Few students enjoy waking up early for morning classes, but a small fraction of the student body may have a legitimate complaint based on an obscure century-old rule.
Although compulsory chapel was abolished at Harvard in 1886, a University rule prohibiting professors from holding classes that conflict with traditional 8:45 a.m. religious services endures.
This semester, 12 classes technically violate that rule, according to Thomas E. Crooks, secretary of the Committee on the Administration of Educational Policy.
The 12 exceptions received no special consideration when a Faculty panel approved the 1985-86 course catalog, Crooks said.
The anachronistic rule is currently ignored by professors and administrators attempting to work out the complicated academic schedule, Crooks said.
"This has been going on as long as I've been around," said Crooks, who has been at Harvard for 35 years.
"There's been a compromise between the rigors of late 19th century attitudes and the demands of education. No one has ever raised it for the Faculty to discuss," he said.
"Nobody paid any attention" to the rule when classes were arranged, said Andrew M. Gleason, Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. "I suggest you go around and check the daily chapel attendance," he said.
Two lecture courses in the Mathematics Department as well as sections in introductory courses meet before 9 a.m., he said.
Although recently the age-old rule has fallen by the wayside, it was rigorously adhered to as late as the 1920s.
"When I was in college, there were language classes that met at 8, but they had to stop at 8:45," said Mason Hammond '25, Pope Professor of the Latin Language and Literature Emeritus.