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If one considers a college generation as it extends over the four years of the undergraduate curriculum, a tradition that has extended over 30 years assumes a much more venerable aspect. In this light, the present action of the Phillips Brooks House in discarding a habit that has been indulged in for more than seven generations of college men, is deserving of notice.
Under the inspiration of Dwight L. Moody, the Northfield intercollegiate conference assumed a form intended to accomplish two things: to convert college men to Christianity and a better interpretation of that intangible essence; and to offer them the inspiration necessary to carry the light of their discoveries into the colleges from which they came. Distinctly evangelical at its birth, the conference has more recently come down to the practical plane of college life in general. At the present time, the purpose is, in the words of ardent supporters, "to provide a week given over to intelligent, broadminded, consideration of the part religion can play in the complex life of the undergraduate." With this in mind, eminent divines have wrestled moderately with science and religion, and attempted to determine the values and standards, which it is said, youth is so desperately seeking.
But the shadow of evangelism still hangs heavy over the entire week, which although relieved of much of its former crusading atmosphere, still is filled to capacity, with an oppressive schedule of truth seeking. The practical problems of charity, and hospitality, that face many college organizations lie untouched, while aspiring individuals appeal to the infinite in vain to defray their expenses.
The benefit of the conference thus accrues only to the individual who unquestionably benefits from contact with the great national figures who are present, aside from the opportunity of meeting students from other colleges. But as an educational investment for an organization engaged, not in religious crusade, but in a rather practical form of hospitality and charity, the conference is of little value. In arriving at this conclusion the Phillips Brooks House has shown a commendable willingness to depart from a tradition that has proved itself of no value in its present work.
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