Anyone who attended the Freshman rally at Phillips Brooks House last Monday night at which the leaders of the various undergraduate extra-curricular activities explained the nature of their work must have been struck by the extraordinary good humor with which proceedings were punctuated. Not only was the serious side of undergraduate life outlined, but the spirit of affability and good fellowship and cheer was shown by the tone of the meeting. The stories which enlivened the gathering appeared as a particularly pleasant form of good clean fun. Accordingly the letter which appeared in these columns on Tuesday morning decrying the "mild profanity" and "slightly off-color stories" seemed rather funny.
Yet despite the fact that the Freshman who wrote the letter missed the boat as far as sizing up the point of the meeting, it does appear that his feelings were hurt--and perhaps others felt the same way--by what they thought was a breach of decorum, or at least a sin against good taste, by the very undergraduate leaders whom they had come to college hoping to respect. This loss of respect for Harvard's leaders must have been disillusioning. Loss of respect for the leaders of society in general always seems to make for bitterness in the hearts of the people who have put their trust in these leaders. Indeed such a situation was brought to light this summer.
On one of the islands off the Massachusetts coast there is a lighthouse whose property is flanked by a long beach, part of which is government property and part private, the private section fronting land owned by wealthy and prominent inhabitants of the neighborhood. The owners of this exclusive property complained to the lighthouse keepers that a group of domestic servants and townspeople were using this beach and thus destroying their privacy. But the lighthouse keeper, saying that the language he had heard the property owners using on the beach did not entitle them either to exclusive beach rights or the respect of the community, refused to drive the townspeople from the property, normally private, of the lighthouse.
What is the lesson in all this? Hardly any. But it does seem that different individuals have different codes of morality or ethics or the art of living, call it what you will. And anybody who does not know the ideals of the men whom he is dealing with, whether it be in business or pleasure, should be wise enough not to budge from the conventional modes of address and conduct until he has assured himself that he will not give offence.