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The class of 44 came back to Harvard this week and found the college changed but on the whole "remarkably the same." As they drank and talked and danced to the music of a jazz band, they talked about things that had changed and mostly about today's students.
1944 was a war class. Many of the members of the class had their careers interrupted and others were forced into the "speed up" program taking classes year round and graduating as early as possible. "The main object was to get your degree and get out as soon as possible," said Sam Leland. "The friendships were formed were formed in our freshman and sophomore years." For those who were in the speed up the last years of college life were warped beyond recognition. Most of the student organizations folded or were transformed into war college institutions. The >Lampoon ceased publication, the CRIMSON was turned into the Armed Services News, and most of the clubs closed.
For the first time in history, the summer school session became part of the regular session. The Administration declared the 12 week period equal to one semester. Graduations were frequent and informal. ROTC was a way of life for all who were able. For the Cliffes it was as bad as for anyone else. Pickings were slim in a class where everyone was already fighting or headed for war in the near future.
A guerrilla movement was organized in which 175 students pledged themselves to fight like Lawrence of Arabia. Four athletic credits were granted to students participating in guerrilla warfare. One alumnus suggested last night that that the Administration might offer similar credits to SDS members today.
After President Roosevelt's fireside chat in 1943 when he lowered the draft age to 18 and abolished student deferments, President Conant called for the conversion of Harvard into a war college. According to his plan, Harvard and other Ivy League schools ceased to provide college education altogether and devoted themselves to training local high school graduates for the military.
The football team felt the effects too. Before the war Harvard had the reputation of being a lousy football school, and students went to the games to drink and party, not to see a victory. In 1942 the Crimson lost to Yale 7-3 and it would be two more years before a Harvard team would take the field again. When it did, in October 1945, it was a different story. That year we amassed a 5-3 season, only the second winning record since 1937. The next year, led by flashy halfbacks Chip Gannon and Cleo O'Donnell, Harvard rolled to a 7-2 mark, dropping the Yale game 27-14. Things were starting to return to normal.
For those who came back after the war the opportunities for change were everywhere present. Members of the class of '44 helped set Harvard back on its feet after the dislocations of the war. Robert S. Sturgis '44, for instance, became president of the CRIMSON in 1946 and helped restart the paper after a two year lapse. "It took us about two or three years to get things back to normal," Leland said. "But we were really much better off after the war. We were more mature and able to take advantage of many more things."
The war was a different matter than the present conflict. The students didn't give much thought to its morality. There just wasn't much question. Hitler was the ogre and we were the good guys. But most of them sympathize with the problem today and recognize the difference between Vietnam and World War II.
This difference is the key to what most of them seem to feel is the distinction between today's students and those of 25 years ago. "We used to have what you call Bull sessions in those days, but it never really occurred to us to act on the ideas we developed or the things that bothered us," one said.
Militant student action is the main topic of concern for those coming back, and many feel that they don't really understand it. Some say they are out of touch and just don't have the information to make a judgment about student radicalism, and activism. Others dismiss it as a "tiny minority." One expressed the feeling that students today are in a better position to challenge authority than ever before. He said students today are generally brighter and more politically oriented than ever before. Many expressed envy at the open unrest in today's college. "We didn't really think for ourselves. We just took what the establishment gave us," said one.
But all who expressed admiration for the students tempered their praise with warnings. Most had only sharp criticism for SDS or "those longhaired radicals who physically molest deans." Monday's symposium on the crisis at Harvard impressed most of them, but one said he felt that if SDS members were ever given a position of power "they would probably just go back to smoking point and ignore problems."
John Hanify '71, president of the Harvard Undergraduate Council was easily the most popular speaker at the symposium. Clyde E. Lindsay '69, a member of Afro, also received praise, but the venom was heaped on Bruce Chalmers, Master of Winthrop House, who, one member of the class of '44 said, "only mouthed a lot of words." Opinions of the Faculty were generally very low. One class member said he thought the Faculty should be abolished. Most seemed to feel that the Faculty had been weak-kneed in dealing with the University Hall takeover and should have taken a stronger stand.
On the local scene things have been changed too. The Harvard Square Theatre was the University Theatre or the "U.T." then. Cronin's has moved, but it is still as Spartan in its decor and as packed as ever. Jim's Place is gone and so is the Yard of Ale. "The Square didn't have a good restaurant then and it still doesn't," Leland said. The most poignant change seemed to be that Lowell Lecture Hall is now called by its proper name. Twenty-five years ago it was the New Lecture Hall.
Most of the buildings, too, have changed, on the inside if not on the outside. Rooms are smaller and more bare. Maid service has been discontinued.
Above all the students have changed. Not only are coats and ties gone but bare feet, long hair and dirty dungarees are the fashions of the day, replacing the suits and baggy pants of 25 years ago.
"The image is just not good," Chet Churchill said. "These bare feet and hippie garb are just plain unsanitary."
"We used to have what you call bull sessions in those days, but it never really occurred to us to act on the ideas we developed or the things that bothered us. Students today are probably brighter and more politically oriented than we were. In a way I envy them," said one member of the class of 1944.
"Jim's Place is gone and so is the Yard of Ale. Restaurants are still lousy. But on the whole things haven't really changed that much at least physically. The kids, though, they're something else. The long hair and the bare feet. It hurts Harvard's image. Besides, it's just plain unsanitary."
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