ROBERT GORDON SPROUL
PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY
October 22, 1930
1. The encyclopaedic type, setting forth in verbose detail the communitys resources, the facilities of the institution, its past accomplishments, and its achievements--no less certain- -of the future.
2. The technical type, explaining in scholarly and sometimes masterly fashion the way to teach, the content of a liberal education, the quality of the academic life, or some equally important and stimulating subject.
3. The omniscient type, settling all the problems of all the people for all time.
The impress of all these types will no doubt appear as I continue, but also, I trust, there will appear some evidence of discriminating judgment and deliberate restraint.
In Monterey, in 1849, there met a convention which Bennett Riley, general in the United States army and ex-officio governor of California, had called [page 3] "for the framing of a state constitution or a plan for a territorial government." The convention was composed of miners, merchants, farmers, mechanics and similar delegates from a more or less rough and turbulent pioneer community; nevertheless, the instrument there framed and later adopted by the people made it a duty of the legislature to take measures for the protection, improvement, or other disposition of such lands as had been granted or might thereafter be reserved or granted by the United States, or otherwise, for a state university for "the promotion of literature, the arts and sciences." That obligation was translated into the beginnings of fulfillment on March 23, 1868, when the College of California, a private institution, founded in 1855, was united with the State to make a university "created pursuant to the requirements of the constitution, to be called the University of California" and to "have for its design to provide instruction and complete education in all departments of science, literature, art, industrial and professional pursuits and general education." This is the foundation on which California has built for over sixty years and on which, with full confidence, we stand today.
Rising gradually from this foundation, the University of California has had a history of which any university might be proud. Always the University and the State have held true to the charter. There has been the one State University, the sole public institution of higher learning of the commonwealth [page 4] of California. Its genius and spirit have been co-extensive with the broad acres of the State from Del Norte to San Diego, from the Sierras to the sea; its campus has been the whole territory of the commonwealth, and in her fifty-eight counties its representatives find today a field of useful service. In shops and factories, and on the farm; in mines, in government, and in the pulpit; at the bar and upon the bench; in medicine, in commerce and in education, its alumni have played a conspicuous part. In the world of letters and science the men of its faculty have established a reputation throughout the nation and the world as they have blazed their way along rough trails, illumined here and there by the bright lights of genius, to the heights of scholarship. Few universities have drawn their disciples from more varied or more distant corners of the earth or sent them out imbued with a finer spirit of devotion. As the university of a while state, the University of California has lived up to its responsibility and has made much of its tremendous opportunities.
But it is not with interesting and glorious history or manifold and notable present accomplishment that we must concern ourselves. The United States is a nation not of ancestors but of descendants. As true Americans we dream of the future of our children rather than of the past of our forefathers, eminent though these may have been. We regard ourselves still as the founders rather than as the descendants of families. We are interested not so much in what our institutions have been as in what [page 5] they shall be. The test for the president of this University will ever be set in terms of what he has builded on the foundation that has been here established, and what he contributes in the creation of wider opportunities for those who are facing the future. This test is a stern one. It can be met by no man alone, although one man must always carry the responsibility and accept the praise and penalties of leadership. The needs of the people of the State he must translate into an education program, with the skilled cooperation of the faculty, he must breathe the searching spirit of science and the warm life of the humanities. That program, if it is to be fulfilled in the highest degree, demands certain things from the State without and certain things from the University within. It is two of the most important of these that I propose to discuss this morning.
In the first place, the State University should be the greatest university in the State of California. It cannot be less and be worthy of the splendid public school system of which it is a part; worthy of this almost legendary land in which it is located, this land of vast material wealth and incomparable opportunity for the enjoyment of life at work and at play; worthy of the pioneer people of whose breadth of vision, depth and buoyancy of spirit it has been born. I do not mean by this that it should be the only great university in the State. That would be good neither for the University nor for the State. The [page 6]continuing competition of friendly rivals is the greatest spur to worthy ambition. The University of California conceivable might not have achieved the high station it occupies in the academic world today if Stanford University had not been established by a generous founder and developed into greatness by a wise leader, to become a sister institution in a field of action close enough to be in the highest degree stimulating and helpful. Moreover, from the action and interaction of many types of universities and colleges will come achievements more varied and more significant than could be expected from any one of them, however good; and in generous rivalry for higher intellectual standards will be found a unifying principle for the advancement of science and scholarship, literature and art, on every sector of the widespread front. The large university under private control, and responsible to other pressures than those that reach the state institution, will develop in its particular type of freedom special fields of learning and research that otherwise might not find the support they deserve. The small college, ad particularly the college which exemplifies the traditional interest of religion in higher education, and which mellows thorough scholarship with the ideals of character building, will continue as in the past to confer inestimable benefits upon our people. The prosperity of one institution is the stimulus of all. We would wish not to stand calmly alone in our magnificence but to be kept breathless by the effort to remain in front of a field of the highest quality.
