Light on the hill: A history of Tufts College, 1852-1952

Miller, Russell


The professionalization of academic life today, with its specialization and division of labor, concern over academic freedom, tenure, rank status, teaching loads, and productive scholarship, and the hierarchical organization through elaborate faculty


structures, committee systems, and by-laws seem on the surface to bear little resemblance to their nineteenth-century counterparts.

A reading of the "Doings of the Board of Instruction of Tufts College," as the first volume of the faculty records was called, generates an initial reaction of amusement tempered with a fleeting twinge of nostalgia for the "good old days." Academic life in the past seemed to be uncomplicated, with the goals of higher education explicit and unquestioned, unafflicted with the pluralism, multiplicity, even confusion, of the twentieth century. The rigidity of departmentalization had not yet almost completely fragmented the unity of knowledge. The original faculty of four was notified by the Executive Committee of the Trustees on the eve of the formal opening of the College in the late summer of 1855 that they were expected to "distribute among them the necessary branches of instruction." The early faculty represented in the educational realm something approaching Eli Whitney's concept of interchangeability of parts in the industrial realm. After three years' experimentation, the faculty determined that Professor Marshall, who ostensibly taught natural science, should devote more time to junior and senior classes, so Professor Schneider, who was teaching only French and German, was assigned also the work in Latin and Greek in order that Professor Keen, who had previously taught these subjects, could take over the mathematics taught by Professor Marshall.

Student attendance was carefully supervised, and complete records were kept by the early faculty, who applied the same unyielding standards to their own deliberations. Even with such a small group, tardiness and absenteeism at faculty meetings became a problem. Professor Schneider, who at first commuted from Boston, was a chronic offender. The faculty thereupon imposed on itself a severe set of rules in 1858. "If any member of the faculty be tardy, he shall pay a fine of 25 cents, - if absent, 50 cents." [32]  Obtaining a quorum was frequently impossible, but as long as the faculty met


either once or twice weekly, as it did for several years, the wheels of the institution never ground completely to a halt because of the failure of the faculty to do business.

The faculty for many decades performed all of the routine work of the College without benefit of secretarial or clerical assistance. One member served as recorder for faculty meetings, another as "statistical secretary and superintendent of rooms," while still another made out student term bills. The secretary of the faculty received and acted on all student petitions until 1875, when other than routine cases required action by the whole body. The duties of the secretary became so time-consuming by 1878 that additional compensation was voted by the Trustees. Inasmuch as the teaching load ranged from seventeen to twenty-three hours a week until long after 1900, the faculty found their day a full one.[33] 

No faculty rules were adopted until 1882, at which time the total teaching force was designated as the "General Faculty" in accordance with Trustee by-laws adopted the previous year. The school of letters and the divinity school comprised this ancestor of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.[34]  At the first of its three regular meetings each year the General Faculty was to choose a secretary and determine the academic calendar. At spring meetings preceding those of the Trustees, the faculty was to recommend candidates for honorary as well as earned degrees "on the usual conditions." [35]  The letters faculty created its first standing committee in 1885; its task was "to consider cases of men doing unsatisfactory work" and it was


to report periodically to the faculty.[36]  This committee, known until 1892 as the "Committee on the Standing of Students," was redesignated as the "Committee on Promotions and Recommendations for Degrees." In the same year, a Committee on Programme was also established. The faculty, on petition by the students, created in 1891 an Athletic Association composed in part of members of the faculty and the alumni. Out of this grew an Advisory Committee (or Board) on Athletics with joint faculty-alumni representation. The secretary of the faculty at this point had so much to do that he was authorized to employ an assistant (at $100 per year) and acquire a typewriter.

