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After Snow Days, College Asks Student Groups To Prioritize School

Tourists walk around Sever Hall beside towering snow piles.
Tourists walk around Sever Hall beside towering snow piles.
By Noah J. Delwiche and Ivan B. K. Levingston, Crimson Staff Writers

As faculty scrambled to rearrange schedules after Harvard canceled three days of classes in as many weeks when historic snowfall hit New England, the Office of Student Life reached out to student groups requesting that they alter their schedules so their members prioritize academics over extracurricular commitments.

In an email last week to leaders of student groups, including The Crimson, Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich asked student leaders to set “the expectation for your membership that they should be prioritizing academic commitments over extra-curricular activities.”

Administrators, both at the OSL and the College more broadly, have previously expressed a worry that students, at the expense of academics, are spending too much time on extracurriculars, which have been on the rise over the last decade. The direct message about the snow days comes in the context of these concerns, administrators said.

In an interview, Friedrich said the OSL has repeatedly emphasized that academics should be students’ first priority. This email, which hundreds of student group leaders received, reiterated that consistent message, he said.

“It’s a general principle that we certainly believe in, but also something that’s particularly relevant for this moment,” Friedrich said.

Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67, for his part, said the number of snow days this early in the semester makes it difficult for students to stay focused on their academics.

“With the snow days it’s going to be harder than ever,” Dingman said. “I think it’s a helpful reminder that developing some flexibility around organization meetings in order to get the extra class time in is helpful. I think all of us can get very busy and forget really why we’re primarily here.”

Some student group leaders said they thought the OSL’s request to modify schedules was reasonable, although they said they will not necessarily modify comp requirements or notify all their members of the request.

Fernando Espino ’15, president of the Harvard Ballroom Dance Team, said the request is logical, given that Harvard is an academic institution, but also said he hopes that the College gives him ample notice if room schedules needed to be switched around to accommodate class changes.

Jacob R. Carrel ’16,  president of the Harvard College Democrats, said executive board members discussed the email at a meeting and agreed with its sentiment, but added that the group will likely not modify any planned events.

“For us it wasn't as much a policy change as a reminder,” Carrel said.

—Staff writer Noah J. Delwiche can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ndelwiche.

—Staff writer Ivan B. K. Levingston can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @IvanLevingston.

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