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Yale Houses


The announcement that Yale will follow Harvard into the new and uncertain waters of the "house plan" and will accept the gift originally offered her two years ago by Mr. E. H. Harkness in order to carry it out, is unlikely to be received with an unalloyed enthusiasm. President Angell describes the gift as "of epoch-making significance in the life of the undergraduate" and the undergraduate is notably resistant to anything which threatens to make epochs for him. Yale has perhaps been more successful than Harvard in adapting the traditional forms of American collegiate life to the changed conditions and uncertain responsibilities of modern life and modern endowment funds; her graduates are likely to show less of that restless dissatisfaction with the contemporary university educational process than college graduates of other institutions. And abruptly to break up the traditional pattern of the university into a theoretical scheme of more or less self-contained "quadrangles" seems to some an effort to group men by architecture rather than by the more natural process of association--an artificial solution for fundamental social and educational problems.

Such objections have already been advanced by Yale alumni. Many of them feel that the quadrangles--with their strong flavor of English methods, but without the English tradition--will break down the class association which they remember as the best feature of their undergraduate social organization. The reply is made, of course, that the old organization is breaking down of itself and that the class no longer answers the social needs of contemporary conditions. Practically, the university authorities have found themselves faced with a serious shortage of dormitory space, while the architectural changes at New Haven have resulted in a failure of the old system of students eating clubs, which has made the feeding of the students a real problem. Possibly the authorities felt that it was a condition which was confronting them as well as a theory, and the quadrangle plan may have been accepted no less as a practical solution worth trying than as a theoretical ideal of the fashion in which college life ought to be organized.

If that is so, the new plan can be tested out gradually as a hopeful experiment, strong in promise but to be checked against experience. One may still doubt whether even the best architecture and the most carefully planned system of living arrangements can in themselves produce epoch-making change in anything which is so much a matter of growth and natural development as undergraduate life. But the fact that Yale has determined upon so radical a departure from her accustomed ways is indicative at once of the pressure of modern conditions (conditions which they have themselves helped to create) upon our universities, and of the high doubt which is pervading them as to whether they are actually discharging as valuable a service as they might to the community, or are truly living up to the educational ideals which are supposed to inspire them. --N. Y. Herald-Tribune.

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