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(UW icon)1900

At the Close of the Century--1897-1900.

Whence the students have emanated--College of Letters and Science--Economics, Political Science, and History--School of Music--Summer School--University Extension--Accredited schools--Dean of women--Changes in legislative method--College of Agriculture--College of Law--School of Pharmacy--Needs of the University--Appropriations for 1899--Percentage tax abolished--An unexpected check--New buildings in progress--The first summer session--Rapid growth--Retrospect.

Whence the students have emanated.

President Adams's report for the biennial term September 30, 1898,1 chronicles the "continued prosperity of the University." The most rapid advancement during the two years has, he shows, been in the College of Letters and Science, and the College of Agriculture. Including the Summer School, the aggregate attendance in 1897-98 was 1,986--exclusive of the Summer School, 1,767.

Interesting statistics are presented, showing the vocations from which the students have come. In the Colleges of Letters and Science, and Engineering,--wherein alone the necessary data were collected, of the 1,544 students, 21.9 per cent are sons of farmers and dairymen, and 19.5 per cent the sons of merchants. A careful estimate of the other colleges reveals the fact that "not far from 33 per cent of all the students in the University come immediately from the farm. Probably not a very different result would be found if we were to take a census of the staff of instruction." One curious fact developed is, that more than 12 per cent of the students in Letters and Science, and Engineering, have widowed mothers.


College of Letters and Science.

Although all of the departments of the University are expanding satisfactorily, the increase is greatest in the College of Letters and Science, which "shows a growing determination on the part of the people of the State to secure the most thorough education practicable, before entering upon professional studies." In order to keep pace with this growth, the instructional force must from time to time be increased; and the necessary subdivision of classes in turn demands increased accommodations. In accordance, therefore, with provisions made by the legislature of 1897, the regents are constructing a transverse wing at the north end of University Hall, "with the expectation of completing the symmetry of that structure in the near future by placing a wing of corresponding dimensions on the north."

Economics, Political Science, and History.

The School of Economics, Political Science, and History continues to do admirable work. "During each of the past two years, undergraduates and graduates have been attracted to this school from Harvard and other prominent universities of the country. The extraordinary facilities offered by the State Historical Library, and the scope and thoroughness of the instruction given in all the departments of this school, must be a matter of satisfaction to all appreciative citizens of the State. The demand for graduates of the school in positions of importance, continues to be greater than the supply."

School of Music.

In the School of Music, "much has been done to improve and elevate musical skill and musical taste;" the work has been "thorough and comprehensive," comparing favorably with the "most advanced of the schools of music in the country." Owing to private competition, however, "its growth has been far less rapid than it would be if it could receive the pecuniary support of the University." Thus far, acting on the understanding that no such aid would be granted, the school has made no demands upon the University treasury; but the president nevertheless hopes "that the time is not far distant when such support may be rendered as will enable the school to increase its efficiency by enlarging its staff of instruction."

Summer School.

The Summer School is reported to be steadily growing--the attendance in 1895 being 219; of these, 24 were enrolled in the special summer school for librarians, supported by the State Free Library Commission, but conducted under the auspices of the University. "The question is already a pressing one, whether the Summer School ought not to be recognized so as to form an integral part of the University year."

University extension.

The University extension movement appears to lag, somewhat, in Wisconsin. Many of the most eminent professors in the University are reluctant to engage in this work, which involves the hardships of long railway journeys and interferes with their studies. "Experience tends to show," says Dr. Adams, "that it is impracticable very largely to increase the scope of this undertaking unless lecturers of eminence can be employed who shall give nearly, or quite, the whole of their time to the work." The extension department is now conducted by the School of Education, organized two years previous. This school has now a teaching staff of six, and is achieving success. A school of practice "may almost be called an imperative necessity;" but thus far there appear to be no funds for instituting such work.

Accredited schools.

Greater effectiveness has been rendered possible, within the past year, in the work of examining the schools which apply for the admission of their students to the University on diploma and certificate. This has been brought about by the action of the regents in having the University, rather than the schools visited, bear the expenses of the professors who are sent out as examiners. This change has removed an important source of irritation between certain of the accredited high schools and the University, and has enabled the latter "to examine schools more frequently and carefully than has hitherto been possible."

Dean of women.

