Just as political dopesters look forward to primary votes as guides to the future, those who wonder about the future of Harvard education are looking forward to a local vote scheduled for next month. The issue is tutorial; the locale, the Economics department; the date, the second Tuesday in May, when a meeting of the department will vote on the question of restoring tutorial to the field of Economics.
The Economics department is one in which the tutorial program never reached its full fruition; and, when Economics tutorial was abolished a few years ago, a system of section meetings and advisers was substituted in its stead. But this new system has proven inadequate; except in the case of thesis writers, advisers rarely see their advisees at any time other than the quarterly rite of signing study cards. And, because Economics is a popular field, section meetings tend to be large. Personal contact between instructor and student is rare, student participation in section meetings is minimal, and the task of integrating the various courses which a student takes in the field is left undone.
Yet, despite these objections to the current set-up, objections which are conceded by many members of the Economics department, there remains powerful opposition within the Department to restoring tutorial. This opposition is based principally on financial grounds; tutorial is an expensive proposition, and departmental budgets have their ceilings. Yet the two other departments in the division of History, Government, and Economics both have been able to offer tutorial programs to honors candidates.
As prices rose while the College kept down its tuition, the increased cost of a College education was met by slashing the quality of the education offered. One such slash was the abolition of the tutorial program in the Department of Economics. Now the University has elected to meet increased costs through a tuition hike. In return for the higher tuition extracted from them, students have the right to expect a restoration of pre-war quality in the education opportunities offered them.
The test of whether this pre-war quality will be restored comes on May 11. The need for tutorial in the Economics department is clear. Economics is a complicated field in which guidance and direction is necessary if the student is to acquire much more than jargon. Now that it has decided on a tuition increase as the way to meet rising costs, the world's richest university can surely afford to restore to pre-war standards the quality of the education it offers. The return of Economics tutorial would be a symbolic first step.