THE FUNCTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT.
Every fall some six or seven hundred young men come to Cambridge from all parts of this country and foreign countries, bringing with them different ideals bred and fostered by diverse training and prepared to become cultured and educated men through the intermingling of ideals and ideas by athletic, social and intellectual intercourse. To these men assembled in Freshman gatherings all sorts of advice and exhortations are presented, and the valuable opportunities of college life are set forth. But after these few meetings the Freshman class splits up into a large number of small groups, for the most part isolated and distinct from one another. Pre-college acquaintanceships and preparatory school friendships from the basis of this class subdivision. This is the prevalent condition that causes President Lowell to remark that "exhortation and advice are well-nigh fruitless without a favorable environment."
This environment the new Freshman dormitories are designed to furnish. In the first place all the members of the class are to be drawn together on a level basis of mutual acquaintanceship. All men from various localities and countries, and representing different modes of thought and various forms of activity, intermingle and compete with one another. Thus the environment is provided in which can develop at the very beginning of the career of every class all that is best and most worth while in the complexity of college opportunities.
The question naturally arises -- how does this environment further this early and rapid development. As Dean Yeomans points out in the current issue of the Graduates' Magazine, the "precious mediocrity" of the class will find more and higher inspiration for work and better opportunities to perform it. It is a fact that under prevalent conditions a major portion of undergraduate mediocrity is found among isolated groups of students who live apart from their active and energetic classmates and who never come in contact with the leaders of the classes. The consequence is they are satisfied to loaf and do only enough work to remain in College, for they do not come in contact with those who offer examples of active and inspiring leadership. In other words, in the new environment, the leaders will really lead. The entire class will be a unit and striving to fulfill certain ideals.
The new plan of Freshman dormitories is but an application of the Senior plan three years in advance. It is a recognition of the unqualified success of this Senior dormitory movement and an effort to secure the benefits to be derived from its earlier application in a more intensive form.