Discussion of the Advantages and Means of Supporting an Infirmary.

To the Editors of the Crimson:

There was published in today's CRIMSON a communication attacking a plan suggested a short time ago for the support of the projected infirmary. This plan was to provide an adequate yearly income for the infirmary by making an additional charge of $5.00 upon the term bill of each student. The arguments used against it were based upon the fact that under such a system the many would be paying for the few; that there are many who go home in case of illness, a number who, having plenty of money, would prefer not to go to the infirmary, not a few who never are sick, and that all these would be paying the expenses of those who did patronize the infirmary.

Now even admitting these arguments, it seems to me that this plan would be a more advantageous and much surer means of support than any other that has yet been suggested. It was suggested that an assessment of a dollar a year upon every student in the University resident in Cambridge, and further a dollar a day for every day's residence in the infirmary beyond five days, might raise a sufficient income. Would not this be very uncertain as a means of support, however? One year it might provide sufficient funds another it might not, and the Corporation, never being able to count upon a sufficient sum, would be put to the trouble and expense of providing an emergency fund to make up possible deficits. If it did prove successful, even the charge of $1.00 a day for every day's residence in the infirmary beyond five days, insufficient as it may seem, would prove a serious drain upon the resources of some fellows. It would be a great advantage to them and even to their richer fellow students if they could estimate at the beginning of each year that $5.00 would cover their possible sickness expenses.

Another plan which has been proposed is that of forming a student's aid association to divide the infirmary expenses of its members. The trouble with this as with all voluntary schemes would be, that feeling no present need of an infirmary the majority of students would not take the trouble to join the association, and the Corporation, having nothing to count on, would have to over-charge non-members or run short for the year. Even if successful, would not the same objection hold true here as in the $5.00 a year scheme? Here again the majority would be obviously paying the expenses of the minority, and in any case under such a system the infirmar would always be under the disadvantage of having its debts in the present and its means of payment in the future. The five dollars a year plan might be qualified in-so-far as to exempt all men from payment who signified their fixed intention to go home in case of illness, but there would certainly be no object in allowing those who were able, voluntarily to bear the expense of being cared for in their own rooms or in a private hospital, to be exempted from the payment of $5.00 for this purpose.

It is, from past experience, obviously necessary to have a college infirmary; but an infirmary without an adequate income could not be run on a scale which would make it of much value. Princeton University has a good infirmary, but with no endowment or fixed means of raising income wherewith to run it, it is not much better than inoperative. If Harvard had a good infirmary, well supported, many of those fellows who were spoken of today as "always going home in case of illness," would find it more convenient to go to the infirmary instead, and they as well as the other patients would find that they economized considerably in physicians' fees, good nursing and feeding being all that most cases require. Further, if the infirmary were on a strong financial basis it would be easily possible to have a resident physician and so physicians' fees would be entirely eliminated.

Now all these advantages could not be obtained without an infirmary on a good financial basis. That I think is evident. It is plain, too, that no scheme that has yet been suggested is so well calculated to put it on such a basis as the five dollars a year scheme. The Corporation has no funds available for running such an institution. A plan of support which gives the authorities confidence will facilitate getting this much needed building, and is not this plan such a one? It would, beyond doubt, raise a sum entirely adequate for the yearly expenses of the infirmary, and surely no true Harvard man, be he a resident of Cambridge or San Francisco, would raise objections about paying a small sum for what he does not get, if by so doing he benefits a fellow student. There is another point which very few men realize, and this is that, were it not for the income the Corportion derives from its private property, the charges now made for tuition and for rooms in the college buildings would fall very far short of a sum sufficient for the yearly expenses of the University. Indeed, I have heard on good authority that for each $150 Harvard receives from a student's tuition fee, she expends $400. Thus every Harvard man is deeply in debt to his Alma Mater, and he should in turn be willing to make some sacrifice for the University.


January 14.