Faculty Express Concerns Over Implementation of Calendar Reform

While the new University-wide calendar is set to take effect in less than a year, several professors expressed confusion and displeasure with the forthcoming revisions at yesterday’s faculty meeting.

The hubbub began when Reverend Peter J. Gomes, a professor of Christian morals, asked if the calendar changes would allow for the best use of Faculty time over the year, and if the changes were set in stone.

Gomes, with a note of irony in his voice, touched upon the plight of the “poor undergraduates” who are saddened by the prospect of “bringing books home over the Christmas holidays,” and that “students at other universities are free of all obligations, and go back to their places without any sense of responsibility.”

While he acknowledged that the calendar changes would help current undergraduates out of their “burdensome” predicament, Gomes wondered aloud whether the Faculty should have had more say in the decision-making process.

“I know that the [Harvard] Corporation and the President have the authority to set the calendar,” he said. “I also know that every right is not necessarily wisely exercised...Whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea, it seems that it was an idea that ought to be vetted within the Faculty.”

Faust initially joked that “this was all decided before I became President, so I need bear no responsibility.”

She moved on to discuss why interim President Derek C. Bok decided to recommend the change to the Harvard Corporation in 2007, citing the efforts of the Undergraduate Council and the support of the Harvard schools outside of the Faculty.

Bok also set up an e-mail account soliciting comment on the issue from students and professors, Faust said, and the responses were overwhelmingly positive.

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith touched upon the pedagogical benefits of calendar reform, arguing that it will allow better-timed international programs and improved cross-school teaching efforts.

“You asked whether we are fixed on this path,” Smith said. “Yes, we are fixed on this path and we are moving forward.”

‘UNDERCOVER SURVEILLANCE’

Professor J. Lorand Matory, who has frequently made his voice heard in Faculty meetings on the subject of free speech on campus, spoke yesterday on the topic of undercover Harvard University Police Department surveillance of a pro-Palestine rally in March.

The anthropology and African-American literature professor asked whether HUPD maintains an undercover surveillance unit, and, if so, who they decide to watch and why.

“Are professors surreptitiously monitored?” he asked. “Does the University tap telephones, monitor e-mails, or operate hidden cameras on campus without subpoena?”

Faust said that while the University does operate cameras to “guard” and “keep a record of movement in certain areas,” undercover HUPD officers watched the rally because the Israeli foreign minister was scheduled to visit the following week.

“To state what I hope is obvious, the University is not in the business of tapping phone calls, eavesdropping on faculty, students, or staff, or in any way maintaining an undercover unit,” she said.

—Staff writer Maxwell L. Child can be reached at mchild@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Christian B. Flow can be reached at cflow@fas.harvard.edu.