In a special article written for the Williams Graphic, George Allen Mason Jr. 1L., a graduate of Williams in the class of 1924, has written of Harvard as he, in his sojourn of one year, has seen it.
It is indeed a far cry from the semi-cloistered life of Williams College to the urban, noisy existence of a student at Harvard University. Those of us who entered Harvard Law School last September were quickly made aware of the fact, and for several months we termed ourselves "Williams in China." Verily if we had gone to Joochow for a postgraduate course we should have found the methods of study no less unfamiliar than those to which we had to adapt ourselves here.
Even the ties of a common language were given some severe tests by the famous Harvard accent, but, in time, we became insensible to it and could almost treat certain of the students as Americans. But aside from considerations of speech, there are marked differences in the external and internal structures of the two institutions that I intend to touch upon somewhat hastily and informally in these pages. My remarks are not in the nature of an exhaustive research into the theory of education, but rather reflect some of the impressions we have gained during the seven months we have been here.
Yearning for Friendly Shopkeepers
You, curious reader (I use the singular advisedly), are thoroughly familiar with the external aspects of your college. With the exception of the Geology Museum there is no building on your campus into which the inquisitive Freshman has not poked his eager nose by the first of October. You know every hole in the sidewalks of Spring Street. You call the open-handed shopkeepers by their first names. You say, "Hi, Toughey!" to every one you pass on the street. You know all the professors at least by name. You have definite places to eat your meals, and you can run charge accounts at the restaurants. You are, moreover, as you have been frequently told, a "type". In short, you are a Williams student.
The Old Familiar Landmarks Unfamiliar
Were you suddenly to be transplanted to Cambridge, however, you would no longer fit into the above description, even were you to spend four years here. Every month or two we turn a strange corner and find some hitherto unnoticed building filling up half the block and what is more, no one can ever tell us what it is or why it is there. Some genii could drop a new building, possibly a "School for Making Better Piano Keys", into the midst of the scattered campus, and the Freshman of today would scarcely have learned of its existence by his Senior year.
That Symphonic Discord, Mass Avenue
Dormitories, recitation halls, libraries, banks, boathouses, subway stations, monuments and gymnasiums peer forth from behind tall brick chimneys and defy us to orient ourselves. The street cars thunder past every minute or two, and conversation on Massachusetts Avenue is impossible due to their flat-wheeled discord. The chance of meeting a violent death from automobiles every time we go to class has become common-place, and only a falling blimp or an earthquake can now thrill us. If the purpose of life be considered as a preparation for the hereafter, we are rapidly acquiring the proper nonchalance toward the transition.
Eating--A Habit or a Pleasure?
As for the desire to eat--that human frailty which is so universally toadied to we can but scantily satisfy it. Certain of the undergraduates have their eating clubs, but the great unwashed (meaning the postgraduates) wander hungrily from the "Splendid" to the "Georgian", or dissipate at "The Betty Day", and wonder why their appetites are not so good as formerly. Charge accounts are unknown: there are too many students for the proprietors to take any risk.
We do settle down, of course, into a more or less regular round of lunch rooms, with breakfast at "The Cheerful Chat", luncheon at "The Copper Kettle", and dinner at "The Washington Court", varied by excursions to "Janet's" or "The Cock Horse". Some have a favorite boarding house where they have a table reserved for them at definite hours each day, and though this would seem to be the better plan, it has its disadvantages in actual operation. The problem of where to eat is one of the first to be met in Cambridge, and must be solved by the individual according to his tastes. It is by no means so simple of solution as it is in Williamstown.
The Harvard "type" is famous, and is usually diagnosed as a complication of broad "a"s, horn-rimmed glasses, and aloofness. Such a generality is no truer than generalities ever are, this one included. We consider it scarcely fair to Williams to term it "a glorified country club", although we admit that the quantity of golf hose in the student laundry is prodigious. No more is it fair to say that your Harvard host permits you to sit in the corner until he finishes his chapter of Epicurus, and then yawns constantly during a difficult conversation.
Young men are the same at a university as they are at a small college; they have the same inclinations and desires, the same healthy ambitions, and the same feeling of "growing up." The difference is that at the university they mature, or seem to mature, more quickly, which is but natural because of the environment in which they move. Constant exposure to crowds and city life cannot help developing a young man's resourcefulness and social instincts more rapidly than does daily contact with tarred streets and flowered hillsides. (Oh, to be at Williams now that Spring is there!)
I should consider myself conservative in saying that the average Harvard Junior is as mature as the average Williams Senior at commencement time. That may account in some measure for the frequent inability of representatives from the two institutions to understand each other's viewpoints and attitudes toward life. But, as I said, healthy ambitions and ambitions to be healthy exist here.