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THE REPORT of the task force on College Life offers us very little with which to take issue. It is a disappointing document with very few new or bold suggestions. A few points, however, such as the recommendation that a "no-choice" system of pre-assigning freshmen to Houses be established and the suggestion that there be more credit for the performing arts, deserve comment.
The "no-choice" suggestion is a positive but temporary measure that would eliminate much of the grief that the current system causes freshmen, while maintaining one of the positive aspects of the housing system--the fundamental alternative of the Quad Houses' even male-female ratios and their mixture of four classes. Although the goal of "free choice" is desirable, Harvard's varied housing alternatives make it unattainable. By assigning freshmen to Houses before they get here, the proposed plan leaves the opportunity to change the Houses while helping to destroy many of the stereotypes that make the housing problem so difficult to resolve. Students assigned to a House with a second-class image would enjoy their House far more than they would after a freshman year of indoctrination against that House.
This plan, when coupled with the task force's suggestions to allow rising sophomores to transfer and to assure that some balance be maintained in the Houses, might succeed in bailing out the present system. But with the "no-choice" system must come the improvement of Quad facilities, including the construction of the important Observatory Hill athletic complex, and expanded shuttle bus service, as the task force outlines.
The task force has recommended that curricular offerings in the arts be expanded and that credit be given for adequately supervised work. Such a recommendation makes good sense; students who want to learn about the arts are discouraged by the current curriculum system. As the task force report points out, an increased emphasis on the arts may help counter several disturbing trends, including the increase in undergraduate pre-professionalism and the failure of students to pick up new artistic skills in their time at the College. Departments should recognize these needs and expand their curricular offerings.
The task force's positions on Harvard and the community are probably the most commendable offerings in the report. The suggestion that the Faculty provide the part-time salary for an educational adviser who could provide advice and instruction to student volunteers at Phillips Brooks House should be carried out. The various recommendations to increase student participation in Cambridge life and politics, particularly the Voter Information Program, should be implemented. The proposal to turn Memorial Hall into a beer hall has merit, and should not be taken lightly.
One suggestion that the task force makes--to continue budgetary and administrative support for House courses--does not go far enough. House courses should receive greater attention from senior Faculty members, who currently play a small role in the program.
This task force, on the whole, does not provide much with which students, faculty and administrators can work. This lack of substance is unfortunate; it represents a botched opportunity to suggest fresh ideas for the improvement of College life at Harvard.
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