Expanded enrollment in almost all departments, the broadening of curricula, additions to the physical plant, continued flourishing of the medical school, and the addition of the dental school in 1899 had all increased the administrative activities of the College and had made necessary the creation of new positions and the provision of new services for faculty and students. In 1894 the faculty created a standing Committee on Books and Supplies and began the practice of appointing a student to manage the supplying of textbooks and other school needs. This one-man business, operating out of a dormitory room, was replaced by an outside concession when the Commons Building (Curtis Hall) was opened. In 1896 the man operating the Post Office in the Commons Building was given the privilege of selling books and stationery in return for a rental paid for his quarters in the building. Almost simultaneously, in the fall of 1894, the office of registrar was created, with Professor Dearborn as the first incumbent, and a year later William A. Start became the first bursar. A "Tufts College Bed" was provided by the Trustees beginning in 1896 in the Somerville Hospital for students requiring sustained medical attention. Student spiritual needs were served in organized fashion in 1905, when Edwin Courtlandt Bolles, Professor of English and American History, was made the first chaplain of the College.[37] 

In l900, for the first time the college of letters had a separate dean.[38]  William R. Shipman, for many years librarian as well as Professor of Rhetoric and Logic, was a logical choice to fill this position. The effects of the appointment were to secure a more efficient organization of the faculty, to relieve the president of many details hitherto devolving upon him, and to centralize the individual reports made annually by the instructional staff.

Standing committees in the college of letters had increased to nine by 1896. In addition to those already mentioned were committees on Catalogue, Glee Club, Freshman Plans of Study, and the Department of Engineering.[39]  Until 1896, when a separate Committee on Admissions was established, undergraduate admissions both by certificate and by examination were supervised by the Committee on Promotions. The first standing Committee on the Library was created in 1898 on the recommendation of the Trustees. Many years' experience with a similar Trustee committee had made it evident that the faculty were in a better position to select books than the Trustees. Numerous complaints had also been registered about the slowness of acquiring library materials and the perpetual mystery surrounding the amount of money available for library purchases.[40]  A Committee on the Use of College Buildings was created in 1900, also at the request of the Trustees, and a Committee on Information (first referred to as an "Intelligence Committee") was established the same year with the rather nebulous assignment of acting "as mediating board between graduating students, graduates, and schools and other positions."

The faculty had grown sufficiently in size and its activities had become so varied that a proposal was made (but not acted on) that a Faculty Senate, Administrative Board, or Executive Board be constituted. The faculty committee appointed to consider this possibility had gotten no further than writing a Preamble by 1902 because they could not agree on whether such a body should be


created at all. It was clear that a complete reorganization of the faculty structure had become advisable. Standing committees had proliferated to fifteen, and the number and functions of special committees had become unwieldy and overlapping. Standing committees by 1902 included one on Examinations; one on Curriculum; and one on Excuses (student) which had to have a subcommittee on Chapel Attendance. By 1902 there were forty-two full-time faculty members on the Hill, and the divinity school, engineering, and graduate departments had developed their own specialized needs and concerns. A plan for reorganization was submitted to the Trustees in 1902 and was approved (with minor changes) in time to go into effect in the middle of the academic year 1902-3. It took several faculty meetings to become accustomed to the various new channels of communication, but business was being transacted without serious complications when the College opened in the fall of 1903.

The "new plan," as it was called for several years, created a Faculty of Arts and Sciences composed of the members of the faculties of the school of liberal arts (previously called the school or college of letters), the engineering school, the divinity school, and the graduate school, and having jurisdiction over all matters common to more than one constituent school. The appointed dean of the school of liberal arts was to be ex officio dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the elected secretary of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences was to serve ex officio as secretary of the constituent faculties. A brief experiment was tried in 1910 of giving the secretary (who was also a full-time teacher) more than purely clerical duties. On the initiative of Austin B. Fletcher, an aggressively loyal alumnus, the arts and sciences secretary was assigned the additional tasks of serving as general liaison agent between the College and the alumni and supervising publicity. This turned out to be too demanding an assignment for one man. Until supplemented (and eventually superseded) by a Department of Publicity organized in 1920, student newspaper correspondents handled most of the publicity and the Alumni Association maintained official contact between the College and its graduates. Only those of professorial rank were entitled to vote on matters of policy or general administration except in the case of those of lower rank who happened to be the sole representatives of their departments. The following standing


committees were created in 1902-3: Absences and Petitions; Scholarships and Aids; Library; Program; Examinations; Catalogue; Books and Supplies; Student Organizations; and Use of College Buildings. Three faculty representatives were to serve on the Board of Directors of Athletics. Between 1904 and 1906, the following committees were added: Admissions; Student Employment; Commencement Parts (consisting of the president and the four deans); and Common Interests (the ancestor of the Committee on Administration).

