Perhaps the most cloquent plea of the Faculty majority which last December voted to restrict tutorial to honors candidates and Sophomores of Group IV and above was that this action would in effect strengthen the system. Recognizing the drain and strain placed upon the Faculty by the war, the overwhelming majority of students accepted this decision in good faith.
This faith has not been justified. Left relatively free by the Administration to determine department policy on tutorial, many department heads have been robbing Peter to pay Paul. Seizing upon the cutback as a golden opportunity to buy more time for experiment and research, they have purchased it at the expense of the tutorial plan. In diametrical opposition to the professors to whom "Research is . . . the essential raison d'ctre for a university" are those Faculty members who complain that financial persuasion from University Hall, which constrains them to use funds ordinarily allotted to tutorial for expansion and other departmental projects, is the real reason for the overly severe restriction of the system.
Whatever the cause and wherever the responsibility, tutorial has had so many enthusiastic gardeners in recent months that in several instances it has been pruned right back to the rhizomes. Biology, Music, Economics, and Geology, among others, have voted to drop it completely. Neither the new department of Psychology nor the department of Social Relations anticipates offering tutorial at all. The English department has restricted tutorial to Dean's List men who are honors candidates.
For all the cloquence of the Faculty majority and the Administration, hindsight has proved wrong their insistence that the cutback would only strengthen the system and would in no wise sacrifice the thorough familiarity with a particular field of concentration which has been the main prerequisite for a degree since the inception of the tutorial system. A return to the superficiality which was the bane of the free elective system is foreshadowed in the scaling down of requirements for both the regular and honors degree in exactly those departments where tutorial has been hardest hit. The English department now requires of its non-honors men only that they take a fair distribution of courses within the field. In the recent publication of the Biology department's requirements, the general examination is conspicuous by its absence. Coincidence? With a vengeance.
Seemingly in answer to the Faculty's complaint that the responsibility for the cutback lies at the doorstep of University Hall, President Conant last week in a letter to the Student Council announced that there was no financial stringency involved in the tutorial limitation. He said further that the responsibility for tutorial rests entirely with the Faculty. Paradox? And further complicated by Mr. Conant's assurance that he stands four square behind Provost Buck, the implied target of Faculty complaints.
Because of the proven worth of the tutorial plan, no member of Faculty or the Administration dares take the unpopular stand of advocating an abandonment of the system. Each protesting its championship of tutorial, the Faculty and the Administration have made of the system an academic football. With each side disclaiming responsibility, the undergraduate is caught in the middle, helplessly watching the one factor which to him has made a Harvard education unique in the United States being slowly whittled away to insignificance.