New Light On Advising

A program of faculty "advice" to students can fall anywhere between two extremes. These extremes are a paternalistic system on the one hand, and, on the other, a system in which the student must take the initiative in seeking advice.

It was to find the proper mean that Provost Buck appointed on November 9 a ten-man faculty committee to investigate the entire field of College advisory aid to students. This committee will consider the extent to which the Faculty should actively direct students, and the best ways to tie together academic, social-psychiatric, job placement, and all other forms of advising.

This committee will collate what Provost Buck has described as "the vast amount of experimentation in advising which has been carried on in the College in the last 25 years--experimentation which has never been made public or devised into a concrete plan of action."

If the sentiment of undergraduates is of importance in this matter, the committee can perform a valuable service by devising a system that will provide needed counsel for the student without robbing him of the maturity and ability to make decisions that come from his current responsibility for his own destiny at Harvard.

In line with its practice of treating the student as an adult, Harvard has, in the past, seemed to favor the let-the-student-take-the-initiative approach to the problem of advising. There are situations, however, in which this system fails. Despite the old adage, what one doesn't know can hurt one.


The Freshman, newly arrived at Harvard, cannot be expected to know what problems he must ask his adviser about. Distribution rulings are for him so much fine type in the course catalogue; and the whole task of selecting a program presents him with what is generally an unfamiliar difficulty. Often such a simple problem as meeting the language requirement throws the Freshman for a loss; 72 upperclassmen were on language pro at the time this penalty was abolished two weeks ago, and at least some of this difficulty came from improper planning in the freshman year.

Hence to offer the Freshman as advice the traditional "two handshakes with a signature sandwiched in between" is to short-change him, and it frequently jeopardizes the success of his career at the College. Upperclassmen, too are not familiar with all the nooks and crannies that represent the labyrinth that is Harvard. They too often miss out on opportunities because of lack of information.

Naturally the scope of the faculty committee's research will be much wider than this one difficulty. But a solution of even this one problem would eliminate the majority of current complaints against the College's advisory system.