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Seniors as Proctors

The HUC's recent poll on the freshman proctor system revealed that about half the freshmen questioned were dissatisfied with the present system of counseling and felt they could not obtain satisfactory academic advice from either advisers or proctors. The results of the poll are not surprising. Proctors and advisers are usually involved in their work as law students, graduate students, or administrators, and they cannot be expected to be knowledgeable about all the areas in which freshmen need help. Since it seems unlikely that Harvard will organize a corps of full-time experts on the Harvard scene, the HUC's proposal to have either an upperclassman live in each freshman dorm or at least a group of upperclassmen affiliated with each dorm entry seems the most effective solution.

Juniors and seniors would be valuable advisers by virtue of their direct involvement in College life. They could supply first-hand information about some courses and would know about many others through their connections in the Houses. Perhaps even more important than evaluating specific courses, the undergraduate proctor could advise on the general way to approach one's studies, having lived through two or three years of exams and papers. The way a student goes about learning, and the way he shows what he's learned to those that judge him are skills of experience; being able to consult someone who has already acquired them would tend to lessen the average freshman's initial shock at doing college work.

Upperclassmen could also facilitate the choice of majors by putting advisees into contact with students in various fields. At present, the only organized way for a freshman to hear a personal account of what it's like to major in a field like history is to attend the concentration meeting, where he hasn't much chance to ask his own personal questions. Putting him in touch with different students in the field would give him the opportunity to explore thoroughly what a history concentrator reads, writes about, and is expected to think about.

Outside of academic experience, the student proctor would have a general familiarity with the ins and outs of life in Cambridge, gained through three years of osmosis. One's values change in the course of an undergraduate career, and the things that seem crucial freshman year are usually seen in a different light by the time one is a junior or senior. Of course, a student proctor's purpose wouldn't be to take advisees on his knee and tell them what it's important to worry about while at Harvard--few seniors are infinite in their wisdom anyway. But a different perspective is valuable, and hopefully an upperclassman adviser could supply it.

Undoubtedly the proposed change will meet with resistance. It's questionable whether upperclassmen have to live in the dorm in order for freshmen to have contact with them, since there is ample opportunity in classes and extracurricular activities for freshmen to meet older students. But many freshmen who would like to meet them don't, as the HUC's poll indicated. An alternative proposed by the Council is to have groups of juniors and seniors assigned to dorm entries. This plan would avoid the disciplinary problems that might arise with an undergraduate proctor system, and, if the "dorm affiliates" were adopt, it would have all the same advantages.

The main object of both plans is to provide for freshmen informal contacts with upperclassmen in order to gain the sorts of academic and personal advice they cannot get under the present counseling method. By promoting this kind of contact and creating a new rapport the HUC's proposed plan could supplement the current proctor system.