Professors: Your students can receive a semester’s subscription to The Texas Observer, if ten or more of them subscribe and the papers can be delivered in one packet to you, for the special classroom price of $1.50 per student. As a special bonus this spring, we shall provide each student so subscribing with a free copy of either our special issue on J. Frank Dobie or this higher education issue of the Observer. Send your orders for spring classes to Sarah Payne, Business Manager, Texas Observer, 504 West 24th St., A SUGGESTION BASED ON AN EXPERIENCE be weighed by a competent group of the accused’s peers who in turn have the obligation to make competent and considered professional recommendations to the concerned administration. At the same time, it is essential to recognize that rumors do not constitute facts nor are mere allegations evidence, nor do accusations of abuse of academic responsibility constitute conditions for inferring actual negligence or guilt of the accused party, nor does the holding of opinions or the engaging of practices contrary to the beliefs or preferences of some persons in the power structure of the academic community constitute evidence of unfitness to teach. An instance substantiated by public evidence has recently occurred in the Southwest in which such rumors constituted the alleged reasons for the dismissal of a professor with more than ten years of proven competent professional work at the school terminating his employment. One of the recurring difficulties in the academic profession is the tendency of many people to look upon college and university professors as merely functionaries or hirelings of their institutions rather than as professional persons with professional responsibilities participating in a community of scholars. The quality of the professor’s professional activity cannot be evaluated in terms other than those of the academic community itself. Certainly the standards applied in the business world are highly misleading. The most significant publication of a professor may be the one which loses his publishers the most money. ANOTHER THREAT to the academic image in the Southwest and elsewhere has been the unsuccessful efforts of some persons to establish a law requiring that a necessary condition for teaching in state colleges or universities ‘be the signing of a statement in which a professor would affirm a belief in a Supreme Being. Although these legislative proposals in Texas have been held up in committees and have not become laws, they have proved an harassment to teachers in state schools and have threatened constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion. It is precisely those professors who are most morally conscientious and who have strong religious concerns and feelings who regard such legislative tactics as most revolting. Likewise it is the most competent among these who find it easiest to secure positions in a more favorable academic climate. It is one thing to ascribe freely to a set of beliefs. It is another thing to have a set of beliefs prescribed for one as a condition for the fulfillment of his vocational responsibilities. To attempt to prescribe beliefs for faculties only makes affected institutions secure for mediocrity and incompetence. The exacting of such oaths as a means of “keeping our institutions safe” plays primarily into the hands of demagogues and of the unscrupulous. The progress that has been made to facilitate the achievement of a sounder academic environment in institutions of higher education in the Southwest are to be commended, and their further extension is to be encouraged. There has been increased emphasis upon professional qualifications for teachers and proven scholastic aptitude for students. Likewise, many facilities have been improved, including construction of new buildings, the improvement of laboratories, the increase in the scholarly holdings of libraries, and the provision of research and instructional equipment. The location of industrial and government sponsored research facilities with their trained personnel has had an invigorating effect. The increased public concern about the quality of higher education, particularly as it has been emphasized through the appointment of committees by the governor, John Connally, to study the many ramifications of this problem in Texas is a healthy sign. The achievement of the conditions necessary for the highest type of academic performance cannot be accomplished if the members of an academic community are concerned merely with the performance of their own specialized tasks, or the security of their own positions, or their desire for Austin Permit me to base a suggestion about higher education in Texas on my own experience of it, which I shall first broadly sketch. But let my remarks about the University of Texas in 1947-’51 be qualified to whatever extent they should be by changes there since then. Arriving from a public high school in San Antonio, where I had found the academic work easy, I submissively began participating in a larger model of the high school at the University. There was no shift of method or of the essential aspects of what was expected of me. I was to take five or six courses each semester, was to be graded perhaps’ half a dozen or more times in each course at random times on the basis of sometimes scheduled, sometimes “pop” examinations, and at the end of each semester I would be able to gauge my standing in the rat race by looking at my final grades in the courses. Guided only by the general decision I knew I would have to make about my “major” and my “minor” the subjects I would have to take eight and four of the relevant courses in, respectivelyI was free to choose from among appalling varieties of sub-topics in each general area, subject only to taking the courses according to progressions of their difficulty. There were even handy numbers on the courses to classify them according to whether a freshman, a sophomore, a their own professional advancement. They must exercise the needed professional vigilance in establishing and maintaining the essential conditions for maximum academic achievements. Academic communities today are frequently hounded-by extremist groups on both the right and the left who use the phrases of freedom only to recommend proprams and practices that would undermine if not destroy the integrity of the academic community itself. Harassment, frustration and mediocrity will characterize any academic community where the concentration of power in such a community resides in the decisions of men reflecting such extremist views. Academic excellence is possible only as discriminating choices are made in the appointment of governing boards, administrators and faculties. Both the governing and academic groups need -to represent various social and political points of view. They need to be informed persons who understand the procedures and worthy goals of higher education and to be committed through both intelligence and integrity to the attainment of those standards essential to the fruition of superior academic communities. junior, could or could not take them. I would have bestowed upon me the bachelor’s degree upon my successfulthat is, with grade D or bettercompletion of roughly 40 of these sub-courses. It seemed to be a fairly transparent system, easy to see through and easier still to pass through. Fortunately I had a serious cast of mind, or the first dodge I would have used to outwit the system would have been to take the trip coursesthose given over to subjects readily absorbed with minimum effort, or those taught by faculty January 8, 1965 13
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