With hardly enough meat in it to support a Chiahuahua puppy, the recently issued report of the Student Council is a singularly uninspired document. For the most part, its recommendations read like a statement of pre-existing fact. Such suggestions as "definite preference" for Junior and Senior applicants, or "distinct preference" for Dean's List men are already enrolled in the battery of criteria which other House Masters keep ion mind. If the Council were to be so signally honored as to have its report adopted in toto by the Master, there would probably be little if any actual change in House admissions.
It must be conceded that the general goal toward which the Council committee strove was an admirable one. Any elimination of "vagueness, planlessness, and lack of logic" in the system of admissions is to be welcomed. And conversely, any definition of standards--provided that these standards are not made absolute and that the Masters are not deprived of a very necessary discretionary slack--is very desirable. But concentration upon criteria alone is a profitless business, for exposition of standards by no means solves the admissions question. A certain amount of injustice and error must be fatalistically accepted. No matter how definite the criteria, and no matter how reasonable, these are, the complexity and the human element involved make imperfection a foregone conclusion.
It might be more profitable, in the first place, to concentrate on improvement of the methods by which Masters ascertain the qualifications and antecedents of applicants. The suggested interview by a member of the House Committee might be an aid if it were purely incidental and not too heavily weighted. But in the final analysis, the thoroughness of the investigations depends upon the conscientiousness and industry of each Master. In connection with this, one method which should surely be adopted by all Masters is the examination of the College admission folder of each applicant. While thus would place a heavy pack on the back of each Master, and while it would cause traffic jams in the by-ways of University Hall, it would provide one of the most intimate views possible of each Freshman. At the present time, only one Master is industrious enough to use this method.
It might be well, in the second place, to find a means of forcing each Master to accept the given criteria. The Central Committee should require strict observance of the cross-section--intellectual, social, racial, and financial. Although this is at the present time fairly closely approximated, there are a few striking deviations, and one House in particular has violated the spirit of the crosssection. Much can be said for the development of House individuality and character, but this can be fostered on the basis of a cross-section as well as on that of a clique.
The Council performed creditably in making definite out of vague criteria. But this is only rationalizing a weak report, for when this is done, there is little accomplished. Since the House admission problem is an insoluble one, what is needed more than set criteria is a more perfect way of applying these. It finally rests with the Masters to progress in this direction, although they must be encouraged and guided on the road.