BENJAMIN IDE WHEELER
PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY
Berkeley, the University Press, 1899
[page 21] Governors, Members, Friends of the University of California: You have laid upon me a heavy task; you have entrusted me with high responsibility; you have crowned me with opportunity. A consciousness of my own limitations, which time and experience have made reliable and definite, would have forced the gleam of opportunity into the thick shadow of the task, had not your hearty confidence, which placed both in my way, called faith to the seat of distrust.
As it were in a night a college has grown here into the dimensions of a university. A torrent-influx of students has overwhelmed and burst the barriers of organization, equipment, funds, and shelter. A mass of rapidly developing professional schools drawn beneath the name and aegis of the University have become attached to its organization by bonds of varying strength, but all ill-tested and uncertainly set. The schools of the state have been recently brought into a close connection with the University, a connection which is still tentative, but which looks towards a fine unity of action, toward a common aim. To intensify the stress and confusion, all things have happened at a period when throughout the land the whole mechanism of university education is in progress of readjustment and adaptation to larger work. Shifting, experiment, and change are on every hand: nowhere have settled norms been reached. All has happened, too, at a time when the state universities of this country are passing through a gradual change in the form of their government regarding education and internal affairs. The earlier conception of the [page 22] relation of the governing board to the regulation of these internal affairs, fashioned after the analogy of the government of their state institutions, has been seen to place the state universities at such decided disadvantage to those of private endowment that the sound principle of internal self-government in things spiritual has come steadily more and more to acceptance. All this has come into being--the growth of the student list, the development of the professional schools into university stature, the consolidation of school standards under university cooperation, the liberalization of the state universities, the disturbance of general educational traditions--all this has come into being during a period at whose climax the unfolding of national and international history has suddenly laid the burden of a great responsibility upon the shoulders of California by setting it in the center instead of at the confines, by putting it in the fore rank for the great commercial, industrial, and social conflict that is to absorb the thought and effort of the twentieth century. All this it is which heaps the task, all this it is which opens the gate of opportunity.
If all the pressing needs of the University were marshalled in array, long would be the list. It will be enough if some few which force themselves on brief observation most obtrusively to attention be presented as examples. The enormous and constant increase in the number of students has been proving in recent years a positive embarrassment to the institution. As tuition, in accordance to the unmistakable desire of the State, is free to all, this increase brings no corresponding relief to the income. If the university work is to be maintained on its present level of efficiency, greatly increased supply of funds for the plain instruction must be supplied from some source, private or public.
The provisions of buildings and equipment has lagged far behind the need, and only temporary expedients have in recent years been adopted. So thorough-going is the need that nothing short of entire rebuilding and equipment [paper 23] can now be proposed. The wisdom and foresight of one whose life and strength and means have been unreservedly consecrated to the service of the public good have provided a plan of building, which constitutes the one frank and competent recognition of the obligations laid upon this institution. All else has been tentative, halting, doubting; this sees with the open eye of faith and the certain vision of conviction.
Among the demands for the internal development of the University none rank in my estimation with those of the library. The present collection has been made with great skill and sobriety. By universal consent it contains little waste material. But it is far too small and incomplete in any department to serve the purposes of advanced study and research. In their isolation from the Eastern store-houses of learning our scholars require and deserve more than ordinary resources of this kind. If the best men are to be brought here and kept here, we must be able to assure them first of all that the library will afford them means to keep their learning abreast of the times, and that their coming to California shall not mean the suicide of creative scholarship.
A library located here has also in more than one regard special opportunity and obligation. We are tangent to the domain of the farthest world--half of which the western world knows yet but little, but of which it will be called upon in the coming centuries to know much. Here on the borderland as in Alexandria of old must be garnered the accumulated lore of the east as well as the west.
We are located, furthermore, on the soil which Spain took as its portion of the New World. Now that her heritage has in large measure fallen to us we are bound to collect and establish here--and to do it before it is too late--all that records or can illustrate the history and fortunes of the Spanish occupation of North and South America. Instead of seventy-five thousand volumes there ought to be today three hundred thousand; instead of an [page 24] income for purchases of four thousand dollars there ought to be thirty thousand. The library force is seriously overworked, the building is overcrowded. A fireproof building, equipped with seminary rooms on the most generous scale, must be provided within the next three or four years.
