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"Shall the Professor 'Stay Put'?"' by Another College Professor's Wife
Independent, LX (Jan 18, 1906), 161 62.


In a late number of the Independent, "A College Professor's Wife" tells a story the truth of whose details must have touched a responsive chord in the breasts of many of her sisters. Her picture has the merit of a good sermon; each of us is sure that she"meant me." But with her conclusion that the ideal professor ought philosophically to accept the uncomfortable conditions which she describes, the present writer does not find herself in accord.

Out west of the Mississippi River and not far from the Missouri is a little college town whose "university" is the center of the community life. Surrounding the town on all sides are ranches and farms; beyond these lie the prairies stretching to the unbroken circle of the horizon In the town itself conditions are not unlike those in which "A College Professor's Wife" lives.

Here the professors carry a "double schedule." The salaries are small; expenses in general correspond to those given by "A College Professor's Wife." We are almost all of us "hewers of wood and drawers of water." In winter the husband cares for the fires, splits the wood, clears off the snow, in order that money may be saved to pay the insurance premiums which fall due in the summer. In the summer we care for our gardens, adopt a vegetarian diet and forego a summer migration in order that the money may be saved for the fuel bill which falls due in early winter. Like the Puritans, who planted corn in summer that they might have food for the winter, and dug clams in summer to save using the fresh corn, we work during the summer that we may live during the winter, and work during the winter that we may live thru the summer. And so we exist from year to year.

Here, too, we faculty folk are expected to contribute to student organizations, to entertain classes, clubs and individuals. The occasional semi-distinguished guest is quartered upon the professor whose subject is most nearly related to the stranger's specialty. The lecturer on radium dines with the professor of physics and the Frau Professor in cooks the modest roast; the writer of verse or fiction goes to the house of the professor of English. The baccalaureate speaker and commencement orator are honored above the common run by being entertained by the president and Madame President bakes the cake.

But in our ranks of overcrowded, poorly paid professors, they do not keep off the rust In nine out of ten cases the same courses of study are offered unchanged year after year, for the simple reason that lack of time and meagerness of resources prevent anything else. Our faculty men seldom come in contact with better trained minds than their own, for there is no money for travel and we are in far Cathay. Even in the rare instances when a man has managed to save enough money for a year of study at one of the larger universities, his departure is not looked upon with favor, and leave of absence is not infrequently refused. The attitude of the trustees seems to be: "If you know enough to teach your present subjects, you don't need leave of absence for study. If you do need further study, then you don't know enough to teach and we'd better get some one else." One can understand that to a new man coming in from a college where self development, scholarship and originality are the basis of work, this situation seems odd Yet it is common enough in the smaller colleges west of the Mississippi. Is it surprising that the professors who remain long have somewhat lax ideals of scholarship, that their views are narrow, that ultimately the intellectual standards and opinions, the educational methods of the incoming younger men seem to them incompatible with the needs of the community? Is it surprising that the younger men pass on?

Another College Professor’s Wife

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