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

Miller, Russell


The story of the evolution of policies relating to the rank, salary, and tenure of individual faculty members resembled that of


faculty organization in many respects. Over the years, as the College grew in size and scope of operations and the faculty increased correspondingly, appropriate decisions governing personnel matters were made, largely in piecemeal fashion. It is difficult to trace many of them because they were considered so much a part of academic tradition that they were taken for granted and were sometimes not even put down on paper. Until 1958, when a study of faculty personnel was included in the Tufts-Carnegie Self-Study and when a Faculty Manual was prepared by the dean of the college of liberal arts, there was no single place in which a reasonably complete statement of either policies or procedures could be found. Even in the 1960's questions of interpretation were being raised.[47] 

The formal assignment of faculty rank at Tufts followed in general the practices of other academic institutions. The original faculty of 1854 (all professors) was augmented in 1856 by a "teacher" who in 1858-59 became an instructor, and the position of tutor was introduced in 1861-62 to provide instruction under the Walker endowment for mathematics. Four years later, the first Lecturer was appointed (in the field of history). For almost half a century, the two ranks of instructor and professor were the only ones used for full-time faculty members. Toward the end of the nineteenth century the rank of assistant professor began to appear. Associate professors were not customarily appointed in the Hill schools until 1939-40, when six faculty members were promoted to that rank. The latter rank was used quite extensively before the First World War in the medical and dental schools. It first appeared in 1898, when Dr. Martin Prince was elected Associate Professor of Nervous Diseases (without salary). In 1905-6 two members of the medical school faculty were promoted from assistant to associate professors. The first instance of Hill use was in 1911, when Arthur Irving Andrews was elected Associate Professor of History.[48]  As late as the administration of President Cousens (1920-37), the rank was still largely unused on the Hill, although


the medical and dental faculties continued to employ associate professors.[49]  It was President Leonard Carmichael, Cousens' successor in 1938, who made the associate professorship a meaningful rank at Tufts.

Rules governing appointment, promotion, salary, tenure, and retirement of faculty members were not very explicit in the early days of the College, and within some of these areas a conspicuous lack of uniformity prevailed. Professor Benjamin Graves Brown became a full professor in the Mathematics Department at the age of twenty-seven and Professor Schneider was still teaching Greek at the age of eighty. For many decades there was no particular channel by which promotions were recommended, although they usually came by way of the president. Several faculty members presented their own cases directly to the Trustees, and more often than not they received what they requested. Professor William Ransom of the Mathematics Department followed this route in 1908 and received not only the promotion from assistant professor to full professor which he requested but a salary increase of $200 into the bargain. However, there were certain items of academic procedure established and maintained with little or no change over the years. It was customary for the Executive Committee of the Trustees to appoint all assistants, proctors, and minor administrative officials. Full-time instructors were appointed by the Trustees on recommendation of the Executive Committee, and those of professorial rank were elected by the Trustees by formal ballot after prior nomination.

The Trustee by-laws of 1881 provided that full professorships "in all departments of the College . . . shall be held without express limitation of time." Until the Walker Professorship of


Mathematics was created, the Walker Special Instructorship in Mathematics was a three-year appointment. All others with the rank of instructor or lecturer were for one year.

The phrase "without express limitation of time," as used in 1881, in no sense gave a professor tenure. When those sections of the Trustee by-laws that dealt with faculty personnel were amplified in 1884, it was provided that the Trustees might "at any time without previous notice remove from his office any professor or other person employed in any educational department of the College, for such cause as they may deem sufficient, and they may terminate his office at such time as they may determine, provided that it shall not be less than three months from the time when they shall give him notice of such intended termination."[50]  There seems not to have been any wholesale perturbation among the faculty about these provisions, but President Capen started using the term "permanent appointments" in 1894 in his official (and public) communications to clarify the status of those members of the faculty considered to have tenure.[51] 

