Light on the Hill, Volume II

Miller, Russell


LIKE MANY ANOTHER EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION which started as a small and struggling hilltop college and not only survived but expanded over the years, Tufts' early development was largely haphazard and uncoordinated. Schools, divisions, departments, and affiliations with other institutions were much more the result of ad hoc decisions and even of accidents of circumstance than of systematic long-range planning. They were added as occasion seemed to warrant at the time, often tacked on without much thought as to the consequences and without much regard for integration or even coherence with the existing parts of the institution. Without exception, visiting committees and accreditation teams which evaluated the school as a whole from time to time, called attention to the existence of so many disparate parts that the development of a truly unified institution with a "sense of community" was almost impossible to achieve. As one observer put it, paraphrasing Topsy in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Tufts had "jest grow'd."

It was not until the Wessell administration of the 1950s and 1960s, after Tufts had officially been transformed from a college into a university, and almost exactly a century after it had opened, that any serious atempt was made to plan ahead. Wessell's efforts, like those of his two successors, were thwarted in some degree by the very history of the institution, with its atomistic and largely unplanned development. This situation had allowed the development of special interests, illustrated by an exaggerated sense of departmental and divisional autonomy, and exacerbated by the weight of tradition, inertia, and an innate conservatism and reluctance to change what seemed to have worked reasonably well in the past. The great challenge of the 1950S and 1960s was to modify if not overcome completely the weight of the institution's own past.

The difficulties in bringing about change were more than historical and psychological. The existence of adequate resources - the wherewithal to bring about change - was inextricably involved in


almost every attempt to disturb the status quo and move in a direction thought to be forward. It seemed that change cost money, and Tufts was in an unusually poor position to furnish the requisite financial resources; reach and grasp had chronically failed to coincide, and many educational ideas of merit, with exciting possibilities, went glimmering.

And then there were the imponderables: how could enrollments, faculty size and makeup, the state of the national economy, and such other factors be projected with any hope of accuracy? Predictions were hazardous at best, and Tufts did what it could to anticipate at least the immediate future. Like other educators, Wessell wanted his institution to be prepared for the tidal wave of college-age students expected for the 1960s. He was consistently an advocate of long-range planning on a decade-by-decade basis. He promptly called for, and obtained, a master plan for the physical development of the Medford campus, much of which was actually achieved, although not all during his administration. Some projects fell by the wayside, including a behavioral science complex and a student center. But they were at least on Wessell's blueprint for campus development. The lack of money rather than of will was behind most failures.

Within a matter of weeks after assuming the presidency, Wessell initiated his first long-range project which he considered in 1954 as "the most notable achievement of the past year." He was concerned with academic and intellectual growth as well as physical plant. He insisted that the planning would be a joint effort on the part of the entire community and not the result of trustee or administrative fiat. One reason that morale remained high throughout most of Wessell's tenure was his insistence, as he told the trustees in 1954, that the administration would "take all of these groups [faculty, alumni, and students] into its confidence, keep them informed of our plans and goals, and seek their advice and assistance whenever needed and appropriate." In order to improve communication the administration immediately introduced presidential, faculty, and alumni newsletters, all published frequently.

His first step was to select representatives from each school and division and to request that they prepare an inventory of their needs for the next decade. The thirteen replies that were received were summarized in a report prepared by the president in the spring of 1954 and relayed to the trustees that fall. The recommendations ranged from increased office space to greater scholarship and other financial aid. There was "a general unanimity throughout the answers that faculty salaries were a necessary consideration, not only immediately but continuously." In his own comments Wessell wanted to


see, besides substantial increases in faculty compensation, "a renewed emphasis on intellectual pursuits as the main business of the university." This included a strengthening of the humanities and social sciences, the development of "a small Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of high quality ... a broadened program of student recruiting at all levels," and increased attention to student activities and amenities which included provision of a student center. The financial implications of all these recommendations were rather staggering, given the state of Tufts' resources. They required a capital outlay within ten years of $4,625,000, and increased operating costs totalling almost half a million dollars a year.

By far the most comprehensive inventory of Tufts yet made was undertaken in 1956 and took more than two years to complete. Known as the Tufts-Carnegie Self-Study, it was intended not only to determine where every part of the institution stood but to provide a blueprint for the future in terms of aims and objectives agreed upon. Every division of Tufts was studied except the main library on the Medford campus (largely Arts and Sciences). The review of the library was to have been funded by a separate grant from the Spaulding Charitable Trust but was never carried out as originally planned.

