Page images
PDF
EPUB

power of a Board of Visitation of the Colleges and Academies of the State, and whether any change in the organization of that Board is desirable to render it more effective in the supervision of those institutions."

The Regents, in compliance with this resolution, having given the subject-matter the consideration which its importance required, on the 10th of March, 1870, submitted the following report:

The resolution presents two distinct subjects of inquiry: 1. What should be the powers of a Board of Visitation? 2. Is any change in the organization of the Board of Regents desirable?

The Colleges and Academies of our State, subject to the visitation of the Regents, are corporate bodies, holding their charters by act of the Legislature, or under its authority.

The administration of their affairs is committed to Trustees, whose powers and duties are clearly defined, and, in addition to the general powers of a corporation, embrace the management of the finances, the appointment of Professors and Teachers, the direction of the course of discipline and study in the institution, and, in the case of Colleges, the granting of literary honors.

Many of the details of internal management are intrusted to the Faculty, who act under a general authority derived from the Trus

tees.

In every country, education is regarded as a high public interest, and over it the government exercises a watchful and fostering care.

In many of the countries of Europe, this care extends to every part of the system of public instruction, because the system is estab lished and entirely maintained by the government.

In this State, only what are known as the public schools, mostly elementary, are so established and maintained. They are supervised by public officers, at the head of whom is the Superintendent of Public Instruction. His power is necessarily comprehensive, and his decisions, in many cases, are final.

The exercise of such full and summary power is necessary to the proper and successful administration of the common school system.

If the Colleges and Academies were. institutions of the same nature as the public schools, and were supported in the same way, the supervision of their affairs by the State would properly be of the same thorough and comprehensive character. As, however, they have had their origin in voluntary private action, are endowed chiefly by private contributions, and are mainly supported by the payment of tuition fees, it seems quite clear that the State cannot fairly extend over them the same supervision, in details, which it exercises over schools which it alone creates and supports. And yet their relations to the State, as quasi public institutions, demand watchfulness, guardianship and care from the power which has given

them corporate existence, both for their protection and for securing to the public their proper administration.

To most of the Colleges, and to all the Academies, the State has made grants of money, sometimes for general, and sometimes for specific purposes.

The endowments of most of the Colleges are on foundations established by private liberality.

Under the general law, the condition of the incorporation of Academies is, that a certain sum shall be raised by voluntary contribution for the erection of buildings and other purposes. In many instances, the minimum required by law has been greatly exceeded.

The State owes it to itself, and to those whom it has encouraged to liberality, to see that its appropriations and their gifts are prop erly applied. Men of fortune, with a disposition to devote their wealth to educational purposes, are often deterred by an apprehension that their gifts may be misapplied or squandered.

Public policy demands that the strongest guarantees of the faithful administration of such trusts should be given.

A Board having authority, on its own motion, or on representations made to it, at any time to inquire into the mode in which an institution is conducted, may correct a wrong in its incipiency, or by the mere possession of the power may exert a silent but constantly restraining influence against maladministration. It is believed that cases will rarely occur in which the full exercise of the power which ought to be committed to a visiting and supervising board will be demanded.

Trustees of Colleges are, as a class, men of intelligence and education, selected in view of their peculiar fitness for the trust. They may call in the counsel and assistance of the President and Professors, who have made the philosophy of education a life study, and who have a thorough knowledge of its practical workings. The details of management of the institution committed to their care will be safe in their hands, while subject for wise purposes to the general supervision of a Board of Visitors.

The annual subsidy which the State grants to the Academies under prescribed conditions of its application, renders it proper that a more specific supervision should be exercised over them than over the Colleges. But even this cannot extend to personal administration, which must of necessity be influenced by local circumstances.

A Visiting Board must look after the execution of the conditions of the subsidy as well as of the charter, and in doing this can hardly fail to exert a positive influence over the whole system of instruction. If it does not command, or even positively direct, it may make itself felt by advice, which will often be sought, and will seldom be disregarded.

The policy of granting corporate powers under general laws is universally conceded. The extent to which Colleges have been established in this State by special acts of the Legislature, in most cases without adequate endowments, has multiplied these institu

tions beyond the public wants. A Visiting Board may properly exercise this power under general rules to be prescribed or approved by the Legislature.

In accordance with these views the powers and duties with which a Board of Visitation of the Colleges and Academies of the State should be invested may be enumerated:

1. The exclusive power of incorporating Colleges and Academies under general regulations, with the exercise of which, for the time being, the Legislature should not interfere, except so far as modifications of the organic law may become proper.

2. The power to require reports, under forms to be prescribed by the Board, of the literary and financial condition of each institution, and the mode in which it has been conducted.

3. The power to make special investigations as to the affairs and condition of any institution, whenever in the judgment of the Board, or on representations made to it, such investigation is believed to be necessary.

