Reading Period In Two Easy Weeks

Student members of the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) have already taken a baby step toward calendar change--and have already encountered opposition.

The students want a moratorium on hourlies and presentation of new material during the last half of Reading Period. They say students should have at least some portion of Reading Period free to review and assimilate course material.

Original Reading Period legislation leaves it up to each professor whether to schedule a Reading Period in each of his courses. Those instructors who decide not to hold Reading Period may continue to lecture, schedule labs, and give problem sets right up to the first day of exams.

In practice, of course, most professors--especially outside of the natural sciences--accept the fact of life that Reading Period begins about two weeks before exams and reduce the workload in their courses. But the practice, especially prevalent in the sciences, of assigning problem sets and giving hourlies right up to exam period shocks many humanities and social science students.

In addition, the legislation intended students to spend Reading Periods in independent study, learning new material on their own. Those rules limit instructors to assigning only 200-300 pages of moderate reading during that time.

Because Reading Period as a time for review and assimilation is not technically a part of the current calendar, instituting the proposed moratorium would be a change in the academic calendar.

"In a sense it's true that this institutes a mandatory Reading Period," Jay A. Mattlin '82, chairman of the Educational Resources Group, says, but he adds that CUE members like to think of it as simply an amendment to Reading Period practices. "There's a certain difference between what a proposition is and how you actually present it," he says.

Howard C. Pomeranz '82, a member of CUE, says, "We decided, instead of trying to attack the whole idea of calendar reform, just to take Reading Period which seems to be the greatest source of student criticism. We feel that if we can get something done about some small part of it it would be easier to get something done about the larger question," he adds.

However, faculty members have raised those questions the students would rather avoid. William J. Skocpol, associate professor of Physics and a member of CUE, insists that the issue clearly deals with a change in the calendar. He says he would like to see a complete plan for revising the academic year rather than pass separate measures in piecemeal fashion.

Richard J. Herrnstein, professor of Psychology and a member of CUE, also links the issue with a professor's right to run his courses as he sees fit.

"A change in the character of Reading Period is rather a bigger change than the CUE students tend to understand," he says, adding that Reading Period is "an option in the hands of the instructor, not the registrar."

With this calendar change, though, the students have an advantage those working to move exams before Christmas do not: the ability to compromise constructively. Students weighed down by burdensome Reading Periods may gain some ground even if the Faculty only accepts the proposals as suggestions.