At Tuesday’s Faculty of Arts and Science meeting, Harvard faculty are expected to vote on two controversial proposals — one that would allow students to pursue dual concentrations and another that would replace shopping week with term enrollment. previous.
In September, the Office of Undergraduate Education established a subcommittee to prepare a proposal to introduce dual concentrations. In December, an FAS committee recommended that Harvard College replace shopping week with pre-term registration, in which students register for classes a semester in advance. Last month’s FAS meeting was the first time the entire faculty discussed these issues.
Many professors have expressed support for the adoption of double concentrations. Currently, students can only pursue joint concentrations culminating in an interdisciplinary dissertation.
Matthew Saunders ’97, professor of art, film and visual studies and director of undergraduate studies, said he thinks dual concentrations would better allow students to explore diverse academic interests.
“So many people are interested in the type of course we offer in film and visual arts, and it’s often difficult to figure out how to adapt it,” he said. “There is a burden on joint concentration to do a joint thesis.”
Boaz Barak, professor of computer science and director of undergraduate studies, wrote in an emailed statement that while undergraduates have produced meaningful theses in the department, students should not be required to write a joint thesis if they are not intellectually interested in combining the two fields.
“I expect most students who want to combine CS with another field will continue to prefer a joint concentration over a dual concentration,” he wrote. “However, I think a student should only do a thesis if they are intellectually driven to it, not to satisfy an administrative requirement.”
Kathy A. Richman, director of undergraduate studies and lecturer in Romance languages and literatures, wrote in an emailed statement that the “only downside” she sees to double majors is that they would increase the total credits required for students.
Meeting the requirements for two full concentrations in addition to general education courses and distribution requirements would leave a student with less room in their schedule to explore other areas, she wrote.
Registration for the previous trimester
Regarding the fate of shopping week, teachers’ opinions are divided.
During the pandemic, the College established a pre-term enrollment model with an add-and-drop period at the start of the semester. Under the new proposal, students would be required to choose their courses in the previous semester.
Richman wrote that she thought the add-drop period was a suitable substitute for the shopping week.
“Indeed, I don’t believe that Harvard undergrads really ‘lose’ shopping week,” she wrote. “The add-drop period at the beginning of the term has the same objective of being able to explore a reasonable number of courses. It would be useful if the new system allowed students to pre-register for 5 courses.
Barak wrote that he sees benefits in both pre-registration and shopping week, but that the school needs to get “the right details.” Faculty should prepare course materials in time for students to make informed decisions, students should still be able to change courses without petition during the first week, and students should have a say in setting implementation of the proposal, he wrote.
In a statement sent to The Crimson and signed by 36 faculty and alumni, Harvard Kennedy School fellow and Ph.D. Richard Yarrow, government candidate Max Kuhelj Bugarič ’19 expressed concerns about an early registration system in lessons.
“The interweaving of disciplines and ideas of the liberal arts model works best when students are encouraged to freely explore interesting topics and make connections between different fields on their own,” the letter states. “We believe that too many of the benefits of this model will be lost with the new system.”
The statement claims that the shopping period offers students the opportunity to explore unfamiliar areas with unfamiliar professors and allows them to decide on their courses after seeing their instructors “in action” rather than the “rumors and flawed grades of the Q”.
Acknowledging that Harvard has had to adapt during the pandemic, the letter calls the abandonment of shopping week “bizarre,” arguing that course shopping is “probably the most Zoom-appropriate of all Harvard traditions.”
The letter urges the College to re-enact the shopping period.
“We hope that Harvard College will return quickly and maintain a highly flexible, open, and intellectually dynamic course registration system, a key and underappreciated foundation that has made Harvard’s liberal arts model thrive,” he said. he.
One of the signatories to the statement, physics professor and director of undergraduate studies Howard M. Georgi ’68, wrote his own letter opposing pre-registration, saying the shopping week is a ” unique and valuable part of Harvard College”.
“We don’t have cookie-cutter students and we don’t teach cookie-cutter courses,” he writes. “It’s important for students to get a sense of how the professor teaches and the vibe of the class, staff, and students, and that just can’t be done the previous semester.”
Although Georgi said the shopping week “adds to the chaos of the first few weeks,” he wrote that Harvard should try other solutions before taking the “drastic step” of requiring pre-registration.
Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Dane declined to comment.
At Tuesday’s meeting, faculty will vote on the broad principles of early enrollment. If the proposal passes, an implementation committee will then decide the details, according to computer science professor Edward W. “Eddie” Kohler.