Over 100 sociologists, physiologists and educators gathered at Vassar to discuss the conclusions reached in University of California Professor of Psychology Nevitt Sanford’s new book, The American College: A Psychological and Social Interpretation of the Higher Learning.   Building on a study begun when Sanford was director, at Vassar, of the Mary Conover Mellon Fund for the Advancement of Education, Sanford’s 1,084-page volume, comprised of the work of 30 social scientists, was sponsored by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.  Its college analyses came from Harvard, Vassar, Boston College, the University of Massachusetts, San Francisco State College and scores of other institutions.  Among its several blunt assertions were strong advocacy of a greater application of the social sciences to the problems of higher education and charges that colleges were not achieving their intellectual goals and that they were engaging in “considerable bamboozlement” by hiding from the public what went on in their ivory towers.
Karl W. Deutsch, professor of Political Science at Yale University, delivered the opening speech, entitled “The Challenge to Liberal Education,” in which he outlined the goals of higher education.   Taking issue with a recommendation of the Sanford volume, Deutsch said that many freshmen whom the social scientists would “orientate” would be better served by a year’s maturation during a pre-freshman year abroad under college supervision or “a productive year of paid work or voluntary service, freed from the anxiety by advance assurance of admission the following year.
Other participants also challenged the "new findings about intellectual and personality development during the college years" outlined in the book.  Dr. William C. H. Prentice, dean at Swarthmore College, called much of the book’s material “armchair theorizing” and “generalizations about the American college on the basis of superficial acquaintance with a small number of nonrepresentative institutions.”  “I think I can detect,” he also told his colleagues, “in many of the contributors to the present volume a predilection toward making our colleges into institutions for personal and social development.”
Dr. William Carl Fels, president of Bennington College, praised the studies in the volume, calling the work the “greatest challenge” to educators since John Dewey’s Democracy and Education appeared in 1916.   “The reason The American College presents a formidable challenge to collegiate education,” he said, “is that it now calls upon them to face up to both Dewey and Freud, and, except for a handful of them, they haven’t yet faced up to Dewey.  It has caught educators with their means down and their ends exposed.”
 As the conference drew to a close, some participants spoke of another such gathering at Vassar in a year’s time.      The New York Times