|Mansfield PA and Richmond Township in Tioga County PA|
Trustees’ Annual Meeting May 22
Mansfield, May 18 - [Special] - Had a bomb been thrown into the midst of the students of the Mansfield State Normal school, it could not have caused more excitement than did the news that Dr. Andrew Thomas Smith, their principal, had been asked to tender his resignation. For seven years Dr. Smith has been principal of the school, and has won the love and admiration of all with whom he has come in contact. Dr. Smith is a man of great mental ability and of unsullied character. He is especially successful as a disciplinarian.
Refused Excellent Offer
Last autumn Dr. Smith was offered the superintendence of the schools of Norristown, Pa. This position offered many advantages to Dr. Smith which he does not now enjoy. But upon being assured of the undivided support of his Board of Trustees, he declined this offer and remained at Mansfield. In view of this latter fact the request for his resignation came as a shock, not only to Dr. Smith, but to the Faculty and students alike.
Ross Has Influence
The chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Charles S. Ross, owns a large slice of the school “stock,” and has the greatest influence in the controlling interests of the town. Because of his wealth and influence, it is believed by the writer that he is practically the only man on the Board who has any say in matters pertaining to the school. Through the action of the Board, Dr. Smith’s friends believe hw has come to be treated with great injustice.
The student movement has aroused almost as much excitement as the state of affairs in the Board. Every individual student is enthusiastic to the last degree. The senior class led the movement and was readily followed by the middlers and juniors. Several sets of resolutions have been drawn up to the effect that unless Dr. Smith is retained the present students cannot conscientiously use their influence to the best interests of the school.
Board meetings have been numerous. The annual meeting for the election and appointment of teachers has been postponed until May 22 . What the result will be is hard to foretell. With the exception of Mr. Ross and a few merchants of Mansfield the town and surrounding community is decidedly in sympathy with Dr. Smith; and it is a known fact that if student and faculty support can avail anything Dr. Smith will be retained as principal of the Mansfield State Normal school.
In Chapel Meeting
When Dr. Smith, Principal of the Normal school, entered the chapel this morning he was greeted with an ovation from the students. After the usual exercises and notices he addressed them briefly as follows:
Dr. Smith Speaks
“I take it that your expression when I came upon the platform this morning is a virtual demand for a few words. Notwithstanding the numerous and varied charges that are to be heard on the street corners and on the trains, I have up to this time kept silence so far as the public is concerned. Among all these charges you will not hear that I am in the habit of making extravagant boasts or challenges or assertions, nor shall I do so now. This, however, [holding a copy of the Advertiser] is my guarantee to the right of speech.
“It is not pleasant to hear oneself the common talk. To hear matters spoken of by persons that had no right to know them, with a fullness of information that could only come from official sources. This [paper] is only the first gun; it is not to be the last. Here there is a great deal of “copy” but not much information. The public is entitles to information, and is going to get it. I think the power of expressing my meaning in clear English is not going to desert me for an hour.
“The expression which I know has come from the students, and that of others of which you do not know fully as yet, is the one thing that makes the situation bearable.
“To a man with a soul that can be scarred, the only thing that could make the situation worse would be to have deserved it.
“Let me take this occasion to compliment you upon the attitude which this student body has maintained during this trying time. Among the charges that are being made, it is said that you are not disciplined, that you are not receiving that guidance which would make you men and women who know how and are accustomed to exercise mastery over yourselves. The decorum that has attended this school is guarantee of your womanliness and manliness. Where that exists clubs are not needed. I ask of you but one thing. You have not seen me fuming, but I have ceased bearing in silence. There is more to follow. My request is, therefore, that you continue to maintain the most absolute decorum of which you are capable, as you have been doing and will, I am confident, continue to do. We are not a mob or rash. We don’t act without brains or conscience, up here on the hill. I call upon you to let this show itself in your attitude.
“One man can easily be crushed, but a cause can not. The individual makes but little difference. It I stand for anything, you are the expression of it. Professionally you are the proof of my success or my failure. Personally, I stand on my own feet. I thank you for the loyal, unsought attitude which you have taken, for your expression of sympathy, for your self-control. I cannot now reveal all that I feel. This shall be the last word from this platform unless there is a very decided change in the very near future.