Upon the urgent recommendation of the board of visitors in 1896, the regents instituted the office of "a dean of women, whose duties should be to exercise a general oversight over the young women of the University-- nearly all of whom are members of the College of Letters and Science." Miss Annie C. Emery, Ph. D., was appointed to the position, and entered upon its duties in September, 1897. "A Self-Governing Association of the young women of the University has been formed, the special object of which is to define the social conventionalities which shall be observed, and, by the fostering of a wholesome public opinion, to contribute to the earnestness of University life."

Changes in legislative methods.

A notable change in legislative methods is noted in the president's report. Heretofore, the faculties of all the colleges (except that of Law, which unfortunately still holds separate meetings) assembled weekly to discuss University affairs. With the growth of the institution, however, the burden of minor business affecting only the several departments became too great for proper consideration at these faculty meetings. In 1897, therefore, the class officers of the several colleges were constituted standing committees for the consideration of details, thus leaving the time of the general faculty "free for larger questions." A strong plea is made in the report for such revision of the laws of the institution as shall admit representatives of the Law faculty to the general meetings, as "many of the most important questions arising in the University concern the College of Law quite as much as the other colleges."2

College of Agriculture.

Much space is devoted in the president's report to the consideration of the College of Agriculture. Within the two years, more than seventeen million pages of original matter were distributed among the people as the result of investigations carried on at the experimental station. Dairy interests are particularly prominent in this connection, and the dairy school probably leads the country. The University has won great credit among scientists in this field, because of its discoveries--particularly in the art of curing cheese, and in a new curd test, both of which were epoch-making. Its beet-sugar investigation, authorized by the legislature of 1897, was well under way when the beet-sugar situation was affected by the Spanish-American War, and the further continuance of the inquiry found to be inadvisable. Interesting experiments are being conducted in the physical and chemical character of marsh soils, in wind power as adapted to agricultural operations, in ascertaining what varieties of fruit trees "are suited to the rigorous conditions of our State," and in tuberculosis in dairy cows. The number of students in the long course in agriculture is steadily increasing. "More and more, students are coming to realize that college training can be taken back to the farms with the promise of the highest returns in a life of usefulness." The more numerous short-course students are doing excellent work, "carrying back to the farms something of training, and a good deal of inspiration and desire to be good citizens and first-rate farmers." Farmers' institutes continue to improve; "but, as they are becoming a more and more fixed feature of our educational development, they are ceasing to attract the particular notices from the press which they formerly received." An additional tract of 160 acres has been purchased for the experimental farm at a cost of $14,000. A large new barn, costing $18,000, has been erected, and "plans are also in progress to renovate and improve the old buildings of the farm so as to put them in condition for more efficient use."

College of Law.

Dr. Adams reports that, within the two years embraced in his report, the course of instruction in the College of Law has been extended from two years to three. "The standard for admission has also been increased, so that no student can be admitted as a candidate for a degree without presenting a certificate of graduation from an accredited high school, or submitting to an examination equivalent to that required for admission to one of the courses in the College of Letters and Science." These changes have somewhat reduced the number of students in attendance. It is noted that:

The smallness of the senior class is accounted for very largely by the fact that members who have passed through the middle class have generally been able to pass the examination for admission to the bar, and consequently have not been willing to return for a third year of instruction. This important fact has led the committee of the regents on the College of Law to raise the question whether it is not desirable that legislation should take place, extending from two years to three the term of study preparatory to examination for admission to practice in the courts of this state. All of the more prominent law schools of the country, in the West as well as in the East, have adopted the three-year course of study, and several of the adjacent states now require three years of study preliminary to examination for admission to the bar. In this Law School the course cannot be completely successful unless the admissions to the bar are so modified that students will find it desirable to remain at the University to the end of the senior year.

School of Pharmacy.

In the School of Pharmacy, also, there have been considerable changes. A four-years long course was instituted, with the term of instruction lengthened from six months to nine; but the old short course of two years was retained. Unlike the students in law, those in pharmacy appeared to prefer the long course, fully three-fourths of them in 1898 being enrolled therein. "This fact seems to indicate a willingness, if not a determination, on the part of the students in the college to avail themselves, as far as possible, of the fullest opportunities for instruction." Nevertheless, the growth of the school is slight; the raising of the standard has led a majority of intending pharmacists to seek in preference the short courses of the commercial schools; the query is raised, whether some modification in the requirements is not desirable, in order that the school may retain its leadership.

