Burr Senior Tutors Revolutionize House Plan

Overseers Pass Last 2 Appointments Today; System Survives Welter of Committees

Harvard's House plan will come of age next September and shake under-graduate life into a new pattern. No longer will students in trouble be called to University Hall and then plead their case to a Dean they may never have seen before; no longer will honors candidates monopolize the fruits of tutorial. With the appointment by the Board of Overseers this morning of Lowell and Leverett's Allston Burr Senior Tutors. President Lowell's dream, seems practically realized. The College has taken two steps--decentralization of the Dean's Office and revival of tutorial for all concentrators in the five largest departments.

Under the system to be inaugurated next term, each House will have a Senior Tutor who will replace the present Assistant Deans by serving on the Administrative Board and handling all serious disciplinary cases. More important he will have the job of coordinating the expanded House tutorial programs that are to extend group tutorial to all sophomore and junior concentrators in History, Government, Economics, Social Relations and English.

These changes are primarily the result of three committee reports (Bender, Ferry, and Gilmore that were channelled through Provost Buck's Committee on Educational Policy and passed by the Faculty last winter in two meetings.

Both Radcliffe and the Dudley commuters center are included in the plan. The only difference in the Annex between the old and new setup will be the location of tutorial, departmental tutorial changes apply to both Harvard-and Radcliffe. All sophomore groups will now meet in the renovated nine-room Tutorial House at 16 Appian way. Whether junior groups will be co-ed is still uncertain. Harvard opinion seems to side with Daniel S. Cheever '39, assistant professor of Government, who said recently, "the purpose of the plan is to have it focus on the Houses and they aren't co-ed."

Commuters will have tutorial sessions in 16 newly furnished offices on the second and third floors of Apley Court. Dudley's social and extra-curricular activities will continue as in the past--financed partly by the University and partly by membership fees. There is revived interest in tutorial for commuters, and as Arthur Smithies. Chairman of the Department of Economics, has said. Dudely is no place to get rid of the weaker members of the department.


The history of Harvard tutorial is committee-filled and confusing. Limited tutorial is a relatively new development; the new system next fall will merely turn the clock back some 300 years. Only since World War II has tutorial been limited to honors candidates.

During the college's early days every undergraduate had a tutor. Student-tutor relations were close, for tutors had both disciplinary and academic functions. The 1642 rules required tutor's presence at meals "to prevent disorders", a student had to visit his tutor at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., and he even needed permission to leave town.

Estrangement of tutors gradually crept in with the elective system. Introduced a century ago, electives reached their peak 50 years later when 18 completely unrelated courses were sufficient for a degree. Tutors began to regard under-graduates as inmates in a reformatory, while contemporary student comment called tutors "invariably low-born, despicable rustics, lately emerged from the dunghill. . ."

President Lowell ushered in stricter concentration requirements and revived and expanded tutorial. Every faculty member was expected to tutor, and so, despite alumni and student opposition during the '30s, 95 percent of the college received tutorial. But of Lowell hopes that the number of course offerings would now decrease went unfulfilled departments still attracted how men by adding specialty courses.

Discussion of General Education in 1945 led to an examination of the situation that had developed during the war, and the college was forced to make curtailment a policy. The next year saw tutorial for honors men only, but departments gave the ruling liberal interpretation.

To investigate the possibilities expanding tutorial the Committee on Educational Policy appointed a 10-man faculty sub-committee headed by Dean Bender which then issued a 133-page report in the fall of 1950. This so-called Bender Report recommended decentralization of the Dean's Office appointing House Deans (name later changed to Senior Tutors), and bi-weekly group tutorial for all undergraduates.

Nothing that in 1948-49 almost 60 percent of upperclassmen concentrated in the five large departments which had a total of only 32.7 percent of the faculty, the Committee recommended that tutorial for these fields be curtailed to five percent of the honors candidates. (In 1941-52 these departments had 58.6 percent of upperclassmen, including Radcliffe.)

Faculty and departmental reaction was immediate and adverse. An unofficial committee headed by C. Crane Brinton '19, Chairman of the Department of History, felt that individual senior tutorial was essential, but that 8 to 12-man seminars could easily replace the Bender Report's 5-man group limit.

April saw still another report. The Student Council unanimously accepted recommendations for "Tutorial at Harvard" by Donald L. M. Blackmen '52. While approving the principles of the Bender Report, the Council suggested that seniors should have individual thesis instruction, but the five-man limit on groups must remain. It also asked for heavier emphasis on essay writing.

Also in the spring came the report by the Subcommittee to the Committee on Houses headed by Ronald M. Fecay 12, Maser of Winthrop House that amplified the Bender Report. The Faculty heard the C.E.P.'s propose. Is in November, but didn't vote until December 11. Then he name House Deans became Senior Tutors, and they were to be appointed for five years and sit on the administrative board. They were made responsible to the Dean's office in all matters of discipline, and to the Housemaster in every thing else. Thus the faculty passed half of the ideas embodied in the Bender Report.