The basic structure of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the relationships among constituent faculties underwent very little change after 1903.[41]  The Crane Theological School faculty were temporarily removed from the Arts and Sciences faculty in 1962 at their request and became a separate faculty comparable to those of the medical and dental schools and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.[42]  The Crane faculty thus briefly enjoyed the status they had had when the divinity school was established in 1869. In 1965, however, the Crane faculty rejoined the Faculty of Arts and Sciences because of a new program instituted by the school. Although standing committees of both the Arts and Sciences faculty and the constituent faculties were added or subtracted or renamed after 1903, the by-laws of the general faculty underwent no significant alterations. Dean Wren suggested in his annual report for 1934-35 that it was time the entire organization of the faculties was reviewed. The system adopted in 1902-3, when the entire enrollment on the Hill was 333, was still being used to administer a student body of nearly 1,300. Neither the administration nor the faculty took the hint, however, until 1953. Even then, the new by-laws adopted on June 1, 1954, did little more than incorporate minor changes that had been made in the previous half-century. It was not until 1964 that any of the Associated Faculties made any important changes in their organization. In that year the graduate school faculty rewrote their by-laws to clarify membership and to establish a new committee system.

Like most American colleges in the early and middle nineteenth century, Tufts was primarily a teaching institution when it


was established. The scholarship of the faculty was more likely to be exhibited in the classroom than in published research. The perpetuation and transmission of learning rather than its advancement was emphasized. Tufts' first president, Hosea Ballou 2d, was that rare combination of outstanding teacher and productive scholar, but the bulk of his published investigations, including his sermons, appeared before the multitudinous duties of college administration absorbed most of his energies. A. A. Miner and E. H. Capen excelled as orators, usually on religious and general educational subjects, and their sermons and addresses frequently found their way into print. Very little publication of faculty research took place before 1890, and with the exception of the laboratory sciences, the field was left largely to the alumni, who wrote on a great variety of subjects.[43] 

The first systematic attempt to compile information on both faculty and alumni publications was made by the editors of the Tufts College Graduate, although the Tufts Collegian, an early undergraduate newspaper, had an occasional review. The alumni journal carried reviews of books (and even of articles) and notices of publications received, beginning with its first issue in the spring of 1903. Among the scholarly productions to which attention was called in the early issues was The American Merchant Marine, written by Winthrop L. Marvin of the Class of 1884 and published by Charles Scribner's Sons. Early graduates of the divinity school, including several of its alumni faculty, wrote or edited numerous collections of sermons. Leo R. Lewis, linguist and musical scholar and composer of Tufts' "Alma Mater," began early in his career at the College to publish manuals and handbooks dealing with the


technical aspects of music. The undergraduate Engineering Society for a brief period at the turn of the twentieth century sponsored The Tufts Engineer, which carried contributions by alumni on such subjects as the system of pneumatic tubes used by the Boston Post Office and the work of the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Boards of Greater Boston.[44]  Professors Sanborn and Hooper published books in 1901-2 that were outgrowths of their engineering courses. Frequently the activities of the faculty and alumni reflecting special non-professional interests resulted in significant editorial work or publication in addition to their contributions in scholarly fields. Professor Charles E. Fay, a talented linguist and founder of the Department of Modern Languages, and for a time dean of the Tufts Graduate School, was also an accomplished mountain climber who for many years edited Appalachia and participated in numerous exploring expeditions. The naming of Mount Fay in the Canadian Rockies and Fay's numerous publications relative to mountain-climbing are indicative of his special competency in this challenging area.

