In Loco Parentis?

INNOCENT BYSTANDER

THIRTEEN THOUSAND dollars is a lot of money to pay for a year's education. But the University's financial wizards have pie charts to prove that we're only paying about a third of the "real cost" of being a student. These are the same people who are currently raising $350 million to help pad the ermine-lined vaults of Baybank Harvard Trust: you have to figure they're treating you fairly. So you send off the big check and arrive at Harvard, confident that you have forestalled the dreaded red dot for another semester, that you don't owe Harvard money, but rather, that Harvard owes you an education.

This is entirely true--unless you arrive too late to register with everyone else in the great cattle pen at Memorial Hall, in which case it will cost you $40. While you're at it, be sure not to change your study card after it's been filed ($15) or, worse, file it late ($30 a week). Also, don't forget to keep your keys, athletic sticker, and athletic ticket books on your person at all times--preferably through a painless surgical procedure--because it will set you back $10 for Harvard to grumble and snap and conjure up replacements from their cartloads of duplicate supplies. It would seem sensible to copy your keys at Dickson Brothers for $1.50, but then, it's against the rules.

Don't even dream of sleeping late if there's a reserve book simmering on your desk: it will cost you $4.25 a day. Keep it over the weekend and you've bought it. Never, never get sick during exam period: each make-up exam carries a fee of $25. Luckily, the Handbook for Students does offer some hope for relief, if you write to the Registrar four weeks in advance and cancel the exam, you are relieved of your financial obligations. You go scot-free. Unfortunately, you also fail the course.

The most familiar supernumerary fee is for the replacement of an I.D. card--$25. Shame on you if you're a three-time loser, then it's $50. As a lot of people lose their I.D.'s at least once in four years, this particular regulation seems worth examining.

Let's say the white plastic card with the blue writing, the photographic paper, and the flashbulb cost $2. Five minutes of the photographer's time is worth at most a dollar, and that's assuming a wage scale more appropriate to junior partners in a New York law firm. Oh, all right, throw in the insurance necessary to cover the possibility that the camera will explode in a hail of plastic shrapnel. That's still only $5, and a $20 overhead strains credulity, especially since you're already paying for overhead with the $665 College Facilities Fee.

Harvard's explanation for the size of the Lateness and Replacement Fees is that they are "incentives" not to be tardy or forgetful. Poppycock. Incentives make one act for a reward: they are the carrot. These fees are silly penalties: they are the stick.

PERHAPS THAT'S being a bit harsh. Perhaps these fines are a well-intentioned effort to maintain some control over student's personal lives after the in loco parentis advising structure of freshman year drops away. Perhaps, yes perhaps, it is a brilliant psychological ploy that fails only because it does not go far enough.

How about a $50 fee for not brushing and flossing twice a day? An unmade bed is a real eyesore; let's make it a $100 mistake. No one shines his shoes anymore, but they would if a patch of unwinking leather cost him $5,000.

Enforcement would be a somewhat controversial and Orwellian issue, but it would add new prestige and purpose to the Harvard Police Force. No more letting people into their rooms, breaking up keg parties, and plain old chatting the day away near the Gulf Station on Mass. Ave--not for Harvard's finest, "The Politeness Police."

Indeed, as University Hall is a self-styled enlightened oligarchy, it would not be amiss for it to create strong incentives for actively moral behavior. Almost everyone would hand in their papers on time if they received a gold star by their names in the gradebook. How about a Harvard Scouts program, with merit badges for cleanliness, obedience, and hair length (no long sideburns!). Alcohol and drug use would plummet, and we'd completely eliminate those radical fringe types. We would build a community of upstanding young men and women, who would depart Harvard eager to serve better their country and their kind.