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University Hall has told the police not to arrest any well-dressed men they see slinking along Massachusetts Avenue with hats pulled over their eyes and a habit of dodging into alleys at the sight of an undergraduate. Before putting the cuffs on any of these shy, furtive men the police must make sure whether they are ex-members of the Curley administration or the Harvard faculty hiding from students who have study-cards to be signed.
"Don't get out the fountain-pen until you see the whites of their eyes," is the advice of older students with high records for getting instructors' signatures, and they offer simple strategy. The student desiring a particular signature should dress himself as a member of the maintenance department and enter the teacher's apartment on the heels of the maid. Sooner or later the victim, too, will go into his room to get his mail, and, if the student's disguise is a good one, will not notice anything until the intruder grips him by the elbow and takes one of the three types of study-cards out of his overalls. On the whole guile is to be recommended rather than brute patience.
The bung in this barrel of trouble is not the attitude of the Faculty, whose good nature tends to conquer their large and righteous anger at being paged like Information Clerks. What's the matter is that if all the red tape in the world were laid end to end University Hall would need half. So unbelievable is the complication of the study card system that Dean Phelps has to give students from the first week in December until the second in February to do the paper work of choosing four courses. Instead of one sharp pain the process is a long drawn-out agony. Instead of one, final card the student is directed to fill out a complete questionnaire before the fourteenth of December, and if he finds out in February that the courses aren't what they seemed to be in the catalog in December, he has to repeat the old process, reannoy the instructors, and resole his shoes.
There is only one way of getting this registration business done quickly and painlessly. The first step in the reform is to give the axe to the December study cards, which have to be largely rewritten after the student tries his courses in February. The undergraduates should be given, as they are, two weeks to sample their courses, and the last three days of this time should be set aside for one and final registration. On these days should come a public proclamation of the times and places for seeing the faculty. Only some clear-cut plan like this will end the "wandering tribe" of undergraduates who pace for the two months through the yard, their writing fingers bound in gauze and their eyes glued to the ground for the sight of an instructor's spoor.
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