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Professor Royce's suggestion that a prize be offered for the best of original compositions written by Harvard and Yale undergraduates is worthy of serious consideration. At present, each college confers honor upon the undergraduate author of the best piece of writing submitted in competition each year. Here at Harvard the honor for literary excellence takes the well-known form of the Bowdoin prize. At Yale there is a parallel prize. Why should not a few of the better compositions for both these prizes be submitted to a board of impartial judges to decide which, according to its opinion, most deserved the reward for intercollegiate superiority in English composition?
The mechanical features of such a scheme are wholly practicable. It would be comparatively easy to draw up a board of judges composed of professors in colleges other than Harvard and Yale. While under consideration, the several papers could be numbered in such a manner that the judge would have no inkling as to what college the author belonged. The winner of the competition would not necessarily have to have a monetary reward. A merely nominal prize, such as a medal, would serve just as well the purpose for which the competition would be started.
Aside from the interest of knowing which college was adjudged superior (for to the public at large it would be an intercollegiate affair, not a matter of one individual against another), there would be the secondary interest of discovering whether or not the paper finally selected would be one of the two awarded the prizes at their respective colleges. For instance, if a paper written by a Harvard man was declared the best, would it always be the winning composition of the Bowdoin prize or would it perhaps be only a paper given "honorable mention"? Even more important than these considerations, however, would be the healthful stimulus given to academic interest in things literary. Except for the debates, there is little opportunity for intellectual rivalry between the two undergraduate worlds. One can without difficulty imagine public opinion being at least partially influenced by the results of such a competition. Finally, it might serve as the foundation for a more sane basis of public comparison between the two colleges.
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