The following article in consideration of the House Plan was written especially for the Crimson by Lawrence Coolidge '27. Assistant Dean of the University. After one year in the Dean office in charge of the Sophomore Class he has resigned to resume his work in the Harvard Law School where he will study next year.
After several weeks of andestine activity, of squinting through mysterious instruments, of drilling small holes and carting away surreptitiously small trees and flower bushes the authorities that be, last Monday, can out into the open lifted their veil secrecy, and broke ground for the Ne Houses. There was no fanfare of trumpets no cutting of silver ribbons or leaking of ginger-ale bottles President Lowell was not even at hand to be photographed turning over the first sod with a silver spade. It was a very business-like affair. A steam shoved appeared on the scene planted itself in a point of vantage and began to soop. The deed was done.
Like Freshman Hall
On the top of all this activity will rise two houses--Unit No. 1 ack of the present Gore Hall and Unit No. 2 on a triangular lot on the Boston idea of Mckinlock Hall, bordering on the river. Unit No. 1 will be in the form of a double quadrangle, architecturally much like an enlarged and reduplicated duplicated Smith Halls with a towe over the main entrance. Unit No. 1 will bear more resemblance in style the present Standish Hall. In that the courtyard will open on the river. It will be higher, over twice as large a Standish, however, and there will be two subsidiary courts or gardens of each side of the main one. These all will look out on the river. Unit No 2 will be crowned with a "lantern" similar to that on the present business school. Professor Julian Coolidge to be in charge of Unit No. 1 an Professor Chester N. Greenough will be master of the House on the river.
Rooms for Tutor
Each house contains within it complete accommodations for a narriedmaster, a Dining Hall, a Common Room for students and one for tutors, and a large library situated on the second floor in the most strategic situation in the house. There will be also an apartment for the head tutor suites for five or six resident tutors and suites about evenly divided between singles and doubles for from 250 to 300 men. Whether squash courts are practical or not has not yet been fully worked out by the architects. If they are found possible they will undoubtedly be included.
Three Year Tenure
Applications for these first two houses will be accepted only from members of the existing Sophomore. Junior and Senior classes. It is hoped that after they have once been established there will be as little possible shifting of quarters between the various units, as one of the purposes of establishing the Houses is to give the undergraduate the opportunity of living in the same building for three years.
The question why Freshmen have not been included in the "House plan" has been raised with some persistence in certain circles. To include them would involve a change in the construction of Harvard, both past and future which the authorities do not intend. It furthermore would undermine one of the most fundamental principles on which Harvard is founded.
One of the steel rods which has held Harvard men past and present together is Class Spirit. At no time is this better demonstrated than today. To place Freshmen in these separate units, to break them up into groups of seventy-five or 100 from each class would mean the death of the class as a unit. If may be argued that loyalty to one's house is to take the place of loyalty to the class. Such is not the intention of those advocating the House plan. The class of 1934 we hope will be just as much of a unit 30 years hence as is the class of 1904 today. The best way to insure this is by allowing the Freshman class to line together as a unit, to find its feet as a class before the later subdivision into houses.
But, it has been suggested, "why not place seniors together and develop your class as a whole at that time?" The answer here is that educationally this is inadvisable as the houses cover the period of a man's preparation for his divisional examinations at the end of the Senior Year, the climax of his scholastic career. To cut off the Senior from his tutors at the most critical time would be unwise. To transfer divisional examinations from the Senior to the Junior year would create an anti climax.
Seniors are Closer
Furthermore class spirit as such would be extremely difficult to construct after all members of the Senior class have been split up into definite and isolated groups. A Freshman is generally eager to make friends; he enlarges his circle of acquaintance beyond that of his past schoolmates to that of his class as a whole. The Senior on the other hand, especially if he has lived with the same group for three years is not as ready to meet the boy from across the hall. He has his friends, interests, and he has divisional examinations to keep his mind occupied.
From the point of view of the individual it would be unwise to include Freshmen in the new houses. It would mean returning to conditions as they were before the Freshman Dormitories, and the encouragement of cliques and of manouvers of clubs on the basis of school associations only. The authorities would be faced with one of two alternatives if they adopted the suggestion made by Mr. Frederick Windsor of Middlesex. They would either have to assign rooms to Middlesex men. Exeter men or Boston Latin men, away from their schoolmates for three years. This seems to be a bit extreme: or else they would have to assign the Freshman a room next to his schoolmate, and we would have school cliques and isolation of groups even more than we do now. The beauty of the Freshman Dormitories at present is that although the private or public school man may not deign to meet others who have not his interests at least the Middlesex man does meet the St. Paul's an, the Groton man or the Hill School man. The opportunity is also there for him to meet other types if he wants to, but under no circumstances is he bound to. Besides men from the local schools we have to consider the hundreds from further schools and the hundreds working their way through. The associations of the Freshman class is what makes all the difference to many of them. Had their experience of college been limited to one particular "House" they could not have a true conception of Harvard.
Educationally Harvard is operating at present under a system of distribution and concentration. In the Freshman year we have distribution "trying to know a little about many things" perhaps an occasional movie on Friday evening included. Upon this platform is built the concentration "trying to know a little more about some one thing." Upon the platform of the Freshman dormitories the University is building these Houses, to deepen, richen and concentrate those many acquaintances and experiences with which a Freshman first comes in contact when he enters college.
Although Harvard like Yale has found it advisable to deal with Freshman problems separately, this policy is not based on close: "supervision" of Freshmen. The Harvard authorities do not care to direct the mode of living of its students either in the Freshman dormitories or in the Houses. What Harvard does is to place the opportunity before an undergraduate, and with the possible exception of the question of standards of scholarship, leave it up to him to take it if he wants to. Freshman Deans, Advisers. Proctors and Supervisors are on hand for anyone to consult who wants to, but unless a man is in scholastic difficulties they are still only an opportunity. That these advisers are tutors, instructors, professors as well is not only necessary but advisable. Harvard has not as yet come as other colleges have to a "personnel" department.
The House plan is designed to do these things:
1. To give greater opportunity for varied acquaintanceship without compulsion.
2. To give better physical opportunity, everyone to lead a more comfortable and sane student life.
3. To give greater opportunity for the student to really know his tutor to educate himself outside as well as inside the classroom and to study because it interests him.
If Freshmen were admitted to the new houses it would narrow their possible field of acquaintances their life would not be much more comfortable than it is now in the dormitories or would be in the Yard, and they would not be in a position to avail themselves of the opportunities offered by the tutors.
Perhaps those who advocate the inclu- sion of Freshmen in the new units, are doing so because they feel that the Freshman dormitories have failed to meet a Utopian ideal. If so, they will be gravely disappointed in the new houses. Perhaps they feel that there will be more restriction and supervision in the new Houses. If so they will again be disappointed.
As far as the influence of upperclassmen is concerned I think it of doubtful value as regards Freshman problems. What would be eliminated however would be President Lowell's annual visitation to the Parent's league of Boston, to ask them not to invite Freshmen to Debutante Balls, and to answer the usual question about locking the gates of the Freshman Halls at midnight by saying "Madam, would you have me lock them in or out.