New J-Term Plans Released

College will open to undergrads eight days earlier

During next year’s January Term, all undergraduates will be allowed to return to campus eight days before classes begin, Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds announced Friday.

The College will be closed to students from Dec. 22 to Jan. 15, 2011, but the campus will reopen on Jan. 16—approximately a week before second semester classes commence, according to Hammonds’s statement, which was sent to the undergraduate community.

In contrast to this year’s J-Term—when students without explicit approval were not permitted to stay on campus for any part of the period—all undergraduates will be able to return to Harvard about a week before classes begin on Jan. 24.

“We heard a lot from students and from various offices that [the beginning of the spring semester] was rushed,” Hammonds said. “It seemed like people needed a bit more time to come back in and settle down.”

During the last eight days of next year’s J-Term, all campus facilities—such as dining halls, shuttles, gyms, and libraries—will operate on a normal term-time basis.

The administration is hoping to facilitate student group-initiated programming during that week-long period.

As was the case last year, students with specific needs—including varsity athletes, international students, thesis writers, and students conducting lab-based research—will be able to apply for permission to stay on campus during the first three and a half weeks, according to the statement.

Before the announcement was made, student groups such as the Institute of Politics and the Phillips Brooks House Association had articulated a desire to organize their own events during J-Term. The Undergraduate Council had also released a January Term position paper in February advocating student group-initiated programming, which included detailed proposals for structured activities from approximately 30 student groups.

UC Vice President Eric N. Hysen ’11 called the announcement a “step in the right direction” for J-Term.

“It’s incredibly exciting that student programming is going to be a reality this January,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been pushing for, what students have wanted since J-Term first became a possibility.”

Hammonds also hinted that there may be limited College-sponsored programming during J-Term, including more social events in the Houses and workshops from the Office of Career Services.

The College administration is planning to build an online portal for next year’s J-Term, which will host the application for housing. The portal will also list all programming taking place on campus during the month-long period and provide resources to help off-campus students find internships and other opportunities, Hammonds said.

In addition to the categories of students permitted on campus for the entirety of J-Term last year, Hammonds said there might be room for a few more arts groups to stay in residence, though she noted that the number of students allowed to stay will continue to be restrained by the capacity of Annenberg Hall, the only dining hall that will be open during the restricted period.

The longer winter vacation was created as part of the University’s calendar reform, which took effect this academic year. Though originally touted as a unique opportunity to offer interesting programming for students, the administration announced last spring that the College would offer no programming and limited housing for the 2010 J-Term in light of budgetary constraints.

Hammonds said she felt the inaugural J-Term this past winter was successful overall, based on the feedback she received from an undergraduate survey, a faculty survey, and reports from all College offices.

“There’s room for improvement, and we’re trying to take that very seriously,” she said. “We’re still living in a period of [financial] uncertainty.”

—Staff writer Melody Y. Hu can be reached at melodyhu@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at newcomer@fas.harvard.edu.

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