The newly founded school of commerce enters upon a wide and hopeful field. We have suddenly become an exporting nation instead of a home-market nation. Material civilization is extending in terms of iron, and we must supply the world with its mechanisms and with many of the products of its mechanisms. The study of international trade conditions and of foreign needs and markets becomes therefore a first interest of the American commercial world. Here of all places in the land is the chosen spot for the training of those who are to be the intelligent guides and emissaries of trade, whether as trade agents of private interests or as consuls who represent through the general government the public interest. Here can be collected to best advantage data concerning the condition of markets in the Asiatic world, and here can be taught to best advantage the manners, customs, social conditions, civilization, and languages of that world.
The peculiar situation and condition of California makes certain definite demands upon this University which it cannot afford for one moment to neglect. In the field of mining engineering we must of course lead the world. In agriculture we must have the unquestioned best, and particularly in the applications of agriculture to pomology and horticulture, we must have the means of very decided extension and development beyond what is now provided. The dependence of California, with its long periods of drought, upon a reliable water supply for mining and irrigation, and its exposure during the rainy season to fearful losses by floods, demand that without delay the wit of the hydraulic engineer be directed to the problem of storing the flood waters of the State. It is a peculiar problem, and the University must guide accumulated capital [page 25] and public beneficence to the solution of it. Not only the naked hills of California, but the whole desert western slope of the continent, call for special study of the forest problem. A school of forestry is an earnest and instant need. The waters that sent forth the Oregon deserve a school of naval engineering. The attention of the national government, which now has a Pacific as well as an Atlantic to care for, should be directed toward this need. But what it does can be done in cooperation with the University as an already established institution, and through development and differentiation of the existing courses.
The uncertain relation of the various professional schools to the body of the University will demand careful attention in the immediate future. The University cannot permanently lend the use of its name to departments or institutions over which it has no real control. The whole problem is not so much one of legality, however, or one of control, but one of thorough cooperation and of the prevention of duplication in academic work.
If I am not led astray by brief impressions, the tone and instinct of the people of California promises for the future a strong development of artistic taste and aesthetic demand. Signs of the presence of a strong bent toward literary art are unmistakable, and nowhere do I see more promise for the rise of a distinctive type of literary art than here in the freshness and vigor and warmth and alertness of the Pacific Coast life. This movement it belongs to the University, already rich in excellent traditions of literary production, to stimulate and lead.
Among all the arts, that of architecture will, by common consent, be allowed to represent California's present lack. When the University shall have once begun to teach this art by good example, it may also and must undertake to teach by good doctrine as well.
Under the stimulus of museums of archaeology and art already planned and whose equipment is already in generous [page 26] purpose and act begun, and through the cooperation in practical training of the Art Association and Institute, we have definite hope and prospect of great things in the field of art education.
Among the opportunities of lesser endowments none offer more immediate hope of appreciative reception and general usefulness than the establishment of lectureships which, under an annual income of $1000 to $2000, should call into temporary residence at the University the ablest scholars of the world. Both the isolation and the essential cosmopolitan of this academic community demand and suggest such provision. The creation of traveling fellowships, which would allow the best of our students the opportunity for travel and study abroad, would prove a stimulus to our own work and supplement powerfully that equipment of our University which aids its graduates to climb the ladder of professional attainment.
So the list of my examples draws itself out into unseemly length. The need is so vast- -but it is a genuine opportunity that fashions the need! We appeal to a great people, noble and large-hearted as their domain is blessed and rich. Mountain-side and sea, soil and sunshine have dealt bountifully with them. The mines, the harvests, and the paths of the great deep have yielded to their zeal abundant tribute. They are liberal men, and the liberal man in the fullness of his heart deviseth liberal things. Only the best has in the past been good enough for California, and we propose now for the institution which shall represent and lead its higher life, nothing but the best. If watchfulness and incessant care can effect it, not a dollar shall be wastefully expended, but if the large view can hold the meager and the mean at bay, not a dollar shall go for what is inferior or less than the best.
But with all equipments and endowments and schedules, the University that we shall build here shall be and must be a thing of life. It will be, first of all, a continuation of the life of the University that stands here now. Not one [page 27] drop of the life-blood of those who here, in wise forethought and loving toil, built their lives into the structure, can go to loss. The devotion and faith of those far-seeing men who laid the foundations of the College of California and the foundations of the University, the genial wisdom and nobility of him under whose leadership the pilgrim scholars came from Oakland to Berkeley, the unselfish service of those who since then have taught and led, preeminently the quiet, sound prudence of him whose administration during the last nine years has leveled and prepared the ground for new building--all these as life elements are part and portion of the institution and will unfold their branches and yield their fruit through all the ages.
