Classroom Incident Started Student Rebellion Against Required Greek Course--Entire Class of 1836 Expelled
The history of language requirements at Harvard tends to show that the requirement of a language usually insures its unpopularity. Though French and German A have passed quietly and serenely enough off the required list, such has not always been the fate of required languages. One of the most curious stories in Harvard's history is the dismissal of the entire Sophomore class in 1834 resulting in part from dissatisfaction with the required Greek course.
The trouble, which occurred during the administration of President Josiah Quincy, started on May 19 when a Freshman in his Monday morning Greek class failed to show proper respect for his instructor's authority and refused to translate. In the report of the affair issued by the Seniors on June 11, a letter of the Freshman in question is accepted as giving an accurate account of the first skirmish.
"That part of the recitation," read the letter, "at which Mr. Dunkin, our instructor, took exception, was a long list of proper names. I began reciting them, as I thought, correctly; he objected, and asked some questions about the cases of different words. I replied, as I thought, right, and proceeded again to translate. He again objected; I then turned over the leaf and seeing there were a good many more of them, told him I did not care to recite them."
The Freshman was called up before President Quincy, and his punishment evoked sympathetic riots by his classmates.
But during all this, the Sophomores, who were irking under the yoke of required Greek, had not been sleeping. After playing the part of sympathetic onlookers for some time, they decided to take advantage of the situation and demanded that the irksome requirement be abolished. More disturbances occurred and Prayers were quite regularly interrupted.
This state of affairs went on until May 29, when, after being absent from the first part of Prayers, the Sophomores trooped in as a body and acted in such a disorderly manner that the service had to be suspended. That same day the whole class, with the exception of three members who were away, was summarily dismissed from the College. Subsequently, it partially recouped its membership, and graduated with 39 members.