“I shall not retaliate, I shall not make threats. But I have nothing to withhold, nothing to cover. And I shall not leave anything covered up that ought to be made known.”
Storm of Enthusiasm
These remarks were greeted with a threefold storm of applause.
|Statement by Dr. Smith
“The statement issued by Chairman Charles Ross, of the Board of Trustees, of the Mansfield Normal school, places before the bar of public opinion a case which now unseals my lips and gives the public a right to the entire truth. My statement at this time is not to be a report of the whole case, but merely a reply to as much as has been publicly stated.
“Since Mr. Ross has not denied any of the statements printed in the Elmira Daily Advertiser of Thursday, May 17th , I assume that he stand for them all, and that, therefore, I need not distinguish between what the reporter has produced as the result of his interview, and what purports to be the direct “talk” of President Ross.
Regarding “Business Fitness”
“I shall take up, then, the item of ‘business fitness.’ The article states that ‘when Dr. Smith went to the school seven years ago he was given full sway and the entire Board worked in harmony with him.’
Never Had “Full Sway”
“Now, so far as I know, when I took charge of this school there was no trustee opposed to me. But as for my ever having had ‘full sway,’ that is absolutely and unqualifiedly false. There never was a time when I possessed authority, given to me by the Board, to dictate in the household affairs of the school. There never has been a time when I could dictate expenditures of money, either as to the amount to be expended or the things for which it was to be expended. On the contrary, the committees of the Board have always determined those things; and they have on more than one occasion decided what was to be done and when, and I would learn about it only through street rumors or when I saw the workmen on hand to begin the enterprise.
“As to the business side of this school, I have possessed only one power - that of influencing the receipts of the school, by building up the attendance. Whether or not I have failed in this may be shown from just one fact - the increase of receipts for the year 1905, as compared with the receipts of 1899, is a little more than fifty-eight  per cent, chiefly due to the increased size of the school. [These figures are taken from the President’s report to the State Department.]
“The present year, being as yet incomplete, cannot be discussed; the receipts are likely, however, to be greater than were those of last year.
“The trustees can doubtless tell how the money has been expended. They know what has been bought and how much has been paid for the things that were bought; and in these matters I have not has any power, and usually not even advisory voice.
“Andrew Thomas Smith” [Signed]
Letters From the Students
The students of the Mansfield State Normal School are aroused to action as few students ever have been aroused before. Feeling the need of immediate action, they have sent copies of the following letters to the Hon. David Cameron, President Judge of Tioga county; to the Hon. A.C. Fanning, President Judge of Bradford County, both of whom are Trustees of the school, and to the Hon. N.C. Schaeffer, Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Pennsylvania.
Letters sent to Judges Cameron and Fanning from the students are as follows:
“The Senior class of the Mansfield State Normal School believe that the following are true statements of the present relations existing between the Board of Trustees and Dr. Andrew Thomas Smith, and we ask you to give them due consideration:
“The Board of Trustees is in the hands of one man, the President - Mr. Charles S. Ross.
“Mr. Ross is not using his influence for the good of the students or of the school.
“The Trustees have not treated Dr. Smith in a gentlemanly manner, and have placed him in an entirely false position before the public.
“The Trustees have withdrawn their support which they unanimously pledged Dr. Smith last fall when he wished to resign. The existing relations between Dr. Smith and the students are all that could be desired. By his efforts Dr. Smith has made this year the most prosperous in the history of the school.
“We enclose a copy of a statement signed by the members of the Senior
class. This shows their feeling concerning the matter. Similar statements
have been adopted by the other classes and we feel that for the good of
the school a thorough investigation should be made.
“Senior Class Committee”
Letter to Sup’t. Schaeffer
“The Senior class of the Mansfield State Normal School, in behalf of the student body, ask you to make an investigation of the movement, instigated by the President of the Board of Trustees, to force the resignation of our Principal, Dr. Smith. We feel that you can not help but join with us in appreciating the work of Dr. Smith as an educator. We believe that the Trustees have placed him in an entirely false position before the public. As students we wish to defend him from these false charges. Assuring you that Dr. Smith’s attitude toward the students has been of such a nature that he has our heartiest co-operation, we trust that you will cause an investigation to be made.
