Commuter's Center: A Home Is No House
Social Problems, University Neglect Weaken Dudley
At a recent Jolly Up the President of a smaller College club succeeded in finding enjoyable company with a Radcliffe Freshman. When the evening was nearly over the girl suddenly asked him the name of hour. "Oh, I'm at Dudley--the non-resident Center, " he answered. In a few seconds she found an excuse to disappear "to look for someone I just have to see." Although it was an uncommon affront, his resentment and her unfair prejudice might well characterize the perplexing difficulties confronting Harvard's commuting students. Their struggle is to win more prestige and facilities for a drab Center, and to capture the aid of an apparently inattentive Administration.
"You never see Dean Bunduy down here mixing with us," complained a member of the Dudley committee at their last meeting. While defenders of the Administration might point out that the Deans seldom make special visits to any of the houses, the commuters feel they deserve notice. "If the University men think they'll catch the plague or something by coming in Dudley," added a dance chairman, "then they should at least decide what they're going to do with us." Unfortunately, the Administration not only lacks definite plans for the commuter, but it has no solution for the obvious inequalities of the Center.
Located between the Square and Cronin's on Dunster Street, Dudley Hall is an ugly building with a nearly colorless basement and first level parceled out to the commuter. Over a block on Holyoke Street, next to the Hasty Pudding, is Apley Court, where tutorial offices, a bunk room, and a small library are available. For many commuters, the only clear satisfaction with the Center's facilities is the convenience of the place for "having a good talk with your buddies." While University officials debate whether to integrate the commuters into the house system as non-resident members or make large improvements at Dudley, the Center battles alone against cliches like "The Black Shoes."
To help Dudley's prestige, a number of vigorous leaders have promoted participation in a program of improvements. Last year, for example, a popular spokesman joined the Committee in urging the adoption of a coat and tie rule for the Dudley dining room. But the plan nearly collapsed when he won a large scholarship and moved into a house, emphasizing the danger in the continual drain of Dudley's leadership. The magnetic effect of the houses has drawn away nearly half of the commuter total since 1952, and many of this number have been the outstanding members who could get University support. While the move so fine for the individual concerned, it has had a depressing influence on Dudley's standing, evidenced by the steady decline in the Center's academic rank. Yet few commuters begrudge those who switch to a house "Good luck to them," is the general response, "I'd do the same if I could afford it."
Although efforts to boost Dudley are continually hampered by the loss of men, the leaders who have chosen to remain are not relaxing campaigns to improve the Center's stature. A student who moved out this year, in fact, has suggested that "without the twenty top men over there the place would fall apart." Undoubtedly, the task of improvement within Dudley is not an easy one. Much of the difficulty is coordinating the activities of almost 300 men who must divide their time among home, classes, and the Center.
On one extreme, there is the small clan that seldom makes the effort to walk through Dudley's doors. Their daytime home is the fourth level smoking room at Lamont, where they study, eat lunch, relax on the tables, and "shoot the breeze," as one of them put it. At the Center there is another group, relatively small in number, but a black smudge on Dudley's reputation. "I don't mind the guys who aren't the Ivy League type," a recent member of the Center remarked, "but those spoilers who wear dirty sweat shirts are just too much."
In an attempt to reduce the effect of this minority and the general carelessness, the Dudley Committee posted a sign which said: "As you have probably noticed, the condition of our ro9oms during the past few weeks has been absolutely filthy. The present appearance of these rooms distracts from both your own enjoyment and also from the overall appearance of our house. Please do not eat your lunch in these rooms." Further evidence of the difficulty, and the effort to eliminate it, are the homey "definitions" in the Dudley Reporter:
"Hoofers; the guy who puts his sweet feet (a la limburger) in your face during much time and thinks he looks co-leej-ut." The typical commuter, admittedly, is not the Brook Brothers picture of the finely styled man; he is, however, cleanly and comfortably dressed. He enjoys the casual atmosphere of Dudley and the opportunity to share his toughest with undergraduates who also face the daily trip to and from the University. He is also similar to his Dudley friends in his moderate financial background. With few exceptions, it is this lack of funds that necessitates commuting.
Even with the reduced costs of living at home, about one third of Dudley's students are helped by small University scholarships. Some of these men also work, bringing the total number of commuters who have part time jobs to somewhat over a third. "The trouble with commuting," one student said, "is the time I spend traveling makes it impossible to earn the cash I need to live in a house." For this dilemma their i8s apparently no answer--outside of a large loan or scholarship--except the sacrifice of studying and extra-curricular activities.
