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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
In the president's report for last year appears the following paragraph "There is a common impression among ill informed people that Harvard college, though hard to get into, is easy to stay in. How erroneous the impression is may be seen every year in the figures published in the Dean's annual report concerning the changes in the personnel of the successive college classes. Thus in October, 1888, it appears from the Dean's statistics for the year 1888-89, that the freshman, sophomore and junior classes numbered together 825 persons, and that of this number 87 left college at or before the end of the year, and 42 were dropped to a lower class. In other words, it appears that one person in nine failed to maintain his place in college. The majority of those who leave altogether withdraw voluntarily; but they do so because they become satisfied after trial that they have not health or capacity enough to meet the demands of the college, or, if they are poor, that their chances of success in college work are too slight to warrant them in incurring debt. The Dean points out with satisfaction that while 42 students were dropped in 1888-89, 34 students who had been dropped in former year succeeded in making good the deficiencies which had caused them to be dropped. The success of college discipline is to be best judged not by the number of the lost, but by the number of the redeemed"
Apropos of this last statement the statistics of the Dean in regard to the number of men dropped from the different classes since 1882, are interesting and instructive. In 1882, 14 men were dropped; in 1887, 61, in 1888, 46; in 1889, 47. Although an unusual number were dropped in 1887 (more than in the two following years) it appears that on the whole the number of dropped men has increased quite regularly during the last eight years. At present an average of one man in every eleven is dropped from the freshman class. Eight years ago there was only one man in eighteen dropped. These figures seem to show either that the rules have become more strict or the students more careless. Since the latter supposition is not very probable and we know that many new restrictions have been adopted, it is not improbable that the college has changed somewhat in this respect. That is to say: eight or ten years ago Harvard college may have been easy to stay in, but it has changed so much in this respect that one man in seven fails to keep up with his class.
Another table given by the Dean is interesting. It shows the changes in losses and gains that take place in the various classes. The table is the following:
Even in the college there are many persons who study hard themselves yet carry around the delusion that a large class in college does not do anything. The men who do nothing are dropped, and once dropped have to work hard to get into their class again. It appears from the figures that most of them do work hard and catch up. It is a common experience of upperclassmen, that after the sophomore year men find themselves in an atmosphere decidedly studious. There is nothing to gain by loafing while the incentives to work are numerous.
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