“Senior Class Committee”
Statement From Seniors
Hot indignation blazes in the minds of the rank and file of the student body of the Mansfield State Normal School. Dr. Andrew Thomas Smith, the principal, loved and respected by all, has been asked to resign. Never before in its history has the school been in a more flourishing condition; never before has there been such harmony between principal and colleagues; never before has greater respect been felt by the student body for the head of the institution.
It appears that there has been some trivial misunderstanding between Dr. Smith and the Board of Trustees, who, by the way, are men of “iron will”; and, as a direct result of this misunderstanding, the Trustees have decided that Dr. Smith is not a man suited to his position. No complaints have been made form an educational standpoint. It is simply stated that Dr. Smith is not an efficient disciplinarian. If that opinion is correct, we would like to ask if this fact would not have revealed itself before the seventh year of Dr. Smith’s work here? And would not some one besides the present Board of Trustees be dissatisfied with his work?
Dr. Smith offered his resignation a few months ago and stayed only at the urgent request of the Trustees, who then promised him their unanimous support. Now, on account of false accusations, engendered by personal enmity, he is insulted by this remand for his resignation.
The following paper has just been signed by the member of the Senior class and presented to the Board of Trustees:
“Inasmuch as we, the undersigned members of the class of 1906, feel
that the relations existing between Dr. Smith and the members of the school
are all that could be desired, and inasmuch as we believe that the present
discipline is the best that could exist, and inasmuch as we believe that
the existing attitude of the Trustees toward Dr. Smith is unjust, and is
not what is for the best interest of the school, we, as we go forth to
teach, feel it our duty not to use our influence for the school unless
the existing attitude of the Trustees toward Dr. Smith be changed.
“Senior Class Committee”
Similar papers have been signed by all the other students, the middle years, the Juniors, the college preparatory and special students.
It will thus be seen that in the minds of the students, the charges
against Dr. Smith are believed to be groundless. We ask the Board of Trustees,
or their President, to prove a single one of the charges they are bringing
“A Committee of the Senior Class”
The trouble in the Mansfield Normal School is an unfortunate affair, and we are very sorry that it has occurred. It will be detrimental to that finely equipped and prosperous State institution, however it may end. It is unfortunate for the trustees, every member of the faculty, for all the students and for the people of Mansfield, who will all be dragged into the controversy. Bitterness will ensue and factional feelings aroused which it will take years to smooth over. It is unfortunate for the whole county, which has taken so much pride in its foremost educational institution; and, while troubles and investigations have come and gone in other similar institutions, we have held up our heads and asserted that there was a school at Mansfield in no danger of being injured through dissension between faculty and trustees or whose management could in any way be criticized. It is unfortunate also for the State, which has been so generous with public money to build and equip the school for educating teachers, It is, indeed, a public institution, and in its prosperity and usefulness we all have an interest.
Personally we know nothing whatever of the inside history of the controversy which has stirred up so much feeling among friends of the Normal School. The first newspaper account of the affair was printed in an Elmira paper last Thursday in a three column article. It contained a great many words, but very few facts were given for the information of the public. Boiled down the statement was that Dr. Andrew Thomas Smith, A.M., Ph. D, principal of the Mansfield State Normal School for the last seven years, had been asked to resign at the close of this school year. This action was taken by the trustees on May 11th, when, it is said, all but one member voted to ask for Dr. Smith’s resignation.
Dr. Smith has been a teacher for 25 years and is one of the most efficient educators in the State of Pennsylvania and is widely known throughout the country through his works of an educational character and through his lectures before teachers’ institutes. The Board of Trustees say they regard him as a most competent teacher and a men of the highest character, but they maintain that the very peculiar qualities combining the teacher with the executive are not coupled in Dr. Smith’s makeup in sufficient degree to cause him to perform the whole work satisfactorily and, therefore, they have suggested that he tender his resignation. The trustees have not made an effort to secure his successor, despite the fact that the position indirectly pays nearly $4,000 a year. There is a salary of $2,500 per year and the maintenance of the principal is provided for.
The situation was not known to the people of Mansfield or the pupils in the school till last Wednesday and then there was fat in the fire at once. Dr. Smith’s friends immediately made a protest against the action of the trustees. The ministers of the town took vigorous action, the members of the Normal faculty waxed warm over the alleged injustice to the head of the school, and most of the students championed the cause of Dr. Smith.
