The class of 1934 will be the first to go through Harvard under the House Plan. It might be profitable for its members, along with all the other undergraduates at present in college to pause a moment and ask themselves just what the House Plan is, why it is being superimposed on the Harvard of the past ten years, and what its aims are.
No one can say definitely what the House Plan is or what it intends, to accomplish; opinions vary widely, and in many cases the most divergent are the ones which would ordinarily be considered the most authoritative. The following estimate of what the House Plan ought to be is based on what the CRIMSON believes to have been the intention of Mr. Lowell and Mr. Harkness.
In the first place the desire to effect some change in the social organization of Harvard must necessarily have come as the result of a feeling that there was something wrong, something lacking under the existing state of affairs. It has been said that the Harvard of the present is more a state of mind than anything else, a very apt description in view of the existing lack of anything which might be termed social organization. Every student gets what he can out of Harvard; very little attempt is made to help him. Thus he may or he may not get out of his four years of college that undoubtedly valuable experience which comes from making congenial and worthwhile contacts.
Here may be found the germ of the House Plan idea. Isn't there some way that the environment and social conditions can be made more favorable for the formation and fostering of these all important contacts? The answer seems fairly obvious: give the students the best of living conditions and all possible facilities for enjoying themselves together and leave them together for a substantial period of time. Squash courts, well-appointed dining halls and common rooms plus comfortable and attractive rooms will all contribute to this object. But further than that it will be necessary to let the students make their own way. That they will react favorably to the improved environment is a conclusion which is not difficult to draw, and one which seems thoroughly justified.
The question then comes up as to whether those in charge of the administration of the House Plan, the House masters and tutors, have undertaken their jobs with the above general idea in their minds. There is certainly room for more than a little doubt in answering this problem. Some of the House masters, either through an exaggerated conception of the importance of their own position or through a false interpretation of the scheme in general seem in danger of falling into the error of trying to force the benefits of the plan as they see them down the throats of the unsuspecting students. Excessive attachment for the English system of education and a feeling that it is definitely superior to that in force at Harvard, for example, is leading some of the masters to believe that they can graft this fruit on to a tree of purely native growth. Again there is the danger that the new relations between faculty and student body may give rise to a feeling of responsibility on the part of the former which may lead to an offensive form of paternalism, so foreign to the nature and development of Harvard.
The CRIMSON feels that any forced change in the social order from above is worse than unnecessary. The success of the House Plan must come directly and entirely from the student body itself; any change must be in the nature of a gradual assimilation to the new conditions of living, and in this the administration can play only a passive part.
The important thing now is what do YOU mean by the "House Plan"? It is important that undergraduates give this question their serious consideration. Those in charge may or may not be on the wrong track, but it is absolutely certain that in the long run a system which is not in accord with the peculiar development of Harvard can never be forced on an alert and thinking student body. "The House Plan" is as yet just a name. What it will be in fact depends upon the college itself, and most of all on the incoming Freshman classes. The class of 1934 can ill afford to disregard this responsibility which is placed so squarely on its shoulders.