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It is not at all uncommon to hear a man in his third or fourth year at Harvard say that he has never spoken so much as a word to some of his professors. Such cases are often cited as examples of the traditional. Harvard in-difference and are received with horror by those unfamiliar with conditions in a modern university. It is a misconception to take such statements as indicative of an impassible breach between the students and the Faculty, for the only courses in which a man may fall to come into contact with a professor are those large elementary lecture courses which every one must take to build a foundation for the special work of his college career. When a man has chosen his major subject and begins to specialize, he inevitably comes into contact with the leading men in his department. Yet it is true and is to be regretted that a man may never form the intimate friendly relations with his professors that men often form in small colleges and which were so common in the early days of Harvard.
Some years ago the present system of Faculty Advisers was devised with two objects in view. Primarily the function of the Faculty Adviser is to guide the student in his choice of electives. In this respect the system has been a success. But it was hoped that the Faculty Adviser would be more than a mere signer of study-cards; it was hoped that he would be a friend to his advisees.
In many cases, friendships beneficial to both the Adviser and student have resulted from this obligatory acquaintance. But in many other instances the relations have been purely perfunctory. The reason for this often is that a man must choose his Faculty Adviser on a random guess in the summer before beginning his Freshman year. Between a man who in his Freshman year develops a taste for Applied Science and an Adviser in the Department of Romance Languages there can obviously be little in common. In such cases, it would be well to establish a general rule allowing men to petition for a change of advisers at the end of their Freshman year.
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