Students Cram Classrooms for First Day of Classes

Professor N. Gregory Mankiw addresses students in Sanders Theater during the first lecture of Economics 10b: Principles of Economics on Monday.
As students resumed classes on an overcast Monday morning, they faced a temporarily malfunctioning online course search tool, a number of overcrowded or filled classrooms, and a few flurries of snow.

The my.harvard course selection website created to centralize students' course browsing malfunctioned for some students throughout the day. Some students reported slow loading times as they tried to find information about courses for the semester; students also said they had trouble using the site at the start of the semester in spring 2016.

“In the end, a server which supports search in the portal reached its CPU limit. Alerts were sent to the hosting provider's infrastructure team, but the server stopped functioning before the issue could be corrected,” Harvard University Information Technology’s Director of Enterprise Systems Carolyn Brzezinski wrote in an emailed statement. “The number of CPU's on the server has been increased, which will support us through spring enrollment.”

The lagging website did not slow everyone down, though. Some students had already prepared their course schedule by the time the spring semester Monday.

“I planned everything last night so it hasn’t been a huge issue. Sometimes I wish I could see syllabi,” Carolyn R. Ye ’17 said. “It will be an issue if it continues not working tonight, because I need to look for my classes for the rest of the week.”


Still, students flocked to a wide variety of offerings, filling classrooms in courses ranging from the humanities to the sciences.

English Professor Louis Menand’s “English 170a: High and Low Postwar America” featured a line of students stretching out of a crowded Harvard Hall classroom.

“It was great that students are interested,” Menand said. “I haven’t offered it in two or three years, which may explain the large turn out.”

Menand said he will try to find a larger room for the course rather than offering students spots through a lottery. In some cases with such large turnouts, professors resort to limiting the number of students who can enroll in a course.

“I don’t want to put a cap on it; we’ll find a bigger room,” Menand said.

Some General Education courses, such as “Science of the Living System 17: Human Physiology: From Personal to Public Health” were also popular among undergraduates. Nancy L. Sieber, who teaches the course with Stephanie Shore, said the course seems to be growing.

“I was really pleased. This is the second year we’ve been offered the year in a newly formatted way. Last year we had 35 students, so we were really delighted today,” Sieber said.

Students who attended the class said they had to cram into the aisles and sit on the floor to make space during the first lecture.

“It was in Science Center E and there were people all along both sides of the stairs and two rows of people in the back, so I would say it was as crowded as it could have been,” Andrew Lee ’17 said.

While Sieber said she is excited about the interest in the class, she added that there are benefits to having a smaller class size.

“I think people get more out of a smaller course but at the same time we want to accommodate everyone who wants to take the course, so we’ll see,” Sieber said.

—Staff writer Edith M. Herwitz can be reached at