The Administration seems to realize that the CUE is a valuable reference for students (a copy is delivered to every room on campus at the start of the school year). While it is by no means an indispensable resource, it is a useful compilation of student opinion. This year, we were greeted with the welcome addition of an on-line CUE Guide; but the recent debate over whether to update the search engine of the new guide has raised two important issues.
Currently, courses can only be searched by title in the on-line guide, and not by other features such as professor or difficulty level. Though the technology to allow such searches is available, there seems to be resistance among members of the Committee on Undergraduate Education William M. Todd III worries that an expanded search engine would be misused for non-academic purposes.
While we are not sure what other purposes the CUE Guide could be used for (athletic? social?), we believe that embracing new technology halfheartedly-fearing its capabilities-is both counter-productive and disadvantageous to students.
The CUE Guide should not be treated as gospel, but for those students who base their course decisions solely on CUE ratings, expanding the on-line search engine will only make the jobs of those students easier; it will not encourage more students than already do to choose classes on the somewhat arbitrary and definitely insufficient set of criteria that comprise CUE Guide evaluations.
Also discussed at the CUE meeting (and in fact more important than the search engine debate) was the possibility of putting final exams on the Web. On-line access to final exams would be of great help to students and we strongly recommend that the committee move swiftly on this issue. Otherwise, students will continue-often in vain-to try to find old exams in libraries across campus. Even when such exams are found, tracking them down often requires the wasting of a precious afternoon. Though there is an issue of confidentiality, regarding access to the exams by those outside Harvard, this could be easily allayed by adding an entry format similar to the one used to access Hollis: last name, followed by identification number.
The Web has become an integral part of University life, and though administrators may mourn the days when students actually had to leave their dorm rooms to acquire information, those days are rapidly disappearing. Web access to final exams will make our lives easier; and updating the search engine for the on-line CUE Guide will make being lazy easier. But it is up to students to navigate new technology, not crotchety committees.