The typical freshman of this year, who often enjoyed the Line, took a different approach, and recruiting chairmen of activities and clubs are still blinking their eyes in amazement over suddenly swelled membership lists.
The Class of '63 was relatively cool to activities, having already decided that study was its main reason for living here. '64 showed little enthusiasm at registration, although it later jumped into activities with surprising vigor and quickly took control in several. The current sophomores were rather lethargic in their approach to activities, and still have not shown any overwhelming inclination to leave Lamont.
This year's Yardlings apparently have a very clear idea of what they want out of College, and that conception includes much more than study.
Almost every organization in the College, and particularly those that offer some form of active participation, attracted unprecedented numbers of freshmen. In many activities, the number of freshmen showing interest was more than double that in recent years.
Many freshmen said they had carefully studied the Harvard Handbook during the summer, and decided from its descriptions what they were going to do.
Some, its true, had traditional experiences. One burly halfback candidate shyly admitted he had "no idea" of how many clubs he had nominally joined. "I had a doctor's appointment and had to go through quickly," he said, "and I thought it was mandatory to sign when they said so."
When asked to name a few of his organizations, he offered: "Tocsin--that's the ban the bomb group isn't it? And oh yes, the conservative club .... and I might have even joined the Liberal Union."
Although slightly worried about the effect extra-curricular activities might have on studies, '66 takes a vastly different view from that of '65 at the same time last year. "Sure studies may suffer," said one Yardling, "but you have to do something more than grind." (He has joined three organizations and is thinking about more.)
Dean Glimp could not explain the sudden change in attitudes from previous classes, but said "they are a bright, able group like the others. You never can tell when you admit them what they are going to do."
The biggest immediate beneficiaries of Yardling interest were the political groups. Admittedly, this is an election year, but the Presidential race in 1960 failed to produce enthusiasm in, '64 that even mildly compares with that shown so far by '66.
Pete Wallison, the always smiling, go go president of the Young Republicans, describes the interest shown in his group as "tremendous, just tremendous. I don't know what to ascribe it to."
Wallison has figures to support his enthusiasm. More than 120 Yardlings have said they want to join the club, and at least 70 have already paid their dues. Last year, with the help of a factional fight for party control that prompted intensive recruiting, the HYRC chieftains only drew 97 into the fold.
While Wallison detected a "spontaneous desire" among freshmen to join his club, he admitted that one of his most successful techniques on The Line was to offer an opportunity to "campaign against Ted Kennedy." He also felt that the "partisan administration of Jack Kennedy has made many latent Republicans want to declare themselves publicly."
But results were equally as impressive on the other side. Said Young Democrat President Harry Greene "We had a great time on The Line." He estimated the number of freshmen joining the club "could very well double" from previous years.
While Greene could offer no definite reason for the Yardling patterns of behaviour, he did feel that "a lot of freshmen are for (H. Stuart) Hughes, and joined the Young Dems to work for him."
He thought many freshmen saw a "sense of permanence" in the YDCHR, and had decided that their efforts would be better spent in such a group instead of some "temporary students for Hughes" movement.
Tocsin also had remarkable success, interesting at least 60 Harvard freshmen and 30 'Cliffies in its cause. Last year, even with the historic Washington Peace March, Tocsin had difficulty exceeding 100 in total membership.
Commenting on this extraordinary situation, Todd Gitlin, Tocsin's leader, said "the freshmen show an awareness of the issues (of disarmament and the arms race), even though they are uncertain about the answers."
The disturbing events of the summer also helped stimulate an interest in Tocsin's program, Gitlin contended.
Although pleased with the interest in extracurricular activities, Gitlin, unlike other leaders, "was not overly surprised." In fact; he expects even more freshmen to join during the second semester.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Robert V. Hohon, Secretary of the local branch Young Americans for Freedom, said his group "did better than last year but not as well as we had hoped."
Still, he reported that when teams of YAF promoters, visited rooms in the Yard they found the freshman to have "greater background than last year, and a greater willingness to discuss the issues." In many cases visits lasted more than 45 minutes in each room.
One of the most surprising centers of freshmen interest is Phillips Brooks House. PBH leaders are still trying to force themselves to believe the figures. A grand total of 671 freshmen signed interest cards, almost all for more than one committee. Last year the figure was 305.
Why did they sign up? The answers are numerous, but most expressed the belief that PBH offers the most fruitful way to spend extra-curricular time, and they definitely want to spend the time. Others were impressed by the efficiency and low key nature of the PBH recruitment drive.
Musical organizations also extended an enthusiastically accepted invitation.
The freshmen glee club was swamped with hopeful singers. The orchestra, with the selling point of its Mexican tour, discovered numerous new prospects.
The band, long plagued by a study atmosphere in the college which seemed to bode no good to its future, heard a total of 70 freshman applicants, twice the number for the previous year. For the first time since the good old days of flowing booze and wild parties, the band will march with more than 100 beaters and blowers.
Publications are just beginning to find out how much of this energy will be given to their efforts, but subscription sales were encouragingly high, and that is always a hopeful sign. Other groups are also looking optimistically ahead to better days.
How long '66 will persist in its extracurricular inclination no one can say. Certainly by November hour exams some of the enthusiasm will have been replaced by proper Harvardian cynicism.
Extra-curricular activities have been in steady decline over the past few years as a result of stiffening academic pressure and a general orientation towards graduate school on the part of the student body. This year's Yardlings seem to be bucking a trend that has overwhelmed everyone else.
While it appears doubtful they will work a major change in the college. It is hard to resist the conclusion that '66 is moving in, and moving in fast.