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Student Council Committee Report Would Subdivide College on English System

General Course in Science Suggested--Would Tighten Distinction Requirements


That Harvard College should be subdivided into smaller colleges on the model of Oxford and Cambridge is the major recommendation in the report of the Student Council Committee on Education, made public last night.

The report is divided into seven sections. In addition to the proposed subdivision into smaller units, the survey endorses the recently announced limitation of enrolment and the methods to be employed to put this restriction into effect. It suggests that the requirements for Distribution in Science and Philosophy be changed in such a way as to deal specifically with the conflict between religion and science. The tutorial system is discussed at length and several recommendations for its extension and improvement are made, including a plan to move up the General Examinations from Senior to Junior year in the case of candidates for distinction.

The report was drafted after five months study of Harvard education by a committee of ten undergraduates consisting of E. C. Aswell '26, Chairman, J. L. Carroll Jr. '26, G. W. Cottrell Jr. '26, C. F. Darlington '26, W. D. Edmonds Jr. '26, Henry M. Hart Jr. '26, C. T. Lane '26, W. I. Nichols '26, S. DeJ. Osborne '26, and C. I. Wylde '27. The final draft has been accepted by unanimous vote of the Student Council.

It is stated that the Student Council releases the report for publication to the college at large in a spirit of cooperation with the faculty. "It was not pretended either by the Committee when it drew up its suggestions, or by the Student Council when it accepted them, that they be taken as definitive, conclusive, or authoritative. Nor was it assumed that students are necessarily best fitted to prescribe for their own case. All that can be said is that students have opinions, and that they may not be altogether valueless. As nearly as such a report can be, this represents a concurrence of opinions."


The report takes up in great detail the various matters of which it treats. Its full text is being reprinted in the April issue of the Advocate. An extract of its more important passages follows: Section I approves the new limitation of enrolment by which the number of new Freshmen admitted will be reduced to about 825 or 850. It is stated that this reduction will go toward improving instruction in the large introductory courses by reducing slightly the size of each class or section. The increase in tuition from $250 to $300 now in effect is already being applied to this end by increasing the pay of assistants and instructors.

"In the second place, the new restriction of enrolment will work a decided improvement in the social life of Freshman year. With the completion of McKinlock Hall, the dormitories assigned to Freshmen will accommodate almost the entire class. . . College education is not simply a matter of attending classes and getting satisfactory grades. The purpose of the college should be to educate cultured gentlemen who shall be prepared in all the qualities of mind and character and personality to assume positions of active, helpful leadership in the world. Of equal importance with the formal training afforded by the academic system is the informal training which comes through the social life of the college and the daily contacts of students one with another outside of the classroom. The committee feels very strongly that one of the major defects of Harvard education is the failure of a very large and apparently increasing number of undergraduates to reap the benefits of that larger life of the college which promotes culture as distinct from mere knowledge."


"The lowering of the enrolment limit for new Freshmen implies a more careful selection of candidates for admission than has been practiced in the past.

The question naturally comes up: Who shall be excluded" The committee believes that the majority of Harvard students would heartily oppose the exclusion of any class, or race, or sect." The report points out that each case must be thought of as an individual case to be judged entirely upon it: own merits, and that where evidence is insufficient to test character and personality, the Committee on Admission plans to request a personal interview with the candidate.

The report points out however, that there is inherent in the plan a serious danger that Harvard students may be reduced to a type by excluding "the unassimilables" too largely. "In securing the necessary limitation of enrolment, therefore, the great object to be striven for is to avoid all extremes and preserve a certain proportion between all more or less "unassailable" groups. There should not be more than ten per cent of the latter at the most."


Section II of the report deals with the Freshman year, and principally with the problem of absorbing into the college world the various elements which compose the class. The solution, it is felt, has already been found in the Freshman Dormitory system. But the report points out that while, through the segregation of Freshmen, the opportunity for contacts in the horizontal plane has been greatly increased. It has resulted in a corresponding decrease in the opportunity for contacts in the vertical plane with upperclassmen. With a view to remedying this situation, these recommendations are made: first, to abandon the present system of Senior Advisers as inadequate and inoperative: second, to increase the number of proctors in Freshman Hells and culture their functions third, to require all Freshmen to live in the dormitories as soon as facilities permit.

"From everything which has been said previously," continues the report, "it becomes apparent how large a part residence in the Freshman Dormitories should play in laying the right foundation for the work of the student as an upperclassman. The dormitories are to the social side of college life what the classroom and lecture halls are to the academic side, and it is essential that these two aspects be complementary in order that the most complete benefits of college education be obtained. It is therefore the feeling of the committee that the majority of the men living outside the college dormitories are able to give but half of what the college expects of them, and by the same taken, to receive but half of that to which they are entited.


Section III of the report presents a plan for the subdivision of Harvard College into colleges. "In the old days before Harvard grew to such mammoth proportions eating in commons brought students together. It was fashionable at that time to dine in Memorial Hall, and in consequence all students in the College shared the opportunity of healthy social intercourse and a stimulating interchange of ideas. But in time the club system grew up and the clubs opened their own dining rooms. Memorial Hall ceased to be fashionable. Moreover, the College faced about and headed toward the river, so that Memorial Hall was left on the edge of things and the old system was doomed.

