Light on the Hill, Volume II

Miller, Russell


THE GRADUATE SCHOOL. With only brief exceptions, programs leading to advanced degrees never bulked large in Tufts' academic offerings. For much of its history the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was considered more of an appendage to the undergraduate colleges than as a separate entity. In fact, a separate graduate school catalogue was not even published until 1956. The deanship was never considered more than a part-time position, and the dean had no authority at all over faculty appointments and promotions. Minimum attention was paid to the graduate school for the most part, and the personnel of the graduate school faculty, beginning in 1963, became merely an extension of the faculty of those Arts and Sciences departments which offered graduate instruction or supervised graduate students. Prior to that date, appointments to the graduate faculty were made by the trustees and were usually limited to those of professorial rank. Graduate instruction and supervision were considered merely as additional duties and were usually not even counted as part of an individual's teaching load. The graduate school faculty had only two standing committees - an Executive Committee and a Committee on Requirements for Degrees which in 1964 became the Policy and Programs Committee. Graduate students were mixed in with upperclass undergraduates in most of their courses, and seminars exclusively for graduate students were the exception rather than the rule.

At the time Nils Wessell became president in 1953, there were only 164 graduate students enrolled, including part-time students. There was no limit set on the number of students, no regular scholarship or fellowship aid provided by Tufts, and there was not a penny of endowment for the school. There was no graduate work at all in the College of Engineering until after 1958. There had been some


discussion about expanding PhD programs but the only action taken by the graduate faculty was to declare that doctoral candidates would be accepted "in any of the major departments . . . which can demonstrate . . . the existence of adequate facilities." The graduate school went through a period of steady growth in the 1950s which reached climactic dimensions little more than a decade later. Much of the expansion took place under the leadership of Paul H. Flint, a member of the English Department, who succeeded Leonard Mead as dean in 1959 and served until 1969. The implications for expanding graduate instruction were clear when Tufts became a university de jure in 1955. Mead, who had become dean of the graduate school in 1954, foresaw that the change would be "particularly directed toward the Graduate School," and called for "intensive review" of its status. Strengthening of the graduate program was based on the assumption, as President Wessell pointed out in 1960, that "inevitably the presence of graduate students upgrades . . .the quality of teaching, at both undergraduate and graduate levels." Significant expansion of the graduate school was strongly recommended by the Tufts-Carnegie Self-Study in 1958.

National advertising was greatly increased, and brought immediate results. Total graduate enrollment in 1956-57 (including part-time students and those enrolled in the 1957 summer session) had exceeded 380. By 1958 PhD candidates were being accepted in physics and psychology, and in the fall of that year were being enrolled in chemistry. An interdisciplinary graduate program in Humanistic Studies was approved "in principle" in 1958, and an integrated Master of Science degree in science education was approved the same year. Eight new PhD programs were in the planning stage by 1959, not to mention a similar number of new master's programs. On the recommendation of the Tufts-Carnegie Self-Study, the trustees set the maximum number of full-time graduate students at 300. The same study called for minimum annual expenditures in excess of $3 million over the next decade to strengthen the graduate school, plus capital improvements, including a graduate center, totalling almost $10 million.

Among the programs recommended by the self-study was an interdisciplinary graduate program in the humanities. It had first been outlined by a fifteen-person ad hoc faculty committee in 1957 and would have involved ten different departments. The prime mover in making the proposal was Van L. Johnson, chairman of the Classics Department, and when the program actually came into existence the great majority of students were in that field. Johnson's influence in shaping the original program was evident at both the


doctoral and master's level; both required a working knowledge of an ancient as well as a modern foreign language. The ancient language requirement was dropped in 1965 because it greatly limited the number of students eligible for admission to the program.