[page 7] But we do aspire and propose to remain in front, as seems to us befitting the dignity and honor of the great commonwealth whose name we bear. We cannot accept the dictum of certain self-styled "prestige" institutions that state universities must be content to operate on a lower plane for a less gifted group of the population; nor are we convinced that, because the state universities derive their support from taxes, they reside any less in the "sphere of liberty" than those institutions that derive their support form the benefactions of the generous, who are also, sometimes, the wise. It seems to me clear and beneficial that the two types of institutions are likely to develop along different lines; but no examination of their products throughout all the years they have existed side by side in this nation has given any evidence that from one may be expected the true leaders of our democracy and from the other the hewers of wood and drawers of water. The university in the "sphere of liberty," no less than the university in the "sphere of government," experiences attempts at influence and control, which both must fight with every weapon at their command if they are to be worthy of that community of institutions whose light has illumined the darkness of the years, whose power for good has been felt upon all the interests of mankind, which has sowed in the lives of men the seed not only of knowledge, but of virtue and of faith.
In the fulfillment of our high ambition the people of the State and the students and the faculty of the [page 8]University each have their appropriate, their important, and complementary parts. Fundamentally, if the history of public education in this country means anything, there must be but one state university, and by this I mean not only one institution which is called the State University but only one state-supported institution in the field of higher education-- there must not be so-called colleges or universities at every crossroad or even at every county seat. In no state which has followed in higher education a program of distribution of state institutions and state resources has there been general satisfaction with the result; the counsel of experts is positive and unanimous against dividing the effort of the state in this field. Every year that goes by adds force and confirmation to the report of Henry S. Pritchett at a time when he was president of the Carnegie Foundation, that the greatest weaknesses in the maintenance of good standards by the state universities have been exhibited in those states where the state institutions of higher learning are conducted in two or more colleges instead of being united into a single institution. In such cases it has almost inevitable happened that unwise competition has sprung up demoralizing alike to the institutions themselves and to the public school system. Duplicate courses, low standards of admission, and log-rolling with the legislature are the natural outcome.
Fortunately the approved plan of a single state university has been the tradition of this State, announced in the beginning and confirmed many times [page 9] since; but unfortunately there have been in the last decade signs in abundance of a tendency to depart from that tradition. When the legislature during the twenty years from 1849 to 1868 was preparing to discharge the obligation laid on it by the constitution to establish a university, it appointed a commission to recommend that but one institution of higher education should be established and that all means at the disposition of the State for the purposes of higher education should be concentrated in the creation of as great an institution as was possible. When the pioneer university has been established, there came to it a great piece of good fortune in the acceptance of the presidency by Daniel Coit Gilman, able scholar ad far-sighted administrator, who fixed the character of the institution in several of its important phases for many years, if not for all time. These words, spoken by President Gilman at his inaugural, are still worthy of the attention of this audience and of the State of California:
"Two things are settled by the charter of this institution, and are embodied in the very name it bears.
"First, it is a University, and not a high school, nor a college, nor an academy of science, nor an industrial school, which we are charged to build. Some of these features may, indeed, by included or developed with the University; but the University means more than any or all of them. The University is the most comprehensive term which can be employed to indicate a foundation for the promotion and diffusion of knowledge. . . .
[page 10] "Second, the charter and the name declare that this is the 'University of California.' It is not the University of Berlin or New Haven which we are to copy; it is not the University of Oakland nor San Francisco which we are to create; but it is the University of this State. It must be adapted to this people, to their public and private schools, to their peculiar geographical position, to the requirements of their new society and undeveloped resources. It is not the foundation of an ecclesiastical body nor of private individuals. It is of the people and for the people--not in any low or unworthy sense, but in the highest and noblest relations to their intellectual and moral well-being."
