One of the first bits of Harvard lore a Freshman picks up is that "tutors are so busy writing books they don't have any time to tutor." But one group of tutors, members of the Cambridge Union of University Teachers, have taken their noses out of their monographs and shirked their tutorial conferences long enough to make a thorough analysis of Harvard's unique tutorial system. Complete and well-documented like most Teachers' Union reports, this one steers clear of the polemics on tenure and academic freedom with which the Union has become unfavorably associated in the minds of Faculty conservatives.
According to the Union, and in this it echoes Dean Hanford and the Student Council, the time has come for a through overhauling of the tutorial system. "The problem of tenure, the pressure to make young men publish, and the feeling that the Administration is doubtful of the value of tutorial-as witnessed by the effort to reduce the amount of tutoring through Plan B-are weakening the tutorial system," the report concludes. On a more concrete plane, the Union finds that tutorial today is often carried on by inexperienced men working under haphazardly diverse conditions. And little attempt is made to coordinate the work of individual tutors, who tend to function, as one tutor put it, in a vacuum.
The Union's remedies are of two kinds: those designed to provided better organization, and those aimed at securing better and more experienced tutors. Better organization is fairly simple. Specifically, it means frequent meetings of departmental tutorial staffs, and closer contact between departments and between departments and Houses. Better personnel is a harder row to hoe. Basing its recommendations on the Report of the committee of Eight, the Union urges more systematic canvassing of prospective tutors, the retention of good tutors for from seven to twelve years. Timidly, it suggests that excellence in tutoring be weighted more heavily than at present in picking men for permanent positions.
These steps are essential if tutorial is to be effective. But they are essential if tutorial is to be effective. But they raise the question of what is to be done with a man who has spent ten years learning to be a good Harvard tutor, but for whom there is no permanent berth on the Faculty roster. Tutorial ability is not a saleable commodity outside of Cambridge; other universities are apt to be wary of a man whose teaching experience has been confined to his study or a room in Holyoke House. Yet Harvard must find a way to take care of these invaluable but academically forgotten men who occasionally receive the tribute of a line in the course catalogue: "Dr.-(to be announced later) will assist."