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When students lash out against undergraduate professionalism, the readiest object of attack is the monolith of Harvard professionalism, the Harvard Student Agencies. HSA is the embodiment of the student business mentality in the College, and in its headlong rush up the ladder of success it has skipped enough rungs and stepped on enough toes to provide ammunition for the most clumsily mounted offensive.
One familiar target of charges made by activity heads over the past five years is the Student Calendar. At present the Calendar serves as a free or low cost bulletin board for all University activities. It also attempts, with varying degrees of success, to be a house organ for the HSA, a guide to Boston, and potentially a magazine. One cannot challenge the usefulness of the Calendar as a bulletin board, for only the HSA is at present equipped or willing to publicize events with anything approaching the thoroughness the University requires. But in any area other than the publishing of notices for the University and for undergraduate organizations, the Calendar is neither needed nor wanted.
In May of 1958, Dean Monro (then Director of the Financial Aid Office) recommended that the board of the Agency Corporation "reaffirm the assurances, stated in the original prospectus, to keep the publication inexpensive, to limit the advertising to the cost of production, and to seek in every reasonable way to develop advertising support of existing publications." Since 1958 the Calendar has grown far beyond these limitations originally imposed to soothe apprehensive publication heads.
HSA claims it is caught in a vicious circle: to increase advertising revenue one must increase appeal by improving quality; but improving quality means increasing cost, and as cost increases the advertising revenue needed to break even must also rise. The Calendar has chased itself around this circle for four years, and still it loses money. Mr. Burke (director of HSA) justifies the improvement in quality as a campaign to make the Calendar appear enticing to advertisers outside the Square. He explains the recent addition of factual and semi-factual articles in the same fashion.
Yet it seems that his campaign is having little effect. In the most recent issue, advertising was derived almost entirely from the Harvard Square market. Of the three assurances made in its prospectus, the HSA has kept only one. No attempts have been made to "develop advertising support of existing publications." On the contrary, each issue of the Calendar carries advertising solicited in competition with other existing publications. Production has hardly been kept "inexpensive." And the third assurance-"to limit advertising to the cost of production"-becomes meaningless if costs are continually allowed to rise. If advertising should ever rise above production costs, costs could simply be increased to soak up available funds.
Mr. Burke insists that the Calendar cannot meet costs with even the amount of local advertising it now carries, unless a campaign can be devised to entice national advertisers. To date the HSA has shown itself incapable of devising such a campaign; it has simply increased the costs that must be shouldered by the already overburdened local market. This endless spiral of Calendar expansion must be stopped. Three rigid limitations must be imposed upon the Calendar: 1) No further increases in production costs should be allowed; 2) Absolutely no articles of a descriptive or critical nature are to be tolerated-the Calendar is not and should not be a magazine; 3) No further encroachments into the Harvard Square advertising market should be permitted.
If Mr. Burke's predictions are borne out, such restrictions would mean financial disaster for the Calendar. In such a case the only solution is a University subsidy. If the publication of notices is as important a service to the University as is claimed, the University should be willing to foot part of the bill.
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