Far-reaching changes in the distribution requirements announced today by Dean Hanford will relieve and delight all the undergraduates, who have long suffered intellectual cramps from the rigidity of the old mold into which they have hitherto been poured. The new distribution requirement, which allows any four courses outside one's field of concentration, frees the student to tread more pleasant paths where his own in interests lead him, but opens the way to a new danger. For any abuse of the plan leading to further narrowing of the academic itinerary will now permit the erring student to stew in the juice of his own bad judgement.
Many long-standing evils of required courses will be overcome by this eagerly awaited innovation. Most students and professors will readily admit that a man who takes a course in chemistry or government for no other reason than to work off a burdensome requirement is simply wasting his own and the University's time-far better spent on some subject which arouses and holds his interest. The plan is a happy compromise between Charles William Eliot's long discarded policy of giving the student complete freedom in the choice of all his courses and the system of concentration and distribution fathered by Mr. Lowell, which time has proved too rigid. With the field of concentration left by the new ruling in the hands of the various departments, as before, there will be less excuse for misfits, and consequently a natural rise in the level of scholarship.
In the hoped for improvement of the now lumbering elementary courses alone, liberalization of the requirement should find further justification to the college at large as well as to the individual, if further justification were still necessary. Government 1, Chemistry A, Philosophy A, and others, now made up in large part of bored students drudging away in hopeless apathy, will in the future be composed of men who, having only themselves to thank for their presence, need be fed no intellectual pap, spoonful by spoonful. No less profit from the new Decalogue will accrue to the University by casting out courses like Biology A, which offer little sound knowledge of the subject, and still less of the methods of biological work and thought. Freed from this dead weight, the departments will betray their trust if they do not transfer their efforts to more fertile undergraduate instruction.
New dangers, as pregnant as those borne under the old scheme of things, are imminent if the University fails in its duty to insist upon advisers and tutors who shall have a more intimate knowledge of courses in all fields than at present. For, far from aimed at increased specialization, the change in distribution requirements is intended to permit a far more rounded field of knowledge than before. Wisely counseled, undergraduates will be refreshed, but not intoxicated by their new taste of freedom.