At the January meeting of the board of overseers on Tuesday morning, the annual report or President Eliot was presented. It covers the official year from September 28, 1882, to September 27, 1883. In his report, President Eliot touches on all the important topics of the year. After paying an appropriate tribute to those persons connected with the university who have died or resigned during the year, the president speaks on the subject of the increase of students during the past eight years, which is shown to have come mainly from the middle and Western States and not from New England as formerly. This is principally due to the slow increase of population in the New England States and to the great numbers of well-to-do families now coming up in the Western States and territories. "Sixty years ago 79 per cent of the students in the university came from New England; 30 years ago 75 per cent; three years ago 72 per cent; but now only 67 per cent. During the past three years the percentage of students from Massachusetts has fallen from 61 1-2 to 54. Sixty years ago the Southern States contributed nearly one-fifth of the whole number of students, but that section of the country, though greatly expanded in the meantime, now contributes only a little over three per cent. The increase from the Middle States is the most striking, and is chiefly among the students of the college proper, one-fifth of whom now come from that part of the country. The number of graduates of the university who settle in the Middle and Western States has been rapidly increasing of late, many of them soon filling places of trust and influence. They exert themselves to improve the preparatory schools in their vicinity, or to found new ones; and by example and precept they suggest to young men that it is expedient to get thorough training for professional or active life. Since about 300 young men are now graduated yearly at the university, and are dispersed hence far and wide over the Union, and since the country becomes constantly more compact through the rapid extension and improvement of railroads and telegraphs, so that the situation of the university upon the eastern edge of the continent is less and less an obstacle to its growth, it is to be expected that the proportion of its students from beyond New England will continue to increase."
The report then speaks of the increase in the number of special students and the provisions now made for them. Attention is called to the desirability of endowments for aiding, after probation, this class of students, some of whom do excellent work.
The number of graduates of other colleges who have attended Harvard for advanced study, not candidates for professional degrees, has increased from five in 1871-2 to forty-four in 1883-3. During the same period the number of Harvard graduates who have remained after graduation for advanced work has increased from fourteen to fifty-four.
The president then enters into a lengthy mention of the faculty, its increased members and efficiency, and its work. It appears that, exclusive of the new subjects, the faculty has nearly doubled the number of teachers in each department during the last fourteen years.
The June admission examinations are now conducted simultaneously at Andover, Exeter, New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco, and they answer a good purpose and cost but little. This method of carrying the examination papers to the candidates, instead of obliging all candidates to travel to Cambridge, only dates from 1876; it has been gradually extended, and bids fair to become the normal method for large academies and for cities which possess schools capable of preparing boys for this university.
Each year there are a large number of students who pass the admission examinations, and the report goes on to say in this regard that, in giving these persons a thorough examination, the college renders a gratuitous service, partly to them, and partly to the schools from which they come; and it will continue freely to render this service until the labor which these examinations impose upon it becomes unreasonably heavy. Every ambitious pupil in the graduating class of a school or academy desires, for his own credit, to pass all the examinations which his comrades are passing, and the more reputable the examinations the stronger will be this desire. The college recognizes the force of these motives, and has thus far made no objection to examining for admission persons who have no definite intention of entering the university.
A tabular comparison is made upon curtain points between six large schools which habitually send boys to Harvard. The statistics embrace a period of eight years for the private, and ten years for the endowed and public schools. The scholarship shown in the entrance examinations and in their work for the four years is given. Facts prove that there is not so sure a connection between good work as a schoolboy and good work as a college student as there ought to be, many of the ill-prepared boys surpassing during college life many of the well-prepared. In the freedom of college-life differences between individuals in respect to ambition, strength of will, physical and mental alertness, and habits created by luxury on the one hand, or poverty on the other, produce much greater effect than they do among boys who are under constant observation and pressure at school.
The present position of the faculty in the matter of athletics is then taken up and strongly stated. It is substantially that which they have held of late years, and which has been so freely discussed. They believe that college sports should be conducted as the amusement of amateurs, and not as the business of professional players; they are in favor of forbidding college clubs and crews to employ trainers, to play or row with "professionals," or to compete with clubs or crews who adopt either of these practices.
The elective studies are now larger number than ever before, and embrace a range of 373 exercises per week. The report says: The range of choice studies now offered to the Harvard undergraduate may be inferred from the fact that no undergraduate is expected to attend during the last three years of his college course more than one-tenth of the elective instruction which the college provides, the requirement for the degree being twelve exercises a week, and the amount of instruction given being 373 exercises a week.
The different schools of the university are then in turn mentioned, and all seems to be in a flourishing condition, except the Dental School. Particular attention is called to this department. After a struggle of fifteen years it possesses no property except a few chairs, and a fund of $955 in the treasury; and yet it has earned an European reputation, and attracts more students from abroad than any other department of the university. Its claims for a better support by the public in the matter of endowments are referred to. The dining association may now be considered one of the established institutions of the university. The report states it is of great importance in several ways; first, by providing a substantial diet at a low price for students who wish to live inexpensively; secondly, by keeping down the price of board at other places in Cambridge; thirdly, by facilitating the formation of new acquaintances; and fourthly, by exerting a strong influence through its democratic constitution, against all provincialism.
The subject of bequests to the colleges is then mentioned, and the financial policy of the corporation is stated in the general purpose to spend every year all their income. They believe that well instructed young men are the best investment or accumulation which the university can make from year to year for the benefit of future generations. As fast as new resources are placed in their hands, whether from increase in the amount of tuition fees, or from the income of new endowments, the corporation incur new permanent charges.
The dean of the college in his report states that discipline among the students has required the action of the faculty in but few cases during the year, and that on all ordinary occasions the unruly element, which may be presumed to exist in any body of a thousand young men, is kept in control by the powerful sentiment of the great majority, which has proved a far more effective instrument for the maintenance of good order and gentlemanly conduct than the system of minute regulations formerly in force. The college library has received an accession of 8441 books during the year, and the university library, which includes the other, 9818, making the total numbers now in the library 277,700 volumes and 228,856 pamphlets.