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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Never was a college year more neatly split in two than was Harvard's in 1945-46, an academic period that displayed to nobody's surprise the enormous gulf between the University in war and the University in Peace.
For despite brave attempts at a Yale game and a pre-war atmosphere, Harvard College was almost as insipid and hollow a place during the fall term as it had been from 1943 on. The turning point came on the warm autumn day of Friday, February 1, when 1200 veterans, new Harvardmen and old, marched through Memorial Hall, bought their combined SERVICE NEWS-CRIMSON subscriptions, and added new flavor to a stale Cantab brew.
Anyone who had been around during the previous months noticed the difference right away--where there had been naught there was plenty: in attendees at classes, extra-curricular activitiers, Widener users. And what was more, the influx--unless, as TIME claimed, it was the co-ordination with spring that did it--put life and love and pow! into all and sundry.
Before that fatal day in February very little seems to have happened outside of the normal University course of retirements and appointments and lists, except for a bloated football team and almost sensational basketball squad.
The gridmen started off like a smoldering house, picking up power after an initial loss to Tufts by one point. They dropped Rochester, lost to a dynamite New London Sub Base outfit, then smeared Coast Guard, smashed the Merchant Marine Academy, upset Brown, and ran up 60 points against B.U.
Fever ran high for the December 1 Yale game, but the prognostication of the Crime's cartoonist proved too, too true--the Brown victory had over-rated the Crimson in its backers' eyes, as that 28 to 0 crushing went to show. During the winter, Floyd Stahl's court charges held up under the blows of fortune much more successfully than the gridders, winning 17 out of 18 contests and receiving an NCAA bid. Once more, however, the ending was sad--for Wyndol Gray and his teammates couldn't make the grade at Madison Square Garden.
First public product of the new and better spring term was what Boston papers termed a "Harvard Riot." The Liberal Union started it by announcing they would march in the Yard in protest against Winston Churchill's "alliance" speech; the Conservative League and others chimed in. Riot it wasn't, but turmoil it was, and of a sort not seen in Cambridge for years.
After things fell thick and fast--as the Alumni Bulletin remarked. "If you want publicity, come to Harvard." The CRIMSON replaced its wartime replacement on schedule and proceeded to the fray with assorted attacks on the 'Poon's sanctity, stuffed Ibis, ball-playing ability, and honesty--most of which seeped into outer regions through the press and radio.
Lampy added his own spice to the brew with an ill-fated beauty feast that needs little rhashing. B. Rose came out on the odd end of that one, as did Chill Williams in the Dramatic Club's sorry hunt for masculine pulchritude.
And amidst all the pranks and spring fever there was a strong undertone of serious academic activity, activity unlike any seen since the middle thirties. The battle of tutorial moved toward a climax, then seemed to turn favorably at last. After weeks of Student Council and CRIMSON fire at moves intended by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to cut tutorial instruction even below the limit specified in the curtailing vote of last December, things came to a head when President Conant refuted departmental claims that financial stringency was the reason for further reductions.
With the issue squarely up to them, many departments admitted that they could not find enough capable tutors to handle the over-increasing enrolments--an answer that was difficult to by-pass. But a favorable turn was forthcoming toward the end of the running fight: the newly-formed department of Social Relations agreed after experiencing pressure from the Council to offer "modified" tutorial instead of a substitute for it, as had originally been planned, and their budget was passed with that provision.
After six months of deliberation Professor Benjamin F. Wright's General Education Committee announced seven area courses to be offered as GE experiments next fall and winter. Limited to Freshmen and Sophomores, they are divided into the categories of Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences.
Students, faculty, and administration alike grew alive to the housing problem during the term, for the return of only a small portion of the Harvard men alwar conjured up a picture of the inevitable result of the homecoming of the rest of them. With official enrollment predictions for next fall hovering around the 5800 mark for the College alone, it was obvious to all that action was necessary.
And action, in surprising amounts, was forthcoming. The administration, after early prodding from student opinion, assumed its responsibilities and moved fast. They quickly set up a central housing office, ordered and set up 198 FPHA family dwellings, rented a Boston hotel, and made extensive further plans that roam on into the fantastic.
As the term drew to a close one more example of the awakening of the faculty from its war-induced lethargy presented itself when it voted in closed session to investigate the value of the traditional differentiation between A.B. and S.B. degrees, calling on students to express their opinion on the subject.
In every facet of life in the College mind and matter seemed to get a spark of energy at the beginning of this first real post-war term, a spark that is likely to be kindled, not dampened by fall, when if the predictions come true enrollments will hit an all-time high for the College.
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