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The recent proposal to tailor admissions to the capacity of the House offers an oversimple solution to the problem of forced commuting. President Lowell established the House system as an integral part of Harvard education, but its ideal functioning should not alone be reason to exclude qualified candidates for admission.
As a panacea for forced commuting, it is urged that the size of the freshman class be decreased. Reduction, the argument runs, would eventually eliminate overcrowding in the House and abolish the present injustice of depriving some students of residential college benefits.
It seems a much greater injustice, however, to deprive them of all the benefits of the College. The Administration feels that it can adequately educate 1100 freshmen, although there are only 975 resident places. At present, students who do not qualify for unconditional admission are given the option of living outside or of rejecting the Harvard education which is offered them.
A student who is forced to commute at Harvard can probably qualify for entrance into a school of similar calibre. Whether or not he wishes to come here under the conditions offered, the choice should be his.
The sole unfairness of the present system lies in the assumption of many forced commuters that once they get a foothold in the College they will be able to obtain rooms in the Houses. The form letter sent to forced commuters reads: "Acceptance of admission with the above proviso does not mean permanent exclusion from dormitory living." Although the Admissions Committee offers "no guarantee," it should not offer a hope which figures belie.
There is slight chance that a forced commuter will get into a House; and his acquiescence to conditional admission should not be based upon any such expectation. About 300 students with House affiliations who must now live in Claverly or Wigglesworth will get preference, and they will fill up spaces in the new House.
The forced commuting situation should be eased by other methods; for example, some people now compelled to live in the Houses might be permitted to stay outside. Forced commuting is at best an imperfect solution; but the Administration is right in accepting something less than Utopia in fulfilling its obligation to educate as many as its can.
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