Faculty Debate on enrollment in the previous term, proposals for double concentration | News


Faculty of Arts and Science members discussed a slew of burning issues at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, including a proposal that would move Harvard to a pre-term enrollment system instead of a week-long enrollment system. shopping and another that would allow a double concentration.

Harvard’s faculty board last month approved the prior term’s enrollment and double-major proposals, placing them on the docket for the entire faculty to vote on later.

Faculty members also discussed a proposal that would allow students to enroll in more than eight credits per semester, which was approved by Faculty Council at its Feb. 23 meeting.

Tuesday marked the first time the entire FAS debated the issues, which received considerable attention from undergraduates.

Dual Concentrations

Faculty members weighed in on the dual-focus proposal on Tuesday, which would allow undergraduates to focus in two disciplines without having to write a joint thesis.

Currently, College students who wish to study in two fields must pursue a joint concentration in which they must write a thesis that integrates the methods of both disciplines.

Professors were divided on the proposal, although it was unanimously approved by the Faculty Council last month.

David A. Haig, a professor of organismal and evolutionary biology, spoke out against the plan, saying it would change the way students use their electives by giving them an additional title for their transcript. grades.

Alternatively, Haig suggested relaxing the joint thesis requirement for joint hubs.

Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, a fine arts professor, said dual majors would steer students away from pursuing joint majors, which she says would make valuable cross-disciplinary connections.

But other faculty members said the proposal would be positive for undergraduates. Philosophy professor Bernhard Nickel said the plan would give students the opportunity to study two areas that are not conducive to a common thesis.

Peter J. Burgard, a professor of German, proposed an amendment to the plan that would require a five-year review examining the effect of double concentrations on student education. The amendment passed with 86% support.

Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Salil P. Vadhan ’95 said dual majors could prevent students from exploring and developing intellectual interests by increasing the number of badges they could collect.

But Amanda J. Claybaugh, dean of undergraduate education at Harvard, said she would expect very few students to pursue a dual major, given that few are currently earning fields. Secondary, Language Citations, Joint Concentrations, and Concurrent Masters. According to Claybaugh, 52% of students graduate in a secondary field, 16.2% with a language citation, 5.7% with a joint concentration, and 1% with a concurrent master’s degree.

Registration for the previous trimester

Faculty also discussed a controversial proposal that would implement a prior-term course registration system, abolishing shopping week — a scheduling quirk that allows students to sample classes before enrolling.

Nickel, the philosophy professor, presented the proposal, which had four key elements: the add/drop period would take place during the first week of classes, allowing students to drop in and out of classes without authorization of the instructor; professors would be required to disclose certain information about their courses earlier; the deadlines for advising students would be modified to adapt to the new course registration calendar; and technological improvements would be made to improve the registration process.

Nickel said enrolling in the previous term would allow FAS to respond to student plans more quickly. He added that it would reduce stress at the start of the semester by giving students time to make a thoughtful decision.

David Joselit ’81, chair of the Department of Art, Film and Visual Studies, expressed concern about the proposal’s impact on limited enrollment classes that require skills assessment prior to enrollment. Assessments would have to be done the year before when classes wouldn’t have affected scholars, he said, or in a last-minute, chaotic process at the start of the semester.

He added that the change would pose a challenge to the AFVS department, which relies heavily on visiting professors and lecturers who are appointed less than a semester before the current enrollment.

Sociology professor Jocelyn Viterna backed the plan. She said the shopping period — which is popular among undergraduates — is problematic for faculty because it forces instructors to adjust courses at the last minute to find additional scholars and coordinate new sections.

Computer science professor Eddie Kohler suggested extending the add/remove period to 10 days, which he said would facilitate better advice. He added that students should be allowed to pre-register for up to six courses without permission, instead of four.

If approved, the nomination for the previous term would be implemented before spring 2024.

Cross registration

The FAS also debated a proposal that would remove the eight-credit limit on cross-registration courses — courses students can take at Harvard graduate schools and other nearby universities. Under the plan, cross-enrollment courses would not count towards students’ grade point averages.

The professors were divided on the proposal.

Jewish studies professor Jay M. Harris, a former dean of undergraduate education, said open cross-enrollment with professional schools could undermine the college’s liberal arts mission.

Claybaugh argued, however, that the College already has a strong set of requirements aimed at promoting a liberal arts education.

Anya EB Bassett, director of undergraduate studies in social studies, said she hoped the proposal would encourage students to explore interdisciplinary boundaries while preventing them from taking courses at professional schools to improve their transcripts.

Online Summer School Credit

The FAS also voted overwhelmingly in favor of a policy change that will allow Harvard College students to receive credit for taking summer courses online.

Before the pandemic, Harvard only allowed certain summer courses for credit — all of which were taught in person. But he made an exception in the pandemic era to allow distance learning courses to count for credit.

—Writer Ariel H. Kim can be reached at [email protected]

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