LAST Monday was the fifth anniversary of President Eliot's inauguration into the high office whose duties he has so faithfully discharged and whose honors he has so modestly borne. For a half-decade the advancing prosperity of our University has borne witness to his unflagging zeal and thorough liberality of mind; and were we called upon to-day to speak more especially of our President's fitness for his present position, we could but repeat the words of Ex-Governor Clifford at the inauguration:-
"Endowed with intellectual tastes and moral characteristics, and accustomed to the prosecution of studies, all eminently fitted to prepare you for your great work; familiar with all the departments both of pupilage and instruction in the Institution, within whose walls you have been nurtured and almost domesticated, as in a second home; your judgment enlarged and strengthened by the ripened fruits of foreign travel, and the observation and study of the best processes of education at home and abroad; receiving a generous and cordial welcome from your learned and accomplished associates to their companionship and chieftainship; and added to all these personal and social qualifications an hereditary loyalty to the Institution, which cannot fail to inspire the heart of a son whose honored father, so many of us remember, was one of its most devoted, efficient, and valued friends, - there seems nothing wanting to our heartfelt congratulations on this day, both to the University and to yourself."
To no one department or school has Mr. Eliot's influence been confined, nor are the higher standards in instruction alone the witnesses to the efficiency of his enthusiastic labors. A broad spirit of liberality breathes throughout the College government. Whatever signification we may attach to such marks of prosperity as the erection of Memorial, Matthews, Thayer, and Weld Halls, it is not to these that we point with most pride, but to the internal changes that five years have wrought in our University.
The high-school spirit that refused to "men grown" anything but a system of compulsory recitations, and an inefficient and outgrown system of marks on daily recitations, - the spirit that frowned down every effort to introduce more fully the elective system, - this has been so far exorcised that the Senior Class has now the University privilege of voluntary recitations, marks are assigned almost wholly on written examinations, while over two thirds, instead of one half, of the studies pursued in the three upper years are elective.
But what is of even yet more importance in our relations to the educated world and the institutions of learning about us, is the higher standard of attainment required not only of those who enter here, but of those who shall hereafter receive a degree, - an average of fifty per cent for the whole academic course being now the meaning of Harvard's A. B.
When we turn back to the page of our College paper of five years ago, we find there long discussions, and often despairing conclusions on the question of a reading-room; while the College wit found abundant exercise in drawing the parallel between Ali Ben Hadid and his hidden white camel in the Eastern legend, and Harvard with its Gray collection of engravings, carefully guarded from inspection by the vigilant custodian of Sibley Castle.
It has been due to the growth of liberal views in College government - and most of us feel how much of that is due to our President's influence - that not only less frequent attendance is required on religious exercises, so called, but that there has sprung up in Harvard that more healthful tone which fails to find enjoyment in the foolishness of hazing, or prides itself on the "Junior Exhibition," which somebody has somewhere called "that semi-annual farce where the students play low-comedy parts."
There are yet among us customs that need pruning, some even that we can well afford to part with entirely; and perhaps no part of our President's inaugural address needs repetition at this time more than that in which he touches on our life outside of the recitation-room:-
"In spite of the familiar picture of the moral dangers which environ the student, there is no place so safe as a good college during the critical passage from boyhood to manhood. The security of the college commonwealth is largely due to its exuberant activity. Its public opinion, though easily led astray, is still high in the main. Its scholarly tastes and habits, its eager friendships and quick hatreds, its keen debates, its frank discussions of character, and of deep political and religious questions, - all are safeguards against sloth, vulgarity, and depravity. Its society, and not less its solitudes, are full of teaching. Shams, conceit, and fictitious distinctions get no mercy. There is nothing but ridicule for bombast and sentimentality. Repression of genuine sentiment and emotion is, indeed, in this College, carried too far. Reserve is more respectable than any undiscerning communicativeness. But neither Yankee shamefacedness nor English stolidity is admirable. This point especially touches you, young men, who are still undergraduates. When you feel a true admiration for a teacher, a glow of enthusiasm for work, a thrill of pleasure at some excellent saying, give it expression. Do not be ashamed of these emotions. Cherish the natural sentiment of personal devotion to the teacher who calls out your better powers. It is a great delight to serve an intellectual master. We Americans are but too apt to lose this happiness. German and French students get it. If ever in after years you come to smile at the youthful reverence you paid, believe me, it will be with tears in your eyes."