The program was planned at a time when great expansion of graduate instruction at Tufts in almost every field was being planned, including separate doctoral programs in education, drama, sociology, and behavioral sciences. Plans for a doctoral program in education and in the behavorial sciences never materialized. The Geology Department, under the long-time headship of Robert L. Nichols, a loyal and articulate alumnus of the Class of 1926, refused to consider the offering of any graduate instruction at all in his department. To him, Tufts had always been (and would be) an undergraduate college and not a university. Funding of more than $2 million was thought to be absolutely necessary for the humanities program alone. The intention was to appeal to private foundations by emphasizing the preparation of future college teachers as well as research scholars, using a novel interdisciplinary approach. Apprentice training in college teaching was part of the program for those who did not already have teaching experience.

The university was unable to secure funding for a doctoral-level program as first outlined, but was successful in obtaining a grant from the Ford Foundation for a three-year master's program, with admission possible as early as the undergraduate junior year. The graduate school faculty authorized the program in 1960, and it was first offered at the master's level in 1961. Between 1962 and 1964, doctoral programs were approved in the Departments of Classics, Drama, English, History, and Romance Languages (French), all involved in the humanities program. The single one-year core course at first required of all students was a study of the civilization of the Renaissance from the perspective of the seven academic departments which became actually involved. (They were Classics, Drama, English, French, German, History, and Philosophy.) Part of the Ford grant of $195,000 made in 1960 was used to hire replacements for those faculty involved in the program, part was earmarked for scholarship aid, and part was assigned to strengthen library resources.

With the hope and expectation that additional funding would be available from the Fund for the Advancement of Education (the Ford Foundation), the Humanistic Studies program was expanded in 1962 to offer the PhD. This overlapped the existing doctoral programs of those departments, such as history, which had begun to offer their own the same year. Students were given the option of


earning either a straight PhD or a combined degree with the humanities. Before the Classics Department was authorized to offer its own doctorate in 1964, it offered a post-master's Certificate in Teaching which lasted from 1961 to 1969. As originally planned, outside funding was to have made possible the establishment of doctoral programs in all seen of the participating departments, but with the failure to obtain such funding, the university had to finance the programs out of its own resources.

A second one-year core seminar, the History and Philosophy of Higher Education, was added in 1963 for the doctoral candidates in the program. Howeer the seminar was actually offered only once, for the entire program returned exclusively to the master's level when ouside funding failed to appear for the doctoral program. The dropping of the PhD program was necessitated not only by lack of financing and duplication with existing programs, but by excessively small enrollments, made even smaller by the adoption by the Classics Department of its own PhD program in 1964.

When the preliminary planning for the humanities program had been done in 1959, involving the PhD as well as the MA, a maximum student population of 100 was projected over a three-year period, with a minimum of 28 in the first class. In actuality, enrollment never approached even one-quarter of that figure. With the end of the three-year Ford grant (which was not renewed), the institution attempted to carry on a greatly reduced program for a few more years, using its own resources. But by 1971, without outside funding to support it, the Humanistic Studies program had withered away in spite of the efforts of a handful of faculty to keep it alive. Participanting departments were reluctant to lose even part of the services of their faculty to a program which had no assurance of further funding and was looked upon by some department chairmen with considerable skepticism. The adoption of the PhD programs by five of the seven cooperating departments made the Humanistic Studies program less and less appealing. The admission of udnergraduates to teh program made impossible the conduct of a truly graduate-level seminar in the Renaissance because many did not have the background considered necessary. At least one positive result of the short-lived program was the strengthening of library resources in the humanities, even though the university was both unwilling and unable to commit the additional funds required to continue the program.

The heyday of graduate school expansion came in the 1960s. After the trustees had bestowed their blessing in 1959, the growth was nothing short of phenomenal, In the seven years ending in 1964


the number of applications per year went from 219 to 759; actual registration of graduate students increased from 220 to 465 (including part-time); the number of master's programs went from twenty-one to thirty-one; and the number of doctoral programs shot up from eight to twenty. There were 121 PhD candidates enrolled in 1964, and two years later there were the equivalent of 404 full-time students, of whom 260 were actually enrolled full-time. The maximum enrollment of 300 full-time equivalents set by the trustees in 1959 was reached in 1964, and in 1965 the idea of setting any numerical limit at all was abandoned. Sixteen of the twenty-three doctoral programs existing in 1967 had been established since 1959.

