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Joiner's organizations and their conventions, meeting no real need, are so numerous today that it is often difficult to distinguish them from those which serve a definite purpose. Particularly for Harvard men, instinctively opposed to being organized into anything, it is worth while to examine the second annual congress of the National Student Federation of America, just closed at Ann Arbor, for promises of a forceful, sane, and necessary existence.
It is not on its mechanics or its superficial aspects that such evidence may primarily be based, although they are significant. Last summer this writer was impressed by the attitude of older men toward the Confederation International des Students at its annual conference in Prague. Foreign Minister Dense of Czechoslovakia, for example, leading statesman of Central Europe, considered this student organization of sufficient value to devote to its representatives his house, his dinner table, and his serious interest. Similarly older, more experienced, and outstanding educational leaders have, as it were, gone out of their way to give evidence of their serious support of the Federation. Dr. Meiklejohn, Dr. Duggan, President MacCracken, and President Little all spoke at Ann Arbor, recognizing the necessity for educational experiment, each pointing out different lines for such experiment, and each emphasizing the importance of student contribution to it. In other words they supported the chief purpose for which the Federation exists, the student's part in formulating the educational process. It is furthermore noteworthy that official representatives from 200 student bodies throughout the country gathered at the Congress, ratified the constitution of the Federation and provided for its permanent existence. But such evidence, smoug as it may be, cannot in the last analysis be considered final.
There is, in the first place, the intangible theory of the conference as a means of communication and contact to mutual advantage. It is a theory subject to abuse either because of the character of the delegates or the subject under discussion. Official student representatives discussing the educational process may fairly be assumed to fulfill to large extent both these conditions. The exchange of viewpoint, of problems, between men from Princeton, Leland Stanford, and Ohio, or between a great university like Michigan, and a small college like Franklin and Marshall is eminently worth while, subject to the conditions stated above. Broadening of viewpoint and of understanding, and the good fellowship which accompanies it, attained as this writer can testify, at Ann Arbor, are enough by themselves to justify such a Congress as that held by the N. S. F. A.
There are, in the second place, four very tangible advantages which the Federation has offered at this Congress. Commissions sat on Friday afternoon averring to discuss the curriculum, teachers, athletics, student government, and the honor system. Instead of adopting half baked resolutions, approving this and condemning that, permanent committees were set up or recommended to study the curriculum, teachers and student government and report at the congress next December. This ensures so far as possible scholarly, effective research. Second, a news service, which has already been initiated, will be developed into an effective center of feature articles by men such as Meiklejohn, of reports on constructive reforms and general problems from various colleges and universities, released from a common center. This in turn brings up the third point, the necessary central and regional structural work around which to build the various activities of the Federation. Such structural work, begun last year, was developed further at the Congress. More important, it was decentralized to a certain extent by the basis laid for regional work last week-end. Top heavy, centralized organization in a geographical unit of the size of the United States would lay the Federation open immediately to all sorts of objections which are too obvious to be detailed. This snare, again, the N. S. T. A. has avoided.
There are finally, the international connections established with European students by the Federation. Between 600 and 1000 students are being sent over this summer under its auspices as guests of the European student unions. The intellectual emphasis during these visits has been and will be a necessary antidote to the ordinary tourist impressions which swarms of undergraduates bring back every fall. These are, necessarily, only the more important activities and promises of activity of the Federation. Surely they satisfy the most exacting demands which the N. S. F. A. must fulfill to justify its existence.
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