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Sheepskins and Shrapnel


Every Senior who is leaving at midyears as a draftee or a volunteer would like to have the comforting feeling of a Harvard diploma tucked under his arm. The Student Council's recent recommendation was that the Administration broaden its already-announced plans for '42 men who are "qualified." The problem is another example of the difficulties of accommodating peace-time values to war-time expediency. For it certainly is expedient that no member of '42 be forced to quit Harvard without a diploma, after seven-eighths of his work is completed. This is all the more true since the last half-year, after divisionals, is a grand loaf for most.

But automatic degrees are not the answer. Unfortunately, any action which the University takes will work as a precedent for the men who will be caught later with only a half-year to go. For there will be more such cases, even if the University goes on a twelve-months basis, unless the government announces a more liberal policy of student deferment. It would be a sad state of affairs indeed if a Harvard degree meant less after the war than it does now, simply because a system of makeshifts, loosening of standards, and wholesale war degrees was hastily adopted. There should be no thought of awarding diplomas to anyone who has not fulfilled all the requirements. But on the other hand, there should be no stumbling blocks in the way of a Senior who is willing to cram for divisionals at midyears and to do extra reading for special exams or, papers which equal the work of the second half-year. In addition, the College may find other ways of giving legitimate course credits--for example, 1938-39 English 'A; CAA work done before it counted for credit, work done in the army after actually leaving Harvard--engineering or flying training being the equivalent of courses in college. Failing this, a degree-bound Senior could do some study in absentia and get his diploma later. Everyone won't be on active duty in Hong Kong or Dakar, and if Thomas Paine wrote "The Crisis" on a drum-head to the sound of musketry, Harvard men should be able to turn out a course paper in an army camp.

One strong argument against minimizing the final half-year is that Harvard requires fewer courses than most colleges already, making it up with tutorial and other extra-curricular study. The whole question settles down to the problem of giving every Senior every possible opportunity to make up that last lap and so get his degree. No general policy need be adopted; probably there will not be more than fifty or sixty cases, so that each can be considered individually. If Joe Doakes '42 can't finish up before he leaves, he should be encouraged to do so afterwards. A degree won't seem important when he's lugging a gun, but neither he nor the University should underestimate its post-war value.

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