To pry loose the commuters' attraction to the house system would take a lever the Administration apparently lacks. A dean cannot smile at the commuters and tell them the houses aren't really very much, while advertising to the rest of the country that the house system is "one of Harvard's finest features." The policy in the past few years, then, has been to give Dudley a series of improvements in an attempt to satisfy the most outrageous inequalities. The commuters, however, have responded by shifting out of the Center at the pace of nearly a hundred men a year. "Before we got any help," an officer on the Dudley Educational Committee explained, "a lot of the guys didn't know there was anything at the University except the lecture hall. Giving us a few improvements and a little attention made it clearer what we're missing by not having the same advantages as the houses."
Part of the failure to woo the commuter to his Center is the continuing shortage of attractive and needed features. Putting a big flannel patch on a hole in a pair of blue jeans won't make them suit pants, and the stop gap measures at Dudley have not transformed it into a house. The complaints range from criticism of the grimy looking walls to condemnation of the entire Center as inadequate. The furniture just inside the front door is a collection of multi-colored leather chairs placed about a large red rug. Before settling down, the commuter must find a place for his coat on an overburdened clothes rack. In the basement, a student is apt to kick his locker rather than struggle with the old lock that opens the way to a minimum of space. Old ping pong tables, a billiard room with no pool table, and dingy lighting are all less than satisfactory. Even the television set hasn't been used for any length of time in months because Dudley's heavy stone walls block effective reception.
But the most urgent problem is the exasperating search for more space. By knocking out the wall between an old game room the dining hall this last summer, Dudley expanded its eating facilities to conform with the Cambridge fire laws for the first time in several years. A number of students, however, still slip down to the basement ping pong room to cat their lunch, and the closeness of tables in the lunch room gives it the atmosphere of a cafeteria rather than a dining hall. Yet the food, brought over from the Adams House kitchen, is as good or better than that of the houses. And the addition of the contested coat and tie rule, now strongly approved by the great majority of the Center, has helped make Dudley a likeable noon dining place for a daily average of fifty inter house students. The contest with house members has given Dudley a much needed push in its climb toward equal recognition.
Another jump in that direction was the acquisition of Apley Court two years ago, now used for offices, temporary sleeping quarters, and the new library. Whereas the separation of Dudley from Apley is more a mental block than a real one, the scarcity of space already looms as a definite inconvenience. Apley's Bunk Room has enough beds for only ten men, which may well fall short of the usual exam period desire for some kind of overnight accommodations. "It seems like I spent more time going home and coming back than studying last year," one sophomore complained.
Perhaps the Apley library best shows the need for extra room and additional materials. For a numbers of years the commuter has felt that Lamont hours are unfairly slanted against him because of his restricted commuting schedule. While the Apley library helps fill the need by providing early check outs (4 p.m.) and late returns (1.30), not more than 16 men can possibly use the library at once. The cramped space leaves little room for quiet study when others are searching for books. But the soft Grey wall to wall carpeting combined with handsome furnishing are pleasant, and the collection of 1500 important course and tutorial books, while currently limited, will increase by a thousand a year until the shelves are filled with books needed by the commuter. Although the non-resident ahs used the library with encouraging regularity, librarian Roman Rubinstein '55 said, "When I go home at night there are often books left there. I used to fight to get at Lamount before we opened here." His request is often repeated at Dudley--the plea to offer not just a negative carping against unsolved difficulties.
"Where's The Money?"
The reason for many of the Center's caldrons of unfilled needs is found in an ever-draining container--the University's pocketbook. "Where are you going to get the money?" Dean Bunduy has asked. Certainly a large endowment does not mean available funds for every justified project. To place new lockers in Dudley's basement would take $12,000 and even the modest addition of a pool table would cost $750. A complete renovation or Dudley, including indirect lighting, painted concrete, partitioned areas, and murals on the wall would require on outlay of around $50,000, according to Architects Collaborative.
To create a substitute for the lack of sufficient facilities, the commuters have rallied about the Allston Burr Senior Tutor, Charles P. Whitlock, director of the Commuter Center, Justly praised by both students and faculty, Whitlock has been largely responsible for many of the recent innovations. Also close to the students is Philip G. Barach, the Graduate Secretary. "Along with Whitlock," an Educational Committee member said, "Barach knows what's going on around here--he's close to the heart of things." The pulse of Dudley's leaders, in fact, is moving at a rapid rate. "Everyone seems closer here than they are in the houses," said the chairman of the Dudley Committee, it's one of the really good things about the Center." The drive for a united housed feeling not only serves as an offset to Dudley's physical disadvantages; it is also in general opposition to the University's speculative plans for integrating the commuters as non-resident members of the houses.
Same Prestige Level
While the Dudley leaders have not plugged their cars against talk of integration's possibilities, the Dudley Reporter last week declared "Dudley has far greater potentialities as a place where all commuters can interact on the same prestige level; a place where we can continue to develop out fine group spirit."