In the matter of physical education, the president says that the aim of this department, since the separate gymnasiums for young men and young women have been instituted, has been:

* * * to reach the large mass of students, and to give to each such physical exercise and recreation as would best serve the end of making the body as perfect a basis as possible for the mental and moral activities. The system adopted has striven for a three-fold object: First, to develop systematically all the parts of the body, bearing in mind the attainment of good proportion and the development of the whole system harmoniously. Secondly, in addition to symmetry and proportion, it has been the aim to produce bodily strength and to promote physical activity, dexterity, and efficiency. To this end there has been a constant effort to reach the entire body of students, including the timid, the awkward, and the poorly developed. * * * It is an interesting and noteworthy fact that the health of the young women, as well as of the young men, is greatly improved, and their physical strength very materially increased, while they are at the University. * * * The popularity of the work is shown by the fact that the average amount of exercise taken by students in the University is somewhat more than twice the amount actually required. Student life has come to be a very different thing in consequence of this work.

Needs of the University.

Dr. Adams closes his long but very interesting report--itself an excellent history of the University during the biennial term treated--by discussing the pressing needs of the institution. After urging additional legislative appropriations for apparatus and for the museums, he renews his urgent request made in 1894 and 1896 for a building for the College of Mechanics and Engineering. He shows how sadly crowded are its lecture, apparatus, and laboratory rooms in Science Hall; how impossible it is that a college so important and largely attended as this can longer do good work under the present conditions; and declares that a new building for its especial use is the only solution to the problem. It is also urged that the legislature make an appropriation for a water-tower, as the present tank in the dome of University Hall--placed there in 1876--is inadequate to the demands made upon it by the Capitol and the University buildings. Either the Capitol must cease depending upon the University for water, or a tower "should be erected on one of the elevations not far from the lake, in which a reservoir may be placed adequate for all future supplies."

Appropriations for 1899.

The legislature of 1899, like its immediate predecessors, responded liberally3 "to the requests of the University. The sum of $35,000 was appropriated for a suitable increase of the dairy herd, and for a necessary enlargement of the dairy building;" $100,000 for a building and $16,000 "for an adequate water-tower for the supply of water to the capitol." In addition to these direct appropriations to the University, the institution was indirectly benefited by the additional grant4 "of $200,000 for the completion of the State Historical Society's new building, in which the University library is also to be housed.

Percentage tax abolished.

An important change was made by the same legislature in the method of granting state aid to the University. Heretofore the tax-levy for the University and the State normal schools had been based upon percentages of the assessed valuation of the State. But during the session of 1899 there appeared to be a general desire to raise this assessment, which had long been regarded as too low, yet at the same time not to increase the appropriations based upon it. A statute was therefore enacted,5 making the appropriations for these purposes specific. Under this arrangement, there was ordered levied each year a State tax for the benefit of the University fund income amounting to $268,000, the same to be used by the regents for any of the manifold needs of the institution; with, however, the proviso that the College of Agriculture shall receive $30,000 of the amount, the College of Mechanics and Engineering $15,000, the Summer School $2,000, purchases for the law library $1,000, and the courses in railway and electrical engineering $13,000.

An unexpected check.

Unfortunately for the University, the direct appropriations made in 1899 were not at once available. Acting under statutory regulations, it had long been the custom for the secretary of state to include in the general State tax-levy, each year, the amounts specifically appropriated by the preceding legislature. Governor Scofield, however, was of the opinion that this statute was unconstitutional; that in the legislature lay the sole authority to levy taxes; and that, in the absence of a specific levy by that body, the secretary of state could not include these appropriations in the tax-roll. In the closing days of the session, the governor so notified the legislature; but that body replied that the secretary of state's power was ample, and the requested levy to cover the appropriations of the session was not made. The secretary of state, however, agreed with the governor; and, when the University and other State institutions to which specific appropriations had been made applied for the money, they were informed that these sums would not be included in the levies of 1899 and 1900, and that there was no more money in the State treasury than sufficed for the current expenses of the government, at least during 1899. The result was, of course, to stop all building and other improvements at the several State institutions, except upon the Historical Library building, the commissioners therefor having been given special power to borrow money of the State trust funds in advance of the receipt of appropriations.

New buildings in progress.

So far as the University, at least, is concerned, there appears to be excellent prospect of obtaining some of its money before the next legislature convenes. A central heating plant for the hillside group of agricultural and horticultural buildings is already being erected; and the foundations of the fine new building for the College of Mechanics and Engineering will be laid early in the spring of the present year (1900).6 This improvement in the financial outlook, so gloomy a few months ago, is occasioned by the considerably increased receipts of the State treasury, as a result of larger taxes and license fees levied by the legislature of 1899 upon transportation companies and other great corporations doing business within Wisconsin.

