The Extra-Curriculum

Undergrads are increasingly looking outside of the classroom for a different kind of education

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“I blame the faculty,” says Government professor Harvey C. Mansfield ’53. “If you get an easy A, there’s no way you’re going to work as hard as if you don’t.”

The academic literature lends credence to this sentiment. According to a paper by sociology professor Christopher Winship, grade inflation in higher education could help explain why the amount of time students spend studying has decreased by 50 percent in the last four decades.


The spring’s UC campaign for student funding was, in a sense, demonstrative of conflicting views about the importance of the parts of a Harvard experience.

“When it comes to where you are putting your money, the administration has shown very clearly that they don't see [extracurriculars] as a priority for students," Mayopoulos says.

And while, as reflected in its capital campaign priorities, Harvard continues to reaffirm its identity as an academic institution built on a tradition of teaching and learning, some students still define their undergraduate experiences by their time outside of class. They instead opt to go down their own paths to an undergraduate education, learning from peers more often than books.

“I will always define my experience at Harvard looking back based on the extracurriculars that I did, not necessarily the class work that I did,” Guidarini says. “I love my classes, but the bulk of my life—my social life, my time, my involvement—has been in extracurricular activities, and I think that’s always how I’ll define my time at Harvard.”

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

—Staff writer Steven S. Lee can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @StevenSJLee.