Equal Opportunity

A suggestion in the Faculty that non-Honors junior tutorial be abolished brings a fear that a sizeable portion of the College will be further deprived of one of the most valuable parts of a Harvard education. Considering that tutorial was originally instituted for virtually all undergraduates, and that at one time it was predicted that tutorial would soon replace formal courses, such a proposal is a dismal illustration of the decline of tutorial.

Fortunately this suggestion was made informally, and has been countered by a proposal to keep and improve junior tutorial for non-Honors candidates. Accompanying this proposal, however, was the suggestion that Honors--and thus also tutorial--be made a "prize," to be won by surpassing several hurdles such as qualifying examinations.

It is well that the Faculty realizes the necessity of improving tutorial. The feeling of some of its members, that tutorial should be improved by restricting its application, however, goes against the original purpose of the program, and underestimates its educational value.

In its ideal form, tutorial should be provided for all who desire it. Efforts to improve it should not be made by diminishing the number of students it affects. If greater weight were given to tutorial in awarding Honors degrees, Honors candidates would become more interested in tutorial meetings. Also, increased funds should be appropriated toward this method of education: in the Program for Harvard College, for example, some of the large appropriation for athletic endowment could be transferred to the tutorial program. A large enough expenditure for tutorial would provide more tutors, but if individual tutorial were still not feasible, small groups might be implemented which would alternate weekly with individual conferences.

Further, more professors should be urged to tutor students in their departments. Much of the difficulty with the present tutorial set-up lies with tutors who lack both interest and competence.

And finally, tutorial should be maintained for non-Honors juniors and extended to non-Honors seniors on a voluntary basis. If competent, interested tutors were engaged to teach these non-compulsory sessions, many non-Honors concentrators might switch to Honors. In any case, they would gain greater benefit from their education than they do at the present time.

Some of these suggestions are already being implemented, though there is little sign of any expansion in non-Honors. The History Department has instituted individual tutorial for Honors juniors, and Social Relations professors teach junior and senior tutorial in their department. The English Department, in recent broad revisions, has increased the importance of tutorial in deciding Honors degrees. In the same announcement, however, it restricted Honors candidacy--and individual tutorial--to students who pass three hurdles: an essay in the sophomore year, and general examinations in the junior and senior years.

The liberalizing aspects of the English Department's revisions are encouraging, but it is hoped that they do not indicate the start of a trend toward restricting tutorial. Tutorial should be improved, but its improvement should be available to all who wish such instruction.