The first summer session.

As previously stated, the Wisconsin Summer School for Teachers had been conducted at the University with great success for several years. In the summer of 1899, this school for elementary instruction was continued, but in connection with a regular summer session of the University--the first of the kind held here. The University of Chicago, and some other American institutions of higher learning, are practically always open, thus enabling regular students who wish to attend throughout the year to complete their courses in three years instead of four; and giving an opportunity for teachers and others who can attend in the summer, or spasmodically, to receive, at any time that suits their convenience, the benefit of the customary college training.

The University of Wisconsin's first summer session was, in a measure, experimental, and provided only for the courses "ordinarily covered by the Faculty of Letters and Science." It endeavored to "meet the wants of teachers and special undergraduates who desire to broaden and deepen their knowledge; of regular undergraduates who desire to shorten their University course; and of graduates who wish to devote a part of their vacation for advanced degrees." About 340 students were in attendance during the six weeks (July 3 - August 11), several special lecturers were engaged, and the interest shown was such as greatly to encourage the advocates of the experiment. Apparently this summer session was the opening wedge for an all-the-year-round system at Wisconsin.

The summer library training school, for the librarians of small libraries, conducted under the joint control of the University and of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, was also in progress (for eight weeks), with an attendance of 36, representing twelve States and Territories. This was the largest library class yet seen at this school; and it would have been large had there been a more ample force of instructors.

Rapid growth.

In common with the other great schools of the country, the University, which had been experiencing a satisfactory percentage of growth for a dozen years past, received an unusual impetus in the autumn of 1899, its attendance suddenly rising from the 1,767 registered in the school year of 1898-99, to 2,313. The general return of prosperity, after some five years of financial depression throughout the United States, had of course much to do with this recent inrush of students; but the rapid spread of culture throughout the commonwealth, and the growing conviction that the University of Wisconsin is now prepared in duality of instructors and strength of equipment to give to the youth of the State an education favorably comparing with that attainable at any university in the land, have had their influence in achieving this result.

The remarkable growth of the colleges and schools of the University, during the past ten years, is shown by the following interesting official table, which includes special and graduate students and fellows distributed in their proper colleges and schools:

College of 89-90 90-91 91-92 92-93 93-94 94-95 95-96 96-97 97-98 98-99
Letters and Science 7 498 558 599 712 702 785 815 872 947 1,054
Mechanics and Engineering 111 137 152 179 201 225 207 218 227 315
Agriculture 32 97 152 175 173 213 190 215 277 359
Law 112 118 126 166 169 266 223 216 182 230
School of Pharmacy 55 56 63 65 42 41 50 64 61 48
School of Music -- -- -- -- -- -- 181 145 141 141
Summer Session -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- 341
Less twice enumerated -- -- -- 10 8 10 71 80 68 175
Totals 788 966 1092 1287 1279 1520 1598 1650 1767 2313

The following official enumeration gives the number in the instructional force during the same decade--the enlargement of the past few years having been confined chiefly to the ranks of assistant professors, instructors, and student assistants:

89-90 90-91 91-92 92-93 93-94 94-95 95-96 96-97 97-98 98-99
Professors 37 38 42 43 47 47 47 49 49 50
Associate professors 0 0 0 0 1 2 2 2 2 2
Assistant professors 5 6 5 6 11 14 23 23 24 28
Instructors 8 13 15 16 23 25 23 23 26 29
Assistants 8 1 1 2 2 2 3 8 12 14 25
Fellows 9 9 9 9 9 10 9 10 10 10 10
Totals 60 67 73 76 94 100 111 119 125 144

But fifty years have passed since the University of Wisconsin opened its doors. Of the twenty young men whom Professor Sterling called to order in the old Female Academy building, in the little village of Madison, upon the fifth of February, 1850, perhaps half a dozen are still living to bear witness to the beginnings of an institution which has meanwhile grown over a hundred-fold. Looking in perspective over this first half century of development, the progress has indeed been great. It is certainly a far cry from the starveling preparatory class of 1850 to the splendid class of 1900, which will probably graduate 400 members; from the crude stone box of Old North Hall to the beautiful buildings which now adorn the campus; from the ill-assorted cabinets, meagre laboratories, and sparse library of the early 50's, to the same well-equipped features of to-day; from the old-time instructional staff of less than half a dozen scantily-compensated but worthy gentlemen, to the brilliant faculty of our own time, some of whom have won international renown in arts and sciences not even dreamed of a few decades ago.

