Proposal Could Eliminate Assignments Due During Reading Period

Final papers and projects will no longer be due during reading period if a proposal discussed at Wednesday’s Committee on Undergraduate Education meeting comes to fruition.

At the meeting, committee chair and Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris presented a proposal that would alter the structure of reading period, committee member and Pforzheimer House resident dean Lisa Boes said in an interview Wednesday evening.

Under the proposed schedule, all final course assignments would be due at designated dates during exam period, Boes confirmed. Students would be notified of these due dates at the beginning of the semester.

Committee members also discussed adjusting the length of reading period. Currently, reading period usually lasts between seven and eight days, while exam period is typically nine days long. Under the proposal, reading period would lose a day, while exam period would be extended by one day and possibly renamed “final project period,” Boes confirmed.

Boes said she supports the proposal because it better defines the last weeks of the semester.

“It also treats the culmination of courses in a comparable way, regardless if the culminating work is a paper or a project or a seated exam,” Boes said. “I think the format [Harris has] proposed is helpful for students because it protects reading period.”

Harris did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Boes also voiced hope that the proposed change would eliminate stress for students, saying she believes two or more papers due within the last days of reading period can cause anxiety.

Danny P. Bicknell ’13, former president of the Undergraduate Council, said he believes the plan has the potential to benefit students.

“Any proposal that reexamines the true purpose of reading period should be welcomed by students,” Bicknell said, adding that the details of the proposal will need students’ feedback.

The Committee on Undergraduate Education is not a decision-making body, and instead offers a forum for the professors, administrators, and students who serve as its members to brainstorm and debate pedagogical changes. For the change to be enacted, the faculty would have to vote on the proposal, which would require an open discussion at a faculty meeting and another discussion by the Faculty Council, according to Boes.

UC Vice President Jen Q. Y. Zhu ’14, who was present at the meeting, said in an interview Wednesday evening that it is important for students to be involved in the discussion going forward. Zhu also said both students and administrators should make sure they are aware of any unintended consequences the change might create.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at mconway@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

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