Professors Schedule Midterms on Housing Day

Sociology 43: “Social Interaction” is a course that examines social activities and group dynamics­. Yet when students across campus come together this Thursday for one of the College’s biggest days for House spirit—Housing Day—students in the course will be getting ready to take a midterm exam at 11:30 a.m.

“There is a bit of irony here,” said sociology lecturer Timothy Nelson.

As midterm season reaches its peak, several courses will hold exams on Housing Day, challenging students to find a balance between academics and the day’s festivities.

Nadia P. Armouti ’15 has a test scheduled for Arabic Bb: “Intermediate Arabic II” at noon on Thursday. She said she plans to study in advance so that she can participate in the festivities and knock on freshman doors for Currier House.

Several members of the faculty said that holding midterms the week before spring break makes the most sense, regardless of whether or not it coincides with Housing Day.

Nelson said he understands that giving a midterm on Housing Day can create a conflict for students between their social and academic activities. He said he would rather give the exam before spring break, though, so that students do not need to think about an upcoming test over break.

“In one sense, I’m doing this on behalf of the students,” Nelson said.

He also questioned why Housing Day is scheduled for the week before spring break—a popular week for faculty to schedule exams.

“It’s regrettable that Housing Day comes right before spring break when there are a lot of exams scheduled,” Nelson said. “It does put the students in kind of a difficult position of having this really intense, important day...at the same time that they have to worry about midterms and so on.”

Nelson also noted that, when he was making the schedule for the course, he did not realize that the exam would fall on Housing Day.

Economics professor David I. Laibson also told The Crimson in an email that he and economics professor Philippe Aghion forgot about Housing Day when scheduling the midterm for Economics 1011b: “Macroeconomic Theory” on Thursday.

“The social life and social calendar of the students is not really apparent to faculty,” Nelson said.

Interim Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich also emphasized that students keep academics their priority.

"We certainly understand the excitement that comes with Housing Day and that it can be play an important role in terms of building House community. However, as with all social activities, it is important for students to remember that academics must be the priority," Friedrich wrote in an email to the Crimson.

Psychology professor Steven Pinker, whose course Science of Living Systems 20: “Psychological Science” has a midterm exam on Thursday, told The Crimson in an email that academics should be the priority when such social and academic conflicts exist.

“There are countless extracurricular events and activities that could eat away at academic commitments, but academic coursework is the raison d’etre of a university, and has to come first,” Pinker wrote.

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

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