THE plan of holding Commons in Memorial Hall, when it shall have become completed, is one much talked of and much cherished, at least by those who at present are wont to take their meals in the building now used for the Thayer Club. All must admit that it would be most pleasant to have so noble a dining-hall, and that there are good reasons why its use should be followed by the introduction of the system of compulsory attendance.
This idea at first doubtless strikes some with horror, who say to themselves: "Miserable plan! to think of a man's not being allowed to choose his own boarding-place!" True, several objections to this plan may be seen; but who ever heard of a project to which objections could not be raised? Let us see how much can be said in its favor. It is unnecessary to state that I do not refer to such a Commons as at present disgraces us, - for it would be hardly less than brutal to compel any one to attend a place in which there is not room enough for more than two thirds of its occupants; in which - But it is useless to enumerate its faults; they are already well known. Would that it had as many, or even any, merits which might be told! It must be remembered that the proposed Commons is to be in a room much more elegant than any in which students now take their meals, and where, by proper management, all, without being crowded, could obtain good board at a reasonable price; for, strange as it may seem, there are some every year who wish to be admitted to our present Commons, and are kept out for want of room.
Certainly this system would create a common tie among the students, and promote the brotherly feeling which every true Harvard man ought to desire. No longer would the cliques formed by club-tables exist, and all would be much more united.
The great argument of those opposed to this system is, that the College has no right to compel a man to expend his money for boarding where he does not wish; but this, it strikes me, is not a very strong objection, inasmuch as we are compelled to use our money in numerous ways. Laws are necessary in every community for the good of the majority, and in making laws the good of the mass, and not the individual interest, must be consulted. It is for this reason that no one thinks of objecting to the law that all the citizens must pay a school-tax, whether they have children and are benefited by the schools, or not. So in our little community it is not the good of a few that must be looked after, but that of the largest number of the students. We are compelled to attend prayers and recitations, but the right of such compulsion is not questioned. In fact, upon entrance we agree to conform to the rules of the College, and therefore do not feel unfairly restrained by them.
Again, would it not make our associations much more pleasant? I mean, would we not, in after years, look back with much more pleasure on our college days, if we were connected with the College in this as in other respects? We all know that gathering around the same table unites persons much more than meeting in any other way. As an example of this plan, we have the Commons of the English Universities. Their Commons are certainly successful, and, having the advantage of their experience, we might improve upon them; for instance, by the adoption of the "European" system of payment, which would enable each student to suit his living to his means. Though one may be moved at first to cry out with horror against this innovation, are there not, on the whole, more reasons for than against it?