The Issues Come and Go: Calendar Stays the Same

THE TIMES are changing, at least to alumni who returned to Cambridge this week: Harvard has merged with Radcliffe and women are living in the Yard, bulldozers are waiting to demolish Hunt Hall and the drillers are planning an assault on land which lies in the shadows of Widener. But all is not lost--Harvard's traditional calendar remains.

The schedule, with its late September beginning and tardy end in June, also seemed destined only a month ago for an ignominious end. At that time, approval appeared inevitable for a proposal that Harvard adopt an "early semester" plan, which would move back the beginning of the first semester two weeks, enough to allow the completion of Fall exams before Christmas vacation. The proposed calendar, currently followed in some form by 80 per cent of American colleges, scheduled the Spring term to end in mid-May.

But the Faculty on May 15 rejected the calendar proposal, in spite of its overwhelming student support and unanimous endorsement by the Faculty Council. After numerous Faculty members cited their objections to a schedule change, the Faculty voted, 79-63, to recommit the "early semester" plan to the Faculty Council for further consideration, and thus made calendar revision by Fall 1974 unlikely. Marion C. Belliveau, Faculty Registrar, has said that the schedule could be changed by that date only if the Faculty approved a new calendar by its first meeting next October.

The mid-May Faculty meeting had started promisingly for the advocates of revision. During the opening minutes the Faculty rejected an amendment to the calendar motion offered by E. Bruce Brooks, assistant professor of Chinese. Brooks's motion dictated that if the new calendar were adopted the number of class days should not be reduced.

Subsequent discussion of the calendar plan, however, dealt almost exclusively with its drawbacks. Of 11 Faculty speakers, eight voiced objections to the proposal, for its lack of scheduling coordination with the other faculties, its planned reduction of freshman orientation week and its effect on Spring athletic scheduling.

After Faculty members had spent an hour discussing the proposal, Samuel H. Beer, Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, approached Robert J. Kiely, associate dean of Undergraduate Education and the author of the calendar-revision motion, and told him that he planned to move to recommit the plan to the Council. Although Kiely insisted that he wanted a vote on the plan at the meeting, Beer decided to forward the motion, explaining to the Faculty, "I don't think the Faculty Council looked closely enough at this." Beer is a member of the Council.

To an observer, however, it appeared that the actual reason for the proposal's failure was that the Faculty did not believe the attractions of the "early semester" outweighed its drawbacks. And in fact, while students, especially freshmen, favored the plan for its promise of worry-free Christmas breaks and of scheduling that coincides with most other colleges, Faculty members viewed the change skeptically because it would require fundamental changes in scheduling patterns to which they had grown accustomed.

Since that Faculty meeting less than a month ago, the chances of calendar revision by 1974 have only grown worse. Because the most serious Faculty objection to the new calendar was its disregard for the scheduling of other faculties, Kiely expects President Bok to appoint a committee of faculty members to study how to coordinate the Faculty's "early semester" plan better with the calendars of other faculties. Unless such a committee is appointed this summer and ordered to present its report by early September, the proposal will not reach another vote by October, in time for 1974 implementation. Such speed is highly unlikely.

Robert L. Schram '76, who heads the student committee which investigated calendar options and proposed the "early semester" plan, said that the committee members will try to iron out the Faculty's objections in time for the October meeting. But he doubts that they will succeed.

Schram concedes that if calendar revision is postponed yet another year to 1975, he would favor retaining the old system, because he believes it is more favorable to seniors than the "early semester."

If calendar revision is indeed postponed another year, if calendar-revision advocates do adopt Schram's attitude, and if the Class of 1977 doesn't take up where this year's freshmen leave off, the "early semester" plan may disappear as quickly as it became an issue. And if the traditional calendar remains intact, Harvard alumni returning to their alma mater in the future will be assured that at least one bridge still remains to the good old days.