It is an inevitable fact that almost every large institution, be it established in the interest of literature, science, or art, or be it purely educational in its aim, rapidly gains for itself some peculiar quality or name that stamp it among like institutions. Therefore it is not to be wondered at if the members-let us say students-at such a college (for such an institution is a college,) are distinguished by certain general characteristics. It may be that a man has no inclination either for one or the other qualities which are the symbols of the two colleges between which his choice lies, and that his individual character is entirely opposite to such qualities, yet whatever college he chooses will so influence him that in a few years he will have the very quality he lacked on entrance. Naturally some colleges have earned for themselves unenviable distinctions, and whether they deserve them or not it is not in the writer's province to say, yet this is certain, that there must have been some soil for the quality to spring up in, some foundation for it to rest upon.
Again and again one hears from the outside world much talk about the indifference of Harvard students, and this has given rise to the so-called Harvard indifference-the distinguishing quality of one of the largest colleges in this country. The quality of indifference, however, is open to great discussion, as it is praised by some, tolerated by others, and loudly denounced by still a third party. All this antagonism arises perhaps from a misunderstanding of the term and its application to the college at large. A simple meaning is that it express a "don't-carewhat-happens" state; in other words, a non-emotional existence which has its good points when compared to the headlong whirl of the nineteenth century, and those that are bad when compared to the athletic standing of rival colleges. If indifference enables men to bear defeat or loss, either in the baseball field, in football, or at the boatrace, with tolerable equanimity, or to hail victories without any outrageous demonstration, it is, and ought to be, considered a good quality. To treat a victorious or team from a rival college cordially or courteously, without showing any pique or ill feeling, is most creditable, and tends to make all intercourse between the two colleges manly and fair. The great evil of indifference, however, is shown by the elements of which the various Harvard teams are composed. Only men who have been noted for good playing, or rowing, when at school attempt to gain positions on any of our teams, and a large majority of such men in the different classes do not even try. It may be the fault of the management that not enough inducement has been held out to make the men try for positions. The position that Harvard holds in rowing and field athletics is, without doubt, due to the efficient management of the respective associations, but the scarcity of good, not brilliant, foot-ball and base-ball players, is accounted for only by bad management or indifference. At other colleges the system pursued is much different, and the results are most gratifying; but at Harvard, while the teams are good, and composed of the best men in the college, still, when substites have to be employed, their lack of training and skill is often painfully evident, and always will be until some change be made by the students. The indifference of men to come out and practice is a crying evil, and one that must be reformed if Harvard College wishes to hold the position in sports that she has gained by the exertions of her early members. That men, well built physically, and well endowed mentally (for it requires some headwork), to play a good game of lacrosse, base-ball, or foot-ball, but who have not had any experience. should hang back and decline to try for positions on a team, not out of timidity, for this is a "rare commodity,"but out of pure indifference, is disgraceful. Individual players, whose reputations are made before they come to college constitute our nine, eleven, and twelve, and as long as they are in active exercise the teams prosper, but when any one of these men fails, through sickness or injury, the choice of a successor lies between one or two indifferent players. Class elevens and class nines would do away with the scarcity of material, and would be the store-houses of good players just as the class crews are the feeders of the university in case of an emergency. If this, the only objectionable side of the quality which Harvard has earned for herself, be done away with, the term "Harvard Indifference" ought to be as much credit to the college, in a harmless way, as Princeton "toughness," and Yale "boorishness," is to the latter establishments