As to "aims and objectives agreed upon," Wessell made clear from the outset a point that he reiterated time after time during his presidency. They were based on the assumption that "the high quality of Tufts can be assured if we select a limited number of academic responsibilities and objectives. Whatever was undertaken as a consequence of the self-study, it had to be of an academically superior nature. "Tufts can not be all things to all men." It was not to be "a sprawling urban university catering to all or even a majority" of those seeking further training or education.

In December 1955 Wessell requested financial assistance from the Carnegie Corporation through its president, John W. Gardner. After an exchange of correspondence and personal visitations, the Corporation trustees voted $35,000 in April 1956 for "an all-university self-evaluation study," officially announced in mid-June. In January 1959, after the study had been completed, the trustees voted that it be referred to in the future simply as "the Tufts Self-Study," but the link with the source of the funding remained a part of the official designation. By January 1959, when the Tufts trustees took their first formal action on the numerous recommendations generated by the self-study, most of the members of the board had become thoroughly cognizant of what had been going on at the institution for the past two and one-half years, for the president had kept them informed at every stage.

Even as the study was getting under way, Wessell made it abundantly clear that it was to be no mere exercise in academic rhetoric which would be quietly filed away and largely forgotten - the fate of all too many such reports. To emphasize his point, when he presented his annual written report to the full board in the fall of 1956, he italicized the following statement: "It is imperative that when we have achieved this careful and more complete definition of our goals we proceed with a long-range development program." He forewarned them that it would undoubtedly cost millions of dollars and take a number of years to carry out. Translating the recommendations into actuality would be the most crucial and significant task of all.

Leonard C. Mead, at the time serving as Coordinator of Research and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, was appointed by Wessell as director of the study. Mead, a close personal friend of the president, was, like Wessell, exceptionally well acquainted with the institution, for he too had been recruited by Carmichael for the Department of Psychology and had been on the campus since 1939. Mead carried the directorship of the self-study without relinquishing his other positions, but with some reduction of obligations. Every one of the ninety-six members of the Tufts


community who comprised the official roster of self-study personnel continued to carry out most of their regular teaching, administrative, or other assignments without extra compensation. The only exceptions were those who held key positions in the self-study. Their loads were reduced, and if they served as scribes for the study committees during the second summer, they received an extra stipend. An executive secretary was the only full-time, paid member of the self-study staff.

During the first summer (1956) an executive committee was created, consisting eventually of three faculty members, four administrators (including the director), and the secretary. A tentative plan to create an overall steering committee made up of all the deans who would have guided the entire operation, with an executive committee as the administrative arm, was discarded. The organization that was actually created was sufficiently complex (and occasionally cumbersome) to make that addition to the bureaucracy inadvisable.

The executive committee immediately commenced preliminary planning and the collection and perusal of more than thirty reports of similar studies conducted at other educational institutions. A study committee was established for each of the nine major divisions of the institution (four undergraduate colleges and five graduate schools). Their task was to ascertain the most critical needs, problems, or issues that each division faced. It was then the task of the executive committee to put them into an all-university framework. In order to secure maximum communication, one member of the executive committee served as chairman of one or more of the study committees.

Almost every imaginable device was used to gather and exchange information and ideas - from questionnaires to the entire faculty and the solicitation of comments from the students to special faculty meetings and task forces, and informal discussions in which representatives of the entire academic community participated. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy even utilized a panel of paid outside consultants.

Never before in the history of Tufts had there been such involvement and interest by such a large proportion of the community. Some academic departments that had not met for years busied themselves with wide-ranging discussions and debates. Faculty, administration, and students "addressed themselves to such questions as the role and purpose of Tufts as it appeared to them, the quality of the faculty and student body, present size [then 3,500 students] and optimum future size, deficiencies and inadequacies of contemporary conditions and operations, long-range needs and objectives of faculty, students, curriculum, classrooms, laboratories, library, dormitories,


and other buildings, and the most suitable philosophy for the second century of the University's existence .... No significant corner of the house of Tufts [except the library] escaped examination." Working papers, including valuable and hitherto unassembled statistical data, were prepared as the study progressed. After the self-study had been completed, all of this material was gathered up, together with the minutes of every committee meeting, in a series of twelve appendixes. The entire report comprised 4,422 pages of typescript.

