Reform of the academic calendar to include final exams before winter, break is unlikely to happen soon, President Neil L. Rudenstine and Provost Jerry R. Green told The Crimson in separate interviews this week.
Members of the Undergraduate Council, which has made calendar reform one of its primary goals, expressed disappointment yesterday at the administrators' statements, but process is still in the early stages.
The council has proposed a calendar that would allow students to enjoy a four-week intersession by shifting exams to December.
The Committee for Undergraduate Education is currently discussing the reformed calendar, under which the academic year would begin just after Labor Day.
Rudenstine said yesterday that the quality of Harvard's academic experience might be diminished if exams are taken before winter break.
"There was a feeling," Rudenstine said of a similar debate he observed at Princeton, "that if you really wanted people to write good papers and to think about them, you actually do a lot of intellectual digestion during that period."
He said if the calendar were reformed according to the proposal, Professors might feel constrained in giving longer or more difficult assignments--and Harvard's academic rigor might be compromised.
"You can't do a decent 15-page paper and a decent exam and do the reading in the last ten days of the term." Rudenstine said. "So you start tailoring it to fit the schedule. You can have effects in subtle ways."
But Undergraduate Council mem- ber Christopher J. Garofalo '94 objected toRudenstine's criticisms of the reformed calendar.
Garofalo, who has been heavily involved in thecalendar reform movement, said students do notneed the two-weeks break before reading period foracademic purposes. Under the current system,Garofalo noted, students manage to complete theirwork without such a block of time during thespring semester.
Garofalo also said that a long intersession hasadvantage of its own, such as studentsrejuvenation and extra time for seniors to work ontheses.
Rudenstine said that he could see someadvantages to the proposal, but that he did notfeel that they outweighed the disadvantages.
"I certainly think from the point of view ofall the externalities of convenience, you mightvote fop the other calendar," Rudenstinecontinued. From the point of view of value foryour money and more thinking time and more workingtime, I'm not sure it's so good,"
The Presidents, however, did not rule out adiscussion of the proposed calendar.
"I've only experienced one kind of calendar,[so my] inclinations are derived largely from myown experience," Rudenstine said. "I can't say atall categorically that one is better than theother."
Green said his opposition to calendar reformderives from problems caused by starting classesearlier.
"If you wants to get everything over beforeChristmas, you have to start before Labor Day,"Green said. "And starting before Labor Day createsa number of problems for faculty, staff and forsome students actually."
Green said that if the academic year startedearlier, faculty members who have young childrenmight have difficulty finding child care. Andstudents might have leave their summer employmentearlier than they would like, he added.
Green noted that the faculty will consider thestudents views on the issue, but presented apessimistic outlook for the near future.
"I don't see it coming immediately," he said.
Garofalo responded that starting the fallsemester earlier could be accompanied by furthermodifications in the spring semester.
The calendar that was approved by the councilon march 6 places the last exam just a few daysearlier than it occurs now.
But, since the spring semester the council'sproposed calendar is "tentative," the end of examscould be moved up, Garofalo said.
He said the possibility of anticipating examsdepends on how long the administration is willingto allow seniors to stay on campus beforeCommencement.
The possibility of moving up Commencement aswell has also been discussed, Garofalo said,although that move would require a modification ofthe University charter.
"I do think this is a setback," Garofalo saidof the administrators," comments, "But I thinkwe're still early in the process. We're going tohave more papers proposals and advertisements toeducate."
Elizabeth T Bangs and Sarah E. ScroginContributed to this story.