But the bare statistics told only part of the story. There were serious questions raised about the overall academic quality of the students and some of the programs. Scored on the Graduate Record Examination were considered generally adequate, although there was wide variation amond departments. On the basis of a national rating by the Council on Graduate Schools made available in 1966, only five departments at Tfuts which offered graduate-level instruction were considered adequate or better, and of these, four were in the asic sciences at the medical school. Only one (psychology) met the specifications of adequacy on the Medford campus. Three years later, another national survey of graduate education was conducted, this time by the American Council on Education and was published the same year. Again only one program on the Medford campus (psychology) was considered even "adequate" among the departments in the division of Arts and Sciences. The programs in classics, economics, history, political science, and sociology were all considered only "marginally adequate," as were those in biology, chemistry, and physics. This discouraging picture emerged in spite of the fact that fifty-two Tufts faculty had been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation in 1968. More than half of the master's degrees awarded in 1966 were in education (EdM), which required neither a foreign language nor a thesis, and only an average grade of "B"; i.e., "C's" could be balanced with "A's."

In the intense competition for students, Tufts was in an extremely poor bargaining position. Aside from a few teaching fellowships, the most that the institution could offer from its own resources was all or part of tuition remission and no cash - and even tuition grants cost the unviersity an amount in excess of $440,000 a year after 1965. (Annual tuition for full-time graduate students had risen from $650 in 1953 to $2,300 in 1968.) There was no real graduate center and no adequate housing on or near the campus. A graduate lounge and dining area in Mugar Hall, provided in 1967 and named


in honor of Charles Ernest Fay, was converted to Fletcher School uses in 1982.

When the Council on Graduate Schools had made its generally unfavorable report on the Tufts program in 1966 it hinted strongly that the institution had increased the number of its graduate degree programs too rapidly in relation to its resources and recommended no further expansion. Tufts replied by adopting two more doctoral programs the following year. (They were in mathematics and in the molecular basis of biological phenomena.) The largest number of PhD's continued to be awarded in psychology and physics in the late 1960s and early 197os. Both departments depended heavily on sponsored research grants from outside the institution. In 1968 President Hallowell appointed a number of committees to engage in long-range planning for the university, and among them was a fifteen-person committee (enlarged from twelve) to study graduate education at Tufts. It made its report in 1969. All components of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences were represented, including the medical and dental schools because it had jurisdiction over the awarding of academic (as distinct from professional) degrees such as the MS and PhD. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, although it awarded such academic degrees as the PhD, was not represented either on the graduate faculty or on the committee. The committee produced fourteen recommendations. Among them were "that graduate education at Tufts be encouraged and be recognized as no less significant or central an activity than undergraduate education"; that the existing system of trustee scholarship (tuition) gratuities be replaced by thirty graduate fellowships carrying stipends of $2,500 in addition to tuition remission; that existing graduate programs be reviewed and a determination be made of which to strengthen and which to drop; and that the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences be replaced by a graduate senate. Suitable living quarters and dining services for graduate students were also called for.

As part of the report, a member of the Department of Economics made a study of the comparative annual faculty commitment and unit costs of undergraduate and graduate instruction at Tufts. It was ascertained that the undergraduate program received three times as much faculty effort as the graduate program and that instructional costs were two and one-half times higher for graduate instruction than similar costs for undergraduate programs. Programs in science departments were among the most expensive and those in the social sciences were the least expensive. Almost half of cash receipts came from foundation and government-sDonsored scholarshins or fellow-


ships. By all of the criteria available, graduate instruction was a much more expensive undertaking than that for undergraduates.

Very little concrete action came out of the i 969 report on the graduate school, which was reviewed by the Policy and Programs Committee but was apparently not very widely read by the faculty. The graduate fellowships called for were never awarded, and the proposal to establish a graduate senate or council in place of a faculty (with or without Fletcher School representation) was finally tabled in 1973, after four years without any action at all.

