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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, 1939

Two Voices are There

page 42

Two Voices are There

It has been customary in previous issues of "Spike" to solicit articles from newly appointed members of the College Staff. In continuance of this custom "Spike" has obtained an interesting contribution from Professor Lipson who occupies the recently constituted Chair of Political Science.

Oxford and Chicago are the two Universities of which I can speak from personal acquaintance. The very conjunction of these two names itself suggests a host of contrasts. Oxford is redolent of University associations, a city where truth is consciously pursued and culture unconsciously absorbed, where dreaming spires and undergraduates reputedly despise the changed world that lies around them. Chicago, on the other hand, has been invested with attributes so different in savour that we can scarcely credit this metropolis as a seat of academic learning—that is, if we believe popular legend. How can a University thrive in this mushroom growth of the mid-western prairies, home of the "Meat King of Ai Capone, of spoils politics?

Oxford's great charm has lain in its atmosphere of secluded contemplation. In the College Halls, where the great of other days gaze serenely from their gilded picture frames, one is oppressed by the mute presence of the venerated past. It is impossible to contemplate those gray, weather-beaten stones, the paving-steps hollowed by centuries of use, without sensing that the University is greater by far than the individual. By quiet penetration and unobtrusive influence, the traditions of the place mould those who live within their shadow. The clanging bustle of modernity, it is true, encroaches ever closer on the sacred precincts. Charabancs, express-trains, and the ubiquitous omnibus disgorge their hordes of infidels within the retreats of the omniscient. Whilst the Morris works, looming smokily in the north, remind the dons that in an industrialised world Oxford may yet become merely "the Latin quarter of Cowley." Oxford can no longer "daff the world aside and bid it pass." Not that Oxford is full of twentieth century Canutes ordering a halt to the onrushing tide of what some consider "progress." The cloisters are far less cloistered than heretofore.

At Chicago, there is no incubus of the past, for the past lies still within the memory of those living. Traditions—if one can speak of them—are fluid. Men mould the University to themselves rather than are moulded by it. The task of building, of establishing standards, of creating the system, proceeds apace. They are proud of their creation, they, who in fifty years have produced a University that now stands in the foremost rank. But they do not revere it, as at Oxford. Reverence can be felt only for a mystery. There in Chicago, the University is intertwined with all the tentacles of a tremendous city. Theoretical speculation about what ought to be is conditioned by the demands and strivings of practical men. Even the pseudo-Gothic of Chicago's architecture cannot conceal the modern bias of its soul.

Their mottoes breathe their contrast. To Oxford's "The Lord is my light" Chicago responds "Let knowledge increase that life may become more civilised." At Oxford, truth is shrouded in a dim religious light. At Chicago, it is placed under the microscope.

—Leslie Lipson.