That policy of the far-seeing Gilman has been endorsed by the people of this State not once but many times, and it is in accordance with that policy that we are operating today and should continue to operate in the future.
It is true the University has never been in this State the only public institution giving work beyond the high school. Almost synchronously with the College of California, a normal school system was initiated in San Francisco to train at public expense the teachers for the public schools. The growth of the first school in that system was slow on account of the general indifference of the school authorities and the hostility on the part of teachers. It was kept alive by the enthusiasm and activity of John A. Swett, superintendent of public instruction, and was moved in 1871 to San Jose, where it has been [page 11] ever since. From time to time thereafter the legislature established seven other normal schools at various points in the State, in certain cases in response to political pressure rather than educational needs, with results which should be a warning to those disposed to follow a similar course with reference to university work. In 1921 the normal schools were changed into teachers' colleges, and since then they have been gradually expanded from two-year institutions to four-year colleges, granting the A.B. degree. It should be noted that the legislative act creating these institutions dedicated them definitely and primarily to the training of teachers and that the report of the special legislative committee, on which the legislation converting them to collegiate status was based, declared that the purpose of the change was to make teacher training in California attractive to youth without loss of its professional character.
Another educational activity which has developed in the field which was formerly occupied by the University alone is the junior college. In 1907 a law was passed authorizing the high school board of any high school district "to prescribe post-graduate courses of study for the graduates of such high schools." Fresno high school was first to take advantage of this law in 1910, and by 1914 there were ten of these "upward extensions of the high school," with a combined enrollment of about 700 students. The law of 1917 recognized the junior college as an integral part of the secondary school [page 12] system of the State and made financial provision for it on the same basis as for high schools. Subsequent legislation has brought the junior college to a position of assured permanence in California and last year some 20,000 students enrolled in its thirty-four centers, more or less. Any plans for the development of higher education in California must take into account the junior college, and we are pleased that this should be so. It may not be amiss, however, to call attention to the fact that according to all its proponents the major responsibility of the junior college is to offer an opportunity for public education of post-high school grade to individuals who are not planning to enter the professions, and that the intention of all junior college legislation, as well as the trend of all educational theory, is to limit the junior college to the years preceding the midpoint of the four-year college, the line of division between general and special or professional education. Going forward on the course prescribed both by theory and legislation, the junior college movement will be a significant and helpful development. Masquerading as four-year institutions or trying merely to duplicate the first two years of a university, these colleges can never achieve their highly useful purposes.
Finally, in the great city of Los Angeles, a center of population undreamed of when the State University was conceived and brought into being, out of a normal school and junior college there has evolved the University of California at Los Angeles, an [page 13] integral part of the University as a whole, serving the needs of large numbers of students in fields where duplication is much more convenient than expansion, and almost as economical. There in that great and growing center of population, a center with a distinct and distinguished character of its own, there is growing up a splendid institution which in days to come will add new laurels to the State University, of which it is a part. Under the same Board of Regents and President, governed by the same high standards, responsible to the same lofty ideal, it is one with the University in all its parts, and proud of its own individuality and accomplishments no more than it is proud of the great tradition it has come to share and to enhance. Despite the fears of the conservative and the hopes of the envious, it is not proving to be an influence destructive of unity. On the contrary, it is proving to be a bulwark not only for the principle of one University but for the principle of one State.
