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

Miller, Russell


Cousens had his moments of doubt and hesitation - even regret - about the joint administration of the Fletcher School. Just a few days after the first memorandum with Harvard had been signed in 1932, he put his thoughts on paper. By bringing that institution into the project, Tufts had had to give up what might have been the greatest opportunity it would ever have to enhance its reputation single-handedly. In wording reminiscent of Hosea Ballou 2d's opposition in the early 1850's to the locating of Tufts so close to Harvard, Cousens expressed fear that Tufts would be more than ever "over-shadowed by the great institution which is our neighbor." He tried to convince himself that these were "rather emotional objections than intelligent ones" and that without Harvard's help it might have been impossible to have achieved "the fundamental purpose" of the Fletcher bequest at all. He had been tempted, before the negotiations with Harvard had taken place, to tell the Tufts Trustees that the College "had better delay the entire plan until the endowment amounted to at least $2,000,000." Cousens came to the shocked realization that almost every cent of the original bequest of $1,000,000 could easily have been spent for the Fletcher library alone. And there was always the possibility that Harvard would find the relationship with the Fletcher School insufficiently attractive to continue the arrangement. What was then to be done?



The worst seemed to have happened in the late spring of 1934. Cousens received formal notice from Harvard in May of its intention to terminate the agreement of April 1933. Harvard was, however, willing to negotiate a new agreement, effective in 1935-36, to which the Tufts Trustees agreed.[43]  The new arrangement continued the mutual availability of library facilities, reciprocal course privileges, and the understanding that the enrollment would still be limited to fifty.[44]  The heart of the brief memorandum of 1934 was the statement that "the entire control of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy will be administered by Tufts College alone." Behind this barebones wording lay months of discussion, debate, and disagreement, aggravated by conflicts over personalities.

Anxious as President Lowell apparently had been to work out the cooperative arrangement with Tufts that resulted in the opening of the Fletcher School, he had disagreed with Cousens over the deanship. In the draft of the memorandum of April 1933 Cousens had listed Professor Hoskins as acting dean, pursuant to the action already taken by the Tufts Trustees in March, and had intimated that he might very well be considered for the deanship. President Lowell objected. "Grave doubt" had been raised whether Hoskins was "the best man for a permanent dean, and whether it would not be better to make him secretary and leave the position of dean open for the present." Lowell nonetheless accepted Cousens' decision to make Hoskins the acting dean. Unfortunately, the question of the deanship was raised again after Conant became president of Harvard. In February 1934 Kenneth B. Murdock, dean of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Joint Executive Committee, forewarned Cousens that, after informal discussions with Harvard faculty teaching in the Fletcher School, he could not see his way clear to support Hoskins' appointment as dean. The most he could favor would be the


reappointment of Hoskins for one year as acting dean. President Conant not only agreed with Dean Murdock but was given to understand that dissatisfaction and criticism were more far-reaching than Murdock had supposed and would require a careful review of "the whole situation." President Conant immediately appointed a committee to consider the relationship between his institution and the Fletcher School.[45] 

The report, amounting in effect to an indictment of the whole Fletcher School as then organized, included a grim list of particulars which added up to the fact that the relationship was "not one which is advantageous to Harvard University." It was alleged that the courses offered at the school were almost all duplicates of those offered in the various schools and departments at Harvard, and that there seemed "to be little reason for continuing to maintain an institution which does not after all extend the possibilities of instruction available at the present time." The endowment of the Fletcher School was inadequate to secure full-time staff and because almost all the teachers were drawn from Harvard the end product was a serious diversion of their energies. The committee insisted that one unfortunate by-product of depending on part-time staff from outside was a lowering of academic standards. The Fletcher School was too ambitiously organized and was trying to do entirely too much too soon. It would be much wiser, reported the committee, to have the school specialize in some area, possibly in administrative law or international law or organization. Another suggestion was to operate Fletcher only as a summer school. In any case, the committee thought it unwise to try to conduct a school offering both the second and third degrees when it did not by any stretch of the imagination have the resources to do a decent job. The school had "great possibilities," but only if it concentrated on specific and limited objectives and secured a small full-time staff. It might then be possible to offer as much as a Master's degree, but no more. If the Trustees of Tufts College saw fit to establish realistic goals and to furnish adequate support, then the school's potential could count for something. Otherwise, unless the possibilities could be realized, Harvard could not "advantageously afford to continue its formal cooperation." As late as the fall of


1934 Cousens could get no assurance from Conant that he would allow any member of the Harvard staff, except for some in the law school, to teach in Fletcher. The school was at the mercy of Harvard. President Conant did leave the door ajar by intimating that he might allow "some few men" to teach in the school, but on a temporary Visiting Professor or Lecturer basis only.

