Common rooms have their utility. College classes are exacting: to be compelled to listen for hours to learned lectures by learned professors does put a heave strain of the student. At the end of a few hours of listening to lectures the mind of a student trying to understand problem feels the need for relaxation. The common room refreshes his tired mind; it lifts the load from his weary brain. A few minutes of irresponsibility come as a blessing and a boon. After all, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy, and he cannot be blamed if he takes this proverb a little too seriously.
Often it is in the common room that a student makes the most lasting friendship; it is here that the most memorable incidents of his college career usually take place. Here he forgets his grievances against the world and feels easier in mind. Here he makes vows that often are the turning-points in his career. He reads the news-papers and comes in touch with the rest of the world. He carries over the problems that are unsolved in the class, and often finds solutions after a vigorous discussion with his friends. The learning that had remained abstract and academic in the class room, that seemed to have no real relation to life, often becomes real in this atmosphere of freedom. In the class if one asks a too simple question, he may be met by the cold stare of his feather or the mocking laughter of the academic highbrows around him. He is forced into his own shell, and he often develops an inferiority complex. In the common room he is not troubled by any such demoralizing influence. He can ask any question, he can raise any problem; there is no discouragement from conceited scholars or from unsympathetic teacher. Hence, often in the common room a student has larger opportunities for intellectual development then in the class room.
If I were asked to choose between a college with brilliant teachers and one with an ample and well-equipped common- room. I would always choose the latter. If the two can be found together, nothing can be better. What I mean is that, common rooms are absolutely necessary for a full college life. They form one of the chief differences between a school and college. A school routine is packed with classes, but a college allows a choice of subjects. Hence a college student is bound to have a few class-free periods. Without a common room these periods would pose a problem. But here his leisure is well spent. As soon as he enters a college common room, he feels he is grown up; he has freedom and responsibility; he can be trusted to take care of himself.
Let me however; admit that the common room has its darker side too. The attractions of the common room have proved the undoing of many a promising student. But no student is worth his place in the academic life of a college, if he is unable to avoid the pitfalls that go hand in hand with the privileges; such a student had better not come to a college at all.