Such has been the higher education pattern of the State of California for more than fifty years, and out of that pattern have grown institutions, from the kindergarten to the University, that have challenged the interest and earned the respect and praise of scholarly men the world over. Always, until recently, the University has been recognized as the crown of the public school system and esteemed as the sole representative of the state in the field of higher education, except in one limited professional field. But lately there have been uneasy stirrings [page 14] here and there that threaten to overturn and destroy, as does an earthquake, the carefully builded structures of the educational system, to shake loose the topmost pinnacles and reduce all to a lower, less inspiring, and less productive level. Some teachers colleges, far from emphasizing the professional work that is theirs to do, would hide in every way possible, even to the suppression of their legal names, the fact that they have anything to do with teachers. Junior colleges would in certain isolated but important instances cease to function as an upward extension of the secondary school, and become instead the beginning of four-year colleges or universities, out of harmony with the purposes of higher education and with good standards of instruction and achievement in any part of the world. These tendencies, I submit, are subversive of the best interests of democracy, which must, if it is to survive and proper, develop "an aristocracy of its own begetting, after its own heart, and dedicated to its own service"; and to that end must provide somewhere the best facilities for the highest education, open freely to all who have the brains and the industry to make use of them. The attempt of our public school system should not be to have one broad highway on a grade so easy that it never can scale the heights, and so designed as to force all to travel the same road all the way once they have made a beginning; rather, it should provide a number of highways of varying grades leading to many useful careers and open, every one of them, to all whose talents and desires make it [page 15] seem probably that they may come thereby to a happy and successful life. One function of the schools all along the line should be to discover those who have the capacity and will to make good use of further training, and of what kind. There should be in them not only the means of development but the machinery of sifting. Each unit of the system should seek to understand and cooperate with the units above and below it, so that direction and transition of students from one step to the next may be as easy as possible; but not all students should be expected to go through every stage, and certainly the stages should not be so ordered and arranged that anybody, whatever his capacity, can enter and go through any one of them as he pleases. The American creed that every human being shall have his opportunity for his utmost development, his chance to become and to do the best he can, does not mean that everyone must be admitted to a college or university within a few blocks of his home and kept there whatever his talents or his industry.
The problem of higher education in the State is a community problem, not an individual one; an economic problem as well as a psychological one. We have several thousands of young men and young women to train each year; we have only a limited number of teachers competent to train them and a limited portion of the States wealth which the people are willing to spend on such training. To utilize most efficiently the means at our command, we must devote those means to boys and girls who have [page 16] earned the right to them, and at the same time we must provide more than one channel for the varying talent and energy and industry of those who are our charges. What we need is not lower standards of admission to the University, but more intelligent ones, if possible, in order to accomplish our purpose so far as that one channel is concerned: not more colleges and universities of the traditional type though of lower quality for those disappointed even by our present none too rigid system, but other altogether different institutions which will more suitable train those students and get them to their lifework sooner: not more four-year colleges that will admit anybody with examination or question, but another type of institution extending not more than two years beyond the high school, and which will provide curricula for those who, while their talents do not lie along the line of a university career, are nevertheless interested in further education. Junior colleges as an extension of general education in the secondary field; teachers colleges honestly devoted to the recruiting and training of those who will be well educated elementary school teachers; and the University of California, a single institution, but with many parts--all will continue in the future as they have been doing in the past to meet best the needs of this great commonwealth and the rapidly increasing number of young men and young women who seek from it the benefits of a liberal or professional education.
One reason why people invent fantastic educational schemes in this State is that we have here in [page 17] unusual exuberance certain influences, fostering the idea that an educational institution is justified if it leads to population increase and the expenditure of public funds in the community, whatever may be its effect on the boys and girls who seek the bread of learning and find too late that they have been given a stone. But a more fundamental reason is that the University of California occupies a proud but not altogether comfortable position. It suffers the inevitable penalty of leadership: envy, denial and detraction. On the one hand, it is criticized for being too aristocratic, on the other, for being too democratic. There are those who maintain that it sets its standards on an unreasonable plane; that it should admit every high school graduate. That, we believe, would be a fatal blow to the quality of education by the State and to the careers and happiness of great numbers of young men and young women. Surely it is not aristocratic to insist that students who come to us should have such training as will make their success in the University probable, and such basic grounding in various subjects as will open up a wide range of possible specializations. I know of a state university which admits every high school graduate, without regard to recommendations, subjects, or grades. The number disqualified at the end of the first semester is enormous. But democracy can certainly take no pride in sending up its regimented thousands to be mowed down on the field of higher education.
On the other hand, we are criticized for being too democratic, for admitting and keeping too many, on [page 18] the theory that the efficiency and value of a university are determined by its selective and eliminating processes; that the fewer it admits and the more it weeds out, the better it is. My standard is an altogether different one; for I believe that, with proper organization and ideas, with intelligent standards of admission and graduation, with enlightened and progressive methods of education, a very large number of students may receive an excellent education on a single campus, and that to the delimitations here implied there is no need to add the further delimitation of a numerically restricted enrollment. Nor shall we fail under such conditions to produce leaders, for there will be as many in our large numbers who have inherent qualities of leadership as in any small selective institution, and if the requirements enumerated are met, we shall be able to give to such students every opportunity and encouragement that they could get anywhere.
