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Marginal Utility


Rising and falling with the tides of every faculty whim, the tutorial system of the Department of Economics faces the prospect of a watery grave. Last spring, a two year suspension of all tutorial was voted by the Department, except for Seniors writing honors theses. At the end of the two years, the possibilities and value of the continuance of the tutorial system are destined to be reassessed. The uncertainty of the suspension period, however, poses a gloomy outlook for a tutorial system which is gasping its last breath in many departments of the University.

Confronted with nearly 750 undergraduate concentrators, 289 graduate students, and an enrollment of almost 1200 in Economics A, the Department of Economics is tottering under the weight of an unprecedented post-war popularity. To meet this avalanche, the Department has twenty professors and assistant professors, six annual instructors, and twenty-four full and part time teaching fellows. The Economics faculty has been enlarged to the limits of availability, but besides increased teaching burdens, staff time formerly devoted to tutorial has been sapped away by other interests, such as General Education and Area Studies. The financial conundrum is not lacking either: the pressure of steadily increasing costs throughout the University threatens a limit to the size of a staff which the department could support.

If the verdict of the suspension survey finds the sacrifice of departmental resources to the tutorial system of insufficient worth, the axe will fall, officially and unfortunately. For under the prevalent mass education procedures in the College, the value of some personalized instruction is indisputable. One crop of the untutored specimens of the suspension period will be graduated next June. It is reasonable to suspect that the finished products will be Fords rather than Buicks. Fortunately, however, even during the temporary abeyance of the tutorial system, the Department of Economics has compensated with a generous offering of courses. Some other departments not only have curtailed tutorial, but still present inadequate course coverages of their fields.

Such a complete abandonment of the tutorial system, though possibly a temporary one, is nevertheless not justifiable, regardless of the difficulties which the Department faces. The situation in Economics serves to underscore the fundamental problem of educational preference which underlies the fate of the tutorial system in most departments of the University. During the post-war enrollment peak, the necessity of a reduced tutorial system is understandable, but the greatest danger lies in the not too distant future when the University begins to contract. For at that time, unless an ever-growing student demand for the tutorial system persists, the already well-defined faculty apathy to the system will succeed in directing the permanent flow of departmental resources to other fields.

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