In commenting on the action of the Harvard Advisory Committee on Debating, in limiting the extent of faculty coaching in intercollegiate debates, the Yale News last week published the following article from Dr. Edward V. Raynolds of New Haven:
"As the action of the Advisory Board on Debating of Harvard University has brought up again the question of coaching of debating teams, and in view of the fact that at the conference of representatives of Harvard, Princeton and Yale held last May I gave my assent to a guarded expression of opinion that there was a possibility of abuse in faculty coaching, it may not be out of place to give my opinions on this subject at somewhat greater length, especially as they are in radical disagreement with those of Harvard's representatives.
"I did not, and do not, consider that there has been at Yale any abuse in this direction, nor do I regard the admitted possibility of abuse as other than a very remote one, and I should consider any action taken at Yale similar to that of the Advisory Board at Harvard as illadvised and unfortunate.
"It is of course true that there will rarely be much originality in the matter presented by the debaters, but if that is a fault it is one inseparable from debate. It can rarely happen that any member of the team will have any thorough knowledge of the subject assigned or can startle the world by any really new thought upon it. Knowledge, both of the acts involved and, of the pros and cons of the argument, must be got up between the time of giving out the subject and the time of the bebate, and it seems to to me immaterial whether such knowledge be obtained at first hand from men who have it, whether members of the faculty or not, or whether it be obtained at second hand from books and magazine articles which those men have written. If preliminary training for a debate is to be restricted to elocution there is one way to ensure it, that of giving out the subject for the first time when the debate is about to begin, but it is hardly probable that any one would care to listen to more than one intercollegiate debate conducted under such a rule.
"The editorial writer in the Crimson who compares the coached debater to a chess player performing the mechanical act of moving the pieces while an expert behind his back plans the moves for him, can hardly imagine that a professor stands on the platform behind the debater, whispering in his ear, though his words would seem to imply some such belief. If the part of the chess expert were limited to improving his pupil's play before the match the comparison would be less infelicitous.
"Harvard attempts to limit as much as possible faculty coaching, but refuses to put any limitation whatever on the eligibility for debating team of any student, no matter what the character of his studentship may be. I have this year no connection with Yale, except as a graduate; last year I was a member of the "faculty" in the broad sense in which the word includes all whose names are on the list of officers. Is there any reason why I could now legitimately do what would have been illegitimate last year, or would the case be altered if, by the simple and easy means of writing my name on the books, I were to make myself nominally a graduate student? In the latter case, according to Harvard's contention, it would at once become entirely proper for me to be a member of the debating team. I should be disposed to consider that an 'abuse,' but it would have a certain merit as a practical reduction ad absurdum of Harvard's position.
EDWARD V. RAYNOLDS."