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Faculty Vote to End Harvard Time, Extend Course Length in 2018

University Hall hosts the monthly meetings of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
University Hall hosts the monthly meetings of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. By Charles K. Michael
By Joshua J. Florence and Mia C. Karr, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: April 4, 2017 at 6:41 p.m.

The seven-minute passing period between courses known as “Harvard Time” will no longer exist beginning in the fall of 2018.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted Tuesday to adopt a new course schedule that extends the length of most courses to 75 minutes with 15 minutes of passing time between classes. Ahead of the planned opening of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’s Allston campus in 2020, the new schedule aims to give students more time to travel across the river.

Faculty members approved an amended version of a motion first presented last month by Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris.

Courses lasting longer than an hour, including some labs and seminars, will be restricted to certain time slots under the new schedule. Harris’s original motion outlined a schedule with 45 minute separations between the start of Cambridge and Allston courses; the earliest Cambridge courses will start at 9 a.m and Allston courses will begin at 9:45 a.m. Courses could begin as late as 7:30 p.m in Cambridge and 8:15 p.m in Allston.

At the meeting, James Engell, a professor of English and Comparative Literature, presented an amended version of the original proposal, which would allow two hour seminars to begin at 9:45 a.m., the only exception to an otherwise rigidly structured start and end time structure. The Faculty overwhelmingly supported Engell’s motion after University President Drew G. Faust called for a vote by hand count.

“Allowing faculty to start a two hour seminar at 9:45 a.m. with the dean's permission may make the option more attractive to the faculty many of whose days last longer than 6:00 pm,” Engell said. “I believe that this amendment would mean that more faculty would teach their two hour seminars in the morning.”

A committee will reevaluate the new schedule in 2019.

The new schedule was not without its detractors. A few audible “nays” could be heard during the vote.

Music professor Anne C. Shreffler questioned whether or not the new schedule would encourage more night classes, which could create a conflict between student performing groups and FAS courses.

“The perception seems to be that the number of evening courses is increasing,” Shreffler said. “I think it would be wise or prefered if evening classes were no longer further encouraged.”

Harris denied that the proposed changes were in any way encouraging more night classes.

“There is truly nothing in this proposal that encourages anything that isn’t currently happening,” Harris said.

While presenting his amendment, Engell urged the Faculty to support Harris’s motion regardless of the success of his amendment.

“We’re looking ahead to the possibility of a new schedule and a new campus. It looks a little bit like a new pinball game you have to master, but I think it will work,” Engell said.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

–Staff writer Mia C. Karr can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @miackarr.

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