During the past forty years Phillips Brooks House has sent more than twelve thousand Harvardmen down to all types of Greater Boston social service settlements. Through this work Brooks House has contributed materially to the community's welfare and to the community's respect for the University. But there have been perrennial defects impairing the efficiency and scope of the enterprise. One of the major defects now seems possible of solution for the first time, with the advent of NYA aid at Harvard.
The ordinary undergraduate volunteer is of course not paid for his time and effort. A crowded schedule keeps him from spending more than a couple of hours a week in the settlement houses, which are understaffed and do not have anyone to train neophytes in social service. What PBH wants specifically, is thirty-nine contact men, paid by NYA funds and working from twenty to forty hours a month in thirty-nine Greater Boston settlement houses, boys' clubs, and Y.M.C.A.'s. These men, who would be College undergraduates carefully chosen after competition, would coordinate PBH with the social service agencies, directing volunteer enthusiasm into the proper channels, answering questions, building interest, learning more and more themselves. The work would be regular student employment as far as they were concerned, enabling them to continue their college education. But it would be far more valuable and of far greater service to the University and the community than the general run of NYA-paid jobs.
There are objections which are sure to find voice when the government grant is actually apportioned. The chief one is that Boston settlement houses do not come within the proper sphere of Harvard's activities under the NYA program. But Radcliffe, which has had NYA support since 1933, spends a sizeable sum every year in sending workers to Boston social projects. Furthermore, Phillips Brooks House itself would be tremendously benefited by the money, and certainly PBH is an important and integral part of the College. And it is too obvious to need comment that the University would measurably improve its town-and-gown relations by such use of the funds. The federal and College administrators both favor the proposal; the special committee set up by the University will do well to give it a thought when the decisions are being made as to which demands are for "useful purposes" and which are pork-barrel.