The founder and patron saint of Penn, Ben Franklin, stands in front of Logan Hall, surveying the Penn undergraduates with their slacks, sweaters and fraternity pins. If he felt inclined to comment upon his 216-year-old offspring, Ben would be pleased.
He would particularly like the energetic young men, with a concern for their futures and slide rules in their pockets. He would look with approval on the student hurrying to his class on the ups and downs of the stock market and admit the social usefulness of the several courses in the humanities. The multitude of organizations and activities woud please Franklin, and the University's concern for students' spiritual welfare would recall his famous maxim "to imitate Jesus and Socrates."
'Art Is Long and Time Short'
Most of all, Practical Penn would impress Franklin. His advice has been well-taken; "as to their studies, it would be well if they could be taught everything that is useful and everything that is ornamental; but Art is long and time is short. It is therefore proposed that they learn those Things that are likely to be most useful and ornamental."
But the University is not exactly content, with all due respect to Franklin, with what it is or has been. There is a growing doubt that Ben was the last word in education, and Penn, sprawling in the midst of grubby Philadelphia, is gradually coming to the conclusion that it is in the midst of the twentieth century. Like a huge, furry bear, it awakes from an educational hibernation, rubs its eyes, and scratches itself.
It is difficult to say just what Penn will scratch off as it reappraises itself. Certainly not the fraternities, although possibly their restrictive clauses. Probably not the second-class status of its commuting multitudes, but possibly the low caste of coeds. Big time football is gone, and fraternity blasts are going fast.
It is doubtful, however, that the state of liberal arts will be much improved, and it is somewhat less than likely that the undergraduate student body will soon assume an appreciably intellectual aspect.
Athletically, Penn has just joined the Ivy League. Otherwise it has a long way to go.
A Complete Educational Survey
The most encouraging aspect of the University is its unquestionable desire to improve. With a vast field in which to work, Penn has undertaken an Educational Survey, designed to evaluate every department, school, and feature of university life. Several hundred thousand dollars and 260 men are involved in the study.
Sixty of these men are from outside the University; all of them are educators and professional men with a confidence in the University of Pennsylvania. They do not hold this faith alone, for the Survey is being financed by grants from seven foundations.
The Survey has the confidence of the Faculty, the Administration, and--as far as they know anything about it--the students.
Through it, probably the most sweeping introspection ever undertaken by a university, Penn will discover what it is now, and what it should be in the future. When the work is finished, the Survey's planning committees will devise a schedule of priorities, and then it will be up to the Administration to find money to pay for the improvements deemed necessary.
The surveyors will find a very peculiar sort of Ivy League institution. Once great, it was described by the Beards' in The Rise of American Civilization as "a beacon light in the long history of human intelligence."
Penn a Pioneering College