As the study progressed the community was kept abreast of developments through the columns of the Tufts Weekly. Simultaneously, the faculty found sheaves of mimeographed material in their mailboxes almost every week.

The original duration of the self-study was to have been eighteen months. But as information-gathering and discussions proceeded, and as the magnitude and implications of the study became more and more apparent, the time had to be extended for six additional months. Other changes were made as experience accumulated. The originally separate Liberal Arts and Jackson College study committees were combined. Four new study committees were created, based on what investigation had shown were the top priority problems that cut across school and divisional lines. They were Admissions (for all four undergraduate colleges), Curriculum (Liberal Arts and Jackson combined), Faculty Personnel (the constituent faculties of Arts and Sciences), and Resources (in all divisions of the university).

By 1 July 1958, the final reports, in either original or revised form, had been submitted to the executive committee. This body, in turn, completed its report by the end of the summer. Preliminary reports of six of the study committees were reviewed, discussed, and revised where necessary, in the course of three weekend off-campus retreats by representatives of the faculty and administration. Complete stenographic transcripts of the so-called Andover meetings comprised a separate section of the final report. There were, in all, eleven reports submitted to the executive committee, those of the medical and dental schools having been combined. In the spring of 1960 a slightly revised and condensed version of the executive committee's summary of the self-study was printed in pamphlet form for public distribution. It included both the major recommendations and the results of their review by the trustees within a year after the study had been completed.

The self-study executive committee faced the monumental task of sifting through and considering more than 130 recommendations, of all degrees of magnitude and significance. They included


everything from wholesale revisions in curriculum and the establishment of new relationships among the components of the university to improved sanitary facilities in Paige and Miner Halls. The committee attempted to identify two categories, according to scope: those affecting more than one division of the institution, and those applicable to individual schools or colleges. The recommendations were reduced to seventy-six major statements (several with subsidiary points) which were transmitted to the trustees. Many other recommendations that did not require trustee authority were referred to the various faculties for action, such as updating bylaws to conform to the change from "college" to "university." Most were relatively easy to accomplish and involved little or no expenditure of funds.

Some recommendations, especially those involving commitment of substantial monies, were left in abeyance indefinitely, and had not been authorized or carried out even a decade later. Some were effected after much more time elapsed than was originally planned. A few were not approved in the form submitted, such as the establishment of a university hospital. The Tufts-New England Medical Center, Inc., chartered in April 1969, was intended to serve that purpose.

Some recommendations, in the light of later decisions and later developments, became outdated or lost their relevance. Within barely a decade after the self-study had been completed, the Crane Theological School was closed (in June 1968) by trustee action. There had been no suggestions or even intimation in 1958 that this would take place.

Some recommendations were modified, or alternatives provided, such as those related to the College of Special Studies, which changed its character, scope, and responsibilities significantly. It was recommended that no further affiliations be made and that the admission and academic standards of its existing parts be reviewed and brought into much closer alignment with those of Liberal Arts and Jackson.

In 1961 Wessell toyed with the idea of extending most of the curricula administered by Special Studies into five-year programs in order to make them more academically demanding than they were, in his estimation. Affiliated undergraduate professional schools then generally administered by Special Studies were to be given the choice of complete integration into the university or separation from the institution. Two, the Bouve-Boston School and the Forsyth School, later moved to Northeastern University where Bouve-Boston, all-female at Tufts, became coeducational. Two elected to integrate to some extent. The Eliot-Pearson School became the Department of Child Study, and the Boston School of Occupational Therapy merged


partially with Tufts in 1960 and had taken further steps by the 1980s. The College of Special Studies shrank noticeably as its evening division virtually disappeared and the supervision of Tufts' overseas programs, which had become an additional responsibility in the 1960s and 1970s, were transferred to the jurisdiction of Arts and Sciences in the 1970s.

