A victim of post-war tensions as forceful as those that have created a housing shortage and unleashed an inflationary spiral, undergraduate veterans are today burdened with a greater number of academic, financial, and family worries than any previous group in the history of the College. Both the largest bloc of harried commuters in memory and the widespread student element concerned almost exclusively with the task of getting good grades help to underscore Harvard's overall lack of social integration and its studied aloofness. General uneasiness is the logical result of the universal desire to tie up a college education speedily and well.
The Harvardman of 1946 is earnestly convinced that top-flight marks are the only key to economic security or the single ticket to graduate school. He is frequently hard put to supplement his allotments in order to stay in school and still satisfy his exacting course requirements. As an unfortunate consequence a considerable number of students derive no benefit from the College's extracurricular offering and Harvard loses what might well have amounted to an important contribution from a mature and thoughtful veteran group.
Although the psychological pressures that complicate a serviceman's return to academic life have received careful attention from various offices, the pattern of readjustment is not yet clear. For one thing, the veteran finds himself initially bewildered by the sudden array of responsibilities that confront him when he returns to college. The veteran may consider himself fortunate to be clear of that chain of command that formerly made decisions for him. But with the blessing of external freedom has come the impact of an over-severe self-judgment which has focused itself narrowly upon the accepted standards of academic success. So, for many, life at Harvard has come to mean a regimen of eating, sleeping, and studying.
At a time when tutorial limitations have all but eliminated instructor-student contact, the recreational vacuum that surrounds out-of-class life at Harvard is strikingly emphasized. Efforts to coordinate the heterogeneous bulk comperising the undergraduate population have always been half-hearted, but in the past, Harvardmen have had enough leisure moments to work out a hit or miss social schedule of their own that could carry them through four years in Cambridge. Organized recreation now chiefly consists of a few token record dances and an annual class smoker.
The great influx of students who would never have come here without the G.I. Bill presents the strongest threat yet to a Brahmin coolness and a decentralized social way of life that have been refined over 300 careful years. Whether a more rebust House program is feasible and whether increased facilities from the College would help, only experiment can tell. But now, painfully aware that learning can be acquired outside of textbooks as well as within, many an undergraduate is not receiving full value on his Harvard education.