Report Proposes 4-1-4 Calendar

Committee suggests fall exams before break and possible January term

First semester exams would conclude before winter break and January would be kept open for a potential “alternative term” under the scheme recommended by a University-wide committee on calendar reform.

The lengthy report, as described by Professor of Law Harry S. Martin ’65, also proposes starting fall classes in the beginning of September, adding a day to the Thanksgiving break and holding Commencement in May.

The committee—composed of 13 professors and five students—recommends that the month of January be left free of standard curricular requirements. And the decision to hold a formal January term, often called a J-term, or stay on vacation would be “left up to each school,” Martin said.

The report includes a calendar prototype, which proposes a 4M-1M-4M model, with 62 days of class for each semester, five to eight days of reading period and an eight-day exam period, according to a source closely involved with the committee’s planning.

The source added that the prototype works on a rotation, so that some years the fall term would begin on Sept. 2 and end on Dec. 3, and in other years, the semester would begin on Sept. 7 and end on Dec. 9. Fall exam period would run between Dec. 11 and Dec. 19 in one year, and Dec. 15 and Dec. 22 in the other.

In one of the years, the spring term would begin on Feb. 2 and end on May 4, with final exams between the 13th and 20th and Commencement on May 28.


The one-month J-term would fall in between the fall and spring semesters.

Discussion of a J-term actually predates the formation of the calendar committee, which occurred last September, according to Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71.

“We were considering J-term before the calendar committee was announced, and were surprised to find that it had been adopted with enthusiasm by so many of the other faculties at Harvard,” Gross wrote in an e-mail.

The report is slated to be released Monday, according to committee member and Jones Professor of American Studies Lizabeth Cohen.

The committee’s proposal is scheduled to go before the Faculty Council—the Dean of the Faculty’s 18-member advisory body—next Wednesday in preparation for a calendar presentation at April’s Faculty meeting.

While the Faculty may be gearing up to debate potential changes, the University’s Governing Boards have the final say in deciding changes to the calendars of Harvard’s schools, according to the bylaws of the University.

But Undergraduate Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05 warned that the proposed changes might not serve the interests of undergraduates. A Crimson poll conducted in December of 363 undergraduates showed that students are split on moving exams: 45 percent favor moving exams before break, while 40 percent prefer keeping the current schedule.

“Based on what I have heard, I am concerned that the College is going to try to force a calendar that is administratively simpler but not in students’ best interest,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Three things student really value are having a week-long Thanksgiving break, a real winter break and a spring term that allows them to start summer plans at a reasonable date. I’m worried that this calendar doesn’t do enough to address any of those needs.”


The calendar committee was charged with an eye toward synchronizing calendars across the University’s schools.

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