At last you are here, and there is not only one of you but a thousand--ten hundred men assembled in one locality, susceptible to the wiles of solicitors and to the intricacies of Harvard Square. Some of these ten hundred will find the first weekend lonely and speak to themselves of the Harvard "indifference," as well renowned as the name of Columbus. Some will find the Back Bay accent strange. Before, however, you commit yourself or form a prejudice, accept as hearty welcome the advice of those who were once in your position.
Believe, Freshmen, that there is no such animal as a Harvard man. This assumption, current in the provincial towns of New Haven, Princeton, and Hanover, is as superstitious as the one which holds that every German is like Hitler or every American a Jim Farley. Instead, every Harvard man places foremost the fact that he represents no type, no product. Neither does a Harvard man have an accent. Certainly accents to exist in Cambridge; they are two kinds: Back Bay and affected. As for clothes, keep in mind the ancient aphorism: "Clothes make the Williams man, but the Radcliffe girl makes her own."
The whispering of "indifference" into your ear as an evil characteristic must be as trite as the fame of the cry "Reinhardt." Yes, Harvard has such a bacterium. But, like some bacteria, it is not harmful and rather good. Only the word itself is poor; it gives the wrong connotation. For a Harvard man's indifference is not mere disregard of people, studies, football games--although there are cynics in every society, but a thoughtful desire to let the business of others alone, to let each individual dress and act as he pleases. Communists and New Dealers alike are safe in Harvard; so are spiritualists and hi-li fiends.
This "indifference" has another side. In the speeches made to the Freshmen of last year by President Conant, Dean Sperry, and Dr. Gummere the note of freedom was sounded again and again. Dean Sperry mentioned how petty regulations like chapel attendance have been abolished to give the student his liberty. President Conant talked of educational freedom, closely allied with politics. This freedom is not to be interpreted as permission to destroy order and run wild or the chance of a lifetime to be indolent. Instead, it means freedom of action. The Freshman should practice it by being careful not to overspecialize in his first year, by being sure that he does more than one thing and keeps himself out of the well-known rut.