With Dean Leighton's 1938 memorandum, Freshman advising in Harvard has at last been recognized as an integral part of its teaching. Praise for this latest reform should be divided between P.B.H., President Conant, Dean Leighton, and other officials, all of whom contributed to its enactment. No more will the service, which eighty-four tutors, instructors, and proctors were supposed to render, be gratuitous; no longer can charges of incompetence be based on lack of time. Now the head and tail of a worm that would spoil any theoretical apple have been destroyed. By no means, however, is the problem completely solved. Those who think it possible at one crack are absurd, and those who feel that nothing more can be done are equally unwise.
In the past, poor guidance has caused a number of Yardlings to seek the tutoring schools for counsel as well as instruction, and these same turn out later as Plan B tutees. Others--enough to keep Dr. Bock and the P.B.H. personnel advisers on their toes--have developed mental difficulties which with careful and thorough guidance could have been controlled, if not avoided. By now every college should know that there is no uniformity among students; each is an individual who must be taught and handled differently. At some time during college most intelligent men pass through an emotional or intellectual conflict as part of their push toward maturity; perhaps half can be aided by guidance, while the rest must care for themselves.
The diverse and unsettled natures of Freshmen, combined with the aimlessness of secondary education in general, necessitate advisers. They are a foundation of the desired program for individualized education and their goal is first ascertaining the student's ability and knowledge and then helping him to use them. Their function is not nursemaid nor solely friend, but guide in all academic matters. To show him how to study, to interest him in the University life, to direct him toward a field of concentration; these the advisers should be expected to do. For the emotionally maladjusted they cannot be directly responsible, but when such cases arise they must at once inform Dean Leighton, who should make use of Dr. Bock, P.B.H., and even the neglected Placement Office.
If the exact definition of an adviser is equivocal, some idea of what constitutes one can be gained from the varied qualities demanded in his selection. The foremost qualification is interest in dealing with human beings; next come approachability, or the rare biological element of appeal, and insight into the total personality. To obtain response, an adviser must set up confidence through frankness, through fixing each man's aim and helping him to reach it. He ought also to gauge as best he can the attitude of the advisce toward his new environment. With these standards raised, there lingers the question of whom to select. Certainly not those full professors who are unable to give at least three hours a week to the task, or who are too far apart in sympathy from Yardling youth; not fresh-from-college graduate students, but preferably men who fit in somewhere between the extremes.
By changing its counseling system to fit the transition to college, Yale is recognizing the importance of efficient advisers. The Carnegie Foundation has already emphasized the scarcity of intellectual guidance in modern education. With President Conant himself saying that "we need to have a corps of advisers who can give more time to the work and who can study the complex problems involved," it is right that Dean Leighton has made the first and worthy move toward remodeling Harvard's worst-fitting garment.
(This is the third of seven editorials on Freshmen.)