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Since the Progressive Student Labor Movement took over Mass. Hall, Harvard student activists have protested AIDS in Africa, war in Afghanistan and Ariel Sharon in Israel. But in the past two years, outrage at issues facing the College has been conspicuously lacking. Fortunately, students have rallied behind keeping shopping period intact and staving off Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William R. Kirby’s pernicious preregistration plans.
A student petition for saving shopping period has already garnered 1,250 signatures, demonstrating widespread student opposition to the preregistration scheme. Even more undergraduates need to speak up and write to administrators and faculty in support of this honorable campaign to keep a fundamental part of the Harvard experience intact.
At the same time, the elected voice of the students, the Undergraduate Council, should match the efforts of the student petitioners and attack preregistration. Council President Rohit Chopra ’04 wrote an op-ed for The Crimson against preregistration last semester, but his responsibility to lead the student body does not end with 800 words. He must respond to the student outcry, mobilize the Council against preregistration and aggressively lobby the administration.
Fundamentally, however, students should not have to resort to signing a petition to get the Faculty’s attention. It is shocking that the administration has not lifted a finger to assess widespread student opinion on Kirby’s preregistration plan, which would so deeply affect undergraduate education. Defying the wishes of members of the Committee on Undergraduate Education, it did not even give the committee the opportunity to vote on the plan before it was placed on the docket for a Faculty vote. Kirby should have conducted a survey of all undergraduates to gauge student opinion before he presented his plan; now the burden is on students to come to Kirby and the Faculty with their dissatisfaction.
In fact, Kirby has not even alerted students to the proposed change to preregistration. A detailed letter of the plan was sent to the entire faculty on Jan. 30, but, so far, the administration has not directly notified all students of the plan’s existence. Additionally, in public communications, administrators have erroneously referred to the planned preregistration as a modified shopping period, rather than accurately describe it as an add/drop period. This bad-faith mislabeling seems designed to confuse students into submission.
The administration has unfortunately and unfairly placed the burden of fighting to save shopping period on the undergraduates who it would hurt the most. In the future, Kirby and the administration should solicit student opinion about their plans; but in the meantime, students should make their voices heard. Hopefully such strong student resistance will convince the administration to abandon its ill-conceived plan.
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