No written rules governed leaves of absence until 1884. Professor John P. Marshall was the first regular faculty member to receive a leave of absence (in 1871-72), and the conditions under which it was granted remained in effect until well into the next century. There was no indication that leaves of absence were intended to encourage scholarly or professional activity. "Pleasure, travel, or partial illness" were the expected reasons for taking a leave of absence, and the applicant was required to make proper provision for his classes "without expense to the College." Every edition of the Trustee by-laws published through 1923 stipulated that a substitute teacher was "to be paid by the absentee." Occasionally an exception was made to the rules. Professor W. R. Shipman, after thirty-five years of uninterrupted service at the College, was granted a one-year leave of absence in 1899-1900. He was prepared to have one course not provided for deducted from his salary, but the Executive Committee, in view of his "long and devoted


service," voted to give him full pay. Only two or three instances of leaves of absence granted before the First World War were intended to serve purely academic purposes. Professor David L. Maulsby, of the English Department, was granted leave in 1900 to complete his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He had started it at Harvard five years before but had been unable to finish because of a heavy teaching schedule. After 1900 the president or head of department rather than the leave-taker assumed responsibility for finding temporary replacements. Leaves of absence for personnel on annual appointments were not permitted. Professor Dolbear was the first faculty member granted a year's leave (1905-6) with full pay and without the obligation to employ a substitute.[52]  Provision for what was to become a "sabbatical leave" in terms of intent and eligibility (although not in designation) was first made in 1908.[53] 

That precious commodity, academic freedom, held dear by all teachers, was in copious supply throughout the history of Tufts. The institution had an enviable record in this respect from the day it was chartered. Faculty have come and gone for a variety of reasons, and in the mid-1930's two men resigned in protest over the loyalty oath first required in 1935 of all teachers in Massachusetts, but no cases involving the issue of infringement of academic freedom at the College were ever recorded. Even when McCarthyism swirled over the nation in the 1950's, the teachers at Tufts were considered sufficiently competent, loyal, and responsible to be left to their own devices in the classroom and on the campus. There is no doubt that President Ballou and his Universalist contemporaries would have thoroughly approved this adherence to the principle of academic freedom, for they steadfastly insisted on the unrestricted pursuit and dissemination of truth.



When the Trustees revised a portion of their by-laws in 1884, one amendment would have provided that "the course of study in the different departments of the College shall be subject to the control of the Trustees; and no essential change shall be made in the same by any Faculty without first obtaining the approval of the Trustees thereto." The proposal was decisively voted down, and no attempt was ever made to revive it. Less than a decade later, the faculty erected walls around their right to preside over the academic destinies of students which have never been seriously broached by colleagues, administrators, or Trustees.

Each individual instructor shall determine in his own subjectsthe value of the work done by each student. He shall determine theeffect of absences upon the students' work, and shall have power,after a warning which has been previously referred to the Faculty,to exclude from his classes a student whose work is unsatisfactory,either because of its quality or because of the number of absences.

Faculty disciplinary control over students, provided in the Trustee by-laws of 1881, was extended in 1908 to cover the whole area of admissions. It was not until after the First World War that the Trustees took a hand, and the purpose then was to set ceilings on enrollment for practical reasons rather than to dictate the criteria by which students were to be measured.

It was almost three-quarters of a century before any faculty members who had considerable service at the College and held professorial rank were forced by the Trustees to resign. The first such case occurred in 1911-12, and dismissal was preceded by censure and a warning. The faculty member in question was found "by his officious manner and by presuming without authority to represent the College before the public" to have "rendered himself obnoxious to many of the Trustees and friends of the College." No hearing was held, but the professor was warned by the president (at the request of the Trustees) that he was expected to guard his conduct and utterances in the future so as to make formal action unnecessary. The faculty member apparently did not heed the admonition, for the Trustees requested (and received) his resignation.

