Students Clamor for Midterm-Free Housing Day, Administration Prioritizes Academics

Students with midterms on Housing Day expressed disappointment at not being able to fully participate in festivities, which many consider a highlight of the spring, and called for College administrators to notify professors of the event’s date earlier in the school year.

Because Harvard’s academic calendar does not list Housing Day as a University holiday, many professors are unaware of its date and do not take the event into consideration when creating their syllabi.

“I was not aware of the conflict until last week,” History of Art and Architecture professor Jennifer L. Roberts, who scheduled a midterm in her course United States and the World 12: “American Encounters: Art, Contact, and Conflict, 1560-1860” for Thursday, wrote in an email. “My syllabus was designed months ago—like all faculty, I checked the academic calendar for conflicts as I set up the sequence of instruction.”

Domenica A. Merino ’17 said that a midterm in the course Sociology 24: “Introduction to Social Equality”  was moved from Thursday to Tuesday after students approached the class’s professor, Jason Beckfield, and teaching fellows, who were unaware of a conflict.

I do think it would be nice if the administration warned the professors about [Housing Day],” Merino said. “It’s one of those highlight Harvard traditions.”

Sean M. Frazzette ’16, whose Russian B: “Intermediate Russian” oral examination is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m., agreed and said he was “disappointed” that his was unable to partake in all Housing Day festivities in order to study for his exam.

“I wanted to celebrate with the new freshmen,” Frazzette, who also had a midterm on Housing Day last year, said. “I think the University should try to embrace Housing Day as a tradition. It’s a great part of community bonding and stress relief.”

However, faculty and administrators do not universally share this view.

“We are a school after all, and of course academics come first,” Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 said. “The schedule that the faculty has to deal with is rather tight, so some may find it just hard to avoid assigning exams or papers [on Housing Day].”

General Education Committee Faculty Chair and Philosophy professor Edward J. Hall said that while he thinks Housing Day is a “cool institution,” it does not merit pressuring professors to change their course’s midterm schedule.

“Years ago Housing Day was not such a big deal, and now it’s become a big thing,” Hall said. I think there is a problem with the undergraduate culture right now where there is an imbalance in priorities between academics and extracurriculars.”

He added that in recent years, it has gradually become apparent to those working in the Program in General Education that students have been pressuring professors to schedule their exams to avoid falling on Housing Day.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris said the Office of Undergraduate Education would not consider advising professors to re-evaluate their course schedules in light of Housing Day.

Academics trump everything, and asking faculty not to schedule exams on any instructional day would be orthogonal to our purpose,” Harris wrote in an email.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at meg.bernhard@thecrimson.com Follow her on Twitter @Meg_Bernhard

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