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Each week brings new examples of abuse of power by state governments in their relations with the universities supported by them. Laws stating which textbooks may be used, and which not, laws limiting teachers to definite economic, political or religious theories popularly current, and penalizing with dismissal any unorthodoxy or original thought in any one of these fields, have followed upon each other, with startling rapidity. Furthermore, state universities have often been drawn directly into the political field through the control of the Governor over the Board of Regents, or whatever the university governing body may be named. The most recent and flagrant example of this second type of abuse of power was the arbitrary removal of Dr. Henry Guzzallo, President of the University of Washington. It was charged at the time that Dr. Guzzallo, a political opponent of the governor, was removed at his instigation by a Board of Regents packed with the Governor's henchmen, and that the real grounds for removal were political. The statement of the Regents to the effect that their action was taken because of improper political activity" on the part of the President did not give any less weight to the accusation.
The National Education Association, through its President, Dr. Francis G. Blair, state superintendent of public Instruction in Illinols, has now issued a statement supporting Mr. Guzzallo, deploring the action of the Regents, and demanding the immediate reinstatement of the ejected President. The statement, coming from the strongest organized group of educators in the country, is a fine gesture but can lead to nothing definite. The reinstatement of Dr. Guzzallo is now quite obviously out of the question, and the report as published does not attack the system which makes possible such abuses of an educational institution, nor does it offer any constructive suggestion toward making them less likely in the future.
It is not denied that the state educational system has accomplished and is accomplishing effectively its purposes in the fields of primary, secondary, and high school education. The generalizations might be extended to include the Junior Colleges now being introduced by many of the states. But the question may fairly he raised, has not start controlled education, as now organized, extended beyond its real usefulness in the field of the university? There is much evidence, from the undergraduate courses on football coaching to the removal of Dr. Guzzallo, that state university education is unhealthy at the present time. Scattered complaints of educators, the ribaldry of Mr. Mencken, and wholesale defenses from the supporters of the system contribute little in clarity, moderation, or constructiveness to the situation.
It is further obviously of no value now, with the system well established, to suggest that university education had better been left to private initiative and to the relatively free and independent position resulting therefrom, nor is it worthwhile once agains to draw the distinction between school and college education, the necessary pressure on which such a suggestion rests:
There are, however, three constructive and practical suggestions which can be made. First, state Legislatures, by means of constitutional amendment, may be prevented from passing any regulatory laws on textbook or teaching in the university. Decisions of this sort should be left entirely in the hands of the regents. Second, the Board of Regents must be freed from political control as far as possible. There must be no opportunity for packing a Board as Governor Hartley did. By limiting the power of removal to that minimum possessed by the President over the higher federal judges such opportunity would be removed. In the third place the development of the Junior College should be fostered and encouraged. It is to be expected that these institutions, once well established, will attract away from the universities those annual hundreds of men and women who, frankly do not belong there, and on whom, ultimately rests the responsibility for much of the juvenile absurdity which the state universities everywhere exhibit in greater or less degree.
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