One out of every seven Harvard undergraduates commutes to the College. Almost none of them like commuting--most of them despise it. They don't like spending one or two hours a day on hot, crowded buses and subways. They don't like missing the companionship and excitement of dormitory life. Most of all, the commuters have no great affection for the University and many feel a distinct antagonism to resident students. Eighty percent of the daily travelers believe that they are treated as inferior Harvard men; they don't feel that they are given an even break from the University. They are probably right.
Cut off by their very nature from the mainline of University thought, the commuters have gone their own way until their problems became too big to go by unnoticed. "We've neglected the commuters," Dean Bender said last week. On Tuesday the University made up for some of its neglect by passing the senior tutors plan which will move Dudley Non-Resident Students Center closer to the exalted position of a Harvard House.
Since its founding in 1935, Dudley--known to many students only as a brick building up the street from Cronin's--has been the focal point of activities for non-resident students. Renovated in that year to accommodate 250 men, it now has 450 members, about one-third of whom regularly eat lunch there and use its game facilities.
From a physical standpoint, Dudley is obviously inadequate, and commuters, comparing their center with the Houses, cannot help but feel cheated.
The obvious answer to many of the problems of the commuting student is to improve the Center itself, to make it the physical equivalent of the Houses. This answer is not so obvious, however, when one realizes that a large segment of University officials believes that the idea of a commuters center is basically out-of-tune with the philosophy of a Harvard education, and that money spent on such a center is money wasted.
As Dean Bender says, "One of the most important elements in a Harvard education is the contact one receives with men from all parts of the nation and the globe. This contact rubs off the provincialism which hinders the thinking of people today. Obviously, a community center tends only to bring commuters in contact with men from the same small geographic area."
"Ideally the Commuters Center in Dudley Hall should be abolished, and commuters wholly absorbed into the life of the Houses." So runs a sentence from the Bender Report on advising at Harvard, the report which the Faculty of Arts and Sciences discussed in part last Tuesday.
However, the Bender Report admits that there are "strong practical reasons" against doing away with Dudley, and suggests instead that "all upper-class commuters should be assigned to Houses and they should be encouraged to eat in the Houses, whether regularly or occasionally, and to participate fully in the educational and social life of the Houses."
The faculty took a big step towards improving the commuters' lot when it approved the House deans plan. Next year there will be a "new, powerful" senior tutor in Dudley as well as in each of the Houses. Up to now the only man in charge of Dudley was a graduate secretary, usually a man who held several other University jobs at the same time.
For the past two years the graduate secretary has been Robert L. Fischelis '49 2G. Fischelis himself points out, "It is rather peculiar that the only University official in charge of a center of 450 men is just two years out of college." The senior tutor of Dudley would presumably be a man of higher status, possibly an assistant professor.
The senior tutor plan means a step up in the world for Dudley. It does not, however, do much toward integrating commuters with the rest of the College, as suggested in the Bender report.
"Taking meals regularly in the Houses is beyond the means of most commuters, and in general the Houses do not have adequate locker or study space for commuters," the report states. The plain fact is that the Houses right now are having trouble squeezing in all resident students, and would find it nearly impossible to handle commuters in any way.
Fitting the commuters into the House system has not been stymied by lack of room and funds alone. There is a fundamental philosophic split between Dean Bender and Charles W. Duhig '29, who for over 10 years was graduate secretary at Dudley.
When he left Harvard for Brandeis University in 1950, Duhig submitted a report to Bender on Dudley Hall and its future. Part of the report reads, "It is perhaps generally considered that residence is a virtue. Actually, it is not such, but a necessity. Students from California, Florida, or Salt Lake City simply cannot commute whether they wish to or not ... The question of which is preferable, to live in residence or sleep at home, is a relative matter which will vary with the individual."
Duhig Stuck With It
Duhig not only believed that the Center is in harmony with the philosophy of a Harvard education, but he also pointed out various problems which would come up in any attempt to integrate commuters with the Houses.
"What does the commuting student who is forced to (by economic reasons) or prefers to bring his sandwiches from home do with them in the Eliot House dining room? The present writer can offer no solution ... Furthermore, in any such plan the overwhelming majority of commuters would suffer from being in a thing of which they were not a real part ... The best solution seems to be an adequate Commuters Center."
Faced with these two opposing views--one of which calls for improving the commuter situation through the Houses, the other through Dudley--the University has done almost nothing in either direction. One reason for the neglect is the fact that the Administration did not want to spend money improving a center which might very well be abolished completely.
So, while the University did nothing, the commuter brooded. Already for the most part economically inferior to resident students, commuters began to feel mistreated and inferior in many other respects.
Why Lowell for Some?