But you may conclude, perhaps, that I assume too much, that such organization and ideals, such standards and methods, are impossible under the conditions we must meet in a state university: enrollment of great numbers of students; articulation with a public school system turning out thousands of high school graduates who are ambitious socially, educationally, or vocationally, to go somewhere other than to work; dependence on the bounty of a state legislature and the proverbially fickle favor of Demos. However, neither our experience in this State nor the logic of the situation would seem to me [page 19] to lead to such a conclusion. The destiny of this University has always been in the hands of its friends, its regents, its faculty, and its president; if it has failed to make progress or has traveled in the wrong direction, they and not the people of this great State have been to blame. The University has been given by the people into the hands of those who have been trained to solve the problems and meet the needs of higher education, and it is theirs to make or mar.
What, then do we plan to do in the years that lie ahead to produce higher education that is in fact what it is in name; to prove that opening the doors of the University to adequately prepared students, no matter how many, is compatible with high standards of attainment; to train men who can provide the means and yet have the vision to realize the end?
The educational activities of a university must be examined in the light of their directive concepts. University education, even today, is influenced by the tradition of the middle ages, by the idea of academic discipline and of authoritative instruction. That tradition met with difficulties in the nineteenth century under the impact of the natural and social sciences, and in the twentieth century it is facing the problem of marked increase in the number of subjects to be investigated and taught, and in a consequent questionable specialization of instruction. The difficulties arising from these impacts have resulted in various systems of electives, of majors and minors, and in suggestions for improving [page 20] instruction, such as granting privileges to superior students. But these difficulties of the present situation in American education have not, as yet, provoked what is most urgently needed--a careful, scientific study of the whole problem, the prosecution of inquiries which will lead to new knowledge in the field of university education.
That university man is rare indeed who would claim that the present system of higher education is adequate; yet we adhere to it because it is easier than to make a radical change. The lockstep is hard to break. The faculty develops younger men to follow in its footsteps, selecting teachers on the basis of their conformance to the tradition of the men who trained them. Generation after generation recites the same rigamarole, and all too seldom do the augurs glance at one another and solemnly wink. The curious thing is that the men who, in educational systems accept what has been done traditionally, in their own fields recognize that science is changing constantly, and they are always experimenting in the hope that they may contribute to the changes. Why should we not look on education as a problem for experimentation just as we so look on a problem in physics or astronomy? Why, when we recognize the importance of theories and experimentation in every other field, should we accept, with such complaisance, our present system of education? The reason is that most of us either give no thought to the theory underlying the system of education we support, or think of education as an exception to the rule that every subject must rest on some cardinal theory.
[page 21] Such theories and investigations have been left in the universities almost entirely to departments of education, which for all the contumely that has been heaped upon their heads have been more progressive than other departments, for they have been making and honest, sincere study of a problem baffling in its complexity. Despite the exaggerated stressing of the theory of education, despite childish reliance on questionnaires, despite the weaknesses and foibles characteristic of any new effort, they have been hitting at least close to the needs of American university as those who will have none of educational theory. But they cannot solve the problems alone. In the first place we will not let them, and in the second place, they are too much involved with the problems of the elementary and secondary school systems to see the problems of higher education clearly and to see them whole. What we need is men outside of departments of education, as well as in, who will think not in terms of their department but in terms of the university, and who will follow the scientific method in education as they do in their own subjects, never thinking of advancing theories without painstaking, well-grounded study, and never thinking of putting those theories into practice without first submitting then to the acid test of controlled experimentation. That attitude of mind toward education, as toward every other phase of university life, I hope to cultivate and encourage during my presidency, through the whole faculty if possible--it not, then through the assistant [page 22] professors, who will be the University for which I shall take credit or receive blame when my course is run. If they will take me seriously when I say these things, and will jolt themselves out of the ruts that have been worn smooth and deep by their predecessors, we can together, in the next few years, change the entire aspect of education in this University.