One important source of income for graduate fellowships came in the early i 970S from the federal government. Tufts was very much committed to assisting minorities in furthering their education, and in 1971 obtained government funds to subsidize the training of minority (black) graduate students who intended to enter the teaching profession. One of the more interesting programs involving Blacks was their assignment as teaching assistants in an experimental undergraduate program known as the College Within, in which faculty and graduate teams supervised the work of small groups of students organized into "modules." Government funding was administered through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, of which Kathryn McCarthy was the dean from 1969 to 1974. (She was appointed senior vice-president and provost the latter year. During the transition period in 1973-74, Charles G. Nelson, a member of the German and Russian Department, was appointed associate dean and then served briefly as the dean.)

Among Dean McCarthy's innovations was the approval in 1972 of a "one-of-a-kind" PhD which was multidisciplinary in character and promoted individual creativity and flexibility in cutting across conventional departmental lines. She also promoted an innovative MS degree in life science engineering, introduced in i 971, which involved combined study in physiology, chemical engineering, and engineering design. A new master's program in urban and environmental policy, approved in 1973, involved five departments. While she was dean, the sponsorship of a combined bachelor's-master's degree program, originally introduced through the Experimental College, was made a regular offering in i 971, with forty-five students enrolled.

As the number of advanced degree programs proliferated, more and more attention began to be paid to the desirability of focusing efforts on a small number of high-quality programs rather than attempting to offer graduate work, some of it marginal in both quantity and quality, in almost every department and field. The institution


was coming to the realization by the early 19705 that it had greatly overextended itself in graduate work, and that it was foolish to attempt to compete in any way with the graduate programs at institutions like Harvard and MIT, with far superior resources.

The decision to start a planned reduction in graduate programs had been made by 1972, and the increasingly depressed state of the job market, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, hastened as well as confirmed the decision to retrench on a selective basis. Graduate enrollments at Tufts as well as elsewhere declined sharply after 1973, and the scholarship budget was reduced by more than $ioo,ooo by 1975-76. The graduate school, which had always been a deficit operation, was in even more serious financial difficulty.

A systematic and thorough evaluation of the entire graduate program at Tufts was begun in 1974 on a department-by-department basis. Outside consultants were called in to survey the situation and to offer advice to each of the sixteen departments which had PhD programs. A nine-member local committee worked with the consultants.

The result was the decision to phase out doctoral programs in four departments simultaneously - history, political science, Romance languages, and sociology - effective in September 1977. It was a blow to many faculty who had worked long and hard to build up and maintain respectable programs with slender resources. By an interesting irony, the Department of History had, during the very year their PhD program was brought to an end, reached a strength of fourteen full-time faculty, the minimum number recommended for offering a doctoral program in that field. But there was also a sense of relief, especially among senior faculty who had come to Tufts when it was basically an undergraduate teaching institution. Abandonment of what they considered to be an unrealistically ambitious graduate program which the institution was not really equipped to carry on, meant, to many, an opportunity to return to the historic mission of offering an excellent undergraduate education. The decision to reduce graduate programs met with the enthusiastic approbation of those undergraduates who felt that their tuition was supporting a division of the university in which they had little or no part.

The retrenchment in graduate work did not mean, however, an end to all such instruction. Not only did most departments which had master's programs continue to offer them, but many new graduate programs at that level were introduced after 1976. Among them were occupational therapy (1977), classical archeology (1978), and


nutrition (1978). A doctoral program in nutrition was authorized in 1979, and programs in child study and engineering design in 1981.

Fourteen doctoral programs were in operation in 1985. An ad hoc Committee on the Future of Graduate Studies was appointed in the summer of 1978. Although no action was taken at the time on the six recommendations which resulted from the study, many were still under consideration in the 1980s. One was to divide programs into "traditional" (academic) and "professional," the latter to be administered by the appropriate schools rather than by the graduate school faculty, with degrees awarded by the schools. This was the case with both the Graduate School of Nutrition established in 1980 and the proposed health sciences division of the graduate school which became the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences, with semi-independent status comparable to that of the Fletcher School. In sum, the Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which had evolved in a somewhat haphazard and secondary fashion over the years, was facing a period of major transition and even of transformation as Tufts entered the 1980s.

  • 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