Only Ghandi and an occasional actress will deny the basic importance of food, but those who are committed to the task of educating will argue that even more important is the locale and environment in which students keep body and soul together. In 1930 Dean Hanford said that the House System had done away with the deplorable effects of "eating around," and President Conant has on several occasions pointed out the broadening, stimulating and even educational effect of the dining hall system upon those who share its blessings.
The University has specifically recognized the importance of dinner table contacts by such innovations as the inter-House system and the extension of Freshman dining privileges. Yet this complicated culinary network has been built up without regard for some 400 men who, through less fault of their own than of the University, are deprived of its advantages.
The 400 fall naturally into two classes, those whose isolation is of their own choosing and those who were not admitted to House and are forced to spend their days regretting that fact. The latter are clearly the more deserving, and a great deal of printer's ink, ranging from suggestions in these columns to a more recent plagiarism of Jonathan Swift, has been expended in their behalf. The University was slow in taking steps, very possibly because the condition was considered temporary Justice and a certain mild realism now demand that Harvard find a permanent solution for a problem which ha itself become permanent, and that it find some stop-gap until this remedy is put into effect. Centuries mean little to Harvard, but three years of injustice can do much to a student.
The obvious temporary expedient would be to let students eat in the Houses in which they were denied residence. By restricting this privilege to, say ten meals a week, and by regulating the hours of eating so as to take up the slack period, the system would almost certainly be feasible.
This privilege should also be extended to those who live, by choice, in "rat houses." The problem of accommodating these men would be small, as most of them belong to clubs, and the light that this new experience would bring into the narrow lives of these individuals defies estimate.
The most vehement opposition to this plan, even as a temporary remedy, will come from the House Masters. Strong, even ruthless, steps should be taken in quelling the objections of these gentlemen, especially when based on any such vague and dubious arguments as that of "House unity," which the inter-House system and undergraduate perversity have already destroyed.
Four hundred men will gain a pleasanter, fuller, more truly "Harvard" education if this temporary measure is put into effect, as it can be with the cooperation of the Housemasters. And it should be remembered, in consideration this and any other problem involving them, that the Houses are the instruments and not the rulers of University policy.