"The passing of the custom to dine in commons has brought a great change in undergraduate life. Quite naturally and quite properly the clubs became centers of small groups of students sharing kindred interests. A small minority of upperclassmen thus have their social needs satisfied through the club system. But for the great majority there is no common rallying ground. . . . And altogether the number of upperclassmen is so great that it cannot be expected that so large a group can be wielded into a unit.


"The defects of the present system, even for the man who has his club, tend to defeat almost equally one of the prime essentials of education, namely, that one acquire as broad a knowledge of human nature as possible. It is quite right that the clubs exist, and it is natural that they should draw together men of kindred interests. This is an excellent feature of college life, as all will admit. But when there is no effective center of gravity larger than the club to draw men of different interests together, there is great danger that the clubs will lead to mold men into types, to stamp out individuality, and to promote a certain smugness based upon the axiom that "Difference from like is the measure of absurdity'

"To recognize that there is this danger inherent in the club system, does not imply that the club system should be condemned. What it does imply is that in order to maintain in the proper balance, which is one of the objects of education, the centripetal force which draws like and like together in a club, should be counterpoised by a centrifugal force which should insure that un likes also meet and know each other.


"If Harvard were a small college this problem would solve itself. The College would be an effective unit. But Harvard is so large, it is not a unit at all. It is obvious that this constitutes one of the very real problems of Harvard education, and the committee, after considering the matter thoroughly, is convinced that the ultimate solution is to divide the upperclassmen transversely into permanent groups for purposes of residence; or, in other words, to subdivide Harvard College into colleges . . . The greatest attractiveness of the idea consists in this: that it would give Harvard students certain advantages which they do not have at present without interfering with any of the benefits and privileges they now enjoy."

The report goes on to point out that a typical college would consist of from 250 to 300 students--Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors--who would live together in a group of adjacent dormitories. Each college would have its own common room and dining hall, and a resident Dean who should be both the social and academic head of the college. It is indicated that the various upper class dormitories already fall into natural groups for the formation of two colleges in the Yard and two among the Mt. Auburn Street groups, but that possibly we new units would have to be built for which the committee thinks it would not be difficult to raise the necessary money.


The report goes on to point out that in-addition to furnishing the best possible stimulus for realizing the ideal of athletics for all, the plan of subdivision would not interfere with the club system. The clubs would continue to draw together men of kindred interests and would cut across colleges, just as they now cut across dormitories. Moreover, it would not interfere with the present academic system, but would be simply a new residential arrangement for improving the social side of education and promoting better understanding between diverse groups of students.

The plan proposed is intended to apply only to upperclassmen the present Freshman system being deemed essential to provide a foundation of unity and homogeneity between the diverse groups in each entering class.


The second half of the report deals with the academic side of education. Section IV takes up the important problem of providing the student with the necessary intellectual orientation, and offers several concrete suggestions for clearing up same of the confusion of thought which has sprung from the modern conflict between religion and science.

In the first place, it is proposed that a new general science course be organized specifically for students not concentrating in science. The report states that the present arrangement is unsatisfactory because the same courses are made to serve two distinct classes of students whose needs are different. Students concentrating in science need to learn the tools and the technique of their subject. Those who take a course merely for distribution have a cultural motive. But when both groups are subjected to the same methods of instruction, as they are at present, the cultural motive is subordinated or entirely lost in a mass of technical detail, since professors of science are naturally more interested in the first class of students than in the second.

"In order that the spirit, as well as the letter of the science requirement be adequately fulfilled, the committee recommends, therefore, that the two classes of students be separated that a new general science course be organized to meet the proposes to distribution by presenting the cultural side of the subject: and that the courses now given be reserved for students intending to concentrate in science. The new course should be a general survey course presenting without laboratory work, the more important principles of astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology."


In the second place the report takes up the Philosophy Requirement. "If it should be true as some of the ablest minds of the present day believe, that science has its limits and cannot explain the whole of life: if it should be true that, in addition to the world of external nature which science is learning to control, there is also a world of internal nature which religion or philosophy must teach the individual to control, then education cannot rest content with half of life, but must attempt to teach the whole.

"At the present time, when organized religion has ceased to command the allegiance of large numbers of students, it becomes urgently necessary that the college teach the business of life in all its aspects. In view of the current conflict between religion and science, a general knowledge of philosophy is equally important to the educated men as a general knowledge of science. The committee recommends, therefore, that a course in Philosophy be made a requirement for distribution without the alternative of Mathematics.


"In order to realize the larger purpose of philosophy which the committee has in mind in advancing this recommendation, it will be necessary to reorganize Philosophy A upon a new plan. . . . Philosophy A should remain a survey course but it should abandon the attempt to present the subject historically. . . . The main purpose of the course should be to offer the student a sound basis upon which to build his own philosophy by giving him rounded estimates of a few of the most important interpretations of life.

