There are twenty-five departments and more than a thousand different courses open to undergraduates. The measure of academic benefit that each individual derives from college is determined largely by intelligent or unintelligent selection of a department and of specific courses. Yet under the present inadequate system tutors are the chief sources of informed advice. They, being specialists, naturally can give valuable advice only within rather narrow limits.
Hence Dame Rumor becomes chief pilot. She should certainly be ousted as generally untrustworthy. Too often a student hears a course laconically described with one or two adjectives, and when actually enrolled in the course, finds that he differs heartily from the gratuitous snap judgment. When the tutors can give no aid, the best-informed source of advice to be found is in the department itself, where the chairman and senior tutor act in the capacity of "contact men." However, if all students who should consult them for one reason or another, did so, the chairmen and senior tutors would have little time left to cope with their many other important duties.
Since the existing machinery is so deplorably defective, it must be repaired and replaced. Each department should create a committee of perhaps five or six members, including the chairman and senior tutor, which would deal exclusively with student problems. The committee members should hold office hours in rotation. Then the burden would not be too great for any one individual and yet there would be some representative always available. The mere fact that there was somebody always "on tap" and that there was a similar organization within each department would encourage students to settle their difficulties.
A committee of this sort would act as a clearing house for student opinions and problems. It could facilitate a change of tutors, often absolutely necessary to make tutoring something more than an empty formality, without the hardship and embarrassment which usually accompanies such a step. A student who was unsettled as to what field of concentration he should choose could go to the representatives of the various departments to discover the requirements, context of courses, and methods of approach to subject matter. This function would be of material assistance in working out the recently instituted quota plan for Freshmen. The constant changes in concentration, which are so numerous at present in the Junior and Sophomore classes and so detrimental both to students and departments, would be largely eliminated if the students really know what they were choosing.
Not only would a member of such a committee inform students what a department demands, but also answer questions about specific courses. This would be an inestimable benefit, particularly to those seeking sound advice about courses for distribution. Well-informed committees would reform the present intolerable situation wherein numberless students are misfits in departments and in courses.
With its general policy of sounding out the needs of students, a committee would be able to recommend to its department practical and suitable changes to conform with those needs. In its role as an advisory body, a committee would hear praises, complaints, problems, and suggestions which would insure real contact with student opinion. An army must have liason details between headquarters and the main body, so must a college have committees functioning between departments and the student body.