The present system in the University is based upon lectures. Now, despite the low esteem in which these are held by many critics of higher education, they serve a useful purpose by making possible the presentation of knowledge not yet in books, by aiding students in getting started on a new subject in which listening is more helpful than reading, and by setting up nuclei of interest in young minds. On the other hand, lectures admittedly have their evils. They overemphasize the "general" and tend to defer direct acquaintance with the "particular"; they engender the habit of passive receptivity on the part of the student and continued repetition on the part of the teacher; they repress initiative by creating the impression that the subject dealt with is complete and that nothing remains to be done; and worst of all, they lead, as so many things in our present system do, to the conclusion that the end of knowledge is to pass an examination and that this may be best done by repeating, verbatim if possible, the of the professor or the textbook. Under this system the student coming from the high school to University is likely to be disappointed and lose his zest for learning. He finds that the work he is called [page 23] upon to do is no different essentially from what he has been doing, that it is the same old grind and can be handled by the same pro forma efforts and the same subterfuges. I am speaking now not of the leaders, who will surmount all obstacles and get what they want in education despite every discouragement, nor of those who, Dr. Vincent says, enter a university to be educated by morons, but of the great mass of students of every university, however selective its standards of admission, who will not get what they need in spite of everything, but who nevertheless have in them capabilities well worth our attention and cultivation. A few of these are potential leaders, lacking only the spark which will set them off; all too often our present system fails to furnish the spark. Many of them will never be leaders, but they will be intelligent followers, capable of choosing leaders and wisely and of supporting their inspired ideas with well directed energy and well founded enthusiasm. A man incapable of ideas or leadership himself may be worth a good deal to democracy, if he is able to judge one or both. Insofar as our present system fails to furnish students with that inspiration for intellectual development which will make them discriminating judges of thought and appreciative supporters of practical ideals in everyday life, it fails to develop the high type of citizen that should be its product; and it does so fail too often in America today.
That situation will be corrected when educators realize that a university is primarily not a place for [page 24] the parceling out of ready-made knowledge, but for that fresh thinking which results in new knowledge; that it exists not merely for passing on facts, but for showing students how facts are discovered; that it is not a museum in which may be found merely the accumulated wisdom of the past, but that it is a factory humming with industry and turning out the newest wisdom of the day. The information that appears in textbooks, the information that is expounded in lectures--all this information should be merely of secondary importance in university life, and should be gained by students incidentally as part of the equipment for that independent thinking which should be their main object. We play with that idea in most academic circles, it is true, and occasionally throw a hint of it to students, but somehow we fail to put it into practice. A student must spend four years in the lecture hall parlors of university house before he is admitted to the inner sanctum where the work is being done that gives a university its real reason for existence. It seems to me that if research is the great adventure we believe it to be, we cannot introduce good students to its inspiring difficulties too soon. The interest aroused by such an earl introduction would make better students of all who are capable of being students at all. It would dispose of the morons quickly and quietly, and convince them to a degree which units, grade points, and mechanism can never hope to convince them.
Conversely, the products of such a system would do much to bring to an end the incessant debate [page 25] between teaching and research, because men trained under such a system would know that you cannot keep the two apart, that while one may elect to teach and another to investigate, the teacher must keep abreast of his subject and the investigator must transmit what he has learned. Research is merely a search for knowledge, and no man belongs on a university faculty who is not engaged in that search.
But this does not mean to me that all faculty men must be productive scholars in the narrow sense of the term. There will always be some good men who are primarily teachers, and some good men who are primarily investigators, and some extraordinary men who are both. As to the first two classes, the investigator should be allowed to investigate and the teacher should be allowed to teach, and the reward for good service in either case should be the same.
Under present conditions we have the strange anomaly of teachers being judged not on their ability to teach, but on their research output, and investigators being forced to devote valuable time to teaching that might be given to advancing the frontiers of knowledge. As a result men who might be good teachers if they were encouraged by the hope of future advancement are drifting about in laboratories with a couple of test tubes in their hands making themselves useless in a most arduous and time-consuming way, while men ho might be good investigators are wearing out their patience and their students in a vain effort to expound and to inspire large classes. I repeat, that while research [page 26] in the broad sense of the term is a necessity for every teacher, and while every investigator must transmit what he has discovered, the criterion of the teacher should be ability to teach, and of the investigator, ability to investigate, and neither should look down upon the other so long as he is doing his job well. As it is, the good teacher, looked down upon by his colleagues because he is not producing each year a certain amount of scholarly pap, is frequently made so miserable that he gets out of academic life. That, so long as the largest task of an American university is to teach undergraduate students--and whatever it should be that is what is--is a distinct loss from every point of view.
