When an undergraduate at Harvard R. Keith Kane was on the crew two years and the football team three years, being Captain of the latter in 1921. Last year he studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and was a member of the Dark, Blue Shell in the English rowing classic between Oxford and Cambridge.
Most comparisons and criticisms of our University with that of Oxford which have come to my notice have placed their emphasis upon the many advantages which the English University enjoy over Harvard. No doubt there are many advantages in favor of our friends across the sea, but most people seem to lose sight of the consideration that Harvard has grown under different circumstances, to meet different problems and amid different influences, than those surrounding Oxford. The obvious result is that we must look at ourselves as we are in our own environment and improve where we can, and not say simply because such and such an arrangement is better at Oxford and suits their requirements that we would do well to immitate their methods here in Cambridge. Criticism is only helpful when it is constructive.
Cliques at Oxford, Too
To begin with we are told that we are less democratic that the Oxonians. It is suggested that Freshman upon their arrival at Harvard Immediately split up into groups while at Oxford the colleges are smaller than the classes at Harvard, so that the Freshman at the English University at once mixes with his whole college and knows nearly all his fellow undergraduates in short order. A logical explanation to this seems to appear in the very nature of that small college itself. Before "going up" to Oxford a boy has a few less than thirty colleges to chose from and it is obvious that these colleges vary considerably in their makeup. An individual goes to a college, if he can, wherein he thinks he will be congenial, or which appeals to his particular tastes. Consequently there are likely to be free and easy relations between the members of any one particular college. This situation of course does not appear in the few larger colleges where cliques tend to appear just as in a class at Harvard.
Loyalty Is To The College
Then it is said that there is more esprit de corps in an Oxford college than in one of our classes. In this connection we must not forget that when a man goes to Oxford he thinks of himself not so much as an Oxford man but as a New College man or a Trinity man. His feelings towards his college correspond to the devotion of all Harvard men to their University. Class loyalty is only secondary to the other and in fact the outstanding purpose of class organization in college, as thereafter, is that of furthering the interests of the University in which, it is submitted, we have not wholly failed.
There is another difference between Oxford and Harvard which of course is more discussed than any other, for it is that of the respective methods of teaching and study. At the English University a student is freer to set his own standard of work than here at Cambridge. His freedom, to begin with, comes, in selecting his college and secondly in his choice of a tutor. It is not meant by the latter that one can deliberately pick out the instructor with whom he wishes to work, but he does select his field of study and in that way is likely to be aware of the man who will tutor him. So on the one hand an undergraduate might stay in residence for a period of years with very little work to his credit, while on the other an earnest and ambitious student can attain a degree of intellectual development in three years which, perhaps, will in certain ways put him ahead of the ordinary high scholar of an American institution. High scholarship is more highly prized at Oxford than at Harvard.
Finally they make their colleges delightful places to live in and, however hard they are working, seem thoroughly to enjoy themselves and make the most of any advantages they may have. I suggest that we take ourselves too seriously and make our problems seem too large