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Harvard 101

A crash course for the Class of '08

By Michael B. Broukhim, MICHAEL B. BROUKHIM

The doors of summer are officially set to close with the beginning of classes on Monday; don’t let them hit you on your way out. I’d like to be one of the first to welcome you to “The Bubble”—and give you a preview of what’s inside.

You see, at Harvard, we don’t have cable television. No Fox News, no CNN, not even the Daily Show. Without a talking head to tell us the latest on Hurricane Ivan, the Bubble, with The Crimson as its guardian, fills itself up with news about Harvard issues. Ne’er was a person more confused than I was as a freshman entering the Bubble not knowing what country Allston was in or if Rohit Chopra was a world renowned self-help author. (He was the previous Undergraduate Council President, the current one is Mathew Mahan).

But you will not suffer my fate. You have a friend out there—and he is me. You will be equipped with knowledge because I will give it to you. Here is the rundown of the four biggest issues in the Bubble at the tail-end of last year and enough background to carry you through the most demanding Annenberg banter:

The Curricular Review: Every so often, the powers that be at Harvard get together and try to articulate anew what it means to be an educated person. The last such review, in the mid-1970’s, resulted in a document that laid the foundations for today’s Core. Last Spring, under the leadership of Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby, Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross, and Associate Dean of the College Jeffrey Wolcowitz, the College released the Harvard College Curricular Review (HCCR) report. Among its recommendations were calls to do away with the Core in favor of distribution requirements, a new brand of courses, the Harvard College Courses, a push for students to study abroad, improved advising and science education and delay the concentration decision until the middle of sophomore year. These proposals and others will likely be subject to debate and voting by the Faculty throughout this year.

Calendar Review: Closely tied to the Curricular Review is a reassessment of the Harvard College calendar, with the debate centering on whether to move final exams to before winter break, potentially opening the door for a January term in a revamped “4-1-4” calendar. The change, which could be implemented as early as your junior year, would also align the calendars of all of the University’s schools, facilitating easier cross-registration options.

The Move to Allston: Allston is across the Charles River from Cambridge. It’s where much of the College’s athletics fields and buildings are situated. This large swath of land is due for a major overhaul and integration into the larger Harvard campus. Though you won’t be here to see it, plans tentatively include building eight new undergraduate houses on that side of town (and moving undergrads out of the Quad), transferring the locus of undergraduate life from the Yard to the Charles. Much has been made of the administration’s tight lips when it comes to discussing Allston plans.

Undergraduate Council Fee Hike: Nothing created a stir on campus last year like a stealthily proposed termbill fee hike. That $60 fee on your termbill is almost double the $35 it used to be, and it will increase again to $75 for next year. Having failed to mention the fee hike when running for council president, Mahan successfully persuaded the campus to narrowly vote in favor of the increase in a school-wide referendum; however, a proposal to make the fee mandatory failed. With a lot more bling in its coffers, the council has promised to come through with bigger and better events and greater funding of student groups.

That’s the Bubble for you; may this guide provide wisdom for your Harvard life. Say Hi to Domna. Enjoy the popcorn chicken. And godspeed for freshman year.

Michael B. Broukhim ’07, a Crimson editorial editor, is a social studies concentrator in Dunster House.

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