The January Experiment

With only one January Term down, J-Term’s future remains an open question

And some students who were off-campus said they found the break too long to spend entirely at home.

“We found that most [students], by about two to three weeks into it, went stir crazy and wanted to come back and do things on campus,” says Adams House Master John G. “Sean” Palfrey ’67, based on his interactions with students.


Hammonds says that concerns raised by students and College administrators have led to the College’s decision to open up the campus a week earlier next January, which Undergraduate Council Vice President Eric N. Hysen ’11 refers to as an “incredible start” in the evolution of J-Term.

Many students reported that they faced a barrage of responsibilities when they returned to campus this year, such as summer application deadlines.


“We heard a lot from students and from various offices that [the beginning of the spring semester] was rushed,” Hammonds says. “It seemed like people needed a bit more time to come back in and settle down.”

In addition, many student groups felt that J-Term was a missed opportunity to organize their own activities.

“There’s a lot of potential that could be unleashed here if they said you have a month free to generate something really cool,” says Courtney L. Blair ’10, the former president of the International Relations Council.

In an effort to advocate for student-initiated programming during J-Term 2011, the UC and student group leaders submitted a position paper with detailed proposals for student group-organized activities.

While the College’s recent decision to open the campus earlier will not offer clubs the opportunity to host programs longer than a week, UC leadership says they see the decision as a positive step.

“I’m really happy that they opened it up for the last week of January because a lot of student groups really need that time. In general, it will help students to get back in the swing of things,” says UC President Johnny F. Bowman ’11. “I think they really responded to our requests regarding that.”

Bowman says the Council will continue to push for more reforms next year.

“We are still trying to get Harvard to open up more of January to accommodate more student groups,” Bowman says. “But given the budget, we understand there are restrictions.”


As the College considers its options for the future of J-Term, the proliferation of activities is partially limited by the unique residential structure of the College, administrators say.