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Harvard University is exceedingly grateful for Mr. Wyeth's bequest of, according to press reports, approximately $5,000,000, which was made, as so few gifts to the University are made, with no conditions attached to its expenditure. But in leaving Harvard so large a sum "without strings". Mr. Wyeth has also bequeathed upon Harvard a great responsibility. Where and how can this money be used to best advantage?
It is obvious that no part of this amount should be applied directly to the House Plan, even though it represents at present an extremely important aspect of the University. Mr. Harkness, it has been reported offered Harvard what was needed to establish the House Plan, and the University has made its estimate. There are far more crying needs in the University than the need for adornments and embellishments of the House Plan. It is even more clear that, with the one possible exception to be named below, not a dollar should be diverted toward the athletic program, which stands now at a higher level than at any previous era in Harvard's history.
Some day, if present tendencies in the development of the House Plan are carried out to their logical fulfillment, it will become absolutely necessary to create an athletic endowment. This is the logical solution for many of the chief evils now found with college athletics--the over-emphasis of football, the Big Business of intercollegiate sports. It is prerequisite with President Lowell's athletic Utopia of one intercollegiate contest a year in each sport. But the necessity for money for an athletic endowment is one to be borne in mind for the future. It is not a vital need of the present.
Undoubtedly there are many who would like to see Mr. Wyeth's bequest devoted to constructing more buildings. In Physical equipment, the University ranks high among other institutions of the country. It must be admitted, however, that there are a number of directions, in which portions at least, of Mr. Wyeth's bequest might be applied. The use of large sums of money for the Biological Institute is being held up pending the raising of further funds by the University. There are similar situations in other fields. A new fireproof building is sorely needed by the astronomical department for the storing of records invaluable to science. Other items, including a new classroom building, could be listed.
These are all relatively unimportant, however, for there is one phase of Harvard on which money must be spent if the University is to retain its prestige, and it must be spent at once--to build up and maintain the faculty. If constant effort is not made to attract great teachers and scholars, if constant opportunities are not provided the teachers and scholars already at Harvard, the faculty must of necessity deteriorate. Many have felt, and not without some reason, that over the past decade too much attention has been given the problem of building up the physical side of Harvard at the expense of developing commensurately the intellectual wealth of-the University.
At present, too great a burden is frequently placed on the professors of many popular courses through lack of capable assistants. Some men, giving one or more important courses, are further hampered by having charge of a dozen or so tutees. On top of this, is their own research work; encouraged, if it is not demanded, by the college. Often, there are various administrative duties added to all the others. The House Plan, moreover, will not tend to lessen the time that must be devoted to administration. These things, doled out in measure, are ideal; piled on in excesses, they must surely restrain and hinder the attainment of the aims of both professor and student.
The number of universities throughout the country which can be compared with Harvard, department for department, is still small, but the number of universities which can boast superiority to Harvard in one, two, or three departments is large and growing larger. Great teachers, not fine architecture, are still the prime requisites of a great university. This is no hysterical cry that Harvard is a "hollow shell" of its former educational self, but a plea for constant, earnest effort to improve, enlarge, and maintain the group of men on whose shoulders must chiefly rest the burden of upholding Harvard's name. To no better advantage could the University put Mr. Wyeth's bequest.
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