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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Meeting of the Overseers.

THE COMMITTEE PRESENTS AN ADVERSE REPORT ON THE THREEYEAR COURSE.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

A stated meeting of the board of Overseers was held at 50 State St. yesterday morning.

It was voted to concur with the president and follows in appointing as athietic committee three members of the faculty-Professors J. W. White, J. B. Ames and G. A. Bartlett; and three graduates-H. P. Walcott, M. D., William Hooper, G. B. Morrison.

The committee on the proposed changes in the academic department, and on its relation to the professional schools, presented a long report, The medical faculty has long complained of the high average age of entrance to the school. From statistics presented at the meeting, it appeared that the average age at entrance to the medical school, of students who have not taken a college degree, is 21.56 years: of Harvard graduates, 22. 14 years, or .58 of a year (about seven months) older; of graduates of other colleges, 22.68 years, or. 54 of a year (about six montha) older than Harvard graduates. It appears, also that Harvard graduates average only about.15 or a year (or 1.8 months) older than the general average (21.99) at the time of entering, and they average .3 of a year (or 3.6 months) younger than do all the college graduates (22.44)-including those from Harvard-entering the medical school. It is thus evident that Harvard graduates would be fully on a par with noncollege men entering the medical school, if the average senior intending to study medicine were allowed to anticipate during his last year at college the medical studies of one year. The committee found no need for a similar change of the college rule in regard to the law school, the law course requiring only three years.

The report says, referring to the proposal of the faculty to cut down the number of courses required for the degree of A. B. more than one-ninth: This proposal involves a sweeping and very large reduction of the required amount of liberal studies for all students, as well as for the comparative handful of intending medical students in whose needs alone this movement had its origin, without affording any sufficient relief for the latter who need it. Your committee can hardly conceive of a more unfortunate step in the educational world than such a significant and conspicuous lowering of the standard of the higher liberal education would be at the present time. The one thing more needful than any other in the whole business, social and political world of America, is a broad, generous and leisurely liberal education for its young men preparing for active life. To lower the standard of liberal culture, and above all for the movement for its reduction to come from those bodies which should be its friends, would be deplorable in its moral effect throughoutthe community. Besides undoing much of the best work of the past twenty-five years at Cambridge in building up the more advanced study and teaching of the junior and senior years, it would inevitably, and we think correctly be regarded as an abdication by Harvard of the leading position in regard to the higher liberal education which it now holds, and into which other colleges would promptly step. It would be interpreted as a surrender, or a serious concession, to the influences which constantly threaten the cause of quiet and thorough study, which in America calls for greater rather than less recognition and encouragement. While the principal colleges would seize the opportunity to step into the position of leadership abandoned by Harvard, many of the smaller colleges would be obliged to lower their standard to correspond with ours, and the injury done would there by be spread far and wide. In comparison with this far-reaching moral effect, and this injury to the prestige and influence of the university, the question of whether the average Harvard graduate evolved by the arithmetical process from the numerical tables of ages shall be a few months younger or older on commencement day, seems to us unimportant. Even if it be assumed that we ought under any circumstances to sacrifice attainment for the sake of greater numbers, your committee do not see any occasion whatever for such sacrifice in the present instance. The entering freshman class this year is unprecedentedly large, and the other leading colleges show a similar increase. The numbers of the entering classes and the total number of students in the college have each more than doubled during the past twenty-five years, which is as rapid a ratio of increase as the population of the country shows in the same period, according to the census.

The committee recommends-that the overseers reject the first and second proposals of the college faculty, which were as follows:

1. That the requirements for the degree of A. B. be expressed under suitable regulations with regard to length of residence and distribution of work, in terms of courses of study satisfac torily accomplished.

2. That the number of courses required for the degree be sixteen.

That the overseers concur with the proposal of the faculty. "That a student may be recommended for the degree of bachelor of arts in the middle, as well as at the end, of the academic year."

That the overseers recommend the modification of the present regulations of the faculty in accordance with the two following, propositions:

1. When a student enters college there shall be placed to his credit towards satisfying the requirements for the degree of bachelor of arts, (1) any advanced studies on which he has passed in his admission examination beyond the number required for admission, and (2) any other college studies which he has anticipated."

That a senior intending to enter the medical school and to take the full four-years'course therein may, under proper supervision, include in the requirements for the degree of bachelor of arts the courses of physology and anatomy required in the first year of the medical school, each of said courses to count as one full elective course.

The report was signed by Henry W. Putnam and Roger Wolcott, with the full concurrence of Dr. Richard M. Hodges, the third member of the committee.

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