Dean Hoskins prepared a spirited defense of the school and argued that quite naturally "an enterprise representing in several respects a new departure in graduate instruction and depending for its success on wholehearted cooperation of leading members of two educational institutions, including some having little personal interest in the undertaking, could scarcely hope to escape adverse comment, particularly during the experimental period." Yet it was all too true, as Cousens acknowledged to the Trustees in his annual report for 1934, that the Fletcher School could not exist without Harvard's cooperation, and that the plan he and President Lowell had worked out in 1932-33 implied "an equal partnership" which was actually impossible to maintain.

President Cousens' distress at the Harvard committee report was exceeded only by his astonishment that the four men who compiled it could possibly feel as they apparently did. It was "simply amazing" to Cousens that these men, who had been so influential in bringing the Fletcher School into existence and had apparently been so enthusiastic about its future, should now take the view that it was "an outside institution, to which under some circumstances, Harvard University might be pleased to lend assistance." Cousens conceived the Fletcher School to be "intrinsically a part of Harvard University"; to imply that it was otherwise could mean only a gross misinterpretation of the relationship established in the 1933 memorandum. No person teaching in both Harvard and Fletcher was to receive extra compensation; Fletcher duties were to be considered a normal part of a full academic load. Cousens knew that at least those faculty drawn from the Harvard Law School had so considered their teaching assignments and salaries. It was Harvard's responsibility to work out its own policies regarding faculty compensation. As to criticisms of the objectives, curriculum, and academic standards of the school, Cousens informed the Harvard president that it was the latter's own faculty who had helped to set up goals of the school and outline the three fields in which work


was being given. He could not understand why the committee members had suddenly turned against their own handiwork and had not raised objections earlier.

As to the deanship, Cousens unwaveringly supported Hoskins; it was the president's refusal to compromise on that issue that had precipitated Harvard's announcement in May 1934 of its intention to terminate the 1933 agreement. Cousens justified his stand on several grounds. It would have been "impossible under the circumstances" for the Tufts Trustees to consent to have Hoskins replaced by "some man out of the Harvard Yard." To renew the search for a dean from outside would be "unwise"; two years of effort had already shown the futility of that. Even if someone were found, "it would be a disaster to the school to put in a new man as Acting Dean now." Finally, there was the matter of Hoskins himself. It would, in Cousens' estimation, be unfair both to the acting dean and to the Tufts Department of History to continue him indefinitely without assurance as to his future at the College. Cousens insisted that when Conant knew Hoskins better he would agree that "Dr. Hoskins is precisely the right man in the right place."

Cousens gave the Harvard president very little room to negotiate. The Tufts president suggested that Hoskins continue as acting dean for another year (1934-35), with assurances that his title would be changed to dean as of September 1935. The curriculum and faculty arrangements were to continue for one more year and then be subject to renegotiation. These arrangements were to be accepted with the reservation that "if Harvard University finds them incompatible with her own policies and purposes notice to that effect will be given on March 1, 1935, the cooperative arrangement dissolved as of September 1, 1935, and the Fletcher School continue from that date under the management of the Trustees of Tufts College alone." Cousens urged a prompt decision, for applications were pouring into the school. Word had also spread among the students, and a number of them were "clamoring to know what is to become of them."