The second case had more than local ramifications. It involved a member of the faculty who was caught up in the toils of the Enemy Alien legislation of the First World War. Karl Schmidt, a


German by birth, served on the Tufts faculty from 1912 through 1918 and established an international reputation as a psychologist and pioneer in mental testing, which was first used on a large scale during that period. He was highly respected by the Tufts community, but his very prominence brought about his dismissal. As a professional psychologist he was asked to fill out a questionnaire for the Psychology Committee of the National Research Council, which was inventorying specialized manpower. He had to disqualify himself for government service because he was an enemy alien; to make matters worse, one of his statements was taken out of context in such a way that he appeared to refuse to aid the United States in time of war.[54]  The Trustees felt that they had no alternative but to dismiss him. Trustee A. W. Peirce regretfully recognized the dilemma into which the College had been thrust. "I should be sorry to have Prof. Schmidt go, for I believe him to be a very valuable man. I realize the situation and am only anxious that we should manifest and keep absolutely plain our fairness and freedom from prejudice in this matter." If Professor Schmidt had not been dismissed when he was, pressure from other quarters would probably have brought about the same result. Less than a month after the Trustees had acted, President Bumpus received a copy of a letter sent to the United States Marshal's office in Boston by the captain in charge of an infantry detachment of nearly 275 men stationed on the Tufts campus. The captain expressed great concern when he discovered that an enemy alien was residing on Professors Row in a house "not over 300 yards from West Hall, the sleeping barracks of the men." The drill grounds were also dangerously close to Professor Schmidt's residence. In short, the captain did "not feel safe in having this man so near my detachment." Although Professor Schmidt was spending the college vacation at his summer home in Tamworth, New Hampshire, when his questionable status was uncovered by the military commander, the captain requested that "this man be removed." An agitated faculty wife lent her support to the necessity of getting the enemy alien off the campus by contacting the officer in charge of the Tufts College Training Detachment. The College had already fulfilled its duty and dismissed


Professor Schmidt, but he was invited to return after the crisis was over, and served as a Lecturer in the Crane Theological School for two years (1924-26).[55] 

Faculty salaries at Tufts for most of its history followed patterns that did not deviate markedly from those prevailing in comparable institutions. They were usually considered too low by both the recipients and the majority of the officers of the institution who were responsible for providing them. Salaries almost invariably lagged behind upward swings in the cost of living, and by the time adjustments were made, another round of increases was called for, although not necessarily obtained. Both Presidents Capen and Hamilton were sympathetically aware of the problem. The latter president was the least able to do anything about salaries because of the grave financial crisis that came in the middle of his administration for which he, individually, was not to blame. Until a chapter of the American Association of University Professors was established at Tufts in 1917, the faculty had no outside body to promote their economic betterment, and even then the principal function of the AAUP was to serve only in an educative and prodding capacity by calling attention to the low economic status of the profession. Tufts lost a scattering of its faculty in the nineteenth century because of salary considerations, but the bulk of the regular members stuck by the institution in its periods of financial travail with a loyalty and devotion that frequently brought tributes from both administrative officers and Trustees.

The aggregate salaries of the four original professors (including President Ballou, who carried a full teaching load) was $2,800. This total figure was not significantly increased until the inflation accompanying the Civil War made an upward readjustment imperative. In mid-1864 the faculty received an individual across-the-board increase to $1,400. This step was taken, as the Executive Committee explained to the rest of the Trustees, "in view of the enhanced cost of the necessaries of life." The five full-time faculty with professorial rank were receiving the rather substantial stipend of $2,500 apiece by 1870.[56]  The downswing in the national business


cycle in the 1870's was soon reflected in faculty salaries. Professors were given a 20 per cent reduction to $2,000 in 1877 as a "temporary" emergency measure. Thirty-three years later, that figure was still the maximum salary.[57]  It was no wonder that time after time the faculty petitioned for increases. President Capen presented such a request on behalf of the faculty in 1882. The gloomy reply of the Executive Committee was all too often repeated in the next decades.

While your Committee recognize the justice of the request ...and appreciate the sacrifices which the underpaid instructors havemade and are making for the College, they do not see how in thepresent condition of the College finances such an increase can bejustified. The alarming annual deficit seems to call for a reduction rather than an increase of expenses. They therefore recommend no changes, trusting that another year may find the Collegein better financial condition.

