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.