The decision was not long delayed. In a conversation on March 7, 1934, Cousens was informed that if Hoskins continued as head of the Fletcher School Harvard would serve notice of intention to withdraw from the 1933 arrangement as of June 1935. In the meantime, Cousens was assured that arrangements for the


school would continue for the academic year 1934-35 under the original agreement. Cousens reiterated his decision to recommend Hoskins' continuance in office and expressed the conviction that the question of the deanship could not possibly be the sole explanation for Harvard's decision. The committee report made him sure "that Harvard University would not be happy to go on with the present Fletcher School arrangements under any leadership unless radical changes in the purpose of the School contrary to the present agreement" were made. President Conant's reply was to let the subject "remain open for discussion." The outcome was the revised agreement which was signed early in the summer of 1934 and which remained the basis of Harvard-Tufts-Fletcher understandings thereafter. After mid-1935, all official publications reflected the changed relationship by carrying the explanation "Administered by Tufts College, with the cooperation of Harvard University." [46] 

There is evidence that many Fletcher School alumni over the years received the impression that one of the greatest difficulties and handicaps besetting the school was the lack of cooperation and support given to Dean Hoskins by the Tufts College authorities. The documentation available indicates that the fault lay in the reverse situation, namely, that Hoskins actually received too much support from the College. Cousens' refusal to compromise on the deanship precipitated the breakdown of the 1933 plan of joint administration, which had been a source of friction in other respects as well. Other voices were heard from the Tufts campus itself that lent support to the need for a reassessment of Harvard-Fletcher relations but did not deal in personalities per se. At the very time that Presidents Conant and Cousens were in almost daily conversation or correspondence, Professors Bartlett and Albert H. Imlah of the Tufts History Department transmitted their views to Cousens.[47]  They too expressed dissatisfaction with the joint administration of the school. It was in no real way integrated into the College even though housed on the same campus. The faculty, with two exceptions, were Harvard men, and their basic allegiance


was to Harvard and not to Fletcher. Some of the faculty seemed to view their work in the school as merely "an educationally unprofitable chore," and the broadcasting of this jaundiced view might be harmful to both the school and Tufts. The fact that only one member of the Tufts faculty was teaching in the school cast "a reflection on the abilities and worthiness of the Tufts faculty which is much too palpable for the good of the College."

It seemed that continued formal cooperation with Harvard could result in nothing but "a continued struggle." Was it worth the effort? Why not rely less on Harvard, bring the school into closer relationship to Tufts, and develop a faculty drawn primarily from the College itself, perhaps in some cases teaching in both Fletcher and the undergraduate divisions? Lessened dependence on Harvard would free the school to develop its own interests, would promote unity and centralized control under one president and one Board of Trustees, and would permit distinctive achievements of the Tufts faculty to redound to the credit of the school and the College.

The two Tufts faculty members were arguing, in brief, that the Fletcher School as then administered was but a pale and sometimes flickering shadow of Harvard. It needed its own identity, and if any association were to be emphasized, it should be with Tufts. But that was considerably more difficult to achieve than to talk about, even in the early years of the school. It had its own endowment from the start, and one of Dean Hoskins' continuing efforts was to create an esprit de corps among the student body so that it would consider itself a distinct unit. The preliminary decision to allow Tufts undergraduates access to Fletcher courses was abandoned even before the school opened, in spite of Cousens' hope. It was made clear when the Ginn Library opened that its use by undergraduates was to be considered a special privilege, subject to restrictions. In the fall of 1933 President Cousens was disturbed to discover that the first letterhead stationery of the school carried its name in large letters, with the reference to the joint administration by Tufts and Harvard in minuscule print underneath. Even more upsetting to that loyal alumnus of the College was the fact that the return address on the envelope did not even carry the name of Tufts. It seemed important to him that "we should not neglect any opportunity to indicate the


connection of the Fletcher School with Tufts College and its location here."

The revised arrangement for the administration of the Fletcher School removed one advantageous channel of publicity which was enjoyed for only one year, namely, a section on the school in the Harvard catalogue. President Conant felt in the summer of 1934 that a description of the school would be "out of place" in view of the fact that it was to be administered solely by Tufts. More important, the return of full administrative responsibility for the Fletcher School to Tufts removed all official machinery by which Harvard could be kept systematically informed of the condition and progress of the school, for no mention was made of the Joint Executive Committee in the new memorandum. The problem of communication promised to become a serious one if no liaison at all were provided.