"The course should present the philosophy of Plato, that of Aristotle, of the Stoics, of Kant of one of the moderns, say Bergson, and possibly one or two others. In addition to these individual philosophies, the committee recommends the innovation of including the philosophy of Christianity in the work of the course. This suggestion is not made in a missionary or crusading spirit, but is dictated as a remedy for the prevailing ignorance concerning so important a subject. . . .


"The building of character, it is thought, is the duty of the home and the Church. But when organized religion breaks down, as it now has in the case of many students, the conditions are changed. The college is then confronted with a new problem, namely, that of enabling the student to work out a rational view of life which accords with the teachings of science but which also takes into account those higher truths of character which science cannot teach. For the latter the student must go to philosophy. A course in philosophy is therefore the natural complement of a course in science."

Section V takes up the tutorial system in great detail. The committee regards the system as basically sound, but believes it has certain faults arising from individual practices on the part of tutors and students which should be recognized. A tabular study of departments brings out the fact that there are too few tutors in certain departments particularly in English and Romance languages. The report deplores the tendency of certain tutors to coach students specifically for the examinations, as well as that tendency sometimes noted for the tutor to devote the conference hour to lecture practice. It is recommended that tutors be made more generally accessible to students but at the same time be allowed to devote certain hours to undisturbed privacy. The advisability of having more professors engage in tutoring is also stressed, and it is recommended that the requirements for a degree in the various departments be laid upon a uniform plan.

Section VI deals with the General Examinations. It is the opinion of the committee that the Senior year in college should be the most profitable and enjoyable of the four, but that, at present, Seniors, especially those who are candidates for distinction, tend rather to look upon their last year as "a nightmare." In Sophomore and Junior years tutorial work is given too little importance, with the result that the Senior year is overburdened.


"The committee believes that this condition is the most serious defect in the operation of the tutorial system, and that the remedy lies in finding some method of giving tutorial work its proper due in the earlier years. . . . The following plan is proposed:

"1. That candidates for distinction who must acquire a much more, thorough knowledge than non-distinction candidates and who, therefore, find it most necessary to reap the full benefit of tutorial work in Sophomore and Junior years be required to complete the general knowledge of their field of concentration by the end of their Junior year;

"2. That such candidates be required to pass at that time a general written examination in order to qualify as candidates for distinction;

"3. That students who pass successfully the Junior generals be required in their Senior year to do intensive study and research under the guidance of the tutors upon some topic which they be restricted field upon which they be required to write a thesis, the standard of which should be higher than the standard now set for distinction theses.

"4. That they also be required to do further reading upon their general field of concentration and take the necessary number of courses specified for Senior year;

"5. That at the end of their Senior year they be required to take a general oral examination covering the field of concentration with special reference to that portion of the held in which their thesis topic falls.

"6. That distinction be awarded upon the combined evidence of course grades, enters recommendations the written Junior generals, the oral Senior generals, and the distinction thesis.

"7. That candidates for a degree without distinction be required to take the general examinations at the end of their Senior year as all candidates do."


The report recommends that the plan be made sufficiently elastic to give every encouragement to those students who decide to try for distinction late in their college careers. It proposes, moreover, that all Seniors who obtain a grade of B or better at the Mid-year examinations be excused from the requirements in that course for the second half-year. In such cases, it is suggested that the tutor be given complete discretion to require such a Senior to attend classes or nor depending upon his own greatest need.

The last section of the report contains a general criticism of Harvard teaching and points out the essential difference between the function of the college and that, of both the predatory school and the graduate school.

"After all, why is knowledge so highly prized?" asks the committee. "Surely it is because of its power to throw light on the problems of human life. It seems reasonable to assert that all knowledge was philosophical in origin. When primitive man first raised the questions. "What?" and "Why" about life he originated the germs from which have sprung all our increasing categories of knowledge.

"The notion seems to be prevalent that the inspirational teacher must of necessity, be an interior scholar. It seems to students that just the opposite is true: that the highest scholarship is that which is riches in human values and that the presence of this additional human quality is that which distinguishes the scholar teacher from the pedant of the old Germanic school.

The report ends with a plea for a more general recognition of this fact by Harvard professors and instructors.

"Harvard is so large, it is not a unit at all. . . . The committee is convinced that the ultimate solution is to divide the upper classmen transversely into permanent groups for purposes of residence; or, in other words to subdivide Harvard College into colleges. . . .

"Candidates for distinction be required to complete the general knowledge of their field of concentration by the end of their Junior year.

"When primitive man first raised the questions, 'What?' and 'Why?' about life he originated the germs from which have sprung all our increasing categories of knowledge. . . .

"The notion seems to be prevalent that the inspirational teacher must of necessity, be an inferior scholar."

"At the present time when organized religion has ceased to command the allegiance of a large number of students, it becomes urgently necessary that the college teach the business of life in all its aspects. The committee recommends, therefore, that a course in Philosophy be made a requirement for distinction without the alternative of Mathematics. . . .

"College education is not simply a matter of attending classes and getting satisfactory grades. . . .

"The dormitories are to the social side of college life what the classroom and lecture halls are to the academic side. . . ."

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