Yet, despite this remarkable evolution, Wisconsin might well have reached its present proud position at least a decade and a half ago; might even by that time have won still greater successes, had its birthright been properly administered. Endowed by the national government with two land-grants which were certain, in due time and with careful management, to yield a large fund for the support of this institution of higher learning, its acres were sold for a song, to attract immigrants, under the spacious plea that, when the State became well settled and prosperous, the people would readily submit to being taxed for a University.

Plainly, the average voter in the first decade of statehood did not wish for a University; it was all enterprise born ahead of the times, before the common schools became well established, and while Wisconsin was still a frontier community busied in wresting a daily existence from the forests and prairies, and caring little for the higher life. Few there were to foresee that the University had a serious part to play in the upbuilding of the commonwealth. The masses witnessed with indifference the squandering of the rich congressional gift of lands; corrupt officials did their part to waste even the puny income resulting from the sales; and the University was, in direct contravention of the purpose of Congress, for many years compelled to erect its few buildings from the capital of the fund.

The small but sturdy and persistent band of University friends, during a long term of years, had many a hard-fought battle to keep the institution alive, and to free it from the clutches of jealous denominational colleges which sought to divide its patrimony among themselves. The neighboring University of Michigan, whose land-grant was fostered with care, and in time brought to it a worthy income, was meanwhile growing apace, and making the town of Ann Arbor famous wherever learning was respected in America. Wisconsin's University, poverty-stricken and battling for its life, reached the period of the War of Secession with but meagre growth. After the war greater prosperity was soon noticeable within the State; culture, with its love for the best in life, had spread more widely within our borders; conservative Germans and Scandinavians, with inherited traditions of respect for learning, had begun to exercise a marked influence upon public opinion; friends of the University became more numerous; the dawn of better days was at hand.

The University which we know really commenced with the reorganization act of 1866. The purchase of the experimental farm, by Dane county, soon followed; this secured the retention here of the College of Agriculture, which had been first endowed by the Morrill Act of 1862. In 1867 came the first actual State appropriation--guaranteeing the interest on the money taken for buildings from the capital of the endowment fund. Three years later followed the first legislative appropriation for a building--Ladies' Hall. Modern prosperity has followed in due course.

Yet this prosperity is but relative. It has not kept full pace with the growth and wealth of the State. The University is still hampered by the lack of the funds of which it was cheated before the Civil War. Much that has been given to it in its hours of dire need has come with ill grace from legislators who seemingly have not heard the checkered story of the University; who do not know that their predecessors of the 50's pledged the bounty of the present generation in payment of the inroads which they of old made on the congressional endowment, in order to attract the settlers who it was supposed would gladly assess themselves for the support of the University. The taxpayers of to-day are simply liquidating the debts of the past. The University must not be blamed if, its birthright being stolen, it now knocks at the door for a decent maintenance, in some degree approximating the importance of one of the richest of the American states. It is to be hoped that the moral of this story of the University of Wisconsin may not be lost upon its own sons and daughters, who to-day are largely shaping the policy and destiny of the great commonwealth.


1 Regents' Report, Dec., 1898, pp. 5-33.

2 A committee of the regents, with the president, is now engaged in a thorough revision of the by-laws of the University, for the purpose of eliminating certain features that have become obsolete, and giving greater uniformity to the methods of administration in the several faculties.

3 Laws of Wis., 1899, chap. 239.

4 Ibid., chap. 296.

5 Id., chap. 170.

6 It is hoped that the Engineering Building will be ready for occupancy by the first of October, 1900. As planned by John T. W. Jennings, of Chicago, the University's superintending architect of buildings and grounds, it will cost somewhat less than the $100,000 appropriated, and promises to be the best building on the upper campus.

7This includes the School of Economics, Political Science, and History, and the School of Education. The courses in these schools are so interwoven with the other courses of the College of Letters and Science that they cannot well be separated. The diminution in the College of Law is owing partly to the extension of the course from two years to three, partly to the fact that the requirements for admission have been greatly increased, and partly to the discontinuance of the so-called "capitol class."

8 A number of these assistants are students from the upper classes, who devote from one to two hours a day to elementary instruction, or assist in the laboratories.

9 The fellows, though primarily students, are classified here for the reason that, according to the terms of their appointment, they are required to render a small amount of instruction. This requirement, however, applies only to the University fellows; consequently, the above enumeration does not include the alumni fellows, or those provided for by private generosity.