Eight O'Clock High
Autumn, like so many other things, is a tradition at Harvard. Each year when October whistles through the Yard and along the River, when the nostalgia for the summer past is replaced by the excitement of football weekends, when undergraduates begin to think about women and parietal hours and changing traditions, the Masters retire to their respective catacombs and wait for it all to pass.
October is the cruelest month for Masters. In the face of Fall weekends they must enforce the directive that parietal hours in the Houses terminate at 8 p.m. on Saturdays of home football games. And, strangely enough, Harvard has scheduled six home games this year, five of them in a row.
The Masters are frank to explain that the eight o'clock rule exists specifically to prevent drinking, orgies, and general brawls in the Houses. In an overly protective way, the University has thus assumed the role of a tacit temperance league.
It is argued, despite a certain logical inconsistency, that undergraduates who are responsible enough to entertain guests in their rooms until midnight on any Saturday throughout the year are somehow possessed by irresponsible and irrepressible desires during the football season. At a university where intelligence is emphasized slightly more than football, it does not seem unreasonable to ask for a change in the Saturday night parietal hours in the Fall.
If the normal Saturday midnight hours in the Houses were granted except for the particular House sponsoring a dance for the weekend, Masters might discover that the result would be something less socially disrupting than the general sortee by undergraduates into the Cambridge community which now occurs.
As the stronghold tradition of parietal hours has, over the years, been chipped away, undergraduates have become, not less, but more responsible. Of course, Masters are, by their nature, a reticent lot, holding back where possible, conserving a tradition in the face of criticism; but it seems blatantly unfair to assume that if an argument for the responsibility of Harvard students has to be made it must necessarily come from the undergraduates themselves. Surely the Administration does not have to await a show of militancy before it acts for the benefit of the student body.
October is the cruelest month for students. Their cry is not freedom from domination, but freedom for responsibility which forms the basis for the relationship between the undergraduates and the Administration. Masters need not wait for a revolution, for it will not come; but perhaps they will decide, as they have in the past, that the nature of the student body at Harvard demands less motherly restraint and more self-restraint. Football season and the cry for parietal changes will pass, but October will come again and again.