The dean's office had shown recently that it is anxious to abolish the penalty of probation. This tendency is in line with the growing relaxation of parietal control, and it leads, as is proper, to the placing of greater responsibility on the undergraduate. Probation has always had an inherent resemblance to the hickory switch and the dunce's stool, the trappings of Tom Brown education. Its disciplining fear softens the student too lax to depend on his own morale. Its interference with extra-curricular activities dates back to those harsh eras of compulsory chapel and the sideburn.
On the other hand, there are material benefits derived from probation which ought to be preserved, in one form or another. Border-line cases must be made aware of the imminence of their expulsion. Perhaps the most sensible change would be to keep a nominal probation which would cause the undergraduate to be fully conscious of his low standing, yet would in no way materially interfere with his activities. Compulsory attendance at all classes, certainly the most uselessly obnoxious feature of the present probation, could well be done away with, holding a closer check of the probated student's cuts, but abolishing the absolutism of the penalty now enforced. All this would place the full weight of reform on the student's shoulders and permit, if not compel, him to teach himself the regulation of his own time.
There is one serious obstacle which the abolition of the penalties attached to probation would encounter, and which it would be fatal to ignore. Athletes are often under a certain moral pressure from coaches and from their team-mates to take part in those sports in which they are proficient. At present, probation, with its compulsory isolation in the purely curricular, gives a man an enforced breathing spell in which to retrieve his standing. If probation is to be made merely nominal, this change must be accompanied by a thorough-going recognition by coaches and players that each student must decide for himself when his status in college is endangered and when he should put all his time on his academic work.