The major recommendations of the self-study were divided into three principal categories, with some proposals appearing more than once. They were those requiring action, either immediate or long-range; those needing further study; and those requiring special funding. For the latter, almost $3 million was needed beyond the then-current budget, largely for salary increments, additions to staff, and financial aid to graduate students. Non-recurrent (capital) expenditures totalled more than $22 million, in 1958 dollars. Eight new or renovated academic buildings and dormitories for married graduate students were projected. The Fletcher School alone recommended a minimum endowment of $10 million, with $13,500,000 for the medical and dental schools.

No major changes were recommended in administrative organization which consisted at the time the self-study was begun, of the president, two vice-presidents, a comptroller, a recorder (registrar), and ten deans. The executive committee was of the opinion that relationships between the faculty and all branches of the administration were "unusually friendly and cordial," that mutual trust and confidence existed; that faculty morale was high; and that communication was "open and easy." There were, however, some demurrers in the reports. In spite of general appreciation by the faculty of efforts to improve salaries and teaching conditions, there were questions about alleged over-expansion of administrative offices and personnel, and an increasing unbalance in maintenance costs in proportion to strictly academic expenditures. In actuality, the proportion of grounds and buildings expenditures declined from almost 10 percent of the operating budget in the late 1950s to less than 8 percent by the mid-1960s. Some of the older faculty were probably thinking back to Wessell's early days at Tufts, when, in a smaller and less complicated institution, he was able to handle a whole host of administrative assignments besides his teaching duties.

As he prepared the final report of the self-study in 1958, Mead, with almost twenty years at Tufts behind him and with the advantage of both intimate involvement and perspective as the coordinator, was impressed with several recurrent themes. Paramount was the repeated emphasis on the need for quality rather than quantity in the


institution. This was to be found in every area of the self-study, from admissions to faculty recruitment and retention. There was "general acceptance of the notion that better attention and performance could be rendered if we tried to improve in the areas of our present educational commitments rather than take on more students, functions, and objectives." This was, with two exceptions, reflected in the recommendation that enrollments in all colleges and schools remain approximately at their current levels for the next decade. The recommendation that the proportion of undergraduate women to men be increased to achieve a ratio of seven to ten was not intended to augment substantially the total number of undergraduates in the student body. In his first, much more limited report made in 1954, Wessell had wanted Jackson enrollment increased by about fifty students (to 650). The ratio of men to women in 1958 was approximately three to one. In fact, some downward readjustment in admission of males was recommended. Enhancement of quality of the students would be one salutary result.

The most significant exception was the recommended expansion of enrollment in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The goal was about 300 full-time students, with a corresponding increase in their financial assistance and an increase in faculty. The Graduate School Committee (of which the director of the self-study was chairman) reported that this unit of Tufts was "responsible for the 'university concept' within the whole institution." As to priorities, salary increments for current staff and additions to staff came ahead of bricks and mortar, just as did "recruitment and selection of a high caliber student body, in addition to increased concern for their participation and involvement in the educative process."

The enlargement of the graduate school was one of the most controversial results to come out of the self-study. It was felt by some that the historic primacy of undergraduate instruction would be undermined and that the institution was not geared to offering expanded graduate work. It lacked the resources in both personnel and money. It was estimated that an immediate minimum outlay of more than $2 million would be required. But it is clear from the final report that the Graduate Study Committee made two assumptions: "that the change of name from College to University in 1955 was automatically a decision to increase the scope and function of graduate effort within Tufts;" and that it could be "logically maintained . that this recognition implied a commitment to remedy those respects in which Tufts did not come up to university status." The


substantial development of the graduate school was therefore considered "a proper and even an urgent objective of the university."

Among the specific actions recommended were the addition of seventy-six new faculty members, including at least twenty in the basic health sciences; new doctoral programs in fifteen departments; an interdisciplinary graduate program to be administered by seven cooperating departments in the humanities; and greatly increased funding for graduate financial assistance, research, and scholarship that could become part of regular departmental budgets.

Wessell expressed his complete satisfaction with the major recommendations of the self-study. On the whole, a significant portion had been either carried out or was at some stage of realization by the time Wessell tendered his resignation, to become effective in 1966. As might have been anticipated, those recommendations requiring the greatest capital expenditure were the farthest from accomplishment a decade and more after they had been made.

