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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

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The fact that at the recent meeting of the junior class a large minority of the students present announced themselves as feeling a lack of confidence in the advisability of the continuance of the Conference Committee during the coming year, deserves attention.

The Conference Committee has been in existence now for one year, and although great promises were made of what the labors of the committee would gain for the college, we find as yet nothing of moment accomplished, except the change in the marking system. But as to this we are as yet unable to discover whether it was brought about by the efforts of the Conference Committee or was determined upon by the faculty without regard to the action of this committee. The cribbing question and the yard committee were the other subjects discussed last year. The former was magnified into a burning disgrace, while in truth, very little foundation for the exaggerated accounts which appeared could be found. As to the latter performance there is but little to be said. The Conference Committee, although deserving no such treatment, obtained the odium of a large body of the students, some because they thought the committee did not do enough in the matter; others because they thought too much interference was shown.

Whatever may be said, the fact that the committee is unpopular with a great many of the students cannot be denied, but the reason for this unpopularity is not, perhaps, so well understood. The Conference Committee is, as constituted at present, a purely advisory body, and has absolutely no executive or legislative power. This fact is often lost sight of, and expecting administrative action the students look upon the advice given by the committee as but a poor substitute. "Why doesn't the Conference Committee do something?" is a question we often hear. The true answer, however, "They have not the power," is but seldom given.

If then the Conference Committee is to exist another year on the same basis as before, the unpopularity will naturally increase and as it loses status among the students, the effectiveness of the committee will be proportionately diminished. It seems that the proper remedy would be either to give the committee more power, which seems by far the most advisable solution, or to dispense with its services altogether as to make the students thoroughly understand that the committee is nothing more than a debating society where undergraduate opinion may be expressed without reason or responsibility, for if one's schemes are to have no effect, the wildest kind of phantasies will be indulged in by conservative members even. The test of practical application would make theorists a little more relieving in bringing forth their petted doctrines, but if then proposed and adopted, the college could locate the responsibility. Let it not be thought that we intend to disparage the sincerity or the labor of last year's Conference Committee. We only say that under the old system the wants of the coming year cannot be fully satisfied, and that some change in the matter ought to be made.

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