Attempts to stir this spirit are particularly evident in the intramural athletic program. As one faculty member said, "The Dudley boys may not play polo, but just watch them in the ring." Besides boxing, Dudley is annually at the top, or near there, in hockey and table tennis. Dudley's athletic secretary likes to describe house spirit in terms of the football team's "fight"--against one of Yale's best house teams the Center lost by only one touchdown. A veteran observer at the IAB holds a slightly different interpretation. "It seems to me that on defensive goal line stands Dudley can fight back against anyone, but when they go on the offense, nothing quite comes off right." Whether correct or not, it is true that much of Dudley's efforts to organize teams is aimed at supplementing the negative spirit of opposition with a positive drive for taking part. Last year the Center was unable to field teams in golf, fencing, or the squash "A" bracket. Part of the trouble was the expense of green fees, and inexperience with the sports. But the biggest limitation was the unwillingness of most students to add the time burden of playing and practicing for a team to the hours spent commuting. As a result, Dudley finished in the cellar of the House league, although nearly 150 men took some part during the year. Lest the figure be deceiving, only a small core of about 20 men were able to spend time consistently with the squads.
The partial but growing success of the Center's athletics has prompted a few administrators to suggest that it is the key to integration. "Let them play o the house teams," one Dean said, "and they will find out the advantages of the non-resident house membership." At present, however, such a move would probably divide the feeling of unity that encourages the commuters to allot the extra time for sports. "I like the idea of teaming it up with guys who live home like I do," a starter on the hockey squad said. "In a house, win or lose, I'd feel just another nobody."
An improvement and expansion of Dudley's social functions, like athletics, has brought more contact with the houses, and it has also revealed some remaining differences. At Dudley, for example, there are no real parietal rules, a hangover from the days when the University completely ignored the center. Yet except for the lady passer-by who needs directions, no woman ventures into Dudley, except for special social occasions. A more utilized privilege is the liquor permit at dances, one of the main arguments used against Dudley's long-delayed merger with the inter house dance committee.
The association nearly kicked back during the Ohio Dance planning for this year. The usual proposal to have drinks at the dance was vetoed by Whitlock on the grounds that Dudley should conform to the practice of the other houses. "Some of the guys felt a little bad about it," said one of the dance committee chairman, "but we had the Yale Dance at the Commander Hotel and were able to have bar facilities over there." Dudley's dances are a good step beyond the wild Cabaret parties of several years ago that burned the now-disappearing stigma on the commuter. They are still more informal, and perhaps louder, but a change for the better is clear. "We're beginning to feel a little more confident," one committee member stated, "now that we can make money on our dances and have some good mixers with the girl schools around Boston."
The involvement of Dudley in the social life of the University has been eminently more successful than its attempt to make extra-curricular activities available. Over half the students would engage in more organizations if they had the time off from commuting. Tere are no definite lines between the groupings of interests in Dudley. It is significant, for example, that only about four members belong to social or final clubs. They are, nevertheless, active members in house projects to improve Dudley.
Probably the most striking division for the outsider is the high proportion of men in science, nearly 50 per cent, as contrasted with the University total of 23 per cent. One of the Administration's theories attributes the high percent of science majors to the influence of the Harvard Medical School located next to Boston Latin School, a heavy contributor to Dudley. It is reasonable that the financial security and prestige appeal of the scientist or doctor would appeal to practical-minded thinking of moderate income families. For years the only available literature in the old Dudley library was a few dog-eared medical school catalogues, now replaced with a set that covers every important school in the country. The practical bent of the commuter is also indicated by the small number (less than 15 percent) in the humanities. with an eye toward a future profession, the commuter must generally follow a rigid schedule of afternoon library and lab work. Coupled with his traveling time, little opportunity remains for extra-curricular activities. Only a few of the commuters have found prominence as leaders on the Dudley Committee, and in clubs like the Social Relations Society and the Crimson Key.
It is also difficult to fit the married man into Dudley or University activities. For the large majority of the 40 married commuters attached to Dudley did not have previous residence in one of the houses. To enhance the prestige of Dudley and bring the married men closer together, one Alumni suggestion is to require all married students to use Dudley facilities, rather than let them become "courtesy non-residents" of the houses. Though the idea may be sound, the students moving out of the houses simply don't want what they consider "the low prestige, and the second rate common room at Dudley,"--as one "courtesy member" told his House Master.
Close College Ties
In a continuing attempt to bring more of the commuters within the circle of college activities, Whitlock has been a fervent advocate of recent features that give the commuter better access to the University and its officials. He has promised to find more bunk room if the demand is excessively large during exams, and has promoted Concentration Dinners and Career Conferences for the commuter. To help the Freshman, a grant from a special fund provides a limited number of coupon tickets for evening meals in the Union, so the needy student can afford to attend evening activities. Most recently, Whitlock helped start the drive to win tutorial for the science major, "The commuting science student is at somewhat of a disadvantage," Whitlock said. "Living at home often makes it impossible for him to meet members of the faculty." As a trial solution, Whitlock recently invited Dudley's science majors to join any one of the humanities tutorials. Other Senior Tutors have joined in praising Whitlock for his expanded program, and are seriously considering the plan for their own houses.