When a reasonably complete list of faculty publications began to be published as part of the president's annual report to the Trustees in 1909-10, there were thirty-two faculty members represented by one or more books or articles. The number of faculty on the list was equally divided between the departments on the Hill and the medical and dental schools.[45]  By 1940 the list included the publications of ninety-six faculty members.[46]  The "Faculty Annual," as it was redesignated in 1958, carried for 1962-63 an impressive sixty-nine-page listing of faculty publications and professional activities.


[32] Professor Tweed was the first offender, at the very next meeting, and meekly paid a 25-cent fine. Such fines were collected for less than a year, although a record of faculty "excused" and "unexcused" absences comparable to that for students was kept for two more years, and lack of promptitude in arriving at meetings was faithfully recorded. The penalty of paying fines remains on the records today for it was never rescinded.

[33] The teaching load of the Wade Professor of Modern Languages in 1893 was typical. He taught 101 students three hours a week in seven courses (German, French, and Italian at several levels).

[34] The proceedings of this body were kept in a volume separate from the records of the theological, engineering, and graduate departments between 1882 and 1895. The dean and secretaries of the medical and dental schools were made members of the General Faculty in 1893 and 1899 respectively but seldom attended meetings on the Hill. Most divisional faculties met monthly. After the faculty of the school of letters was unable to transact business at an announced meeting in 1895 because of absenteeism, a quorum of ten was established, with the majority to be full professors.

[35] This phrase was first used in 1873. There was never a requirement that the names of degree candidates had to be recited, although it can be presumed that they were read aloud. Candidates for each of the Bachelor's degrees were acted on en bloc.

[36] After 1894 all standing committees were appointed by the president rather than elected by the faculty. Only one exception to this rule existed as late as the 1960's (the Advisory Committee on Faculty Personnel). Continuity of personnel rather than change characterized standing committee membership until 1953, when rotation became more the rule than the exception.

[37] After Professor Bolles had served in this capacity, it became traditional to appoint the dean of the Crane Theological School as chaplain.

[38] Until that date, the Trustee by-laws (of 1881) provided that "the Senior Professor of the Faculty of the College of Letters, unless otherwise ordered by the Trustees, shall be the Dean of said Faculty." Professor Marshall had served in this capacity until 1899.

[39] The latter committee was abolished in 1898 after an administrative board for the engineering school was authorized by the Trustees.

[40] The faculty were never informed, apparently, but the total income available for the library for the three-year period 1895-97 was $1,173.93.

[41] They were designated "Associated Faculties" after June 1, 1954.

[42] This action was approved by the Executive Committee of the Trustees on April 4, 1962.

[43] Illustrative of the early publications in science were several articles that appeared in the American Journal of Chemistry in 1882-83, summarizing thirteen experiments in organic chemistry worked out in the Tufts laboratory. In the years between 1892 and 1896, after Professor Kingsley had taken charge of the biology laboratory, eighteen scientific papers were published from that department. A convenient summary of the work of some of the leading scientists associated with Tufts from the nineteenth century to the Second World War (e.g., Amos E. Dolbear, Arthur Michael, Arthur Lamb, Norbert Wiener, Vannevar Bush, and Leonard Carmichael) can be found in Nils Y. Wessell, "Tufts Men of Science," Tuftonian, Vol. 3, n.s. (March 1943), pp. 102-106. See also Leonard Carmichael, Tufts College: Its Science & Technology: A Centennial View, 1852-1952 (New York: Newcomen Society of North America, 1952).

[44] Only one volume of the Tufts Engineer was published, comprising several issues between 1901 and 1904. The Tuftonian also published occasional engineering issues.

[45] There were no printed lists of faculty publications between 1917 and 1939, partly because president's reports were no longer printed and generally made public, and partly because of the First World War and a change of presidential administrations.

[46] The numerous publications of the faculty of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, which opened in 1933, were included in this total.

  • Light on the Hill, the history of Tufts College, was published to coincide with the centennial of the institution in 1952. A second volume was published in 1986. This edition was created from the 1966 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume I.
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