In a world grimly determined that nothing shall remain static, the change-weary veteran who returns to Cambridge finds here no "back-to-normalcy" balm. Wherever he looks he sees a college in flux. His departure, it would seem, was the signal for new and uncertain educational ventures.
Vague rumors of the General Education Committee's celebrated report have spread everywhere. But only in the confines of the College can its vital significance yet be even partially realized. Plans are under way for introduction of totally new courses conceived and planned in a storm of publicity. Men of letters expound the General Education Report much as the learned theologian quotes the Bible in seeking guidance. Yet one wonders whether, when all the shouting dies, the same professors, with their same limitations, will not be giving much the same courses.
We wait and we hope optimistically that it is all for the best--that now we will get a "genuine" liberal education. But of far more immediate concern is the action already taken on the Report. Men who are nonhonors candidates discover that to them no longer go the privileges of tutorial. Other men in other departments learn that tutorial has been completely dropped. Amidst the drama of this sudden curtailment of a prerogative unique at Harvard, a special Student Council committee, fearful of a trend toward total abandonment of the tutorial system, fights determinedly against all ents beyond the limit voted by the faculty.
One key to an analysis of basic trends in the College may be sought in the division of responsibility. The College can no longer look to its President as the sole voice of authority. With the exigencies of war; more and more responsibility was shifted to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Only lately this shift was made permament when the Dean received the title of Provost.
Startling vistas of fundamental changes in process open at the reading of the new Provost's policy toward admissions, pronounced in a recent Alumni Bulletin. Old College men were dismayed to learn that they had been weighed and found wanting Verily, the Provost charges, Harvard has become a Mecca for "precocious, intellectually over-stimulated" boys, while their socially superior classmates "head for Yale or Princeton". In mute anticipation the reviled "brain" stands by to watch this policy carried out, now that the Provost may select fastidiously from the hordes of new applicants for his better balance in the student body.
Does the Administration hope to lure these men of social grace by the continued presence of Radcliffe women in class? Co-education, started as a wartime measure necessitated by teacher shortages, and cloaked under the title of "joint instruction", seems to be here to stay. Thus, for better or worse, the Administration discards a tradition of three centuries.
The bogey of the returning men's difficulties of readjustment to college life have here proved little more than a myth. Advance representatives, who re-entered Harvard in the fall, have held high the scholastic standard of the veteran. They have not sought nor wanted pampering. Instead, they have turned back the spotlight of attention to the University and its own readjustment problems.
Examples of the University's miscalculations are abundant: last-minute opening of halls in the Yard, overburdening of the House eating facilities while the Union dining room remains only partially open, paucity of first-half courses offered this term, and overcrowding in most classes--all attest to the fact that the College is not prepared to give the veteran full value. But more discouraging is the delayed realization by University officials that the summer term this year will be a great deal more than a picnic session for Freshmen and high school teachers. The veteran waits impatiently to learn how wide a selection of courses he will be offered and who will teach them. The married veteran, concerned more with material things, finds that, unless he can produce shelter where there is none, he must forsake either wife or education.
Other problems add to the dynamics of the College scene: short-range problems of readjustment and revitalization, long-range one of progress along the path of liberal education. A student body awake to the conflict of forces, jealous of the abandonment of the old, and wary of embracing the new will not find education neglected in the course of the fight--the fight is education.