College Cuts J-Term Plans

Citing tighter budgets, Harvard will no longer offer “January Term” programs

Administration officials announced yesterday that the College will not be offering any “January Term” programs next year, a revelation that comes nearly two years after Harvard first decided to alter the College calendar to include a “J-Term.”

Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds said that the financial situation has forced the College to abort its previous plans to offer programming for the “January Experience”—as it has come to be known.

Planning for the period was in its early stages; Assistant Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer had recently been appointed to lead planning for the period, and no concrete plans had yet been announced.

“We are concerned that mounting a new, compressed, short-term set of offerings in January—particularly at a time when resources are highly constrained—would in fact distract from the College’s focus on other more central aspects of the undergraduate experience,” Hammonds and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith wrote in the e-mail to the College community yesterday afternoon.

Hammonds said that students hoping to stay on campus during the January Experience period will be required to submit an application showing a “need to be on campus,” which will then be reviewed by senior staff in the College.

She said that after the decision was made not to provide programming, administrators did not want idle students to remain on campus.

Hammonds said that varsity athletes are the clearest example of undergraduates who will be allowed to stay, but the deans’ e-mail announcement suggested that “international students, thesis writers, students conducting lab-based research, and others who cannot reasonably accomplish their work in another location” may also be permitted to remain on campus.

According to the announcement, the College will close on December 22, one day after the last fall semester final exam. On January 10, those with approval to be on campus during J-Term will be allowed back into the dorms. No other students will be able to return before January 23.

Hammonds hesitated to say for certain whether or not all dorms and houses will remain open during the January period, but said that the College would consider this issue after it decides which students will be allowed to stay on campus. She added that Annenberg will be the only dining hall open during the period.

There are also no plans to charge lower room and board fees for students who will not be allowed to stay on campus for the two weeks in January, Hammonds said.

The idea for a J-Term was first suggested by a 2003 committee charged with reevaluating the current University calendar, a group chaired by Professor Sidney Verba ’53. The Verba Committee developed a new calendar that consisted of two four-month semesters separated by a one-month break.

But calendar reform subsequently fell by the wayside amid a focus on the pending curricular review and the controversies of the Summers administration. In spring 2007, the Undergraduate Council renewed the discussion, calling for an undergraduate referendum on calendar reform­ and proposing a plan that deviated from the Verba report in omitting the J-Term.

At the end of that academic year, interim President Derek C. Bok announced that the Harvard Corporation had approved a plan modeled on the Verba committee’s original outline.

Bok had written in his announcement that plans for the time between early January and the start of spring term would be left to the discretion of individual schools.

—Staff writer Lauren D. Kiel can be reached at lkiel@fas.harvard.edu.