Though reading period and exams are over, I want to reply to some of the opinions expressed in the Crimson in the past few weeks concerning the length of reading period. I would have written this reply earlier, except that I was busy all reading period, first writing a 20-page research paper and then studying for four exams.
The most recent article, "The Procrastination Cycle" (Editorial, Jan. 25), suggests that, ideally, exams should be given before the winter break. This would allow students to enjoy their time away from school without worrying about exams. However, if exams must be given after break, the author of this article asserts, then reading period should shortened. Harvard students may have a discipline and procrastination problem, she says, and shortening the reading period would help alleviate those problems.
I too would like not to have to drag a suitcase full of books home for the holidays, only to drag it back with many of the books unopened. However, moving exams before break is not the best solution to this dilemma. Many students simply do not have the time to complete all their work during the regular class schedule and also prepare for exams without a sufficient break.
As a biology concentrator taking some challenging courses, I know that I would never be able to be ready for exams if they were given before break. Contrary to what some students who take lighter loads think, Harvard courses, particularly in the sciences, can be quite demanding. The workload can be a bit too much even for those with good study habits. Students need reading not only to catch up with the large amounts of reading and assignments, but also to fully absorb and under stand the material.
I found myself struggling to find enough time to adequately study for exams, but procrastination was not my problem. The problem with reading period as it stands is that many professors continue to assign large amounts of work and continue to hold classes during this time which is supposedly reserved for studying. For example, Chem 30 had two long problem sets due during this time, and classes continued to meet until the end of reading period's second week.
A shorter reading period only makes the task of studying for finals more stressful. Perhaps students who find themselves in reading period "with no work to do" should participate in some other activities. If some students find they have a procrastination problem, then maybe they should look to their own work habits instead of blaming the schedule which many other students need to adequately complete their work. Ishir Bhan '96
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