When President Conant suggested the American Civilization Plan, he was applauded for contributing a valuable idea to the Harvard community. When Mr. Conant's Plan failed to achieve the popularity it deserved, he and his subordinates showed a commendable willingness to listen to constructive suggestions for change. Those changes have now been made, and there is every reason to believe that the revitalized Plan is destined for success. But Mr. Conant's brain child has no guardian, and the President seems little concerned about appointing one. The American Civilization Plan is without a chairman, and the eight units which compose it are without a common brain to guide them.
After his first appointee had displayed a lack of administrative tact, Mr. Conant chose as Plan Chairman a man who had real interest in the program and a willingness to devote his abilities to it. But pressure of duties in his new rank as assistant dean have forced him to resign and the President has failed to name any successor. The possibilities for the position are apparently limited in the presidential mind to the members of the Committee sponsoring the Plan: the professors of American History and Literature. But one of these is following in the wake of Columbus, another is writing a book, a third is too busy, and a fourth just doesn't care. Mr. Conant has reached an impasse.
Were he to descend a few academic steps, the President might find what he is seeking. For among the eight American Civilization Counsellors, there is one who has survived last year's shakeup. Experienced, willing, and free from the worries and obligations attendant upon a full professorship, Henry N. Smith, Counsellor in the Union, seems an excellent choice for executive head of the American Civilization Plan. The President would do well to waive the question of rank, and appoint this logical candidate. The Plan perished once from administrative neglect; it is not long likely to display the tenacity of a cat.