Throughout his presidency Wessell constantly assessed and evaluated the progress of Tufts and his own role in it. Within two years after the completion of the self-study he initiated an inquiry into "academic effectiveness" and created in 1961 nine ad hoc committees to study everything from the academic calendar to the use of audiovisual aids. In 1964 he devoted most of his annual report to the trustees to a statistical and graphical comparison over a five-year period (1960-64) of seventeen different categories of growth as measured by qualitative as well as quantitative terms.

Of all the byproducts of the Tufts-Carnegie Self-Study, the one that struck people most forcibly was the sense of community that it fostered. Almost the entire institution felt a sense of involvement in a common enterprise and learned more about the workings of the institution than had ever been dreamed. Faculty and administrators became better acquainted than had ever been the case earlier, and developed a cohesion seldom rivalled in Tufts' history. The next task was to harness the enthusiasm and translate hope and expectation into action.

By a stroke of good timing, the completion of the Tufts-Carnegie Self-Study coincided with a decision by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, of which Tufts was a member, to conduct a one-year reevaluation of the institution. The three-person committee, representing Boston University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Westbrook College in Maine, made a series of visits to the campus during the academic year 1958-59. The bulk of the normal preparatory work had already been done, thanks to


the self-study, and many of the recommendations merely repeated those made in it. The fifty-two page report was dated 1 November 1959. Wessell served as president of the Association in 1960.

There had been no precedent within the New England Association for reviewing an educational institution as complex as Tufts, so the visitation was considered very much of a "pilot run" in formulating evaluation procedures. The visiting committee found the recently completed self-study so valuable and so complete that the original plan of an enlarged visiting committee to gather background information was abandoned. It was urged that every institution undergoing reevaluation follow the policy of conducting a pre-visit study as thorough as the one conducted at Tufts. In fact, a procedural guide for future reevaluations was drawn up on the basis of the experience at Tufts.

The report of the visiting committee, with but few exceptions, was strongly positive. They were impressed by the selective admissions policy of the institution. They found the College Board undergraduate Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, both verbal and quantitative (mathematical), distinctly higher than the national average. In achievement test scores covering eight subjects, those of Tufts students were superior to the national averages in all but one area. In 1958, 62 percent of the entering Liberal Arts and Jackson students and 73 percent of the entering students in engineering ranked in the upper quarter of their secondary school classes.

Regarding the weaknesses and deficiencies cited, one group or another within Tufts was already aware of most of them. Certainly the faculty did not agree with the conclusion of the visiting committee that the institution was under-administered. The committee was also critical because there was no clear definition of "the roles, responsibilities, and relationships of administrative offices." The relative lack of coordination and communication between units of the university was noted, and an all-university faculty senate was recommended. It was clear, in Wessell's judgment, that "the visiting committee did not understand the collegial approach to administration" which he believed was working at Tufts. Two of the areas of greatest concern were the College of Special Studies and the graduate school. In Special Studies there were problems of "integrated instruction, standards of admission and achievement, and divided administration." The visiting committee applauded the plans for an expanded graduate program but raised questions about the resources available for carrying them out. They pointed out that less than 50 percent of the faculty possessed PhDs


and that, with only one exception, there was a greater percentage of faculty possessing only a bachelor's degree than in any of sixteen other institutions reporting to the New England Association.

There were two other unsettling facts dealing with faculty, in the estimation of the visiting committee. Tufts had the lowest salary scale at all academic ranks among thirty-three private institutions, and almost half of the faculty held degrees earned at institutions in the Greater Boston area. Both of these obviously had important implications for recruitment and retention of faculty for a first-class program. A more competitive salary scale than then prevailed was indispensable, and a policy of recruiting faculty nationally rather than locally was highly desirable, providing that salary levels could be raised that would attract good faculty. Wessell, in fact, not only recognized this deficiency as to salaries, but did something about it. Stipends were doubled in the decade 1954-1964.

The visiting committee was in complete agreement with all of the Tufts-Carnegie Self-Study recommendations for an improved physical plant, including notably the provision of a new and modern library. In their view, Tufts was "an effective educational institution


... rendering a service of high quality to its clientele." It was, overall, "an important unit of the higher educational resources of the nation."

Under the circumstances the institution could not have expected a stronger stamp of approval.

  • 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.
This object is in collection Subject Temporal Permanent URL
Component ID:
To Cite:
DCA Citation Guide    EndNote
Detailed Rights
View all images in this book
 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