President Hamilton told the Trustees in no uncertain terms in 1910 that the problem of faculty salaries had reached a critical stage. The College's ability to replace staff or to fill new positions was made possible only because the faculty had private resources or were allowed time to do considerable outside work to supplement their incomes. "The time is past when we can expect to get the full service of men fit to be professors in Tufts College for the salaries now paid." He made salaries the subject of a special report to the Trustees in the spring of 1910 and told them that restiveness among the faculty was increasing and would not be quieted without substantial salary readjustments. He was even more urgent six months later in a second special report, proposing that the Trustees adopt and distribute to the faculty a resolution to the effect that it was "the intention and expectation of the Trustees . . . to establish in the fall of 1911 the rule that the salary of a Professor in the School of Liberal Arts or the Engineering School, who has been holding the rank of full Professor and a salary of two thousand dollars for five years, shall be established at twenty-five hundred dollars, and that the salary of an Assistant Professor in these schools shall be established at sixteen hundred dollars." But the best the


Trustees could do was to express "the intention and expectation . . . to increase the salaries of professors and assistant professors . . . at the earliest possible moment that the funds of the College will allow."

Because nothing had been accomplished by 1916, twenty-two of the senior members of the faculty requested immediate action. They reminded the Trustees of several unhappy circumstances, all of which added up to the fact that the majority of the faculty were unable to live decently on their salaries. Tufts had "the unenviable distinction of paying smaller salaries than it did a generation ago," while salaries in other New England colleges had increased. The minimum salary of a full professor at Brown was 50 per cent greater than the maximum of his counterpart at Tufts. The answer of the Trustees was to vote a $100 Christmas bonus to each professor in the Hill departments who was not then receiving over $2,000, and to appoint a committee to study the problem. Nothing immediately came out of this, for still another committee was charged with the larger and all-too-familiar task of increasing the funds of the entire institution. Its efforts were, in turn, submerged by the involvement of the College in a nation at war. Some upward adjustments were made in the decade bridging the First World War, including the establishment of a $3,000 minimum for full professors, but the problem of adequate salaries for all ranks and the development of a coherent and long-range salary policy remained items of unfinished business for many decades to come.

One policy established immediately after the College opened that gave some of the faculty a measure of security and convenience if not increased take-home pay centered around the use of College property for faculty benefit. Professors Marshall and Tweed bought lots from the College in 1858 on what became Professors Row. Before many years had gone by, over a dozen such transactions were arranged and houses were constructed, often with mortgages held by the College. Fraternities such as Delta Upsilon made similar arrangements. Many variations developed in the agreements made between the faculty and the College that worked to mutual advantage. Professor Tweed was offered his lot in 1855 as partial compensation for his services; the provisions of his deed established a precedent which has been followed ever since, with only a few


exceptions. If the land had been bought from the College, the institution was to have first option on the purchase of it (and any improvements thereon such as buildings) if and when it came on the market.[58] 

Some of the faculty sold their equities in their homes to the Trustees and paid rent. Still others received use of their homes in lieu of a portion of their salaries.[59] 

One benefit eventually acquired by faculty members on the Hill who had children was free tuition at Tufts for their offspring. President Capen received the first inquiries as to this possibility in 1876. One local argument in favor of such a practice was "the remoteness of the Professors' houses from the schools of the neighborhood," which put the faculty "at a disadvantage with respect to educational facilities." [60]  He investigated the customs of other New England colleges and found no commonly accepted practice. About half of them gave free tuition to faculty sons or dependent wards. The Executive Committee discussed the matter but took no action. Twenty years elapsed before the subject was considered again. The Trustees received a petition from twenty faculty members in 1896 suggesting that as long as the reduction of faculty salaries in 1877 was still in effect, perhaps the Trustees could alleviate the financial problems of some families by permitting faculty children to attend Tufts without payment of tuition. This faculty effort attracted sufficient attention to result in a statement of policy by the Trustees four years later. The Executive Committee agreed to remit tuition


because "the presence of the children of the Faculty in the College is distinctly advantageous, . . . their education does not appreciably increase the expense of carrying on the College . . . [and] the salaries paid by the College are necessarily small." The tuition already paid by the five faculty children then enrolled was refunded or translated into scholarships. This policy adopted in 1900 became a permanent one and was later extended and adapted for Tufts faculty children attending other institutions.

