University Cuts Printed Handbooks

In a move that will save tens of thousands of dollars, the course catalog, student and faculty handbooks, and Q guide will no longer be published in print. Beginning this fall, they will only be available online, the University announced in a statement yesterday.

The initiative will not only shave costs and eliminate waste in a time of financial duress but will offer a flexibility unseen in printed materials like the course catalog, which “is significantly out-of-date before the first copy rolls off the press,” Barry Kane, registrar of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said in the statement.

Faculty must finalize course data in time for the May print deadline, but information can easily change in the interim before the start of the next academic year, according to Kane. By the time students are filling out their spring study cards, the printed catalog is nine months old.

Eliminating printed versions of the materials will also answer University President Drew G. Faust’s call for re-evaluating activities that may increase green house gas levels, Kane said.

“It’s too bad, but given the sacrifices and contractions that are going on, I think it’s the right thing to do,” said computer science professor Harry R. Lewis ’68, who believes that a certain sentimentality is attached to the ubiquitous books. “It’s just inevitable.”

The University had been contemplating whether to eliminate its printed handbooks—over the years, other schools have done so—but the initiative “gained steam as something real” because of the financial crisis, according to FAS dean Michael D. Smith.

The initiative will eliminate printed copies of the “Courses of Instruction,” “Harvard College Handbook for Students,” “The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook for Students,” “Q Guide,” and “Information for Faculty Offering Instruction in Arts and Sciences.”

The University plans to integrate on-line course evaluation information with the shopping tool so that students can view a course’s Q scores and compare classes on the basis of various parameters. A new tool will allow students to view analyses of evaluation data that are not available in the printed guide.

“[T]he on-line versions of these documents give the user a greater ability to access information, and much more flexibility in viewing multiple sources of information synoptically,” said Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris in the statement.

—Staff writer Esther I. Yi can be reached at