Summary: WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.
EGEND HAS IT that long before James A. Garfield became
president of the United States, he uttered these words
about his former teacher at Williams College: "The ideal
college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on
The aphorism is known throughout higher education, but
here at Williams, it has almost mythic significance. The student
bar just off campus is called The Log. A current exhibit at the
college's art museum features a massive sculpture of Mark
Hopkins, the renowned 19th-century Williams president,
sitting on that famous log.
In the age of distance education and large lecture classes,
Garfield's words focus on the fundamental teacher-student
relationship. For the past 15 years, professors here thought they
were recreating a bit of that old-style log magic through their
tutorials program -- courses based loosely on the tutorials at
the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge that pair one
student and one professor. At Williams, the model is two
students with one professor.