Despite the optimistic view taken by those in command of Harvard debating, an analysis of the past forensic season would not seem to justify such an adjective as "healthy". While debating officials paint a radiant future for Harvard debating, the drab record of this year fore-shadows no such promise. On the contrary, the evidence on this season's calendar points in a series of incidents which reflect little credit upon an activity so rich in tradition as Harvard debating has been.
Under changed conditions of University life debating has necessarily lost much of its former prestige. With the passing of the Debating Union it is clear that undergraduate interest in debating has grown noticably weaker. While debating at Harvard must content itself with a limited field, it is all the more desirable that good management make the most of the remaining opportunities.
The annual triangular debate with Princeton and Yale was allowed to lapse this year because of difficulty over a satisfactory date. On this small justification a seventeen year tradition was broken, when such a break severed one of the few remaining ties linking Princeton and Harvard. Though a resumption of the triangular contest is promised for next season, the failure to insure a meeting this spring remains a bit of most unfortunate planning.
Another element of the recently completed program is the tendency towards non-decision debates. No winner was declared in half of the debates Harvard entered this year. This policy is to be in use even more next year. Certainly the position of debating can only be lessened when the interest and incentive of competition is removed.
The financial condition of the Debating Council is admitted by its officials to be bad. One debate of the previous season brought the Council fifteen hundred dollars. A year later, after scores of other debates, some with paying audiences of five hundred dollars on the wrong side. The vote of the Council to establish a graduate advisory committee when coupled with the dubious financial status would indicate a self confession of the Council's inability successfully to run its own affairs.
As a crowning event the Council announces that Harvard is to withdraw from the inter-collegiate league. Comparing at a time when Harvard has just completed a not too successful season in the league where it has formerly held many championships, this resignation is open to unpleasant interpretation. The step is explained on the ground that Harvard needs freedom for experimentation and innovation. Others may perhaps recall that the number of league debates is limited, and that outside of these contests Harvard would still have opportunity for plenty of experimentation. Furthermore, to keep the league debates as a conservative balance against radical innovations would be only a policy of wisdom.
This record of the Debating Council leaves but one impression. The management of Harvard debating does not seem to be efficiently administrating an activity whose limited nature would tend to expedite its direction.