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"The absurdity of Harvard's withdrawing from the Association." - Boston Advertiser.
ALTHOUGH the question of Harvard's withdrawing from the Rowing Association of American Colleges was presumably settled at the last general meeting of the H. U. B. C., yet as there is quite a large party in College who, not knowing their own strength, did not oppose the adoption of the resolution to remain in the Association, but who are extremely anxious to have the resolution rescinded, and who have come to doubt the numerical strength of their opponents, it seems but just that some statement of the reasons for their desire to withdraw should be made public; and it is with this object in view that the following has been written, where an attempt is made to give in the simplest possible way some of the arguments for secession.
The Association is made up at present of fourteen colleges, differing greatly in size and in the extent of their resources; and while three or four are abundantly supplied with men and money for sending crews, the majority have the greatest difficulty in meeting their crews' expenses. In fact, the latter have joined the Association, and remain in it, for the reason that membership is now accepted as a sort of certificate of character, and is deemed the distinguishing mark between a college and a high school. The membership of the Association is not, I believe, limited by its constitution, and there is no reason why it should not continue to increase to any extent whatever; and in truth any refusal on the part of the present members to admit new colleges is eminently unjust, since the present interpretation has been given to membership. Many of these colleges are so poor that they can hardly afford to buy new boats; so that whenever any changes are proposed, they must necessarily be looked at from the impecunious point of view, and if it is concluded that such changes necessitate any uncommon expense, they cannot be made. For instance, Harvard and Yale wished to pull with coxswains, but Dartmouth and Cornell are too poor, their delegates say, to make the change; so Harvard and Yale must yield to the necessities of the others. Harvard and Yale, again, wish to row with coxswains in eight-oar boats; but so far is such a proposal from being acceptable, that some delegates came to the late convention wishing even for four-oars. Yet, since Harvard began the Association, she must now forego her wishes; and although of enormous resources compared with some of her fellow colleges, she must descend to their level, and acquiesce in the desires of a college of a hundred and fifty men all told. And this objection is not removed by saying that some of these Liliputians have beaten the monster, and, therefore, Harvard must consider their needs. There are but thirty odd men in the L. S. S., who, however, can turn out a crew capable, probably, of beating any class crew in college; yet it would not be fair that a class of two hundred men, capable of turning out two or three crews almost equal to the Scientific, should be hampered in their wishes by the small number of their opponents.
Again, the Liliputians have, in some cases, very late commencements, and Harvard has an early one; but Harvard men must be detained until nearly midsummer for the convenience of their opponents. Thus many Harvard men, desirous of seeing their crews pull, are unable to do so at the cost of so great a part of their vacation; and Harvard is forced to undergo considerable additional expense to support her crew while waiting for the race. This race, besides, must be rowed at a great summer resort, where the water is no better than at other places nearer home; (for where else can fourteen boats row abreast? and if the boats do not row abreast, how is each individual small college to know its exact position relative to every other little college?) and in virtue of the fact that, as the newspapers exultingly proclaim, the race has now become a great national sporting event, the sporting men must take it in hand; it must lose its distinctive college characteristics, and, like a great public show, must be held at the town of which the citizens offer the highest bids. If, however, the offers of the convention for bids are not made in good faith, then Harvard must be dragged down to take part in a bit of double-dealing, entered into for the purpose of inducing the citizens of a place, already virtually chosen for the regatta, to make more liberal bids through fear of losing the sports.
When therefore there are combined with these objections the annoyances necessarily attendant on a convention, the members of which devote their time to quibbles about parliamentary law, which almost loses sight of the advantages of the race in the clouds of many rows and disputes, and in connection with which there is a necessary outlay of money and time that might as well, and had better be saved, certainly no one can question the claim that Harvard has fair grounds for withdrawing from the Association. But when it is added that Harvard and Yale, although having greater numbers of students than the other colleges, and drawing so many more spectators, can but count as an equal of a "university" like Hamilton; that, owing to the difference between the entrance examinations of Harvard and the others, and the preparatory study necessitated by these examinations, Harvard is not rowing on equal terms with her opponents; that, owing to the large number of colleges and the opportunities for sharp practice that arise, Harvard is forced to row with a set of men against whom charges like those recently made in the Advertiser may be plausibly put forward; that the unwieldiness of the Association almost places it beyond its own control:- when these grievances, together with many others that might be mentioned, are considered, no one can doubt that Harvard has abundant reason for taking up her connection with the Association, and adopting a new system of University racing.
"But," said a contributor to one of the College-papers, some time ago, "though all this may be true, Harvard can't secede until she has won a race; but then she may come out, and, drawing the attention of the bystanders and newspaper reporters to the fact that she is victorious, vaunt herself a moment on her prowess, and then add that, for numerous reasons, she must leave the Association." That such a proposition should come from a man careful of the honor of his College seems almost incredible. Surely, no one can say, except in jest, that such a position would be more honorable for Harvard; and on second thoughts even the proposer must acknowledge, that, if considered aside from the honor of the position, such a stand taken by Harvard cannot be to her advantage. If she waits to win a race, working in the Association all this time in but a half-hearted way, then no one can blame her enemies for crying that her wish to withdraw has arisen solely from her want of success; and thus she loses all credit for her more honorable motives, which are, after all, her real ones.
Still, it may be added, Harvard is forgetting her duty and obligations as the founder of the Association; she who invited two or three neighboring colleges to row at Springfield cannot honorably leave the Association, even when it has trebled in numbers, and when the course is no longer in New England. That is to say, a few gentlemen of the class of '71 have bound Harvard irretrievably for an indefinite time to come, or at least until chance shall give the victory to some crew as good as those she has sent for the last two years, since she can hardly expect to send better ones than these. "And, after all, it is strange that Harvard should wish to row again with Yale alone, against whom she has made so many charges of foul play and ungentlemanly conduct"; and this argument under other circumstances would really have some weight, but at present it is useless. It is expected that Princeton's captain, who wishes to withdraw, will succeed in persuading his college to join Harvard, and it is possible that there may be one other college, Columbia; and, in the second place, no one can deny that a different spirit is coming over Yale in respect of her relations with Harvard. It is absurd to think that the experience of the last four years, and the annoyances borne by Harvard and Yale, have been completely thrown away; and that the colleges have not made some advance in their endeavors to check that boyish ardor and misplaced enthusiasm which have been the source of so many quarrels between the two colleges.
Despite, however, these arguments in support of Harvard's wish to secede, some of the graduates, and a few newspapers, warn Harvard against leaving the Association because of the "odium" which she will certainly incur by such a course. Fair Harvard will be dishonored, for-sooth, if a few penny-a-liners, through dearth of news, choose to call her motives of action base; Harvard will lose men's esteem, should she acknowledge her real feelings and cast aside all shuffling and timidity; Harvard, indeed, the oldest and largest university in the land, whose children hold - and have always held - the foremost places in the occupations of our countrymen, is to be disgraced, should she choose, with a score of sound reasons at her back, to take a step which by malignity may be misconstrued!
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