Until 1905 the Tufts faculty retiring from their teaching careers shared with the majority of their academic colleagues all over the United States an uncertain and sometimes bleak financial future. Very few colleges or universities provided pensions or retirement benefits of any kind, and poverty (genteel or otherwise) and even destitution lay in store for many teachers who had been put out to pasture. It was not until college administrators interested Andrew Carnegie in the plight of the economically insecure retired college teacher that a system of sorts was devised under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.[61]  Brief and passing consideration had been given to the problem of the retired professor at Tufts only once prior to 1905. Edwin Ginn, of the Class of 1862 and head of the flourishing textbook publishing firm bearing his name, had been approached on this matter by Trustee A. A. Miner in 1894. After "thinking the matter all over, about establishing a fund for the benefit of retiring professors at Tufts," Ginn agreed to contribute $500 toward it, providing the amount raised reached $10,000.[62]  The total sum was completely outside the financial capabilities of the College and nothing came of the idea. The so-called "Carnegie Plan," made public in 1905, appeared to be the answer.

The Carnegie Foundation had to determine what institutions were eligible for its free pensions, for there were two restrictions of considerable importance written into the rules of the Foundation. Faculties of institutions that were either state-supported or


sectarian in character were excluded.[63]  There was no problem about Tufts' eligibility on the first count, but there was a delay in adding Tufts to the approved list because of the doubt about its relationship to the Universalist denomination. The existence of the divinity school was also a complicating factor.

The Tufts Trustees promptly sent a communication to the Foundation in 1905 "informing them as to the unsectarian character of Tufts College, and asking to have its Instructors regarded as eligible for aid in the distribution of the income of said fund." But this did not suffice. The first reaction of the Carnegie Foundation was that Tufts faculty could not be eligible because the College conducted a theological school under the auspices of a religious denomination. Furthermore, the Trustees had failed to comply with the requirement that a resolution be formally adopted and certified to the Foundation. The Foundation asked for clarification the next year, and the Tufts Trustees adopted and transmitted a statement of policy regarding religious teaching at the College. The statement that was prepared merely reaffirmed, reemphasized and made more explicit what had already been provided in the College charter. The resolution reassured the Carnegie Foundation that

no denominational test is (or shall be) imposed in the choice ofTrustees, officers or teachers or in admission of students, nor aredistinctly denominational tenets or doctrines taught to the students in Tufts College; except that the Divinity School, having itsseparate Dean and Faculty and separate endowments, is primarilydesigned for the education of candidates for the ministry of theUniversalist Church, although students are not required either onadmission or at any other time to make profession of the particularbeliefs of that denomination, and teachers in this School as well asin the College of Letters, Engineering School, Medical School andDental School are appointed under the provisions of the Charter.

The resolution repeated the charter prohibition of a religious test of any kind for teacher or student.

The Carnegie Foundation ruled that the faculty of the theological school were not eligible for pensions but that the rest of the


College could be recognized as non-sectarian. Tufts thus became one of the 105 institutions in the United States and Canada that were eligible for participation. Faculty at eligible institutions could receive Carnegie benefits upon retirement if they had accumulated twenty-five years' service, or fifteen years' service and had reached the age of sixty-five. The pension was computed on the basis of a percentage of the professor's salary during his last five years of active service, with a sliding scale to benefit those with unusually low salaries. Allowances were also made to widows. The pensions were customarily paid through the institution, which had to file a certificate of eligibility for each faculty member. Professor Schneider was the first recipient at Tufts, with $540 annually from the Foundation. The retirement allowances under the Carnegie system were usually so small that some colleges (including Tufts) occasionally added a supplemental grant. With the $260 contributed by the College, Schneider was made Professor of Greek Emeritus with the munificent retirement stipend of $800 a year (raised by the College to $1,000 a year in 1908).64

No more institutions were admitted to the "Carnegie List" after 1913, and no individuals who started teaching after 1915 were eligible for pensions. The philosophy of the free pension system gave way to the contributory idea out of which emerged the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association in 1919. It was many years, however, before Tufts became a participant in the annuity plan of the TIAA. In the interval it made retirement contributions to faculty or their widows on a strictly individual basis. The faculty member of the 1960's, surrounded as he was by a vast array of fringe benefits unheard of (or unthinkable) before the Second World War, would not be likely to have envied his colleagues of earlier generations to any great degree.64 Other early recipients of Carnegie pensions were Dolbear, Shipman, and Charles D. Bray; their pensions from the Foundation averaged over $1,200. In 1913, eleven alumni and friends of the College quietly banded together and pledged sufficient money over a five-year period to increase Professor Fay's salary so that $315 a year could be added to his Carnegie pension.


