to be cared for, to be loved, —is the first step in the conversion of our ways and ideals. Such a change is, I believe approaching, and silently.

Physical, Moral and Mental Development

Following a change in our attitude towards the production of the next generation comes naturally a revision in its care. We should follow much more closely than at present the physical, mental and moral development of the child. The first great opportunity to do this comes in the study of the pre-school child. Time cannot be given to this subject now beyond expressing unbounded confidence in its value and future development. Elementary and secondary education, follow in order, and are In need of revision along many of the same lines that I have outlined for college students. Focusing attention on the pupil rather than on the subject is a guiding principle applicable at all stages. It is now, I hope, easy to see that the changes, which I have suggested for higher education, are merely one section of a great problem in the study of the development of youth. In this whole problem one finds at every stage common principles and continuity if one considers the developing individual and nothing but confusion and discontinuity if one tries to develop system and institutions alone.

It may be too late even now to prevent tremendous social tornados due to over-population. If such great storms should come to shake our civilization it is the duty of higher education to try its best to see to it that the survivors are the strong, the liberal, the adaptable, the idealistic. The contribution of our generation to the future May be narrowed to a fine-drawn thread of humanity and we must make that thread of pure gold, ready and unafraid to stand the test. It is indeed an Inspiring challenge to our universities. One can gladly come to Michigan, in this service, because all that you wish this University to be has been so completely welded with the great qualities that outlast Time that it lies in the heart and souls of all loyal men and women ready and willing to build toward the goal.

Organized and Unorganized Religion

We must have high hopes that lead always to higher standards of achievement. If the Church is organized religion, then Michigan as an institution for higher education has and should claim the right to be a representative of that force in religion, which is unorganized.

As such a representative she will do well to remember that to be worried about the state of one's soul and to expect a receipt from an ecclesiastical cashier for all deposits on the credit side, is quite as material as though the account was in the physical coin of the realm rather than in spiritual values. She must lose herself in service In order to find her true life.

It will also help her to remember that civilization which depends on educational or religious Institutions demanding blind obedience and using form and pomp to impress the ignorance of their constituents, cannot last. Such things do not suggest the simple greatness of the person of Christ. To imitate humbly that frank and abiding simplicity is the greatest privilege, which Michigan can crave.


We must cherish that phase of education which Is a living Force and must always realize that our material progress is a means to an end, cold and empty as a tomb unless the unselfish and co-operative energies of our combined efforts and ideals are used to people it and to give it life.

Michigan must be and can be so close to humanity that it is housed, not in great' buildings or in ceremony, but in the hearts of its men and women, whenever and wherever they meet an institution which is to endure must be built not upon rules, edicts and punishments, but upon the intangible and eternal qualities of spiritual strength.

Again and again In the future we shall be faced with disappointments and with apparent failure. Ignorance, superstitution and prejudice are age-old enemies of mankind, but the time has come to call upon youth to help destroy them. It is my hope that in this work Michigan may never falter or waver. Let us Wend our personal desires in a common task and let us imagine again and again three great qualities applied to three great purposes. Three great attributes of Christ which we pledge ourselves to bring if we can to three great potential agents for the service of humanity. Faith, Hope and Love to Michigan, to our country and to Youth.

The Michigan Alumnus

November 7, 1925, Pages 94-104