Moreover, both teachers and investigators should be recognized far more liberally in a financial way than they now are. As things are, very few of the best college graduates can be persuaded to undertake a scholarly career because they feel, quite properly, that a man is foolish to enter even a pleasant field where the laborer is held to be not worthy of his hire. Those who might be the coming educational statesman of the day, who might foresee and prepare for the social structure of the future, who might without pressure or compulsion undertake important innovations in educational practice, are enticed into commerce or industry or professions other than education--into fields which offer those adequate inducements that seem to be necessary to secure the services of the brightest minds. If the stream of our civilization is not to be dried up at its source, we [page 27] must pay salaries in universities that will attract first-class men in competition with business and other professions. I do not mean by this that salaries must be open the same plane as in business, and I certainly do not mean that men should go into university teaching to make money. But if the university is to command confidence, if it is to treasure and convey the wisdom of the ages to coming generations which may thereby have an orderly understanding of modern life as an environment in which to find happiness, as well as material success, it must hold within its ranks those minds which are capable of discovering, recognizing, and assaying the valuable trends and aims in nature and in society. If it continues to engage the present proportion of second-rate minds, which make knowledge and end in itself, which stifle the desire of youth for learning, which do not relate to education to the living of a good life, which stuff book knowledge into heads without teaching them to think, we must expect it to fail in its high purpose. Too many of our brightest students are now being dissuaded from the academic life by the characteristic American feeling that there must be some connection between salary and ability. The reason that we do not have better quality in higher education everywhere today is that the great genius of our country is not to be found in university faculties. Though individual universities have individual brilliant men, many universities and colleges in America do not have a single such great genius; at all events the statement is generally true, and [page 28] so long as it is true, there will be dissatisfaction with and criticism of higher education no matter what the size of the student body, or the organization of the educational system, or the methods of instruction. The only way to meet that criticism is to make scholarship respectable, to enable the universities to meet on a fairly even basis the financial competition of the outside world for the brightest minds, rather than to accept perforce those who seek in some quiet faculty a refuge for mediocrity.
Of one thing more I would speak: of a feeling rather than an idea. The state may live up to the highest obligations of sound educational policy, the faculty and president may approach the problems of education in the finest spirit of scholarly open-mindedness, and yet the university will not be really great. If there be not within its body a spiritual force, a quality of the soul, the one thing needful for true greatness will be lacking. That spirit is not to be shown in vain and noisy display, but equally it must not be altogether inhibited or repressed. No university can be great that does not feel itself animated and lifted up by an influence stronger than the sum of individual forces of its students and professors. Without a sense of dedication to a task of larger scope than even teaching and research, a university will not achieve its largest usefulness. On the other hand, no university can be other than great which, while it fills the ranks of its faculty with poets, historians, philosophers, artists and scientists who by the grace of God are also teachers, and while [page 29] it focuses its attention steadily outward beyond the daily routine upon the ancient but ever youthful enterprise of learning, stands true to the spiritual traditions of the earnest men who gave themselves without stint that it might grow and prosper. Such a university will lift up mens hearts and teach them to keep faith with their souls.
This State and this University have before them a magnificent task.
We stand today ready for growth, physical, mental, and spiritual. Our
minds are mobile, the product of restlessness, the longing for the change
of the Forty-niners. In the westward march of civilization the ultra
conservatives have stayed behind. This is a young country of far-away
skies, high, distant mountains, and deep, fruitful valleys. With vision
clear we should stand guard and point the way for business of higher
standards, for even-handed justice, for unstinted service, for the life
more abundant. In that great work it is the Universitys opportunity to
guide, to direct, and to lead. No responsibility could be more serious;
no opportunity more challenging. To avail itself of that opportunity and
to discharge its share of that responsibility, the University of
California resolutely sets its face, happy in the inspired wisdom of its
founders, proud of the devotion of those who are its servants, and
confident of the loyalty and support of its masters, the people.