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No. 1 The Purpose of the College


During the evenings of the past month there have gathered at the "Crimson" building meetings of concentrators in the various fields of concentration in the college. These men, chosen at random from the first five groups of the rank list, have discussed the courses, professors, tutors, section men and the methods of instruction that they have been exposed to at Harvard.

But before going into any detailed analysis of the points which came up in connection with the concentrators' meetings, a brief definition of the functions and purposes of Harvard University must be considered. Much of the criticism to which the University has been subjected in the past few years--criticism which flared up into nasty recriminations this Spring over the dismissal of two of the younger faculty men--comes from confusion in the minds of those who control the destinies of the University as to just what the functions and purposes of a University are.

Briefly, then, the prime fuction of the University is to teach its students. No other excuse for existence can possibly be arrived at. No matter how far-flung may be the empire of learning which the University controls, no matter how many great and famous scholars have been developed or have been induced to study in Harvard, no matter the size of the library or the splendor of the laboratory facilities, the University has got to pass on to the students a share of its reservoir of learning, if it claims to train young men to assume their places in the society in which we live.

The various concentrators who assembled at the "Crimson" for the meetings to which they had been invited, were of the opinion that the University had seriously neglected to bear this important aim of education in mind during the last few years. Speaking for the undergraduates in the college proper, they felt that the calibre of instruction, particularly in the large courses having section-men, was uniformly poor.

The primary reason for the poor teaching, except in the elementary language courses, is that the younger men are too burdened with their own compulsory research--compulsory, because research and its consequent scholastic output are almost the sole bases of promotion today at Harvard. The teaching ability that a man shows, or his work with tutees, is almost completely overlooked when the day for the renewal of his three year appointment rolls around.

Since Harvard is a University, it must, through diligent research, contribute its share of knowledge to the world. It must train its graduate students to master the technic of productive scholarship, and to pursue relentlessly the elusive Goddess of truth, but in so doing it must not forget that its primary purpose is the development of the art of teaching.

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