College to Consider Early Registration

The College may require all undergraduates to submit tentative course selections before terms begin and could institute small financial penalties for students who subsequently change those courses.

Dean Rosovsky said last week he will ask the Faculty Council within the next several months to consider approving some form of pre-registration in an effort to help the College allocate classroom space and hire section leaders more efficiently.

Administrators said yesterday that because they cannot predict how many students will attend a given class, they often parcel out classroom space badly and occasionally hire far too many or too few teaching fellows for classes whose enrollment changes markedly form one year to the next.

A Small Fee

Council members said yesterday they would not favor any plan locking a student into his tentative course choices, but several said they would seriously consider charging students small fees for changing courses after terms begin.


Without financial penalties, they said, students might switch courses just as frequently as they do under current rules, which allow upperclassmen to wait more than a week before submitting course choices and give freshmen even more time.

Other colleges which require students to indicate which courses they may later select, but which have no penalties, have frequently encountered problems because students do not adhere to their tentative course rosters, several council members said yesterday.

The council has considered pre-registration schemes before but has "never made much progress," Rosovsky said, adding that he considers it "a very hard issue." He explained that "on the one hand, shopping [for courses] is a tradition here--it has certain educational values," but on the other, effective pre-registration schemes could prove "a major planning device for us."

Pre-registration could not begin administratively until the fall term of 1982, council members predicted yesterday. Even then, "it would be such a major upheaval" for planners, Joyce S. Toomre, assistant to the director of General Education, said yesterday.

Recent contractions of the pool of graduate students qualified to be teaching fellows have intensified the problem because professors increasingly must hire section leaders early to insure they will have enough, Dean Fox said yesterday, adding, "I've heard of complaints that have been articulated."

The College often must pay salaries to grad students hired for classes that draw fewer students than anticipated," David R. Layzer '46, Menzel Professor of Astrophysics and a council member, said yesterday.

When Harvard has underestimated the enrollment of a course, it often has to scramble to keep sections managably small, professors said. Layzer cited Science A-20, "From Alchemy to Elementary Particle Physics," which drew 497 students this term instead of the expected 60.

Edward L. Keenan '57, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said yesterday that because of the "inefficiency" of hiring section leaders at the last minute, he has been urging Rosovsky to consider pre-registration "for some time."

Faculty members also might make their early lectures more substantive if they knew students were somewhat committed to the course, Fox said yesterday.

He declined to comment on whether he favors pre-registration but said that by requiring tentative course selections, "you could have a mechanism where you asked students to state their intentions a month or more ahead of time and still have a shopping period.