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The record of the Debating Union is one of high mediocrity. In its three and one half years of existence, it has held fourteen meetings with attendances ranging from a minimum of forty to a usual audience of about sixty and an extraordinary maximum of four hundred brought out by the football debate last fall. It has thrived best on college subjects. The biggest and most ardent audiences were attracted by the topics of football and military training.
From the beginning, the floor of the Debating Union has been open to all members of the University. And in the arguing of each question, the preliminary set speeches have always been short to conform with their function of merely directing subsequent discussion. The Oxford ideal of a free and dignified student forum to develop speakers of high calibre while providing also an extra curricular activity of some charm and glamour seems to have been consistently sought.
But the fulfillment of the Debating Union's possibilities has been thwarted by the sporadic nature of the efforts behind it. Twice it has begun its season in November; twice in December. Of the three completed seasons, two ended during April and one as early as December 10 after but two debates. Gaps between meetings have been invariably irregular, ranging from twelve days to two months. Thus, although the Debating Union has evidently impressed Harvard with its desirability, it has yet to create for itself a firm place among the certainties of the University.
Those connected with it have not been unaware of this situation. Each year when their attention has finally been drawn to the Debating Union, they have expressed the hope of placing the organization on a surer footing. Although, manifestly, these endeavors have so far been ineffectual, it is nevertheless a truth that only greater continuity and regularity of action can lift the Debating Union from its present mediocrity. It cannot command the confidence and loosen the tongues of the students who are mildly interested in it until its effectiveness is no longer sacrificed to delayed starts, jerky progress, and weak endings.
Now when the University is equipped with so few facilities for public speaking, indifference to the opportunities of the Debating Union is hardly to be contemplated. Its renaissance tonight, after a lapse of two and one half months, is a hopeful event, the more so because the announcement was accompanied by specific dates for two future meetings This is a step which looks toward focussing an already interested student attention on a project of broad possibilities.
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