Dean Hoskins continued to affirm in 1934 that the school was a distinct success, in spite of all the difficulties already encountered and yet to be surmounted. He recognized that the Joint Executive Committee, as originally provided, was well designed as a general governing board but could not function successfully as a legislative body to handle the innumerable details of operation. Some kind of faculty organization was required. The personnel problem was a serious one, for the Harvard authorities were reluctant to release those members of their faculty teaching in the Fletcher School from their regular duties, and the school was unable to assume a proportionate share of their stipends. It appeared that no true cooperation could exist unless the work done in the Fletcher School was made an integral part of the teaching load of such faculty. Because of constant turnover, esprit de corps was lacking, the courses of instruction could be planned only one year at a time, and the students failed to receive the guidance they needed in planning both their course work and their careers. He acknowledged the basic criticism leveled at the school by the Harvard committee by recommending that the objectives "be confined to those which might most appropriately be pursued in a specially organized school with limited income." This meant specialization in those branches of international affairs not emphasized at Harvard. He agreed that the school should, until further notice, confine its degrees to the Master of Arts and the Master of Arts in Law and


Diplomacy. Removal of the formal agreement with Harvard raised the serious question of the school's ability to offer the Ph.D. degree.

The Fletcher Committee on Curriculum and Requirements for Degrees undertook in the fall of 1934 to find some means of preserving effective contact with Harvard on Fletcher School matters.[48]  They suggested a joint supervisory committee which would cease to exist after the academic year 1934-35. The aim was to work out some scheme so that Harvard could be assured of sufficient participation in the direction of the Fletcher School to justify calling it a cooperative enterprise. The new committee was to consist of the presidents of both institutions, the dean of the Harvard Law School, the dean of the Fletcher School, and one member of the Harvard faculty not connected with the school, to be nominated by the president of Harvard. The committee would perform dual functions: visitorial and supervisory. The Fletcher dean would make an annual report to the committee and the committee would be invited to visit the school at least once a year. Supervisory functions would include approval of nominees to the Fletcher faculty and approval of requirements for admission and the granting of degrees. These powers were assumed to be appropriate as long as Harvard continued "to give the Fletcher School the advantages of association with it, and consequently to assume in some degree responsibility for the work and standards of the Fletcher School." The creation of such a committee and the delegation of its powers would have to rest with the Trustees of Tufts College because of their responsibility for the administration of the school. To be assured that any Ph.D. awarded by the school represented standards acceptable to both Harvard and Tufts, a member of the Harvard faculty unconnected with the Fletcher School was to be selected by the committee to serve as an external dissertation reader and examiner.

Much to Cousens' relief, President Conant agreed to continue to cooperate on Fletcher matters and agreed to serve on the proposed committee and to appoint another Harvard representative. The name of the new body and its exact duties were subject to considerable fluctuation. Cousens conceived its functions primarily as


those of a Visiting Committee or Board of Visitors which would also serve as a guiding and supervising body. As actually worked out, the body which was created in 1935 by the Trustees was known at first as the Committee of Visitors and then interchangeably as the Joint Advisory Council or Board.[49]  Until 1955 the Board (usually referred to as the Council after 1939) was listed also as the Committee of Visitors. In the meantime, a Board of Counselors was created (in 1940), consisting originally of four distinguished public officials whose function it was to advise "on technical matters" and to assist "in maintaining liaison with the practical needs of a rapidly changing world."[50]  Beginning in 1945 this body was redesignated the Board of Advisers and was greatly enlarged. It underwent another change of name in 1960, when it became the Board of Visitors. The Joint Academic Council continued separately, with the makeup as originally provided in 1935.

Cousens quite naturally had to use Harvard faculty on the terms laid down by Conant. The Tufts president had no other recourse than to agree to Conant's ruling that the salaries paid to Harvard faculty for services to the Fletcher School would be "over and above their full-time salaries here at Harvard," and that the use of Harvard faculty in any given year in no way bound that institution to continue the arrangements for another year. The Fletcher School was able to secure the services of Professor John H. Williams, of the Harvard Department of Economics, and of Professor George Grafton Wilson as Special Lecturers in 1937-38, with the understanding that they would be given no additional responsibilities at Fletcher beyond scheduled appearances. The amount of time


they could devote to the Fletcher School depended entirely on their other commitments.[51]  But all in all, Cousens was happy with the new arrangements with Harvard. As he informed the Trustees, the prospect (if not the guarantee) of a faculty, even if part-time, and the continued availability of the Harvard libraries for Fletcher students gave the school, for all practical purposes, what had existed under the original formal agreement. A tie of sorts was also established with another part of the Harvard complex when the Tufts Trustees approved in 1937 a cooperative arrangement requested by Radcliffe College whereby courses in the Fletcher School might be opened by special arrangement to students in Radcliffe.[52] 

