In view of the comment which has arisen over the action of the Student Council in suggesting a student waiter system at Memorial Hall the following letter from Gordon Ware '08, Secretary for Student Employment, to the Alumni Bulletin is of especial interest.
"For the self-supporting student at Harvard, the item of board is the greatest problem that he has to cope with. It is essential that he shall have enough wholesome food to nourish him properly for the mental and physical labor that he must perform, and the difficulty in earning enough money to meet this cost may easily result in the sacrifice of health.
"It can be readily seen, however, when the conditions affecting student employment are understood, that such steady work as will pay a year's board bill is very difficult to obtain. When a man applies at the beginning of the year for a position of this sort, it is practically impossible to guarantee him any work of the nature he desires. Past experience shows that scarcely a dozen such positions occur during the year. When it is considered that some 500 men are anxious to avail themselves of these opportunities, it is easy to see the need of increasing the supply.
"This year at Princeton, the problem has been solved in great measure by the installation of student waiters at the 'Commons,' whereby 100 men earn enough to pay their year's board bill of $216.
"The Princeton system is briefly as follows: One hundred men are employed; eleven act as 'floor captains' or assistant head-waiters; eighty do full time work and the remainder work on 'part time.' At breakfast, each waiter attends to twelve men, at lunch fifteen men, and at dinner ten men. The 'floor captains' receive 36 cents per hour, which covers their board and leaves a balance of about $5 per month. The waiters receive 30 cents per hour, and all men on full time work twenty hours per week, which enables them to pay all their board. Seven hundred men are enrolled in the Commons, and the fact that the facilities for seating them are not ideal--meals being served in small rooms and not in one large hall--necessitates assigning fewer men to one waiter than would be the case at Memorial. Professional waiters change the linen, sweep up and set the tables. The student waiters are required to be on hand fifteen minutes before each meal. Those late are fine one hour's pay, and there are always extra men on hand to replace those late or absent.
"Mr. Galt, secretary of the Princeton Self-Help Bureau, reports that the system inaugurated last September is thoroughly satisfactory. The students working in the Commons take real pride in doing their work well and the system of fines is not essential to insure punctuality. The men who board at the Commons are satisfied and approve of the system. The employment of additional students offsets the greater efficiency of professional waiters, and does not retard the service or increase running expenses. The students doing the work report that they become better acquainted with their classmates than they could by any other means. Incidentally any throwing of food or disorder which formerly existed is now conspicuous by its absence.
"Is not Harvard overlooking an obvious opportunity in not adopting the idea? While only experience will show, it is reasonable to assume that 100 men could look after the diners in Memorial Hall, whom 70 professional waiters cared for at the beginning of this year, when about 1,000 men were being served. Over 100 men are registered at the Students' Employment Office as desiring this work, and a large force of extra help, which it would seem best to keep on call, could be easily recruited from men who would eagerly accept such employment if opportunity offered.
"Objections to the plan are bound to occur, the first being, probably, the impairment of quick service. There would naturally have to be a strong organization with a responsible head and a competent staff of experienced assistants. It would necessarily be strict and of a military nature, including fines for tardiness and instant dismissal for inefficiency.
"It is unfair to state that the scheme could not succeed because at Foxcroft where there are student waiters, the service is slower. Meals are served there 'a la carte,' while at Memorial, the regular menu permits few variations and is practically a 'table d'hote' system.
"Another objection that has been raised is that a man doing such work would lose caste among his fellow-students. This question may best be answered by the statement that this year, 102 men registered at the Student Employment Office as desiring this sort of work. Of this number 44 were experienced. That there is this demand, and especially that men who have done the work and know what it is wish to do more of it, seems to dispose conclusively of this objection. It is hardly clear just why such employment works to a man's disadvantage any more than any other.
"The importance of the demand for this work is the outstanding feature of the whole question. It exists so unquestionably that an attempt to meet it by the obvious method of employing them at Memorial should surely be made. Then some encouraging reply, promising definite employment, could be given to those men from other parts of the country who wish to come to Harvard and, unfamiliar with conditions in the East, need steady work until they can establish themselves. Such men, an increasing number of whom in the last few years have distinguished themselves scholastically, and as leaders in college activities, are a distinct credit to the University, and the opportunity of obtaining more by the adoption of an obvious scheme is in itself argument enough for its trial.",