PITY THE POOR CHEMIST
Due to protracted laboratory hours, the Chemistry concentrator at Harvard lives a woefully narrow and restricted existence. A large portion of his college days must be sacrificed to the god of experimentation, and as a result, he has little time for those cultural and broadening pursuits which are among the chief privileges of a college education. In many cases, even the bare minimum amount of exercise necessary to keep him in decent physical shape is denied him, while extracurricular activities are a luxury. Certainly some reduction in laboratory hours is indicated if he is expected to become the well-rounded and broadly cultured man which it is Harvard's and President Conant's aim to produce.
Ample illustration of this test-tube slavery is provided by a sample course of an honors concentrator. The first year is the easiest, with Chemistry A and Physics C depriving him of only two or three afternoons a week. But the Sophomore must solemnly bid farewell to sunshine and blue skies above, for the official maximum estimate of his laboratory hours in Chemistry 2 and Chemistry 3 is nineteen per week and he will do well to finish his work in that time. The Junior, with Chemistry 4 and Chemistry 6, practically establishes residence in the laboratories. The catalog estimates a mere twenty-four hours as a maximum, but again he will often run over this time. As a Senior, he will probably feel constrained to take two advanced chemistry courses, or perhaps even do research work. In such a case, his laboratory hours are indefinitely long. Thus, throughout most of his college career he spends all of his afternoons, and most of his spare morning hours in Mallinckrodt. This does not mean that his evenings are free, for then he must study chemistry.
Physical and intellectual benefits would result from fewer laboratory hours. This reduction might be effected by a slight decrease of the laboratory of each course, by slightly less ambitious objectives for the ground to be covered by experiments. It might more feasibly be effected by a reduction in the number of laboratory courses required of the Chemistry concentrator, particularly of the honors man, who must now take eight courses in Chemistry or related fields, most of which require long laboratory hours. The very slight lowering in the standards of the field would be an investment yielding more than equivalent returns in the opportunity to enter athletics and other extra-curricular activities, and in a widely enlarged sphere for his pursuits.