In 1936 an engrossed parchment was forwarded to the officers of Harvard offering greetings and felicitations on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of its founding. Included in the statement was a reference to the "many neighborly courtesies" extended to Tufts and to "the cordial relation of which the administration of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy is symbolic." Less than a year after this expression of good will was transmitted, the man at Tufts who had carried the principal burden on his own shoulders was gone. The Fletcher School had completed less than five years of an uncertain and sometimes stormy existence when President Cousens succumbed to his heart attack in July 1937. Yet there was already evidence that the school was serving a unique and valuable purpose. It had been established, as Dean Hoskins noted in his first annual report to the Joint Advisory Council in the fall of 1935, at a time when foreign concerns seemed less pressing than domestic problems. The increasing gravity of international affairs, witnessed by the rise of totalitarianism in Europe and the Far East and the creeping paralysis that was afflicting the League of Nations, seemed to make the need for an institution such as the Fletcher School more urgent than ever. The school, itself faced with one obstacle after the other, somehow weathered every academic storm


and even showed signs of prospering. Its very existence was a monument to Cousens' determination and unremitting effort. Dean Hoskins penned a tribute in the fall of 1937:

The loss of President Cousens is very keenly felt. Without hisconfidence in its potentialities and his constant support of the planlaid out by the original organizing committee, the School certainlycould not have achieved its present organization, physical equipment and recognized position in the academic world. The satisfaction with which he viewed the accomplishments of four yearsestablishes a criterion and enhances an obligation for the years tocome.

The Fletcher School by 1957, twenty years after Cousens' death, had posted a truly remarkable record of accomplishment, particularly in view of its limited resources and its small size. Alumni numbered about 900, representing more than forty nations and serving in a wide range of professions. By far the largest single group (approximately 350) were in government service and other public service careers either in the United States or abroad. A significant number were engaged in such activities as foreign trade, banking, publishing, and public relations, and over 100 were in the educational profession as teachers or administrators. There seemed little doubt that Austin B. Fletcher's dream of over a quarter of a century before had been in large part realized, although no one would deny that there was still much to be done to perform a "practical service in a disordered world."


[43] The Harvard Corporation approved the new memorandum on May 14 and the Tufts Trustees did likewise on June 16. Termination of this agreement required written notice three years in advance.

[44] Hoskins completed arrangements in June 1934 with the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for mutual exchange of students. Only a few in either institution took advantage of the course exchange arrangements. Access to Harvard libraries was, according to Dean Hoskins, the most valuable of all the facilities for Fletcher students.

[45] The committee, headed by Dean Murdock, consisted also of Dean Pound and Professor Arthur N. Holcombe and George Grafton Wilson.

[46] The appropriate change of wording was made in 1955 when Tufts officially became a "University" by change in its charter.

[47] Both of these men were destined to serve on the Fletcher faculty in later years.

[48] The committee at the time consisted of Professors Blakeslee and Stone of Harvard, with Dean Hoskins as chairman.

[49] This committee originally consisted of Presidents Conant and Cousens, Dean Pound of the Harvard Law School, Professor Clarence H. Haring, of the Harvard History Department, and Dean Hoskins. None of the original members of the Committee of Visitors created by the Tufts Trustees in 1931 for the (then) unborn Fletcher School appeared on the reconstituted committee. With the exception of Christian A. Herter, all members of the 1931 committee had been associated with Tufts in some capacity.

[50] The first Board of Counselors consisted of Dave H. Morris, former ambassador to Belgium (chairman); Christian A. Herter, then Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Massachusetts legislature; Pierrepont Moffat, chief of the Division of European Affairs of the State Department; and Henry M. Wriston, president of Brown University.

[51] Professor Williams had just been appointed dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration. It was impossible even to arrange for stipends in orderly fashion because when the time came to set up a schedule Professor Wilson was in the Far East.

[52] The arrangement was made reciprocal in practice, and an occasional Fletcher woman enrolled in Radcliffe courses.

  • 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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