When, two years ago this fall, the pattern of life of the Harvard upperclassman was poured into the new mold of the House Plan, the College found that two elements were not comprehended in the new scheme of things. One was the Freshmen the other the Yard. With the resourcefulness which one comes to expect from the rulers of University Hall, the two were put together and the problem was solved.
The life of a college generation being only four years, the liaison of the Freshmen and the Yard has already begun to take on an aspect of hoary tradition. "Copey," Harvard's beloved Charles Townsend Copeland, has reluctantly abandoned his famous rooms under the roof of Hollis Hall. But the cry of "Reinhart," (shocking to the decorous quiet of the House quadrangles) rings out all the more volubly from the throats of Freshmen.
The Freshman Year
Harvard is perhaps unique among colleges in the extent to which the Freshman year is set apart as a unit. Besides living together in the Yard, the first-year men have their own eating and recreational center in the Union, now turned over to their exclusive use. In athletics there is a complete set-up of Freshman teams, while intramural sports are organized on a dormitory basis corresponding to the inter-House program of the upper classes.
In a negative way, the Freshman class is set off by having no part in the twin developments of the Lowell regime, the tutorial system and the House Plan. No Freshmen are taken into any of the clubs, which by agreement pledge no men until the fall of their Sophomore year
Lack of "Collegiatism"
On the other hand there exist at Harvard none of the special caps or other paraphernalia which are used to distinguish Freshmen at some institutions of learning. Harvard, as the Freshman will soon find, is the very antithesis of the "collegiatism" and rah-rah which in the minds of Harvard men seem to be associated with the term "middle-western."
Harvard imposes few restrictions on the liberty of the student. The requirements of attendance at classes are very liberal so long as the student remains in good standing; there is no compulsory chapel; no ban on automobiles; no restrictions on his personal comings and goings.
In many respects the Union, situated just outside the Yard, is the social center of first-year life. Under one roof are the dining hall, common rooms, game rooms, and two libraries, one containing a fine collection of books for general reading and the other books required in History 1 and Government 1, two of the largest Freshman courses. It is in the Union that most of the social events of the Freshman year take place: tea dances after one or more of the footfall games, smokers, with vaudeville or other entertainment, the Freshman Jubilee in the spring, series of lectures, and various other gatherings.
Someone might well ask the question, What voice have the Freshmen in the affairs of the Union? The answer is that the class is represented by the Freshman Union Committee, composed of first-year men selected on a basis of dormitory representation by the deans and proctors. Its duty is to co-operate with the graduate secretary of the Union in managing the affairs of the Union and of the class. The names of the men chosen to make up the 1937 Union Committee will be announced in the CRIMSON soon after the opening of College.
The regular class officers are elected, along with the officers of the upper classes, in January or thereabouts. Incidentally, it may be well to remark that the offices of the Sophomore and Junior classes are momentarily in peril of being abolished. The Freshman class officers have a number of duties to perform in connection with the Jubilee and so forth, but those of the other classes hold positions which are almost solely honorary. With the coming of the House Plan, class spirit inevitably tends to die out and upperclassmen naturally feel that their first allegiance is to their House. So also, the upper classes have no social functions as classes, since the Junior Prom, the last survivor, was dropped some years ago. With the advent of the Houses, a new social life, with dances, dinners, and entertainments, has sprung up within their walls.
When the Houses went into operation, the center of Harvard life for the upperclassmen shifted unmistakably from the Yard to the region beside the Charles. Five of the Houses, Eliot, Kirkland, Winthrop, Lowell, and Leverett, are grouped fairly close together in one section, while Dunster is located farther down the river and Adams on the old Gold Coast on Mt. Auburn Street. Between the Yard and the Houses, in the vicinity of Mount Auburn Street, are located also the Indoor Athletic Building, most of the clubs, and the offices of the CRIMSON, Lampoon, and Advocate.
Freshmen are excluded from the Houses because of the intimate connection existing between the House Plan and the tutorial system. The real division in the four-year course comes at the end of the Freshman year at Harvard instead of a year later as in many other colleges. By the beginning of his Sophomore year the student is expected to be ready to do work of university grade and to work under a tutor.
At this time, therefore, he applies for admission to one of the Houses. Each House is designed to be a cross-section of the College, and to further this aim Freshmen are distributed among the seven units by a central board. A man having a special reason for entering a certain House is usually allowed to do so, and students are encouraged to apply in groups in order to insure their being with some of their intimate friends.
Each Sophomore is assigned to a tutor in the field of concentration he has elected, usually to a tutor attached to his own House. Of the tutorial staff of each House, about 10 are resident in the House and the rest have studies there. The student meets his tutor about once a week, eats with him occasionally, and is expected, in one way or another, to absorb a good deal of learning and to benefit by the intimate intellectual contacts. At the same time every upperclassman carries a regular schedule of courses, except that men out for honors can secure a reduction in the number during their Senior year.
Each House is a unit unto itself, with dining hall, library, common rooms, and squash courts. The three new Houses, Eliot, Lowell, and Dunster, are built in truly luxurious style, Eliot being reputed to have cost $3,000,000. The other Houses, made over from what used to be the Freshman Halls, are not quite so well appointed but many have added advantages, such as the swimming pool of Adams House or a particularly good tutorial staff, which make them equally attractive.
The Student Council
Aside from the class officers, the only elected representatives of the students are the members of the Student Council. This body, composed of Juniors and Seniors, exercises none of the functions of the "student government associations" which exist in some institutions. Not a particularly active organization, it attends to routine functions, considers matters of student interest with the officers of the University, and submits an annual report on some important phase of College life