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May 30, 1926

In essay in The New York Times, President MacCracken, whom the editors identified as “one of the most understanding of observers among the college authorities,” offered a comprehensive analysis of the current “student movement,” the growing recognition on American campuses of the longstanding role of students and graduates in shaping their institutions. From the early fraternities to athletics to alumnae associations and now, even to undergraduates’ examination of their curricula and their social rights, this influence was being felt and being resisted by the faculties. The situation, he said, was “like the expression of dismay of the ‘wets’ on the morning after prohibition. The professor engaged in his Addison walk of contemplation has bumped into the stadium and cannot imagine how it came into existence. Fear, which is the child of ignorance, cries ‘Down with it,’ but second thought suggests that the institution is here and that the sooner it is brought into line with the general purpose of the college, the better it will be.”

“In a word,” he wrote, “the American college is no longer a college in the old sense of the word. It is a great social organization operating most powerfully in a democracy, where class lines are not yet strictly drawn, and where vast numbers of people possess leisure. The professor may grumble about it, he may actively oppose it, but he will accommodate himself to the situation as the facts become clear; and he will be all the better for the change.”

In its issue for June 4, the Harvard Crimson reprinted, in its entirety, MacCracken’s analysis of “the present student movement toward greater self-government and self-expression.”

The Years