Depression, Recovery and Higher Education: A Report by Committee Y of the American Association of University Professors. The Draft of This Report Was Prepared by Malcolm M. Willey

By Malcolm M. Willey; American Association of University Professors | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
LEAVES OF ABSENCE FOR PUBLIC SERVICE

PUBLIC service on the part of college professors is nothing new. At the larger institutions it is normal for one or more men to be released temporarily at the request of the government to undertake some special project for which they are assumed to be uniquely qualified. It is natural and desirable that governmental agencies should regularly avail themselves of the specialist in the solution of technical problems; this specialist is often found on a college or university campus. It is only in a period of emergency, when the number of college professors at Washington or in the state capitals increases, that there is occasion for public comment, or the matter assumes special importance at the institutions from which the academic people are drawn. It is significant, however, that during periods of emergency, state and federal governments do turn to the colleges and universities in their search for personnel. The colleges and universities, staffed with scholars in many fields, have in the course of time come to be regarded as the reservoirs of learning that may be tapped as occasion arises. Twice in recent history this has occurred: first during the war period, 1917- 1919, when every available expert was taken from routine academic work into war activity; and again following 1932 when the untoward conditions coming in the wake of the business collapse of 1929 drew academic men and women into direct participation in governmental affairs. It may be set down as a sound generalization that whenever social or economic disturbances exist on a national scale, necessitating widespread and continuous action by the federal government, the colleges and universities of the country will feel this, among other ways, in the pull of their staffs away from the institutions and into government positions.

With some qualifications, the desirability of release for public service can scarcely be questioned. Its stimulating influence upon the staff member is probably great in most instances. Furthermore, institutions cannot escape an obligation to place the ability of staff members at the disposal of a governmental unit if there is actual need for doing so. Finally, members of a teaching staff presumably have a right to come and go. If they wish to accept opportunities for temporary

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