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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

PHI BETA KAPPA.

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Early in the winter President Butler and the student body recommended to the Committee on instruction of Columbia that some form of academic credit be awarded for student activities. Just lately such a provision has been adopted by the Oregon Agricultural College. It can hardly be doubted that a mixing of student activities, which in their very nature are "outside," with college work is open to severe criticism. While it is by no means the policy of the CRIMSON to suggest any innovation which might in the slightest degree depreciate the purely academic honors of a Harvard degree, we believe that a recognition of the attitude that prompted these acts, by that undergraduate body which aims to foster scholastic achievement at Harvard, might be valuable.

Some time ago we recommended that the Phi Beta Kappa might very advantageously elect a limited number of men on the College record of their Freshman year, the reason being that among these there might be men who possessed intellectual ability sufficient to warrant membership in the society who might later, owing to other interests, not be elected. It is possible that a man should make first group in Sophomore year as a result of his first year work and then decide that he would devote his best work to some outside activity. It would probably follow that his College work during this year would suffer, and in Junior year he would not stand sufficiently high to be eligible. It has been objected that the ability to secure an A in a course open to Freshmen is no real proof of scholastic ability. It might be answered that while the work of first year courses is, in the main, introductory, the number of men in the courses make more unusual work necessary for a high mark than in many of the smaller more advanced courses. The figures of the past few years show that the number of Sophomores in the first groups is considerably smaller than either Juniors or Seniors, and the conclusion might be drawn that the work is therefore comparatively less easy.

This year has seen a change in the policy of the Phi Beta Kappa in relation to publicity. In the past the eligibility qualifications have not been generally known, and election has come solely as a reward of merit. Next fall one of the speakers at the Freshman reception will explain the position of the society in the undergraduate community. This very publicity will make it not only a reward, but also an encouragement for excellence in scholastic work.

If it were explained that men who did exceptionally good work in Freshman year were eligible for election at the beginning of Sophomore year, it is probable that the society could still more effectively encourage high scholarship in the University. Men well capable of attaining high scholastic honors, who have interests in the varied College activities are now often deterred from doing their best work in their studies. Were it possible to see a goal within reach at the end of one year, many more might be attracted to the ranks of Harvard scholars.

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