Several more additions in the past few years have helped bolster the status of the Center. Instead of running at a deficit on a separate listing, Dudley has operated like any other department included in the University budget since the start of the Senior Tutor plan in '52. And the $20 fee for all upper classmen ahs provided needed cash for the library fund. Just as important for prestige, although less tangible, was the addition of three members from the Board of Overseers as Honorary Associates of Dudley Hall: Robert F. Bradford '23, former Governor of Massachusetts; Joseph S. Clark Jr. '23, Major of Philadelphia; and William L. White, a noted writer. But the impact of all these improvements ahs not, as yet, been forceful enough to completely knock away the stigma long attached to the commuter.
As early as 1932 the Alumni Bulletin ran an article on the commuters called "The Untouchables," at that time a totally neglected 28% of the college. The depression slump had tightened about the commuting student and offered him little opportunity to escape into Lowell's house system, then beginning to boom. Although several alumni suggested an integration of the commuters into the houses as non-resident members, a lunchroom opened in the basement of Phillips Brooks House. But the crowded, hot, and messy corner was soon called "The Black Hole of Calcutta."
Not until 1934 did Allston Burr '89 donate 37-year-old Dudley Hall to the commuters. Boarded up for the previous two years after serving as Freshman living quarters, the building was in poor condition. Unfortunately, Burr did not include funds for the Hall's upkeep, and only after twenty years have the facilities reached any, where near to the adequate mark. But the building was better than the continual jostling the commuters received when they had no location of their own.
The Hall originally and a huge center court reaching to the top of the building. An alumni who recently revisited Deadly was disappointed to find the first level sealed off from the rest of the court by a stone ceiling. "We pushed a plane off from the fourth floor once," he remarked, "just to watch in smash in what's now your living room." For a long period the available furniture came close to matching the piano, and the commuter found more fashionable surroundings in the "Day Rooms" provided at his expense in the houses. The pressure of the post war increase in students, however, forced a retreat of the commuter back to Dudley. Finally in 1951, Dean Bender admitted for the University, "We've neglected the commuter." Additional space came with the utilization of Apley Court two years later. A 57-year-old creation of the famous Gold Coast, Apley is now an unusual combination of collaborate architecture and a functional interior.
If for no other reason, the lack of bedrooms in the house system has prevented serious consideration of absorbing all the commuters into the house as full members. In '51, therefore, Dean Bender's committee on advising recommended that "all upper class commuters should be assigned to cat in the Houses, and to participate fully in the educational and social life of the Houses." But the integration plan received more talk than action, and the idea slipped from immediate consideration when Dean Leighton' Report for '52-'53 set up the Non-Resident Commuter's Center "palled to the seven Houses...an eighth house for administrative purposes." A week ago there was Student Council sign in Dudley that read "one representative will be elected from each house and Dudley." Inked on the card was the line: "I though Dudley was a house."
The reaction of the Dudley commuters has been a gradually changing set of likes and dislikes. Three years ago the CRIMSON polled the commuter and found that none liked their situation, that some despised it. They missed what they considered the "companionship and excitement of the dorms," but had "no great affection for the either the Administration or the resident students." A year and half later both Dudley's facilities and the commuter's attitude had changed.
Whitlock had wiped the dust off Dudley's hidden potential, ad the commuter responded by unleashing his feeling of independence and spirit. A vote taken by the Student Council in the Spring of '53 revealed that 223 students preferred membership in the Commuter's Center as opposed to the seven who wanted non-resident membership in the house system. And only three selected a renovated Dudley over the choice of an entirely new center.
The poll of last week, however, showed another definite shift in the commuter's feeling. Over 20 percent now favor non-resident house membership, 40 percent a new Center, and 37 percent prefer remodeling and improving Dudley. An interesting discovery was what the idea of a "Dudley spirit" does not firmly establish itself until the commuter's senior year.
These figures might encourage the Administration members who believe the best path for the commuter is eventual integration into the houses as non-resident members. Not only have the improvements in Dudley in the last three years brought greater awareness of the advantages in living at college--with the resulting decline in commuters--but it has also modified the outlook of the Dudley students. Once completely ignored, the commuter now feels slighted. Once it was impossible to compare Dudley with any of the houses; now the commuter tends to exaggerate the slowly closing gap between the two. As a result, conditions seem worse and the effect is often depressing. The solution seems theoretically simple to those advocating non-resident membership with the houses. If the commuter is given connection with a house, then the problem of letting him "rub elbows with undergraduates from all sections of the country" is presumably resolved. As Dean Bender said, "It is basically unsound to isolate a group on an economic or geographic basic."