Every conceivable scheme has been tried by the House Masters to solve Harvard's perpetually vexing problem, that of ways and means of bringing instructors and students into closer contact than they enjoy at the present time, Perplexing as the question is, the most successful plan tried so far has been the abolition of that cloistered and clannish institution, the tutors' table.
Most other methods adopted so far have been more or less disappointing. It is becoming increasingly clear how difficult it is to find a field of common action upon which tutor and student can meet and develop that atmosphere of sociability so admittedly desirable in the House Plan. Teas given by the various Masters in their Lodgings have been of advantage only to that regrettably small number of students attending them. Informal buffet suppers for seniors during their examinations, as tried by one Master, come too late in the college career to furnish the missing link.
Although House teams are open to the tutors, the number of men able to take advantage of them is definitely limited, both by time and by natural abilities. Admittedly the best arena for the desired meeting of tutor and student is the House dining-room, but the stubborn persistence of the tutors' table in most of the Houses prevents success here to a great degree.
Typical of the situation is Leverett House, where, although the tutors' table perseveres, undergraduates are permitted to dine at it when accompanied by a tutor, and tutors may sit at the regular tables with students. Although a certain amount of contact is made in this way, the average number of tutors sitting with students each meal is about two or three. At Eliot House, where the tutors' table is under heaviest and steadiest fire, and rightfully too, the event of a tutor dining with a student is in the nature of a minor phenomenon. Similar conditions in the other Houses lead to the inescapable conclusion that where a tutors' table exists the tutors will naturally gravitate toward it, forsaking the company of the student body.
Dunster House has made the most intelligent and satisfactory effort to unravel the annoying tangle. Here the tutors' table has been abolished, except for a weekly luncheon at which the necessary House business can be talked over. Doing away with this line of cleavage in the dining-room once and for all, Dunster finds that a significant amount of social contact is being developed.
Although it must be candidly admitted that it is a joke to try to regiment sociability, the removal of the exclusive tutors' table is a long and bold step in the direction of attaining the desirable intimate relationship between instructor and student.