Though the College is predominantly residential, and proud of it, over 11 per cent of its students now live off-campus as "commuters." Thirty years ago when the stock market crashed, the percentage was up over 40, but then Harkness gave Harvard its Houses, President Conant laid heavy stress on "national distribution," and the non-resident segment began shrinking to its present minimum.
As House-members moved into their multi-million dollar hotels on the river-front, the commuters were left with nothing but their bookbags, and those who went home at night were regarded as black sheep in the Harvard herd. In the early Thirties a professor sensationally described College policy toward "the untouchables" as "resignation under defeat," and an official recently active in Dudley affairs observed that, until the past few years, the Administration has "seemed to turn its head and hope that commuters would go away."
Plans for Center Nebulous
When the College announced its $82.5 million Program, however, the construction of a new commuter center, "yielding nothing whatever in style or quality to the existing residential Houses," was put in the "front rank of Harvard's immediate concern." Last December the existing commuter center attained House status when Dean Leighton arrived at Dudley as its first Master. The words "Dudley Hall" on the front door were changed to "Dudley House," and new stationery was promptly ordered.
But--as non-residents watched steamshovels break ground for Quincy House, the Leverett Towers, and the Loeb Theatre--their hopes for a new center faded into mild despair. It now appears that the Administration has abondoned plans to build a $1 million Non-Resident House on the corner of Plympton and Mt. Auburn, in back of the Fly Club. Commuters were highly pleased to get a Master, but, as one of them put it, "we still need a real House."
At present, the commuter center--such as it is--sprawls out into parts of two buildings. The junior common room (an entrance hall with couches and coat-racks) and a rather plain cafeteria are located on the first floor of Dudley Hall on Dunster Street. In Apley Court (a block away on Holyoke) are the House offices, a music-typing room, the library (seating 16), and an overnight bunk-room. Not only decentralized, these facilities are makeshift and inadequate.
On a general questionnaire prepared by the CRIMSON and mailed to all non-residents, one discouraged student speculated that the College "will try to liquidate the commuter 'problem" by tearing down the present Dudley and forgetting to put up a new commuter center." In a policy statement prepared for this article, however, President Pusey explains both the building delay and the College's commitment to its non-residents (see box). Worthy of the closest attention, this statement indicates that the Administration has come to some basic decisions, not only about the care and feeding of commuters, but also about the future composition of the College.
Though architect's drawings for a $1 million Non-Resident House have been put on the shelf, Lehman Hall (the University's "counting house") may be converted for commuter use. According to a preliminary study, the building would be easy to adapt, except for the problem of providing a service entrance off busy Massachusetts Ave. But, before commuters can occupy Lehman, the Comptroller's Office must move out, and this change must wait until the College raises $10 million to build its Health Center-Office Building complex on the block where Dudley now stands.
Potpourri of Types
For one thing, the Administration's reaffirmed decision to provide an adequate non-resident facility--sometime, somewhere--implies that the percentage of commuters is expected to neither rise nor decline drastically. It is now 11.4 per cent, and this figure hides an amazing potpourri of commuter types. Of 513 non-residents this year, about 30 per cent are "non-resident members of residential Houses"--meaning that, after "living in" for two years, they have moved out for one reason or another, retaining "courtesy membership." These students do not, of course, belong to Dudley House.
Of the remaining 349 non-residents, almost 30 per cent are either married or what Leighton calls "old men"--students whose college careers have been interrupted. About a third are new freshmen, of whom 66 students are "forced, though not necessarily unwilling" commuters, and 52 are just plain "voluntary" commuters. (As recently announced, the Class of '63 will have no "forced" commuters.) The other Dudley members, around 129 students, are "other upperclassmen."
"If this isn't enough to thoroughly confuse you," as Leighton is fond of saying, 44 members of Dudley House are residential, living either in the Cooperative House on Sacramento Street, or on the upper floors of Apley Court. Some of these residents are "commuter" leaders whom Dudley would lose to the residential Houses if it could not provide resident facilities of its own.
Sharp Application Increase
Though the percentage of non-resident students the College accepts each year rests on a policy decision and can be closely regulated, all indications point to a radical increase in applications from local boys who will offer to live at home if admitted. Dean Monro, former Director of the Financial Aid Office, outlines two increasing pressures on the local applicant:
* Every day in every way the cost of "going away to college" is leap-frogging. This year, for example, Harvard's tuition shot up 25 per cent, and room rents go up 15 per cent next term. Many families--especially those with more than one child away at school--are running close to the financial margin, and commuting is a decidedly less expensive way to attend college.