The University shall be a thing of life, too, in that it shall be a life-bond between those who together teach and study here. Between teacher and taught there is and can be in a true university no fixed boundary line. We are all students; we are all learners; we are all teachers. All teaching which does not deal in fresh new visions of truth, truth seen and felt each time it comes to expression as a new and vital thing, animating the whole personality of him who sees and who summons the vision to the thought of others, is a dead and hopeless exercise. Education is transmission of life. The supreme purpose of the University is to provide living beings for the service of society--good citizens for the State.
Between research and instruction there can be no fixed boundary line. Vital grasp upon new truth, the perpetual attitude of discovery must animate every work. Between the various forces and instrumentalities for uplifting life and society which this community provides there can be no barriers set. The students of the ancient literatures and of the modern literatures, of the humanities and of the sciences, of the arts and of the handicrafts are all working toward a common end under the inspiration of a common spirit. They are all seeking to give life perspective and power by delivering it from slavery to ignorance and [page 28] to the rule of thumb. So, too, Berkeley and its sister university at Palo Alto, represent a common cause, and will labor together for a common end. We welcome the aid of this stout helper and we will share with it the work according to the human law of mutual helpfulness.
In the internal regulation of the university order there can be in the last analysis no fixed boundary line between the governing and the governed. The age of paternalism in university government is well nigh past. The rules and decrees of faculties which do not in the long run commend themselves to the best sense of the student public, I have found in my experience are probably wrong; they will be surely in the long run nugatory. Student bodies are to-day practically self-governing.
In a healthfully organized university the relations between the faculty and the president in his capacity as member of the university should tolerate no barriers. In the real university life the president must be a teacher among teachers, a colleague among colleagues, and the spirit of cooperation, not the spirit of authority, must determine their work together. The educational policy of the university must arise from within, from the body of teacher-colleagues and not be imposed from without by either president or governing board. Leaving aside the conception of the university as a business organization, the real university must be a family life in which loyalty of each member to the whole shall be the divine inspiring breath.
The office of president of an American university has grown with the development of American conditions into a unique institution. The great universities of the Old World have nothing resembling it. It represents neither the perpetuation of a tradition nor the introduction of an arbitrary innovation. The situation has gradually developed it. The necessity of giving the university a representative to its public constituency, whether that constituency take the form of state or sect or community [page 29] of graduates and friends, and of mediating between the divergent ideals of the supporting constituency and those of the university life, has called this office into being and endowed it with very definite functions and extraordinary powers. Many of us in loyalty to the older conception of the university bond have deplored this development, but few who have come fully to appreciate the difficulty of harmonizing the university to the demands of its constituency have disputed the necessity. The presidency is to-day the medium of communication between the two main elements which give the university life and being. The incumbent of the office, as holding a dual relation, is not only subject to misunderstanding and to the consequent and common charge of duplicity, but is placed in a position that is frankly untenable except with the full confidence and loyal cooperation of faculty and regents alike. At the present stage of its development, the office, in demanding sympathy with two widely-sundered points of view, demands almost the impossible and is the most difficult position which American society can call upon a man to fill. All this I have fully considered. None of this have I concealed from myself. I throw myself, Regents, Faculty, students, full and frankly and trustfully upon your loyal support. Without that I am nothing; with that we can accomplish great things for California, for the University, for the nation, and for the cause of enlightenment among men.
Full in the face of many difficulties and many needs, but in the
presence of an inspiring hope, in clear conviction of my own shortcomings,
but in consciousness of a readiness, loyally and unselfishly, with such
strength as I have, to serve a public cause, I now assume with full sense
of the responsibility it involves the headship of this institution. I
will, in dealing with the various bodies that constitute it, consult
frankness rather than tact. I will value plainness of speech more than
flattery. I will not, God helping me, be tempted myself to use, nor will
I suffer anyone else to use, the University for the advancement of
personal [page 30] interest or ambition. Here in this presence I pledge
with all I am of body, mind, and heart, to be dedicated to the service of
the University of California; its interests, so far as I can discern them,
shall be, under truth, the supreme guide of my official action.
Governors, members, alumni of the University of California, let us all
to-day join hands and hearts, and here by the flaming house altar of our
loyalty, in high enthusiasm for humanity and in the fear of God, dedicate
ourselves together in holy covenant to the service of this University and
the cause it represents. And may the Spirit which putteth wisdom into
the heart of man guide us and the blessing which maketh rich abide with us