It is stated that last fall Dr. Smith tendered his resignation when he had an offer of another position at a larger salary, but he withdrew it at the urgent request of the trustees, who promised him unanimous support. This made the sting of the present action all the more sharp.
The Seniors not only remonstrated with the trustees; they made a threat
to use their influence against the school.
Their communication reads:
“Inasmuch as we, the undersigned members of the class of 1906, feel that the relations existing between Dr. Smith and the members of the school are all that could be desired, and inasmuch as we believe that the present discipline is the best that could exist, and inasmuch as we believe that the existing attitude of the trustees toward Dr. Smith is unjust and is not for the best interest of the school, we, as we go forth to teach, feel is our duty not to use our influence for the school unless the existing attitude of the trustees toward Dr. Smith be changed.”
President Charles S. Ross has been a member of the board of trustees for 28 years and he is a graduate of the school. He made a statement last week to the effect that the only reason Dr. Smith’s resignation was asked for was on account of his lack of business capacity for the place, that the trustees had the right to retain or dismiss any person connected with the school, though friends of such persons might object.
The public criticism that is made on the affair is that if the board of trustees thought Dr. Smith deficient in any quality necessary for the principal of a Normal school to possess, they should have been fully aware of it last fall after working with him seven years. They could have accepted his resignation then and there would not have been a ripple of excitement nor a protest. So the public naturally concludes that there must be something else behind this sudden action.
It is also reported in connection with this affair that there had been complain for some months on account of the quality of the board provided in the school. The majority of the students were not accustomed to “eating what is set before them and asking no questions.” They took vigorous action and sent a “round-robin” or something of that sort to the trustees. Meal time was not the happiest hour for the young men and women or members of the faculty, and there has been a growing friction between them and the steward; but the steward still holds his position. That the condition of things in the dining-room had something to do in the beginning with the break between the principal and the trustees is evident from the disclosures.
Dr. Smith, within a few days, has spoken of this subject publicly stating that the cuisine has long been in a disgraceful state; that sour milk was repeatedly used, roaches fried with the meat and brought to the tables; worms have been taken from the corn bread and white bread by the students at meal time; food frequently so prepared that it was unfit to eat and the dishes on the tables dirty. When protest was made to the steward, it is asserted that he replied that they did not “have to eat the roaches, worms or unsavory food” put before them.
Dr. Smith states that for two years he has been ignored in invitations to attend meetings of the trustees, though in the regular order of business a report is required from the principal at such meetings. He says, now that his lips are unsealed because of the published statements, that there never was a time when he had authority to dictate about the household affairs of the school or to make expenditures of money. He continues: “As to the business side of this school, I have possessed only one power -- that of influencing the receipts of the school, by building up the attendance. Whether or not I have failed in this, may be shown from just one fact -- the increase of receipts for the year in 1905, as compared with the receipts of 1899, is a little more than fifty-eight per cent, chiefly due to the increased size of the school. These figures are taken from the president’s report to the State Department.
“The present year, being as yet incomplete, cannot be discussed; the receipts are likely, however, to be greater than were those of last year.
“The trustees can doubtless tell how the money has been expended. They know what has been bought and how much has been paid for the things that were bought; and in these matters I have not had any power, and usually not even an advisory voice.”
It is now made public that there “was something doing” recently between the Mansfield school authorities and State relative to trustees furnishing supplies or becoming interested in any way in contracts for the school. The law is very stringent on this subject, and now that matter is likely to be thoroughly investigated and another serious phase of the school management brought before the public. It is alleged that a number of the trustees have long been interested one way or another in contracts for Normal school supplies.
A meeting of the Normal trustees was held at Mansfield yesterday morning to take further action regarding the request for the resignation of Dr. Smith. The session opened at 9 a.m., and continued till five p.m. Dr. Smith was present at the meeting and fifteen trustees. The whole matter was discussed and, it is said, nobody got mad. A compromise was finally effected and Dr. Smith was re-elected principal for another year at the same salary. The meeting closed with a better feeling between principal and officers and an expressed disposition that all should put their shoulders to the wheel and make the coming year the banner one in the school’s history.
So this “mountain out of a mole-hill” has been reduced to its original
proportions. “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth.”