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

Miller, Russell


The Tufts Graduate School, never very large in proportion to the undergraduate schools, was even further reduced in size after the First World War. There were only ten students enrolled in 1919-20, of whom half were in the Department of History. Five years later the number was twelve, registered in six departments; only seven were first-year students. The abandonment of the Ph.D. program in 1907 had been one factor, and the failure of the school to be known outside the walls of the College had been another.[67]  A decision was made in the fall of 1921 to grant no more Master's degrees in absentia, and this was expected by some to be a further deterrent. The long-standing privilege open to alumni of obtaining a professional engineering degree (Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, or Chemical Engineer) after four or five years in the field, the presentation of a thesis, and an oral examination was therefore withdrawn.

Professor Fay, then dean of the graduate school, was so


unhappy at this decision, which had been made by a bare majority of the graduate faculty, that he resigned. He was replaced in 1924 by Professor Herbert V. Neal of the Biology Department.68 Fay argued that, aside from depriving qualified alumni in engineering of an opportunity to obtain a professional degree, the residence requirement automatically put an extra burden on the faculty, who supervised graduate work as an additional duty anyway. He believed that if the Master's degree in absentia were not restored, the graduate school would have to be eliminated. His fears proved groundless, for graduate enrollment held its own and in fact increased slightly in the next decade.[69] 

Opinion was unanimous that the presence of the Braker and other graduate fellows, beginning in 1925-26, redounded to the great benefit of both the College and the graduate school.[70]  The great majority of candidates for the Master of Arts degree in the 1930's intended to enter the teaching profession; in fact, such a high proportion became secondary school teachers that candidates were encouraged as a matter of course to take at least one semester's work in educational psychology. To accommodate even further such prospective candidates, including those handicapped by an eighteen-hour limit on education courses for undergraduates, the graduate faculty (with Trustee approval) began to offer the new degree of Master of Education in 1933-34. Thirty semester hours in the Department of Education and allied departments were required, twenty of which had to be earned in residence. Students had to attain a minimum grade of "B" in all courses to meet the degree requirements. Both a thesis and an oral examination were required, the thesis to be part of the thirty-credit requirement. A reading knowledge of one or more modern foreign languages was expected if necessary to develop thesis problems.[71] 68 At the same time, the appointment of members of the graduate school faculty was assumed by the Trustees; this practice lasted through the Cousens administration. The number of graduate faculty in the 1930's averaged twenty- five, including the president and deans; all members had either Ph.D.'s or some degree of professorial rank, or both.



The Trustees helped to counteract the effects of financial depression in the 1930's by allowing recent graduates of the College unable to secure employment to continue their education in the graduate school without payment of tuition, provided they were in residence. Tuition for other graduate students was raised from $250 to $300, effective in 1935-36. The graduate faculty also liberalized its entrance requirements in 1931-32 by admitting candidates of high quality from any institution on the "accepted" list of the Association of American Universities rather than imposing conditions because the applicant's undergraduate courses did not include precisely the subjects required for the first degree at Tufts. It had been customary up to 1933 to admit without conditions only graduates of liberal arts colleges.[72] 

Enrollment in the graduate school remained at a satisfactory level even during the 1930's, but the whole development of the school represented a somewhat artificial situation. It was not so much strong and growing in itself as propped up by special arrangements of various sorts. The Teaching Fellows in the Economics, English, and History Departments added significantly to the numbers in the graduate school, but when these programs were curtailed, the school would have virtually disappeared if the Trustees had not provided free tuition to all unemployed graduates who wished more formal education, and if a high proportion of the registrants had not been secondary school teachers who received tuition readjustments because their schools provided practice teaching facilities for Tufts students. Of the fifty-five students enrolled in the graduate school in 1934-35, only seven paid any tuition, and


nine were special students who were not candidates for a degree.[73]  No extra financial burden was imposed on the College because of this, for the faculty merely absorbed the graduate students as an extra teaching load, without extra compensation. At the same time the graduate faculty, with a view toward raising standards, voted to grant credit only for work done in a graduate school, except by special vote of the faculty, and to allow no academic credit toward a graduate degree for work done by special students. This sharply reduced the number of special students (non-degree candidates), who in effect had been placed in that category because they could not meet the regular entrance requirements.[74] 

Dr. Herbert V. Neal resigned as dean of the graduate school in 1935 and was replaced by Dr. Charles Gott, Fletcher Professor of English Literature and chairman of the Department of English. Dean Gott was as firmly convinced as his predecessor that the standards of the graduate school had to be raised as well as maintained, and was as disturbed as President Cousens about another trend that had become noticeable by 1935-36. A large number of the candidates for the Master of Education degree were teachers in service, many of whom were provisionally admitted and were discovered after further investigation not to be able to meet regular admission requirements. Twenty-five of the forty-five graduate students were enrolled in the Department of Education, and Cousens feared that such numbers from this department would overwhelm the graduate school. The eventual solution, as he saw it, was to establish a separate graduate department for the training of teachers, for in no other way could satisfactory standards be maintained in the regular graduate school. At the same time, such a step would create another


dilemma by decreasing graduate enrollment below a "reasonable minimum." There seemed to be no easy solution at hand.


[67] There was only one recorded instance during Cousens' administration when the re-offering of the Ph.D. was considered. The idea was voted down by the graduate school faculty before it could even be referred to a committee for consideration.

[69] In the fall of 1926 there were nineteen graduate students in residence, registered in five of the fifteen departments which then offered graduate work.

[70] The Braker Fellowship program is discussed in the next chapter.

[71] Admission to the graduate school in any department required "an average of 'C' or better during their whole college course and an average higher than 'C' during the last two years." No applicant could have considered this an unreasonably high expectation in view of the minimum grade requirement of "B" in all courses counted toward any of the three Master's degrees being offered by the mid-1930's. The graduate faculty had voted in 1923 that "no work shall be accepted for the Master's degree for which a grade lower than 'B' has been attained."

[72] Some local exceptions were provided. Beginning in 1920, holders of the S.T.B. from the Crane School could become candidates for the M.A. degree. At the same time, it was provided that holders of the Tufts B.S. degree could be admitted on the same basis as A.B. degree holders. With the introduction of the Master of Education degree, arrangements were made for graduates of the Tufts Engineering School who had not acquired competency in a foreign language to become candidates for the new degree.

[73] Many of these special students were college graduates who had failed to be admitted to medical school and hoped that additional study would enhance their opportunities for eventual admission. Dean Neal was firmly opposed to allowing the graduate school to function as this kind of preparatory agency.

[74] These votes of 1935 and 1936 also brought to an effective end the combined Bachelor's-Master's program that had been adopted in the late nineteenth century, but for which there had been no candidates for several years. Prior to 1934 it had been customary to allow students who had accumulated more credits than were required for the Bachelor's degree to use the extra credits toward the second degree.

  • 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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