Dean Leighton has in his annual report called attention to a very real defect in the educational system at Harvard, in the lack of sufficient individual attention and advice from members of the Faculty to students when it is most needed, i.e., during the Freshman year. Lack of time, lack of interest, sometimes lack of knowledge prevent Freshman advisers from performing any but a purely mechanical function. The problem is first to get advisers thoroughly acquainted with the individuality of each advisee, and second to get them to use that knowledge to guide every Freshman into the field of endeavor most suited to his interests and abilities. With over a thousand men entering in each class this is no small matter, and can probably never be fully accomplished; but it can unquestionably be more nearly approximated than it is at present.
Dean Leighton's report suggests that it might be desirable to give Freshman advisers some compensation for their work, that they might afford to grant more time to it, but does not press the argument because of the present straightened circumstances of University finances. However, if the two most important aspects of the development of education at Harvard are the tutorial system and the House plan, it is obvious that an improved advisory system is imperative; for the choice of concentration field, tutor, and House must all be made in the first year, before it is possible for the student to have formed a competent basis for judgment. An excellent tutor in Mathematics is of little avail to a man whose interest is primarily in Biology or English, concentrating in Mathematics because Math A was his easiest course during his Freshman year. When the problem of the "uninterested tutee" is one of the chief obstacles to the success of the tutorial system, it is pennywise and pound-foolish to lavish large sums on tutorial work in the last three years while grudging the comparatively small amount necessary to ensure the success of that work by guiding Freshmen to a proper choice of concentration field.
The institution of regular conferences between Freshmen and their advisers, combined with improvement of the advisory staff itself, and with increased emphasis on the importance of the function, would make the relationship between Freshman and adviser something more than the perfunctory thing it is now. If this can be done by only lightening other burdens of advisers, or otherwise compensating them, every effort should be made to accomplish that end.