With the Allston campus slated to open in 2020, Northwest Labs will no longer be the epitome of “far.” In order to accommodate the new trek across the river, Harvard must modernize its scheduling practices. After all, they date back to 1891, making them anachronistic even by Harvard's standards.
On March 7, faculty debated a motion that would realign start times for classes on the Allston and Cambridge campuses, staggering them to give students adequate time for the longer commute. While we commend the faculty for updating old scheduling practices to fit the new difficulties students may face in reaching class, we hope they will take into consideration how the expanded class day and cookie-cutter class lengths will impact the student body.
Currently, most classes cluster between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.―a time slot that is convenient for both student athletes, whose practices generally begin at 2:30 p.m., and professors, who often have to commute through morning traffic. In order to spread out class times, the new schedule would expand the class day to 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Though this shift will hopefully decrease the number of scheduling conflicts students will face, it may also make the commute for professors more difficult and interfere with the schedule of student athletes.
Student athletes must juggle two demanding schedules, often resulting either in giving up first-choice classes or missing out on practice to fulfill concentration requirements. Under the current system, student athletes are already pressed to find ways to take the classes they want or need, especially seminars, tutorials, and labs, which all run over the one and a half hour limit that is placed on classes beginning before 1 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. The new scheduling practice would exacerbate the problem by expanding the rigid class day. We hope that the University will work closely with the Athletic Department to clear away as many schedule conflicts as possible and ensure that student athletes are not disadvantaged academically by the proposed schedule.
Another solution that we hope the University will consider is to create separate schedules for Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Tuesday, Thursday patterns. Since many classes do need to run beyond the allotted 75 minutes, it would be more practical to build longer classes into the system by setting Tuesday and Thursday on longer time slots. This would allow more classes to be offered within the standardized class day, giving all students, especially student athletes, the chance to do more outside of class.
In creating new scheduling practices, the University must take into account the needs of all members of the student body. This measure is a chance for Harvard to correct many of the inconveniences of its outdated scheduling system while also embracing the new Allston campus.