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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
As shown in the final article of the series on the Government of the University, the Visiting Committee are a branch of the Board of Overseers with a nebulous sort of advising and criticizing over the various departments. On certain occasions, notably in the case of the Engineering Department a few years ago, this power has proved not so ethereal. For an alert and able Visiting group was able to push through a complete reorganization of a very messy situation.
For the most part, however, it must be admitted that the work of the Committees have proved of lesser benefit. The chairman is seldom able to round up his entire board, even for one session a year, to meet the whole staff of a department. When the few who are able to come, finally do so, the work accomplished is generally of the philanthropic variety. Each instructor has a list of needs, ranging from office typewriters to personal paper clips.
In fact, departments draw up such continual pleas for money, that there is now a prevalent custom of choosing for Visiting Committees, men of well-known purse liberality.
In the hands of the Corporation rests the future of the Visiting Committees, for if more power is delegated to them, they could become a strong force in the University. As the only form of objective criticism to which the powers of the University subject themselves, there is no reason why they should not be given this increase.
It is up to the Executive Committee of the Board of Overseers, however, to make more effort to procure the best possible men for the Committees. Criteria for choosing the men should be based on how often the men will be able to put in appearances and how closely they are connected with University affairs. Besides this, men who represent a cross section in current trends of thought might be tried.
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