In writing about Dudley's physical condition in his farewell report, Duhig noted that "An individual tends to respect himself about as much as he feels that the society in which he finds himself respects him. The commuting student does not know and cannot be told why Harvard provides Lowell House for some students and Dudley Hall for others. He tends to scale his own worth to the community in proportion to the equipment placed at his disposal."
There are approximately 650 commuters at Harvard--no one in the University knows exactly how many--and 450 of them pay the $10 a year which makes them members of Dudley. There are approximately 150 active and regular members of Dudley. Last week the CRIMSON polled the Center and received 147 serious replies.
Answers on these questions showed a well of bitter sentiment on the part of commuters. One senior wrote, "When people ask you what House you live in and you say you commute, their noses go up and their eyes cast 'that peasant' glances."
Many other replies were of this sort: "Yes, we're treated as second-class, but we think most of those who live in are jerks, too, so we don't mind." This bitterness sometimes results in self-accusation: "Commuters are treated that way only when they so act, as many of them unfortunately do."
The replies quoted are extreme, but there is no denying that such sentiments are fairly common. A very unhealthy feeling exists, and only through the efforts of the administration, faculty members, and resident students can it be alleviated. The idea that the commuter is not a real Harvard man has enough truth in it to make it worthy of re-assessment.
Almost all non-residents commute because of financial reasons, and most of them (80 percent) would not commute if they didn't have to. Their college careers are closely limited by tight train schedules, and the necessity for being home in time for meals. Many of them have afternoon jobs, many more scholarships and must keep up high grades. All these limit their College contacts--consequently most of them don't dress like Harvard men, talk like Harvard men, or act like Harvard men. Whether this is good or bad is not pertinent; it does definitely set the commuter out as a class apart.
The commuter today is plagued by problems on all sides. Eighty percent of commuters polled said that they believed that Lamont should let commuters take reserved books out at 5 or 6 p.m. Phillip J. McNiff, Lamont Librarian, steadfastly refuses to make any changes in the present system, pointing out that if commuters were allowed to take books out early it would only hurt the even larger group of resident students.
The only possible solution at the present seems to be some sort of compromise by which the commuters could get special privileges one or two nights a week.
One-Third Once at Home
Approximately half of the commuters believe that they do not have a chance to participate equally in extra-curricular activities. Most admitted that there was very little that could be done about this, but a large number suggested that opening Dudley until 10 or 11 at night might give commuters more of a chance to take part in College activities. At present the Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, and from 8:30 to 1:30 on Saturdays.
Fischelis agrees that keeping the Center open later might prove helpful, but doubts that enough people would take advantage of the later hours to make the extra money spent on upkeep worthwhile. All Dudley expenses now are theoretically supposed to be paid from money collected by means of the $10 yearly membership fee--a fee which has not changed since the Center's founding in 1935.
Other complaints about Dudley are that it is too small, that it is too dirty, that it lacks office space for its eight tutors, that its recreational facilities are too few, and that its food is poor. All these are justified to a greater or lesser extant. Each one, however, would require a considerable expenditure on the part of the University, expenditures which it is just not willing or able to make.
Then Lush Houses
The problem of what to do about commuters was no problem at all up until the beginning of the House system. Before that time as many as one-third of all undergraduates lived at home, for Harvard made no great effort to get itself men from all over the nation.
Even those men who did come from other parts of the United States were not required to live in College dormitories and often stayed in boarding houses around the Square. The University was not concerned with making its students mingle together to rub off their provincialism.
The House Plan, with its emphasis on the mingling of all classes and types of Harvard students, changed all this. Commuters themselves looked with envy upon the luxurious Houses and the many activities which centered about them. They themselves had no common meeting-place at all, but, as Duhig writes in his report, "about that time the most hardy of the group (of commuters) began to eat lunches prepared at home in a basement room of Phillips Brooks House."
In a few years the PBH basement became so crowded that it was known as the "Black Hole." In the fall of 1934 dissatisfaction reached a new high, and a committee formed to investigate possibilities for a separate building for commuters alone. Hemenway Gymnasium was the committee's first choice, although it also considered Memorial Hall.
PBH Expels Commuters
The University was reluctant to spend money for such a center, but on March 26, 1935 the PBH governing board virtually forced it to by forbidding commuters further use of the building.
Twenty days later the University announced the gift of part of Dudley Hall as a commuters center. Donor of the then 38-year-old building, which had been closed for two years after serving as a freshman dormitory, was the late Allston Burr '89. Burr unfortunately did not provide money for upkeep, and the Center has been restricted by lack of endowment ever since.
Since its founding Dudley Hall has provided little in the way of excitement of controversy. Various plans for integration were proposed on and off before the war, but none gained official acceptance.
Several Houses just before the war provided "day rooms" in which commuters who so wished could study and eat in more fashionable surroundings than those offered by Dudley. These rooms had to be paid for by the commuters, however. With the post-war premium on House space, little has been done to continue this system.
