Nobel prize-winning economist John Kenneth Galbraith last night recounted the changes he has seen in his 52 years at the University in a speech following a Winthrop House dinner to celebrate Harvard's 350th anniversary.
About 375 Winthrop House residents, affiliates and members of the Senior Common Room attended the dinner and speech afterwards in the house dining hall.
Galbraith, who is the Warburg Professor Emeritus of Economics and a member of Winthrop's Senior Common Room, noted an increased emphasis on scholarship on the part of the student body and an improved attitude towards women.
When Galbraith was first affiliated with Winthrop House 50 years ago as a graduate student, the house was considered the most progressive of the houses because it was the first to resist discrimination against the Irish.
Despite Winthrop's progressive policies, Galbraith said, "Our students were of questionable quality. They had a somewhat ambiguous attitude towards scholarship."
Galbraith contrasted house admission policy of a half a century ago with that of today. Admission into houses then was based on a form filled out by prospective residents.
The form consisted of a series of columns, each representing a different prep school. At the left side of the form were Exeter and Andover. The column on the far right side of the sheet was an "x," which signified whetheror not the prospective was Jewish, Galbraith said.
"The objective of the housing committee was toget the greatest number of students from the leftside of the sheet, and the fewest from the right,"Galbraith said.
Galbraith reminisced about student life atWinthrop in the 1930s. Consumption of alcohol wasmuch greater then than now, he said, citing a wildparty in Winthrop in which a drunken student dovethree floors out his C-entry room and died.
"There was great enjoyment of sex, alcohol andleisure," he said.
Galbraith praised the present student bodywhich he called studious. "From an aristocracy,Harvard has moved on to a still substantiallyimperfect meritocracy. This is great progress," hesaid.
Galbraith also noted a change in the attitudetowards women at Harvard. In his time, he said,"There was great preoccupation with sex."
He recounted the story of a notice he posted inWinthrop announcing that visiting hours by womenwould be from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Inaddition, the notice said, students havingvisitors were required to keep their doors open.
The notice concluded, "It is Winthrop Housepolicy that all sex will be in public."
Galbraith advocated coeducation, explainingthat when he joined the Board of Trustees ofRadcliffe, "I began to wonder why the two separateinstitutions existed."
Galbraith concluded his speech by comparingHarvard's faculty of now with that of 50 yearsago. "It was very good then, and it is very goodnow," he said.
But he added, "Fifty years ago, there were morespectacular eccentrics. This is an age of gravesolemnity.