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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
IN the normal scheme of things, the Harvard freshman is supposed to be somewhat awed and more than a little confused by his initial experiences in the Yard. It is not that the College necessarily wants him to be confused and uncertain, but that is the way things normally work out.
Something went wrong this year. Although it has been in Cambridge but three weeks, '66 has already caused quite a stir, both in the Administration and among upper-classmen. Instead of docilely going through the motions of attending opening lectures, seminars and generally keeping quietly within the heavy iron gates that guard the Yard, the Freshman Class has quickly proclaimed that it intends to become an active and influential sector of the College.
There was nothing in its background to indicate that this year's class could be so different from its immediate predecessors. Admissions Dean Fred Glimp says that while its median college board score is perhaps a point or so higher than '65 there is no reason to claim that '66 is substantially, if any, brighter than other classes currently at Harvard. But if they possess no transcendental intellectual skills, the freshmen certainly lack the inhibitions that featured previous Yardlings. Dean Glimp and Freshman Dean Von Stade report that the seminar-coffee hours this year, based on reading that was sent out during the summer, were lively and provocative. The Class of '64 received a similar reading list, but it is doubtful that more than a quarter of that class even read the books, and even fewer attended the coffee confrontations with the Faculty.
Another unusual aspect of the new crop of freshmen is their casual bearing and extreme friendliness. Ask some upperclassman about his first three weeks at Harvard and the chances are he will tell you they were tense, scary weeks when about the only persons he knew were his roommates and boys he had met before coming to Cambridge. Not so in the Yard today. The freshmen have gotten to know each other very quickly. When asked if they feel somewhat alone and isolated, most freshman will tell you "of course not -- I've met so many exciting and interesting people."
Perhaps the most noteworthy example of this spirit is among the 100 boys who are playing on the freshman football team. Coach Henry Lamar claims that most years he is still introducing teammates to each other at the Yale game. This year practically everyone is a buddy already.
Even this somewhat suspicious tendency for togetherness and activity would not have much effect on the College as a whole if it were confined to the Yard. But it isn't, and that fact became clear on Registration Day.
Most upperclassmen remember their first simply treat our colleges and universities as service agencies in particular situations?
* Will government recognize that education is as properly a matter for national concern as are defense, health, and technical and economic advance?
* Will the government's programs make proper allowance for basic as well as for applied research? And for teaching?
* Will Government recognize how important it is that an institution of higher learning strive to advance simultaneously and consistently along a broad front of academic interests rather than be content to make occasional spurts ahead in some limited area of immediate concern? Will leaders of government actively support, not merely pay lip service to the idea that the social studies and the humanities are also relevant in considerations of national strength?
* Will programs of the government affecting higher education show proper care not to weaken the bastions against political interference which educational leaders have been slowly building through centuries?
* Will government programs be adequately sensitive to the fact that good education and good research require steadfast concern for standards of excellence, and that neither will be achieved if it becomes a guiding aim of government programs to keep everyone happy and to avoid hard choices?
*From the other side, will colleges and universities recognize that they have to change to meet new needs? Will they get themselves organized to work cooperatively with agencies of government, ceasing to go their own separate ways and to contend selfishly among themselves?
* Will they also concede that they have an obligation to work with government not only to advance knowledge but also to extend educational opportunity
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