Before June, 1934, $40,000 of University funds will have been paid under the Emergency Student Employment Plan to undergraduates in the Houses who could not otherwise have remained in College. The payment, however, will have been accompanied by an exaction of over 70,000 hours of time to be devoted by these undergraduates to activity which is, in general, of not more than incidental educational value.
There is little justification for this exaction from any standpoint. The $40,000 is being spent, not for the purpose of getting work done, but for the purpose of getting men through College. The fact that the donation puts those who accept it under obligation to the University is not a reason for the University to exert its rights, as it is now exerting them, to its own detriment.
The development of the tutorial system and the House Plan is retarded by needlessly occupying 200 students with clerical work, errand running and dishwashing for three hours a day. And from the standpoint of the University, the work done by students under the Plan is superfluous. For despite protestations by department heads and House masters that work under the Plan is useful, the fact remains that the temporary jobs have never existed before, and will never exist again if the Plan is discontinued.
Under the assumption that all University funds should be devoted as far as possible to furthering scholarship, as that is understood at Harvard, it follows in principle that the $40,000 already appropriated for emergency employment should be loaned or given outright to needy students without penalties attached in the form of trumped up chore work. In practice, the principle has to be modified, for two reasons: first, that some men would rather work while they are in College than burden themselves with a debt to be paid after graduation; and second, that if the money is given away, it automatically becomes a scholarship, and can go, therefore, only to men in Groups I, II, or III, whereas one of the primary virtues of the Emergency Employment Plan 'is that it makes funds available to men of non-Dean's List standing.
The solution is to give beneficiaries of the Plan the choice of working for their money or borrowing it, as their situations and preferences would dictate. Those who chose to work should, in turn, be enabled to earn the usual sum of $300 for approximately a third of the time spent by present beneficiaries of the Plan. Under this arrangement, the useful and educational work which is included in the Plan would displace the objectionably wasteful and routine jobs, and the workers would at the same time be given more leisure in which to pursue their normal University activities. Moreover, men in scientific fields who are often prevented from undertaking the present jobs because of their heavy laboratory schedules would be put upon an equal footing with the rest of the College.