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Both of the winning essays in this year's competition for the Harvard Advocate prizes deal with the question of the humble position of the mere student as compared with the glories that surround the university athlete, and, to a less degree the society man. More significant of the place which this topic is holding just now in the university world is the fact that it was the theme of two thirds of all the essays submitted. The submerged tenth, it would thus appear, is not altogether without hope of emerging from the obscurity that is the lot of the harmless, necessary scholar, into something of the light that beats so fiercely upon a gridiron. The griev- ance of these intellectuals is not simply the monopoly of college yells and admiring glances that greet the football captain wherever he is so gracious as to show himself. Their complaint goes deeper. The tangible rewards of university life are reserved, not for honor men, but for those who have defended the prestige of the institution at right half or in centre field. Four-fifths of the nominees for offices of the sophomore and the junior classes at Cambridge this year were either athletes or athletic managers; only two of the thirty-eight nominations "could by any stretch of the imagination be ascribed to intellectual attainment."
This discrimination, it may be remarked, is in most cases not made consciously. The student, wondering whom to vote for as class secretary, does not ordinarily run over in his mind all the winners of athletic events he can think of, and select from them one that he considers fitted for the office. Yet, unconsciously, what he does is not very different from this. the reason is, not so much his desire to recognize the best sprinter in his class as his ignorance of any of his classmates, outside of his personal circle, except those whose names he has seen in athletic connections. To this must possibly be added another consideration. Even if he should recall the name of some one who had won honors for scholarship, he would often hesitate to write his name on the ballot, out of deference to the sentiment that such a man was most likely too bookish for any "practical" job. The net result is the same as if most of the elections were formally limited to athletes, and constitutes a demonstration of the state of university public opinion.
How shall the balance be redressed? The writers of the prize essays are at some pains to suggest definite things that might be done. One of them is "more celebrations in connection with our illustrious graduates." One seldom hears mentioned the names, for instance, of Emerson, Longfellow, Summer, or Thoreau. Even Lincoln's birthday went by without any observance. The point here is that the undergraduate would be led to note the absence of names of men of athletic fame in the past, and to reflect upon the significance of it. Then the more intellectual clubhouses might be made to rival in attractiveness the more social. why should one climb a tower to enjoy Phi Beta Kappa when he can luxuriate in the Varsity Club's happy proximity to mother earth? There is, further, the feeling that advertising will help solve the problem. The names of athletes are club house hold words; cannot something be achieved by posting the names of students with honor grades? The faculty also comes in for criticism, especially the "young and generally incompetent" assistants. The professors, it is more than hinted, might do better than give lectures which merely repeat the prescribed reading, and in general, there is felt to be a lack of co-ordination both within and between courses.
Whatever can be done in any of these ways to give to intellectual pursuits a higher place in the undergraduate esteem should, of course, be done. But the question is much more than a matter of details. As one of the essayists remarks, "the fundamental consideration is the development of a new public opinion that shall condemn and ostracize the laggard and recognize the leadership of the intellectual student." Impartial observes have noted a more serious attitude toward the intellectual side of university life in the West than in the East. Here it tends to become the custom for any years at a university. The inevitable outcome is the presence at eastern universities of large numbers of men who are there in spite of the intellectual burdens that their instructors may attempt, with varying success, to put upon them. Life at such an institution can hardly be anything but a reflection of life outside. In this respect, the difference between the mediaeval university and its modern successor is profound. Doubtless, trustees and faculties could change this condition if they wished. Entrance requirements and requirements after entrance could be made impossible for any but genuine scholars. But it is unlikely that trustees and faculties are going to do this. For better or for worse, the American institution of learning is a good deal more--or a good deal less--than a place to learn, in the scholastic sense. The most determined university president will perforce be satisfied to get a fair proportion of his populace, quality as well as quantity considered, into the main tent
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