EDITORS HARVARD HERALD: There have appeared in your columns two communications criticising, in view of the price of board charged on the term bills, the conduct of the Dining Association. It is not long ago that the practice of publishing the term-bill price of board began. Members used to be left to ascertain it from the bursar's bills, and few of them knew, even then, the exact number of weeks for the computation. I do not mean to imply that the price used to be concealed in order to cover up the affairs of the association; there was no such intention. At the same time increased publicity should be met with just comprehension. It is believed by some that the stability and success of the association will be best secured by inducing the members to become fully acquainted with its affairs. They certainly have the moral courage to face the truth, and, if anything is wrong, they may right it. I only hope that the explanation I shall now give will reach all those who may have had their suspicions raised by the communications referred to.
The point made is that the price of board on the term bills is higher than would be expected from the monthly reports. It is higher. It is higher than any body expected it would be. So was the price for December and January lower than was expected. The steward expected the price for those two months would be very near $4.50. Before the report for February was made out he believed and stated that the price for that month would be something over $4.50. Such estimates as he makes are based on the general prices of provisions and the number of boarders. The auditor's published statements are based on the facts and should be perfectly reliable. If there is a discrepancy, however, between the monthly reports and the price for the term, the latter must carry the day, and for two reasons: (1) It is based on the expenses for the long period, and, therefore, less liable to error, and (2) the total amount of bills paid is then verified by comparison with the bursar's account of money disbursed.
First, as to the price itself, $4.58, it is higher of course than any one wishes it to be; but it is not very much higher than those closely connected with the conduct of affairs expected. The term bill runs from December 27 to March 27. To get the amount of bills payable in these twenty-seven days of March, it is always necessary to make an estimate. The total number of weeks board is known, and for the March of this year was 2076. The amount of bills payable isgot by taking the same fractionable part of the bills payable in February that this number of weeks is of the number of weeks in February, (2,189.) All other items for the twenty-seven days of March are known, and the estimated item is, in all probability, not far out of the way.
Secondly, taking the price of $4.58 as correct, is there anything wrong in the monthly statements, or is there an indication of an exceedingly high price for the month of March? I believe there is nothing wrong in the monthly statements. It should be remembered that no separate report for January has ever been got out. As a fact, it is easily shown from the figures used by the auditor in computing the price for this term, that the cost of board for January, and the few days of December which come into this term, was more than $4.28 (the reported price for December and January). Moreover, a settlement of accounts for last term shows that the surplus fund was increased out of money raised for bills payable. This leaves room for the conclusion that the cost for January and December was $4.28 while the cost for January was more than that - December, that is to say, may have cost less than $4.28. I say "leaves room." It does not prove it, for the reason that $4.46 was the price charged on the first term bill - 18 cents, that is, more than $4.28. To settle the question exactly is not so easy as might appear, as will be seen by what I shall show with regard to the term bill now just out.
Without filling the page with the figures which I have in hand I will simply say that the term bill price has never, except in one instance, in the past two years (the only ones I have investigated) agreed with the averages of the monthly statements. The variation has been from 3 to 22 cents, and in both directions. It is not, therefore, safe to say the cost for March will be, as your correspondent makes out, $4.78. The total number of weeks board charged on the books in different months is variable. His reasoning supposes it is the same for all months. There is another circumstance which makes this kind of reasoning still farther from the mark. Something like one half the cost of board is a charge which is fixed at so much a month. These monthly items must come in those times in every term bill. If we regard January and February as disposed of, we have to saddle upon the twenty-seven days of March the charges which will properly belong when the monthly statement shall be made out to the whole of that month. That would have the same effect as was pointed out by the board of directors in the case of February. They reasoned in this way: The fixed items amount to say $2.25 a week, or $9.00 a month. This would be 30 cents a day for a month of 30 days, and 32 1-7 cents a day for a month of 28 days, that is $2.40 a week as compared with $2.25. The director, however, let me say, did not give this as the whole reason for the high price in February. When the term bills are made out these monthly items are apportioned equally among all the thirteen weeks.
The conclusions which I reach are: (1) The monthly statements should not be impugned; they are useful to show how matters are going for the period; but, at the same time they should not be taken for more than they are worth. (2) There is no ground at present for supposing the cost of board is now, or will be in the near future, much above $4.50, or at least $4.58.
While I have made this discussion not so clear as I hoped. I yet believe the inherent difficulties of the subject itself are considerable.
CHAS. J. HUBBARD.