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The recent formal opening of the Mallinckrodt Laboratory, the use of which has been enjoyed by many students during the current year, brings to the general notice another splendid addition to the facilities of Harvard College. But there still remains much that can be done to increase the opportunities for scientific study. Chief among these would seem to be an extension of the time during which the college laboratories are open to undergraduates. The Widener Library is at the disposal of all members of the University for a much larger part of the day than are the laboratories in spite of the fact that its facilities are less essential to continued work. Books may be taken from the library for use during the hours in which it is closed, but when a laboratory shuts its doors the work going on within can not be taken home in the student's brief case.
Men concentrating in the sciences have long suffered from having to do virtually all their work at a time when their fellow students are engaging in athletics or various other of the amentities of college life. As a result they have become men apart with little or nothing in common with the other members of the college. They know the students who work near them during the day but only with great effort may they acquaint themselves with the life of the college as a whole or with men of different temperaments and interests.
The obvious remedy for this privation as seen by the individual, is to cut down his science courses to a minimum and concentrate in some field which holds less interest for him. Not only does this involve personal hardship, but it loses for the science departments many men who might later be a credit and a source of strength to them. Only from motives of self interest then and even without any consideration for the rights or convenience of individuals, the authorities in charge would seem to be justified in a relaxation of the restrictions now imposed on laboratory working time.
The mechanical difficulties involved in keeping the laboratories open in the evening do not seem insurmountable. Two or three additions to the janitorial staff coupled with a rearrangement in the hours of the present attendants should take care of the stock room situation. The supervision of elementary work now given in the day time by graduate students also seems capable of extension with no very great difficulty. The trouble of answering a question or two and the time taken up by directing less advanced men even with all the members of a course working at once as is now the case is not enough to prevent the instructors from doing much work in their own laboratories. One seems justified in assuming that a sufficient number of graduate students could be found who would be glad to offer this service in the evening in return for the increased opportunity for working in their adjoining private laboratories.
In view of the many advantages of such a scheme it does not seem too much to ask that the hours of the University laboratories approximate those of the library. No increase in facilities, no matter how luxurious, can make up for an inexplicable restriction in their availability, and it is high time that the authorities either meet the needs of their students or show just cause for the impossibility of so doing.
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