To those who are are wondering what is to be the fate of Harvard College under the New Deal which President Conant has set forth for Harvard University, Dean Hanford's report will be an extremely significant document. The specific reforms which he suggests are almost starting in their progressiveness. But of more importance than these is the general trend of through which underlies his proposals. As President Lowell left office, Harvard was in a period of slack water, a period in which the great innovations of the past two decades had yet to be reconciled with the old academic machinery. Dean Hanford's report points to the lines along which, with a progressive and enthusiastic administration, the necessary changes and adaptations would have proceeded.
The Dean recognizes the rising scholastic standards of recent years, correctly attributes them to the tutorial system and general examinations, and concludes that the time has come when University Hall can safely afford to scrap much of the prep-school machinery of the past. Among the existing institutions nominated for oblivion are the checking up in attendance at classes, the recording of April and November grades, and the probation system. Whether the abolition of probation would serve any very useful purpose is questionable, but the other two reforms are eminently to be desired and, as the Dean points out, there can be no harm in experimenting with any of them for several years. Even more important are the proposals put forth for enhancing the position of the tutorial system. Mr. Hanford suggests that the number of required courses be further reduced, that more of the tutoring be done by experienced faculty members, and the tutorial work be counted at least as heavily as course instruction in making promotions within the faculty. These are all reforms which the CRIMSON has advocated, as is the suggestion that tutorial work be given weight in compelling the rank list. Perhaps the most significant suggestion advanced is that the tutors play a more important part in directing the work of their tutees, advising them particularly on lectures to attend, and the some of the courses be made into series of optional lectures without examinations. This plan is unmistakably the first step toward the supersession of the course system by a tutorial system modelled closely on that of the English universities.
With compelling logic, Dean Hanford rejects the proposal to restrict tutorial instruction to men of Dean's List standing, pointing out that one of the chief values of the tutorial method is its capacity for stimulating a spark of intellectual curiosity in minds which the course system would never have aroused. The contrast in emphasis with President Conant's report is striking. The President would lavish money and attention on the few brilliant minds in each class. Dean Hanford declares: "There are always a number of able and ambitious students who will do work of honor quality without the need of stimulation; the important thing is to stir up the marginal group of 15 to 20 percent who are capable of achieving something more than a gentleman's grade of C."
There is, to be sure, no contradiction between the aims which Dean Hanford proposes for the College and the aims which President Conant has set for the University. Many of Mr. Hanford's proposals will without question be put into effect. But any broad program to strengthen the hold of the tutorial system is bound to mean an added dram on the University treasury and an added burden on the faculty's most capable teachers. The President has other uses for the money and other plan for the faculty. He has chosen a way calculated to add to the prestige of the University, but not to further the development of a better educational system. The undergraduate can only hope that insofar as the ideals embodied in Dean Hanford's report are not incompatible with the announced aims of the University, they will not be neglected in the enthusiasm of making Harvard a community of creative scholars.