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The Ph. D.

The Ph. D. image The Ph. D. image
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Not a little discuásiou has been wasted ainong college men over the conferriugof honorary degrees. The latcst and best on the subject is embodied in a report to the last meeting of the Board ol Regents, prepared by Pres. Angelí and Professors i-'rieze and (.'. K. Adams. It is as folio ws: The committee appointcd by your honorable body at their meeting, June 20th, 1882, " to investígate and report their reeommendations on" the Memorial presented by the American Philological Associatlon and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in regard to the matter of conferring the degree of Uoctor of Philosophy ftonoris causa, beg leave to report the following as the result of their conclusions. The paper presented by your memorialists consist of three eísential elements: first, that the degree of Ph. D. in Germany whereit originated, is purelya professional degree and is contened ouly after a course of study at a University of at least three years, ending with a successful examination; second, that in America this degree has been removed from tne class of professional degrees, and degraded to a degree f requently given momccmsi,aMd third, that an ellbrt should be made by the governing bodies of our colleges and unlversities to restore this degree to the class froin which it lias been removed. On the iirsi of these positions the lauguage of your memorialist is as follows: ' Invorder to obtain it (the degree of Ph. D. in Germany) the candidate- if a native -must first have pursued succesfully the studies of the gymnasium or real-school; must have been in residence at a university for three years; must present a thesis, which at many universities is printed, and must pass an examination. In Germany the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is as much a professional degree as that in theology, law, or medicine." It seems to us not a little singular that the distinguished scholars whose names are attached to the memorial should have given the weiglit of their authority to so erroneous a representation. The liistory of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy is not an obscure one; and therefore it is not easy to understand how even from inadvertence it should have been eitherovorlooked or forgotten by the chosen representatives of the two learncd societies whose especial mission is supposed to be the encouragement and guardiauship of exact scholarship. Formerly, indeed, the degree of Ph. D. had something of importance; for it gave to its possessor the right to a voice in the choice of university officers, and the right to be a candidute for appointment to a position as teacher or professor. But at the time of the educational reforms in Prussia under Stein even these somewhat barren rights were taken away and were given to the commissioners appointed to conduct the examinations by the State. For about half a century after this change the degree was a neceasary condition of admission to the examination by the State commissioner; but the decree of December 12, 1860, robbed it of even that significance. Since that date, the degite of Ph. D. has not been necessary for admission to any position in Pruseia whatever. Similar decisions liave taken away the old significance of the degree, in other Germán States. In allusion to thiswell-known tendency Professor Roth, the distinguished Sanscrit scholar, in a recent letter to one of the members of your committee speaks of the degree as having beeome purely honorary in its character (zu einer blosen Ehrensache geworden). Nor is it by any means true, as your learned memorialists would have us infer, that the Germán universities guard the degree of Ph. D. with so niucli sauctity as never to confer it honoris causa. A few years ngo Professor Mommseu published an article on "ThePseudo Doctors,1' in which his object was to protest against the frequency with which the degree is given. Aiiiong other illustrations he called attentlon to the fact one that William Dabis had recently been created doctor on the presentation of a fraudulent thesis and the payment of a sum of money. This protest of the distinguished Roman historian was soon followed by another written by the same hand, on " The Eeform in the Doctórate." An energetic discussion followed, carried on mainly on the one side by Professor Mommsen, and on the other by Cari Voigt and Professor Heinsen, of Heidelberg. The very fact of the discussion, iside from all merits of the questien at issue, shows the prevalent existence in Germany of the same evils as those plained of here. Oti this point we are nol left in Bny uncertainty whatever, for we have testimony of the most unrnistakable nature. In the year 1878 the Society for the Study of Questions of Higliei Education (Société pour l'étude (les Questions d'Enseirnemeut Superieur), organized in Krance, published a Report that is perhaps the most valuable contribution recently made to the literature of highei education. A liundred and fifty-eight pages of this report are devoted to a desciïption of the University of Bonn, including six pages descriptive of the mannerof conlerring degrees. M. Edinond Dreyfus-Brisac, wlio writes this portion of the report, explains the general policy of the Germán universities in the following words : " In general the universities of Protestant counrries are more seyere in tlieir exactions for the degree tban are the universities of Catholic countriea. For example, the diplomas of the Rumian universities are more difflcult to obtain tlian those of the universities in the greater part of the other countries of the empire. It is also worthy of remark that the older universities are more indulgent in this regard than the new ones, and the smalle! universities less exacting than the large ones. If the diplomas of Jena and Rostock have no very great value, those of Berlin and Bonn are much more difflcult to acquire." (Report, p. 117). After pointing out in this manner that the University of Bonn is among the most exacting in the matter of degrees, M. Dreyfus gives a table showing the number of degrees conferred in the University during the period extending from 1861 to the publication of the report in 1878. During the intervening sixteen years the Doctórate was conferred on seven hundred and sixty (7G0) persons on examination, and on one hundred and five (105) persons honoris causa. In the single year 1867-68 this distinguished university, so chary of its honors, conferred the degree of Ph. D. honoris causa on eighteen persons. (Report, p. 122). The second position taken by your memorialists is in the following words : " 'VVhen this degree was first transferred to this country, the eonditions umler which it was conferred abroad were rigidly observed here. conditions still exist in full force In eight or ten universities which since that time have provided courses of study in Philosophy for Bachelors of Arts. But meanwhile the practice has been established of giving the degree honoris causa.1" After what has been already shown to be the custom of Germán universities, it is unnecessary to multiply words to show the inaccuracy of these stateme.nts. In view of the bistory of the degree in Germany, it would not be easy to show that we are not as much indebted to Germany for the custom ot giving the degree luonoris causa, as for the custom of giving the degree on examination. The history of the degree in Germany makes it unnecessary to dweil at length on the third position of your meniorialists. It is enough simply to say that the degree cannot be restored to a position from which it has not been removed. While we are not a llttle surprised at the positions taken by your distinguished memorialists, we do not wish to be understood as condemning in toto the object of the memorial. We are firmly of the opinión that the degree of Ph. D. should be given only after the most diseriminating thought, andas only the reward for conspicuous attainments. But this we linden-tand alvvays to have been the policy of this Unifersity. The course pursued has been strictlyin accordance with the methods ihat prevail in Germany. Indeed tie policy of the University of Michigan could hardly be more perfectly described than by adopting the language of Professor Roth in describing the policy of the universities of Germany. He says : " I have found nothing in early times concerning doctors honoris causa. But at present the Faculties do not hesitate to confer titelt degrees by simple resolution upon persons who have shown raarked scientific or literary attainments." (MS. Letters of Professor Roth, dated Tubingen, December 17, 1882.) We regard the Germán example in this, as in so mauy other directions, as quite worthy of imitation ; and therefore we find owroolvco nnnb'c tu 1 CCUIJlUlenü any change in the general policy of the University concerning the matter discussed in the memorial.


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