Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White - Vol. 1

By Andrew Dickson White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
DIFFICULTIES AND DANGERS AT CORNELL -- 1868-1872

T HE first business after formally opening the university was to put in operation the various courses of instruction, and vitally connected with these were the lectures of our non-resident professors. From these I had hoped much and was not disappointed. It had long seemed to me that a great lack in our American universities was just that sort of impulse which non-resident professors or lecturers of a high order could give. At Yale there had been, in my time, very few lectures of any sort to undergraduates; the work in the various classes was carried on, as a rule, without the slightest enthusiasm, and was considered by the great body of students a bore to be abridged or avoided as far as possible. Hence such pranks as cutting out the tongue of the college bell, of which two or three tongues still preserved in university club-rooms are reminders; hence, also, the effort made by members of my own class to fill the college bell with cement, which would set in a short time, and make any call to morning prayers and recitations for a day or two impossible -- a performance which caused a long suspension of several of the best young fellows that ever lived, some of them good scholars, and all of them men who would have walked miles to attend a really inspiring lecture.

And yet, one or two experiences showed me what might be done by arousing an interest in regular class work. Professor Thacher, the head of the department of Latin, who conducted my class through the "Germania" and

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