In connection with the recent semiannual examinations, there has been considerable condemnation of the system of proctors as adopted at Harvard. We have noticed in one collegiate publication a matter-of-course reference to the Harvard "cheat-if-you-can system," coupled with the statement that "If the Harvard system of spying is adopted, students will cheat if they think there is a possibility, and it would take one instructor to every student to keep them from it." We refer to this because it is expressive of a very erroneous, yet very common, conception of the Harvard system. This system we do not believe to be a "cheat-if-you-can" system. Any such understanding of it must arise from a wholly mistaken idea of the relations now existing at Harvard between student and professor.
The disposition to cheat grows naturally out of a feeling of hostility toward the professors; with the decay of that feeling, students become less and less inclined to excuse violations of honor as acts of self-defence which are expected by both parties to the conflict. The individual's perception of honor is gradually given free play. With many this at once and decisively condemns cheating; but there remains a class which has not yet reached such an advanced moral condition. These two classes are inevitably blended, and no body of students can be divided into the honorable and the dishonorable, and take examinations under different conditions accordingly. It is this fact which makes proctors desirable.
It is not the only function of a proctor to restrain the confirmed cheater. The presence of an instructor in the examination room serves also as a protection to the honorable man who does not wish to be disturbed by others less earnest than himself; it prevents in large measure such combinations of circumstances which might tempt those of no very strong powers of resistance, to cheat; and, finally, it is a matter of great convenience, all question of honor out of the consideration, to those who take examinations. The system of proctors, as now in force at Harvard, does not imply a low state of honor in the college; rather, it accompanies an unusually high state. The maturity of Harvard men and the friendly relations between them and their instructors, make the system wholly compatible with that moral development which may perhaps be best sought elsewhere through the "honor" system.