To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
The unfortunate story about the Band which appeared in the CRIMSON on April 12 brings up two points which it might be well to clarify for the sake of better understanding of how the College operates.
First, it was a faculty committee, not Dean Watson, which made the decisions about the Band. This committee, the Committee on Student Activities of which I am chairman, consists of Professors F. C. Packard, P. S. Wild, Jr., G. W. Woodworth, Dr. D. M. Little, Dean Watson and myself. The committee has general supervision over undergraduate organizations and activities outside of athletics. Dean Watson's job is to carry out the decisions and general policies adopted by the committee. Whatever praise or blame there may be for the decision in the case of the Band or any other organizations beings on the committee, not Dean Watson.
Again, in the thorny matter of the use of University buildings by student organizations. Dean Watson simply administers regulations laid down by others. The Corporation, the Caretaking Department, the Maintenance Department, other schools of the University, the Cambridge police regulations and tax laws are all involved in this. The Dean's Office had little to say about it except to carry out as equitably as possible the reasonable regulations which have been laid down. Since there are expenses involved in the use of buildings and since there are some seventy organizations as well as numerous non-student and unorganized groups competing for highly inadequate space, a certain amount of disappointment and resentment is probably inevitable. It should not be too much to expect of Harvard students, however, that they understand the difficulties and have a reasonable attitude.
Second is the matter of University financial aid to undergraduate activities. Harvard never has subsidized student organizations and this would seem to be a poor year to start. Yet about fifteen student organizations have asked for a subsidy of some sort this year and we could easily spend a hundred thousand dollars a year assisting various activities. Obviously we can not subsidize the Band unless we are also willing to subsidize the Glee Club and the Debating Council and the Polo Team and the Orchestra and the Dramatic Society and the Advocate and possibly the HYD or even the Lampoon. It might be difficult to decide whether the HYD or the Lampoon were more worthy of University financial support. At any rate, opinions would differ. Furthermore, if the University subsidized an organization, it would have to supervise its expenditures and activities, a job which we are not anxious to undertake.
No Money Available for Student Activities
Perhaps fortunately, neither the Dean's Office nor the Committee on Student Activities has any money to give. We could ask the Corporation, through the Provost, to provide the money if we believed it desirable. But the Corporation has no money for such purposes either. At least it has no money given for this special purpose and it could provide subsidies only by taking money away from other things for which it is now spent, such as faculty salaries or scholarships or medical research.
There are two ways by which the Corporation could get the money. It could accept endowment for the support of activities from wealthy donors. If any student is able to persuade some one to give a few millions to the cause, I would do my best to urge the Corporation to accept although it can be argued that there are greater needs--scholarships, for instance, or a strong Geography Department. Or it can add an activities fee of twenty-five to fifty dollars a year per student to the tuition charges. Many colleges have such a fee now.
Requests for Aid Must Be Turned Down
I have seen no signs, however, that Harvard students approve of a compulsory tax on themselves to finance student activities. Until such a time as a large majority of students wish to be so taxed or Millionaire Alumnus X comes forward with the necessary endowment, requests from organizations for financial aid will have to be turned down. This isn't a result of the sadistic perversity of the Dean's Office. There just isn't any pot of gold buried in University Hall.
Nothing in this letter or in the action of the Committee should be interpreted as reflecting in any way on the Band. The Band is an admirable organization, the best of its kind, and the College would be a poorer place without it. It has given pleasure to thousands of Harvard students and alumni and deserves their generous support. I hope and believe that ways can be found for getting more money for the Band and that it will receive the support it has so richly earned. W. J. Bender Dean of the College