(We invite all men in the University to submit communications on subjects of timely interest, but assume no responsibility for sentiments expressed under this head.)
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
It is becoming the fashion to cite the Oxford Union as an ideal "Social Centre", and also as an ideal centre of discussion on current affairs. The obvious connection between these two functions. of the Oxford Union does not seem to have struck your contributors and correspondents. I was for two years an active member of the Oxford Union, and in my last term served as a member of one of its committees; I therefore feel qualified to talk about its position in the university. The only reason that it is a social centre is that it is the University Debating Society; one great reason for its success as a debating society is the facilities it offers for social intercourse. A man who uses the Union merely as a place to write letters and read the papers never makes friends with anybody. There are no purely social gatherings and it is extremely unusual in Oxford for strangers to fall into conversation and "make friends"--especially in the Union, where there is no "Living Room" and consequently the most frequented rooms are those in which silence is enforced either by rule or by custom. On the other hand, a man who takes part in the weekly debates, and stands for committees and offices, comes to know hundreds of men from all elements in the university. The debating hall and the committee room of the Union are the places where friendships are started. For men who have a common interest, the library, reading rooms, and other facilities give the opportunity for further association.
From my experience of the Oxford Union, I am convinced that the Harvard Union can never entirely fill its proper place unless it affords a common interest, as well as a meeting place, for its members. Debating, of the parliamentary as opposed to the special pleading type, seems to me the only solution. Conversely, I do not believe that any "Forum" can take a permanent place in the life of the College so long as it remains homeless and unattached. The Union is the obvious and the necessary place for general discussion of affairs of interest. FREDERIC SCHENCK '09