Winter Break Shortens Reading Period

Crazy Calendar Cuts Cram Time

Reading period always seems short enough every semester, but this January only 11 dark winter days have been allotted for catching up on fall term work, three fewer than usual.

According to Registrar Margaret E. Law, reading period has no set length. How many days students get to save themselves after a semester of procrastination depends on the winter holidays, commencement and federal holidays.

Between the third Monday of September and Commencement, which is always the 38th Thursday after that, Law said she must squeeze in the various add, drop and withdrawal deadlines, vacations, exams and reading periods. She aims for 166 to 167 teaching days per year and tries to spit them evenly between semesters.

'A Real Mess'

"The fall term is a real mess because of Christmas and New Year's," which both fall on Tuesday, said Law. "If the term starts late in September, then technically reading period should start before New Year's, but Christmas is Christmas and New Year's is New Year's." Student will be returning to school on a Thursday, which is later in the week than in the past, but still starting exams on a Monday.

Another factor which has claimed a day of reading period is that the holiday honoring. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King this year falls during exams not during reading period, as it has for the past several years. Accordingly, Law said she had to take a day of reading period to keep the required number of exam days.

For several years Harvard has celebrated the civil rights leader's birthday with a half day holiday. But this year, Law said, President Bok decided to make a full day holiday on the 3rd Monday of January, a year before the rest of the country. Congress last year voted, beginning in 1986, a January federal holiday honoring King.

"I think now students are beginning to realize that we only have a week and a half of reading period this fall, and no one is very happy about it," said Benjamin I. Border '85, a member of the student-faculty Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE). The committee is discussing ways of improving reading period in general.

Having Fun

Law said that although there are certain firm guidelines for drawing up the schedule, the University is willing to change certain important days--like registration or the first day of classes--if they conflict with religious holidays.