4. The power of personal visitation by its committees or officers, and of adopting such measures as, in the judgment of the Board, are calculated to improve the character of academic and collegiate education, and to bring the Academies and Colleges into united and harmonious action as parts of the University of the State.

The exercise of coercive power by such a Board, and the infliction of penalties, will seldom be required, nor would it be salutary.

It is suggested, however, that whenever a condition of things exists which is thought to demand judicial action, provision may be made for placing the facts found in the hands of the AttorneyGeneral of the State, or for submitting them to the Legislature, for such action as may be demanded for the protection of public interests or of private trusts.

The second inquiry of the resolution is, whether any change in the organization of the Board of Regents is desirable to render it more efficient in the supervision of the Colleges and Academies.

With respect to its powers, the Board possesses most of those which have been enumerated as desirable for a Board of Visitation.

The statute confers on it the power" to visit and inspect," and "to send for persons and papers." This power it is believed will be sufficient even in extreme cases.

The organization of the Board of Regents was made with a view to give it a near relation to the government of the State by constituting the high officers of the State members. Thus, the Governor, the Lieutenant-Governor, the Secretary of State, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction, are always members, and this Board, thus directly connected with the Executive Department of the gov ernment, and its members appointed by the Legislature, is fitly required to report annually to that body the condition of the institutions committed to its care.

The duties of the Regents have always been discharged without pecuniary compensation. It cannot be expected, nor would it be

reasonable to claim, that the same amount of service is to be rendered by each member as would be expected from officers receiving salaries from the public treasury.

The Board refers with gratification to the results secured to the education of the State through its instrumentality, from its organization, in 1784, to the present time.

Twenty-seven Colleges (literary, law and medical), and more than two hundred Academies, are now in active operation as parts of the University. The aggregate of their property and endowments is more than fourteen millions of dollars.The salaries of their instructors amount to nearly a million of dollars annually, and there are taught within their walls about forty thousand students. Many of these institutions have attained a high reputation both at home and abroad, and may justly be regarded with pride by the citizens of the State.

The work of the Board has been quiet and unostentatious, but constant. It has been performed by gentle influences and kindly advice, and not by the exercise of coercive power.

The Regents have never asked for an extension of their powers, and they are of opinion that the powers now possessed under the statute are as large as any Visiting Board requires.

The tenure of office is during the pleasure of the Legislature. It has been objected that this is virtually perpetual. It does give to some members a long continued term. But changes frequently occur in the Board. The ex-officio members, four in number, seldom continue in office more than four years consecutively, and the average term of one-half of the permanent members is less than seven years. The statute requires that the seats of non-attending members shall be declared vacant, and, by making six members a quorum for the transaction of business, wisely provides against injury to public interests which might arise from so large a Board widely dispersed throughout the State. Whether a limited term and fewer members would render it more efficient is, to say the least, questionable, unless the Legislature is prepared to incur a heavy expenditure, by providing for the payment of salaries involving large annual appropriations.

Though not required by the terms of the resolution, it may not be improper, in this connection, to mention other duties which have from time to time been devolved on this Board. They are:

1. The charge of the State Library.

2. The system of State and international exchange.

3. The custody of the State Cabinet of Natural History.

4. The direction of the teachers' classes in academies, and, with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the charge of the State Normal School.

5. The examination of the boundaries of the State and the condition of boundary monuments.

In conclusion, the Regents are of opinion that the Board would

not be rendered more efficient in the supervision of the colleges and
academies by any change in its organization.
Respectfully submitted, in behalf of the Regents.

JOHN V. L. PRUYN,
Chancellor.

S. B. WOOLWORTH,

Secretary.

The Constitutional Commission of 1872-73, created for the special purpose of recommending such changes in the Constitution as might be found proper, passed over the question of our higher educational system, under the care of the Regents, as needing no recommendation.

In 1874 bills were introduced in the Legislature proposing important changes in the organization of the educational system of the State, and in the powers and duties of the Board of Regents. By one of these bills it was proposed to change the mode of electing the Superintendent of Public Instruction and to devolve the charge of the common school department, and the appointment of the Superintendent upon the Regents. Another bill proposed to abolish the Board of Regents and to vest its powers and duties in the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

It being deemed proper that the position of the Board of Regents should be fairly represented and understood by the Legislature, they passed, on the 11th of March of that year, a resolution disavowing any desire on their part for the passage of any act that should confer upon them any increase of power, at the same time expressing an unwillingness to avoid any duty or responsibility that might be imposed upon them. A committee of five, of which the Chancellor was one, and the chairman, was appointed to present to the Legislature not only the work of the Board but its position in relation to the questions then before the Legislature. This committee was charged with the duty of carefully examining any bills before the Legislature, that they might be properly guarded in their powers and responsibilities.

Although there has been no direct allusion to the Board of Regents in the Constitution, certain questions have been raised with regard to their powers and duties as affected by its provisions, which we will next notice.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »