THE LIBERAL UNIVERSITY
May and June are indeed the months of manna. When the warm weather arrives, colleges and universities the country over turn to considerations of general improvements, special equipment, new buildings, and graduate schools. Yielding to the impulse of the season, they spread their blankets, like the Israelites, and burn candles to the gods of generosity.
In the case of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, the response from graduates and non-graduates has been phenomenal. In the ordinary course of common-place events, a present of five hundred thousand dollars marks at the very least a red letter day on the institutional calendar; but when one has become accustomed to speaking carelessly in terms of millions, any digit with a following of less than six ciphers seems almost trivial. Of the ten million dollars originally hoped for by the sponsors of the present University drive, over eight have been subscribed. Princeton has been equally successful, and Yale has just received another gift of half a million.
In all this ebullience of generosity, it seems almost ungracious to point to one aspect of the situation which it not without significance. There is a growing tendency to contribute money not for the general enlargement of the college as such, but for some special branch, or for some designated graduate school. Of the ten million dollar Harvard fund, the unusual proportion of one-half is set aside for the Graduate School of Business Administration alone; Yale's half-million is for the Law School, and two millions are to be devoted at Princeton to the construction of a new chapel.
No one would undertake for a moment to belittle the value of graduate schools, or to assert that new buildings are to the life of a college as nothing; but there is a very real danger here that the perspective on the true function of a university will be curiously distorted. If the present trend is allowed to continue unchecked, the university of the future will be little more than a collection of highly specialized technical schools, with somewhere in an out of the way corner the attenuated ghost of what was once a college of the liberal arts.
An eventuality of this sort cannot be too greatly deplored in advance. The main purpose of any university worthy the name is not special training, but the diffusion of a broad, liberal education, and the fostering of an idealistic humanism. Not until everything possible has been done to further the accomplishment of this vital aim the sine qua non of all civilizations which have left their impress on the pages of history can the claims of externals or appendages be considered.