The controversy between Dean Goodnight and William Ellery Leonard at Wisconsin is a fight that comes perilously close to the foundations of American higher education and it is also a fight that will have its echoes and reverberations in all American colleges for some months to come. The controversy as it started was over the question of "How much power and jurisdiction has a dean of men (or of women) over the students' most intimate personal affairs?" And this of course carried with it the implication: "How much power do the deans actually need under the American system of education?"
In its aspects at Colorado, we obviously have a very special example of the case. The overwhelming conservatism of students at this University would probably make such a controversy impossible. The students here, being conservative, probably do not need a great deal of regulation; likewise, being conservative they are more likely even to ask for regulation than to plead against it.
To view the question in its general aspect, however, we cannot help but think that the American college student needs a good deal more supervision than do his fellow students in England and on the continent. While in American students may go to college primarily to learn something--most of them do not know exactly what--in the European schools students are there only to learn. Learning and culture are not their primary objects for higher education, they are their only objects. The American college then is a three-sided institution where study, activities and social life all have their place in contrast to the European institution with its great emphasis placed only on study and learning.
These things all go to make the American student a rather peculiar individual as far as college students go through the ages and over the countries of the world. Where before most of the regulatory work had to do with study, now in America the colleges are forced to take up the infinitely more complex problem of regulation of its members is a question that cannot be solved merely from the perusal of this college controversy. It is the same question as to whether the federal or state government has the power to make us stop buying liquor. The only general observation that can be made is that too minute regulation of the individual is at least impossible because it cannot be enforced. After all, it comes down to the fact that if regulation is at least somewhat justified AND if you get away with it, it is probably as nearly justified as any personal regulation can be. It is only when regulation transgresses too intimately with our persons that natural inertia can be overcome sufficiently to make us protest. Silver and Gold--U. of Col,