Light on the Hill, Volume II

Miller, Russell


THE STATUS OF UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION. There was a growing feeling by the late 1970s, especially among undergraduates, that they were being short-changed and that the undergraduate colleges were somehow being sacrificed at the expense of the dramatic growth of graduate and professional education. They pointed to the establishment of the veterinary school and the Nutrition Institute. It seemed to them, and to some of the Arts and Sciences faculty as well, that excessive attention and expenditures were being devoted to the health sciences, to the detriment of the rest of the institution. The federally funded Nutrition Research Center being planned in Boston, as its name indicated, was intended clearly to be basically a research rather than a teaching facility, and the intensified emphasis on research and scholarship so strongly urged by President Mayer meant, they thought, a corresponding neglect of the basic teaching functions of the faculty.

Provost Kathryn McCarthy (a Jackson alumna who graduated when Tufts was primarily a teaching rather than a research institution) was so alarmed at the rate with which Mayer was expanding the institution in so short a time, in so many directions, and at such expense, that she felt Tufts was greatly overreaching itself and would soon be in serious difficulty. In 1978 she also expressed the fear that "the excellence of teaching which is now our trademark" might be lost with the multitude of new research-oriented projects, many of which were located away from the Hill campus.

Even the expansion of the physical plant was considered to be lopsided. A new building being planned for Fletcher was intended primarily for its use rather than to meet undergraduate needs. At the end of the decade (1970-1980) the undergraduate population had been increased by some 700 (mostly before Mayer became president), graduate students by more than 100, and enrollment in the professional schools by some 300, not to mention an increase of faculty of approximately 50 on the Medford campus alone. Although one new undergraduate dormitory had been opened and another was under construction, the perception was that most of the new construction planned or under way had taken place in Boston rather than in Medford. Classroom and office space so desperately needed


had been only minimally provided by the construction of partitions and the constant shuffling of offices and departments among existing buildings. One administrator came to Mayer's defense by pointing out that many undergraduates, and indeed some of the faculty, failed to understand that the president's position as the principal executive officer demanded a commitment to the entire university and not to only one segment of it.

Some members of the Arts and Sciences faculty felt so strongly about the same tendencies as the provost perceived, that the president was asked early in 1979 to respond to the allegation that undergraduate education was being neglected. The president himself felt that the faculty did not understand that the lack of available federal money was a key factor in the failure to provide more adequate undergraduate classroom, laboratory, and office space, and that the alumni were not furnishing the financial support that was needed.

As to the alleged neglect of undergraduate education, Mayer responded by assuring the faculty that his commitment to the undergraduate colleges was primary and unchanging. He did admit that the Boston and Grafton campuses were the ones receiving the most attention and the greatest publicity, but he justified it on the ground that it was necessary to attract external funding by stressing the new and exciting programs which would redound to the credit of Tufts, place it firmly in the public eye, and heighten its standing as an educational institution.

There was so much concern voiced by Arts and Sciences faculty and students that undue attention was being paid to the development of professional schools that President Mayer devoted most of his annual report in 1979 to "the future of our undergraduate colleges." He first of all identified them as the university's "central concern" and alluded several times to the report of the 1973 University Steering Committee which characterized Tufts as "a college-centered university." In spite of all of Tufts' complexity, with its growing multitude of professional schools and affiliations, Mayer insisted that "our undergraduate colleges and the spirit of liberal arts remain the heart of the institution." Mayer had a well-defined strategy to meet the double challenge of intensified competition for students and the heightened pressure to raise tuition. He felt that the best means of attracting good students was to "increase the value of the undergraduate degree in the external community by further developing the reputation of the university as a whole." This meant mobilizing "the physical, financial, and human resources of the university as a whole to serve the educational needs of undergraduates": and obtaining, through the professional


schools, "facilities and other resources which can also serve the needs of other units of the university in general and of undergraduates in particular." In short, expanding and strengthening professional education would, by raising the reputation of Tufts, attract the best undergraduates and at the same time attract grants and gifts, both public and private. The strategy worked. By putting Tufts, including the new graduate programs, in the news, students were attracted to undergraduate programs as well. This was illustrated by the rise in combined SAT scores from 1,185 in 1976 to 1,209 in 1985, and in the number of applications for admission from 6,961 in 1976 to 10,478 in 1985.

  • Light on the Hill, the second volume of the history of Tufts University, was published in 1986, covering the years from 1952 to 1986. This doucument was created from the 1986 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume II.
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 Title Page
1. Setting the Stage for the Second Century
2. Long-Range Planning
3. Bricks and Mortar 1952-1967
4. The End of Theological Education at Tufts
5. Ever-Widening Curricula for Liberal Arts and Engineering
6. Jackson College: A Search for Identity
7. Defining the Role of the College of Special Studies
8. The Arts and Sciences Faculty I
9. The Arts and Sciences Faculty II
10. The Central Library
11. The Changing Character of the Student Body
12. Fraternities and Sororities at Tufts: A Cyclical History
13. A Beehive of Activity: From Trustees to Students
14. From Wessell to Hallowell
15. The Hallowell Administration: Years of Trial and Tribulation
16. The Hallowell Administration: Continued Trial and Tribulation
17. Educational Ventures, Successful and Otherwise
18. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
19. Medical and Dental Education I
20. Medical and Dental Education II
21. Taking Stock of the University in the 1960s and 1970s
22. The Mayer Administration: A Preliminary View
23. The Mayer Administration: Consolidation and Expansion