[47] Historically, the best sources prior to 1958 were the by-laws of the Trustees, but they were published infrequently, contained relatively little on the subject of the faculty, and in most cases were in skeleton form only. The first edition of the Trustee by-laws was not printed until 1881, after the College was over a quarter of a century old.

[48] He was promoted to full professor the following year.

[49] The question arose in 1921 when Dr. J. L. Conel, of the Department of Anatomy of New York University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College, was offered a position on the Tufts Medical School faculty. When he received notification of appointment as assistant professor he wired the College, protesting that he had been promised an associate professorship by the head of the Department of Anatomy. President Cousens replied that he was neutral on the matter, having felt that there was "no clear distinction between Assistant and Associate." Therefore, the recommendation of rank was entirely up to the medical school and the question of title was not to influence Professor Conel's decision. When the appointment was confirmed, he was listed as an associate professor.

[50] Written contracts were introduced at the same time. Resignations required sixty days' notice. The Trustees also established the year of faculty employment as September 1 to August 31 in 1884; the faculty were originally paid five times a year, and then quarterly.

[51] Leo R. Lewis and Frank W. Durkee were among those so designated in the published President's Report for 1894-95.

[52] Acting President Hamilton was given the responsibility of arranging for his courses, at a cost not to exceed $250.

[53] Professor Frank B. Sanborn of the Department of Civil Engineering was granted a leave on the grounds that he had "just finished nine years of continuous service to the College." Professor Lane of the Geology Department was the first faculty member to receive a "sabbatical," designated as such. His leave "during 1916-17 with half pay" established the tradition that a faculty member was to receive one-half salary for a year's leave and full salary for a leave of one-half year. Procedures for "sabbatic leave" were first elaborated by the Trustees in 1946 and were restated with minor modifications in 1959.

[54] The full documentation for the Schmidt episode is to be found in the Presidential Correspondence, Tufts Archives.

[55] Professor Schmidt was also a productive scholar while associated with Tufts; eight of his publications in professional journals are in the Tufts Archives.

[56] The two instructors were receiving $1,500 each.

[57] In the same interval, salaries of instructors averaged $1,000 and the maximum for assistant professors (after the rank was introduced in the 1890's) was $1,500, preceded by three annual increments of $100.

[58] This provision in Tweed's deed was invoked when he resigned in 1865. In accordance with the agreement, the appraised value was determined by three men - one selected by the Trustees, one by the seller, and one agreed on by both parties. Tweed's house was purchased for $3,500 and conveyed to Professor Heman A. Dearborn at the same price the following year.

[59] These arrangements, which were made a matter of record by the Trustees in March 1882, existed with such faculty members as Sawyer, Leonard, Tousey, Fay, and Shipman. Still another variation was a provision in many deeds to property near the College but not owned by it, that the Trustees should have the first opportunity to acquire it if it changed hands. All faculty members who lived in College buildings were charged for their heat and light as well as rent beginning in 1892. Effective in 1898, taxes were paid by all tenants occupying houses owned by the College.

[60] Three Tufts families would have benefited from free tuition at this time.

[61] The background of this organization is summarized in Chapter 8. The story of the early years of the Foundation is given in Theron F. Schlabach, Pensions for Professors (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1963).

[62] Ginn also specified that Professor Schneider was to have been the first beneficiary.

[63] Whether or not Carnegie himself intended to exclude state-aided or state-controlled institutions is not germane here; however, this was a great matter of controversy in the early history of the Foundation and is treated fully in Schlabach.

  • 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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