National Geographic : 1936 Sep
WITHIN THE HALLS OF CAMBRIDGE BY PHILIP BROAD MULTITUDES of American college men, old and young, find odd contrasts between university life in the United States and that of ancient Cambridge, where I took my degree. These differences are plain in discipline, in daily life, in the relations between faculty and undergraduates (never "students" at Cam bridge), and in certain customs peculiar to this venerable seat of learning. When I left the train at Cambridge, after a short but tedious ride from London, there was little about the dingy railroad station to suggest that somewhere hereabouts stood a great university town. Nor did the policeman of whom I asked my way to "The University" offer any help; he couldn't, simply because there are so many colleges here, each in itself a little university. However, after driving into town along a wide thoroughfare which my taxi man told me had been in ancient times a highway used by Roman soldiers, I finally arrived at St. John's College which I was to enter. JOHN HARVARD'S ALMA MATER Because John Harvard, principal founder of the famous American center of learning which bears his name, was educated at Cambridge, this university holds a special interest for people in the United States. John Harvard entered Emmanuel College in 1627. In an old leather book there you see his signature, and a notation that he paid a ten-shilling matriculation fee. Now a tablet is set up in the Chapel at Emmanuel to his memory; and this year Cambridge in England observes with sym pathetic interest the movement in Cam bridge, Massachusetts, to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of Har vard College (page 334). Each Cambridge college is a separate entity. Each has its own chapel, lecture rooms and assembly hall, but most of the space is devoted to residential quarters. This independence has been characteris tic of Cambridge from its earliest days. It dates from the foundations established by religious orders, such as the Dominicans and the Carmelites, most of which belong to the first part of the 13th century. It continued with the foundation of the col leges, the first of which was Peterhouse, established in 1284. The majority of the others followed in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, though Selwyn was founded as recently as 1882. Cambridge long held out against the ad mission of women students, and, though it was obliged at last to surrender and wel come the two girls' colleges, Newnham and Girton, more than sixty years ago, it still, unlike Oxford, does not allow women to take actual degrees.* "UNDERGRADUETTES" INSTEAD OF COEDS The "undergraduettes" attend lectures, both university and college, with the under graduates, and take the same "honors" ex aminations (they are not allowed to take the easier "pass" examinations), but if suc cessful their reward is merely a "title to a degree" (pages 332, 335, and 337). Every college has its own staff of tutors and its own endowments which, together with the fees from its student members, provide for its upkeep. In many cases the colleges have acquired much landed property. From the beginning it was impressed on me that the loyalty of the individual is first to his college. It is by no means uncom mon for the members of a family to send their sons to one particular college, gener ation after generation. But in the back ground there always remains the Alma Mater, the University itself. To the initi ated it is my college that I mention first; to the stranger, if asked, I announce myself as a Cambridge man. The University, like a college, is a corpo rate body with its own endowments supple mented by contributions from the colleges and the Government. It also has its own lecture halls and research laboratories and it alone appoints the professors, who are the elite among the "dons," or faculty members. While the ultimate governing authority is the Senate, which consists of those who have taken the degree of Master of Arts, the executive authority is vested in the Chancellor, elected by the Senate, who is now always a prominent national figure. The office at present is held by Prime Min * See "Oxford, Mother of Anglo-Saxon Learn ing," by E. John Long, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, November, 1929.