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President Eliot's annual report to the Overseers, for the year 1897-98, was issued last evening. As usual, it is a document not only of great interest and importance to the University but full of suggestions of a broad educational nature.
The most important suggestion which the President makes is that of having two occasions during the year, instead of one for the conferring of degrees. He does not appear as a partisan of such a change, but notes those tendencies of the Harvard system which would make it appear a consistent development. Formerly, a specified length of residence was the most important qualification for the degree; now it is the passing of examinations on a definite number of courses or half-courses. Provided that the curriculum is so arranged as to allow considerable freedom of choice among half-courses of the first half-year, the Mid-year Commencement would be of obvious advantage to many whose work would conveniently be completed during the first half-year. Such would be men from other colleges who wished to spend more than one year but less than two at Harvard; Seniors who had completed, say, sixteen courses during their first three years; and men who had missed their degree in a former year by a deficiency of only one or two courses. In many instances employment might be more readily obtained during the spring than in the summer or autumn, and those who wished to have a short time for private study, recreation or travel before beginning professional work, would have a more suitable opportunity than under the present system.
President Eliot's announcement of the initial action of the Corporation looking toward a union or alliance of the Massachusetts. Institute of Technology and Harvard, throws little light on the probability of that event, but is of immense interest, nevertheless, as showing that such an end is being held seriously in view.
While the two subjects already mentioned are perhaps the most striking features of the report, President Eliot's admirable statement of the relation of the University and the preparatory schools is, broadly speaking, the most important part. After speaking of the changes which have recently taken place in the preparatory schools, the diversity of their equipment, and the improvement in the methods of instruction in other than the old classical subjects, the President continues:
"In view of these changed conditions within the province of secondary education the ultimate principle on which Harvard College tends to act in the matter of admission requirements is this the College inclines to count for admission any subject which is taught in good secondary schools long enough and well enough to make the study of it a substantial part of a training appropriate to the pupil's capacity and degree of maturity."
Lack of space prevents more than a bare summary of the other details of the report.
Brief mention is made of the lives and services of the four officers of the University who died during the year,- Mr. George O. Shattuck of the Board of Overseers, Professor Lane, Professor Allen and Dr. Winsor.
The efforts to give more recognition to students who attain a high rank in their studies, but who do not apply for scholarships, are noted. President Eliot points out in this connection that even now a decided majority of the highest scholar in College are men who are in no need of pecuniary assistance.
Attention is called to the increasing number of students admitted for short periods of residence. These men, it appears, are as a rule students of ability and application and so far from its being objectionable to give them degrees after short residence, the University, in President Eliot's opinion, renders a distinct service to the community in so doing.
Nothing can be more gratifying to friends of the University than the continued growth of the graduate departments, in the face of the higher requirements for admission that have been imposed. An enlargement of the Law School building and the removal of the Medical School to a new site with the possibility of a hospital as an adjunct, are to be expected in the not remote future, though in the latter case, the means are not yet at hand. The establishment of a "Retiring Allowance Fund" on such a scale as to enable the Corporation to fix a retiring age for all officers of the University, is a cause which President Eliot thinks most worthy of generous assistance.
President Eliot has a few words to say about athletics, and thinks that in spite of evils of over-training which are not yet abolished, the general results of the University's supervision of athletics have been most beneficial.
Appended to the President's report, are reports from the heads of the several departments, and from the Treasurer. Dean Briggs's suggestions on the subject of "dropped Freshmen" and his final observations on the relation of the College and the Graduate School are of special interest.
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