Harvard has taken a bold step, but whether the step is forward or backward is a question. According to President Conant, the intention is to make drastic reductions in expenses for athletics and at the same time to build up an endowment fund to lessen the oft-decried commercialization of sport. The first is possible, but hardly desirable, the second desirable, but hardly possible.
It is obvious that the Harvard administration has felt itself unable to meet the H.A.A.'s constantly recurring deficit. Hence, it was a necessity to cut the expenses somewhere along the line, and six minor sports were chosen for the sacrifice. No one can blame the university for such an action, provided no better method of economy was to be found. Yet undeniably, the loss is a great one.
With the proposed endowment, however, the real problems arise, and it is this aspect of the program which is most significant. For certainly the ideal athletic set-up for a university would be complete endowment, with no gate receipts to worry about, and with coaches occupying positions comparable to those of curricular instructors. If such an endowment could be obtained from some generous alumnus, who wished to give his money for no other purposes, that would be sheer heaven. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Harvard has such a donor up its sleeve, but in all probability only two alternatives are open: the endowment must be built up from surplus gate receipts, or by means of a concerted drive among the alumni.
To attempt the former of these would be paradoxical in two ways. First, the ultimate aim of the plan is to "de-emphasize" sport, particularly in its commercial aspects, yet this can hardly be done if "gates" are to be the source for the endowment. Secondly, the whole problem arises from lack of income, and to suppose that it can be overcome by using surplus to build up a capital is almost absurd. This would necessitate a much greater reduction in costs than has been proposed, and would benefit future generations only at the expense of present ones.
As for the other alternative, that of raising money from the alumni, the present is obviously a poor time. Even if the sum could be contributed, it would seem almost criminal not to use it for more strictly educational purposes, where it is so sorely needed, namely in professorial salaries.
Herein lies the crux of the problem. Is it desirable to put athletics on a noncommercial basis, at some cost to the intellectual life of the University? Because we do not believe it is, we are happy that the changes are taking place at Harvard, not at Yale. As long as Yale athletics are virtually self-supporting, without faint of professionalism among the players, we shall welcome every effort to keep them so. And that this has been possible up till now without the sacrifice of any sports should be for Yale a source of pride. --Yale Daily News.