THE THESIS OCTOPUS.
The Student Council has voted to make a recommendation to the Faculty in regard to theses which is the result of a growing dissatisfaction among undergraduates, a dissatisfaction which springs from cause. The system of instruction in the University is open to the charge of requiring more writing than reading from students. Certainly there are cases where the total amount of written work required in the courses taken by one student is so great that the time left for reading, leaving out of consideration the quality of the theses produced, is small. Especially does the ambitious student, the student who desires to do well what he does, feel the hardship. He is likely to wonder why it is so much more important for him to write hasty articles for professors to read, than himself to read the books which professors have written. With a natural modesty he feels that the emphasis ought to be reversed.
The evil is especially prominent in the Division of History, Government, and Economics; for the theses are more considerable in that division and require more research. While it is undoubtedly true that men can very easily arrange excellent programs which do not overburden them with thesis work in any one year, the lateness in some cases of the fixing of plans for a particular concentration sometimes brings about unfortunate combinations. A man who happens to be taking Economics 2 and 4, together with some history courses requiring thesis work, is inordinately burdened. Yet his late plans for concentration, and his intellectual interests, may force such a combination on him. The result is dissatisfaction with one's work, work poorly done, and development slowed up.
Doubtless such cases are not numerous. Nevertheless, they call for remedy where they do occur. The Division of History, Government, and Economics is well equipped, through its system of tutors, to correlate thesis work, to allow doubling up, to see to it that a student does a few good theses well rather than a large number in a slipshod fashion. These are, of course, dangers of the abuse of such privileges; but they are administrative difficulties which the personal supervision of the tutors could surmount. President Lowell's theory that the student rather than the individual course is the proper unit in education applies with force to this situation.