One of the toughest and most important problems facing the commuters is the library question. Like all other students, commuters cannot take reserve books out of Lamont until 9 p.m. and must return them by 9 a.m.
Waiting around until 9 p.m. defeats the commuters' ever-present idea of saving money by eating at home. Furthermore, the 9 a.m. return deadline is almost impossible to meet in some cases (one man takes two hours and ten minutes to get here each way), and fines add another financial burden.
Because of this book situation, many commuters have to do much of their studying in the afternoon before going home for supper, and this cuts sharply their extra-curricular activities.
After the war the swollen size of the University placed an even greater bur- den on the Commuters Center. At this time, Duhig noted, "a sharp decline in membership during the junior and senior years... The crowded and inadequate facilities of the present rooms force many upperclassmen to make other arrangements."
The membership of the Center in post war years has become stabilized at between 450 and 500 men. The dining hall, however, is just big enough to accommodate 100 men, and other facilities are on a similar scale. Consequently any attempts to expand the Center's activities have been restricted by lack of space in which to expand.
Spirit Gets Better
With the arrival of Fischelis as graduate secretary last fall, Dudley spirit and activity took a distinct turn upward.
Fischelis likes to look at the commuter problem as primarily one of communication--"communication between students themselves and also communication between commuters and faculty members. The very essence of commuting is a lack of contact between non-resident men and other members of the Harvard community. Even commuters themselves mingle very little together, and you are apt to find high school cliques continuing all through College."
To get commuters to mingle more freely Fischelis last spring sponsored the first annual Dudley Hall dinner. The event, held in Adams House, was a success, and President Conant is slated to speak at this spring's dinner. Another such innovation was a dinner for commuting freshmen held this October in Dudley itself. Over half of all 1955 commuters listened to Dean Leighton as he urged them to participate more fully in College activities and told them "The College has a big stake in commuters: you are a part of the community and you shouldn't feel you don't belong to it." In addition to the dinners Fischelis has scheduled an increased number of record dances at the Center.
Contact between students and tutors has gone up markedly in the past year, mainly because Fischelis has recruited additional faculty members to eat lunch in the Dudley dining hall every day. There are now eight such men, while last year there were only five. Instead of being known as "faculty associates" as they were in the past, they are now officially called "tutors," something which Fischelis feels helps greatly in erasing the difference between Dudley and a House.
More tangible factors in improving communication have been the installation of a telephone at Dudley and the creation of an office for the graduate secretary. Two large bulletin boards for notices and another, one for tutorial bulletins have been put up. Despite the lack of any real secretarial assistance. Fischelis has begun a more complete system of files on individual commuters. None of these improvements existed before he came into office last year.
Improving the physical condition of Dudley has been one of Fischelis' main concerns. With aid from the University, the dining hall has been repainted and has had drapes added. The game room has been renovated, and an attempt has been made to spruce up the entire hall. The undergraduate House Committee has voted to purchase a television set.
Here again space is the factor which threatens to halt any improvement. One of Fischelis' major campaigns has been centered around the expansion of Dudley's tutorial system. Lack of office space has prevented tutors from seeing commuters at any time except at meals. If really sound student-tutor relationships are to develop, Dudley should have small offices in which conferences could be held conveniently. A great deal of the office space in Dudley Hall has been requisitioned of late by the Russian Research Center, and unless more space is somehow procured, the Dudley tutorial plan may die a quick and silent death.
Duhig thought the problem of expanding in the awkwardly-constructed Dudley Hall so difficult that in his farewell report he recommended the buying or erecting of a completely new Commuters Center. Financial reasons make this impossible, says the University.
All the recent improvements, no matter how slight they may sound, have done a great deal to improve the general spirit of commuting students. Participation in Dudley athletics has increased markedly, and for the first time in history it has entered teams in all the House squash leagues. Fischelis himself has taught most of the Dudley racquet men how to play the game.
The House committee, under the chairmanship of Forrest L. Gould '52, has led the drive for more Dudley spirit. The television set will be bought entirely from funds raised by the committee. It has bought ice-space for Dudley's championship intramural hockey team. It has worked with Fischelis is sponsoring more commuter events than over before. Next year it will inaugurate a system of informal upperclass advisers to help acquaint freshmen with Harvard and to interest them in Harvard activities.
At present unable to be pushed into the House plan, commuters are trying to work out their own future without much University guidance. The senior tutor's plan is a hopeful sign for Dudley, but an even more propitious one is the frequency with which members refer to it as "Dudley House."
Commuters, acutely realizing their separation from the House plan--the center of life at the College--have determined to have a House of their own, both in name and in facilities. In a short time the House Committee may officially petition the University to have the name changed to "Dudley House." The commuter has resolved to exist no longer on the fringe of a great University.