Mr. James B. Reynolds, under the auspices of the Y. M. C. A. spoke in Sever 11 last evening on "British and Continental University Life." Mr. Reynolds said:
One cannot fail to appreciate the hospitaiity extended to foreigners there, nor fail to observe the same good fellowship among students which prevails in American colleges. There is the same genius of intellectual life, and much the same of athletic spirit. The French, German or English student is a lover of out-door life.
At Cambridge there is probably more suggestion of old customs than in any other European university. No important measure affecting the university is passed there without the assent of the alumni. The proctor, also, is an important factor in British universities and exercises much more authority than in American colleges. He usually is accompanied in his rounds by two men of athletic accomplishments, notably that of running. If he accosts a man and desires an explanation of some offense the student may give him his name and address and appear before him the next morning and pay a small fine, or he may turn and run. In this case the assistants play their part. If they catch him his fine is doubled for running away. The general life of students in continental universities is almost entirely free from regulations by the faculty, notably so in Holland and Scandinavia. In Germany the civil authorities, in case they arrest a student, hand him over to the university authorities, who deal with his offense themselves.
The athletic side of life in the universities abroad is confined mainly to boating, fencing and bicycling. In the English universities football is played also, but not in those on the continent. Indeed in Germany there is a law forbidding it. The English Rugby game differs materially from our game. It is not so rough, nor does it give opportunity for so much skill in playing. The greatest interest attaches to the Oxford and Cambridge boat races. The boats are not placed side by side as one would naturally suppose, but one behind the other in order and twenty-five yards apart. A long, narrow stream is selected and the object of each boat is to advance on the one in front of it until the stern is touched. The races last six days and the various positions are noted each evening and resumed the following morning. There is apparently in this manner of racing little opportunity for display of skill, but it is quite the contrary. The skill the coxswains display insteering their boats and veering them to the right or left, in order to prevent the boat behind them from touching their boats is extraordinary. At present there is an increasing interest in athletics in French and German universities, and recently representatives have visited the prominent American colleges in order to study our methods of conducting athletics.
The social life of students in European universities is pleasant on the whole and but little remains of upper class tyranny. In British universities fagging has almost disapeared. Secret societies are rare. Social clubs are not uncommon but are too often only so in name. In Sweden they have reached perhaps their best development.
A prominent feature of student life on the Continent is the part he plays in politics. In Portugal and Spain they have not unfrequently led riots. In Paris during the Boulanger fever they came out with a declaration against him and in support of the government.
The religious life in the universities is alive and in some vigorous. It is not, however, an inward life, but takes rather the external form, and very much good is done among the poor quarters in the cities. On the Continent it is theoretical rather than practical.
The most noticeable characteristic of student life and thought in European universities, perhaps, is its depth-the desire to go to the root of matters. They are apt to be narrower than we are, in some respects, and to dislike organizations, but on the other hand they are more in earnest and deeper in their life and thought.