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

Miller, Russell


During his seventeen-year tenure, President Cousens had to face a multitude of administrative and personnel problems that arose out of both routine and unusual conditions. Dean Wren urged in 1933 that a Department of Personnel and Vocational Guidance be established. He recommended that a psychologist be employed to assist students with personal problems such as orientation to college life, methods of study, principles of mental hygiene, and choice of vocation. The president, however, backed away from such a suggestion, admitting that he was "a skeptic with regard to much that is being done in the name of personnel work and guidance." He would not object to "an investigation of the subject," but that was as far as he would go. The College did introduce a freshman counseling system in 1936-37 by which each first-year student was assigned to a member of the faculty, who was to assist in solving academic and personal problems. The program was so well received that it became a permanent service offered by the institution.[46]  For several years following the First World War a faculty Committee on Student Employment operated an office primarily to assist undergraduates in obtaining part-time positions. In order to render a similar service for alumni, the Trustees in 1936 approved the creation of a Placement Service "on an experimental basis" for a six-month period, selecting Lester W. Collins, of the Class of 1901, as director. The experiment was so successful that the Placement Office was continued; it performed a valuable service in bringing Tufts graduates and prospective employers together. The


possibilities of creating the posts of Dean of Men and Director of Admissions were discussed during Cousens' administration, but his opposition to anything that smacked of bureaucracy was a factor in discouraging any action at that time.

The decision to close the pre-medical and pre-dental schools in Boston at the end of 1928 naturally brought important personnel problems, but none proved insurmountable. The matter of how to dispose of the twenty-man faculty of the two preparatory schools raised some questions. All but one of the faculty were on annual appointment, and within a year most had been settled in new positions, largely through the efforts of Dean Wren, who had been responsible for the administration of the two programs. A few were assigned to the Hill schools and some to the medical and dental schools, but the majority, who did not hold advanced degrees, resumed graduate study at various institutions. Dean Wren recognized the wisdom of discontinuing the schools but hastened to point out that due credit had not always been given for the good work done by the staff of the pre-professional programs.[47]  The building used for so many years on Mechanic Street in Boston was vacated in the summer of 1928, and the remnants of the pre-professional program were transferred to the so-called Anatomical Building of the medical-dental school.

The most difficult problem arising from the liquidation of the two pre-professional programs was the adjustment of the relationship between the school of liberal arts and the professional schools. This was a particularly vital matter because in 1927 over one-third of the students in the former were enrolled in the combined course, which, after three years on the Hill and four in the medical school, led to the simultaneous award of the B.S. and the M.D.[1]  Cousens resolved the problem, at least in his own mind, by


affirming that these two major divisions of the College should be kept separate. Those undergraduates interested in medicine should be restricted in proportion to the total student body. He had already become concerned that in much of the public mind the Hill components of the College were merely adjuncts of the medical and dental schools. He feared that the school of liberal arts would lose its "essential characteristics" and would become "too much like a vocational school." Nevertheless, he was willing to raise to a maximum of 500 the ceiling on liberal arts enrollment in order to absorb at least part of the student population hitherto enrolled in the pre-medical program. One of the consequences was the perpetuation of the tradition that the College offered a separate and formal pre- medical curriculum.[49] 

A personnel problem that troubled President Cousens greatly and reached considerably beyond the confines of the Tufts campus in 1935-36 was precipitated by a state law requiring a special "loyalty oath" for those teaching in the schools of Massachusetts. It provoked much controversy and resulted in the resignation of two members of the faculty who protested against what they considered to be a violation of the broad principles of academic freedom. Professor Alfred Church Lane, long-time head of the Department of Geology and a prolific scholar of more than local reputation, and Professor Earle Micajah Winslow, chairman of the Department of Economics since 1929, resigned their positions rather than "submit to obligations which in their opinion were subversive to the dignity and freedom of the teaching profession." [50] 



The law that provoked all the excitement was approved on June 26, 1935. It required all teachers in the state to swear or affirm that they would "support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts" and would faithfully discharge the duties of their positions according to the best of their ability.[51]  The legislation contained the reassuring statement that it would in no way interfere "with the basic principle of the constitution which assures every citizen freedom of thought and speech and the right to advocate changes and improvements in both the state and federal constitutions."

Tufts faculty members were administered the "oath of allegiance" in the fall of 1935 by an officer of the College, in compliance with the new law, but they did not let it pass without comment. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, after expressing for the record their regret that the law, which they considered "both unwise and unnecessary," had forced the resignation of two men, proceeded to adopt a resolution protesting its enactment and urging its repeal. The faculty argued that "patriotism cannot be fostered by compulsory legislation of this type," that the law had "failed to reveal a single teacher of subversive doctrines," and that it was "mistaken in principle and already deplorable in its results." The protests of the Tufts faculty, of President Cousens, and of the heads of most institutions of higher learning in the state were unavailing. The law stayed on the statute books.[52] 


[46] A double standard at first prevailed in assigning students. No men students were to be assigned to faculty women, but women as well as men could be assigned to male faculty members.

[47] A check of the records of the medical school indicated that all of the holders of the M.D. who had received their degrees summa cum laude during the period of the two-year pre-medical school's existence had come from its student body and that 80 per cent of all other honors awarded at Commencement to graduates of the medical school were received by those who had been enrolled in the pre-medical course.

[1] The seven-year combined degree program, which had been in effect before the First World War, was reactivated in the mid-1920's but withdrawn in 1929 because relations between the medical school and the school of liberal arts were not sufficiently close to make the arrangement practical.

[49] Although technically the separate pre-medical course such as existed before 1930 no longer existed, in actuality there was a distinctive curriculum for those planning to enter medical school. During Cousens' administration a separate section in chemistry for pre-medical students was listed in the catalogue, and after 1937 there was provision for "majors in chemistry (pre-medical) and biology (pre-medical)." A new major, "Biology-Chemistry," was created in 1939. A "pre-medical curriculum" was also listed in the catalogue, beginning in 1940.

[50] The Trustees, who accepted with regret the two resignations in the middle of the 1935-36 academic year, expressed their appreciation for valuable services rendered by voting each man a bonus equivalent to his salary for the remainder of the year. Professor Lane immediately made the College a gift of part of his bonus, to be distributed among the remaining members of the Geology Department who were called upon to do extra work because of his retirement from the department.

[51] Acts and Resolves, General Court of Massachusetts, 1935, Chapter 370. The oath, to be signed in duplicate, was made effective in October; all teachers already in service had sixty days to comply with the new law.

[52] A Committee for Peace and Freedom and a student-organized Association for the Repeal of the Teachers Oath Bill were active in tumultuous hearings on a bill to repeal the law in the spring of 1936. The committee compiled a scrapbook of relevant material which is located in the Tufts Archives.

  • 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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