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Students Battle Packed Classes and Malfunctioning ‘my.harvard’ with Start of Spring Semester

Students file out of Sanders Theater on the first day of Spring classes.
Students file out of Sanders Theater on the first day of Spring classes.
By Elizabeth X. Guo, Crimson Staff Writer

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Students file out of Sanders Theater on the first day of Spring classes.
Students file out of Sanders Theater on the first day of Spring classes. By Kai R. McNamee

College students trudged along Harvard’s salt-stained paths back to academic buildings Monday morning on the first day of the spring semester.

Throughout the day, students had to contend with overflowing classrooms and the sudden malfunctioning of “my.harvard,” the website that houses Harvard’s course catalog and registration system, Monday afternoon.

Students said many classes including Ethical Reasoning 42: “Sex and Ethical Reasoning,” Linguistics 106: “Knowledge of Meaning,” and U.S.-World 43: “Ancestry” were filled to the brim in their respective classrooms.

Christopher Ong ’22, who attended Linguistics 106, said he did not expect so many students to show up at the course’s first meeting. All 40 desks in Boylston 105, the classroom in which the course took place, were filled, and about another 30 students were seated on the floor.

“Even more students wanted to come but couldn’t get into the door,” Ong said. “I think it probably has to do with the fact that this class is structured in a way that’s designed to be very open to beginners.”

Some professors said they plan to adjust their course plans due to unexpectedly high turnout. Maya R. Jasanoff ’96, who teaches U.S.-World 43, decided to move the class’s next meeting on Wednesday from Harvard Hall 104 to the larger Emerson 105 classroom.

“As a Harvard College alum I know first hand the benefits of shopping period, especially when it comes to discovering classes you hadn’t thought of taking before,” Jasanoff wrote in an email. “But what happened in USW 43 today is a good example of how shopping period can also interfere with the student experience by adding congestion, confusion, and uncertainty to the start of the semester.”

Shopping period, the first week of each semester which allows students to try out courses before officially enrolling, has recently come under fire after graduate students and instructors criticized the difficulties it poses for course planning. Last semester, Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda Claybaugh tasked a faculty committee with exploring alternatives to shopping week.

Statistics 104: “Introduction to Quantitative Methods for Economics” was yet another class that faced an unexpected degree of popularity. Five minutes past its 10:30 a.m. start time, the line to enter the class in Science Center Hall B still extended to the middle of the Science Center lobby.

Thaddeus J. Kennedy ’21, who waited in the line to enter, said he has looked forward to taking the course “for a while.”

“I thought I was just going to be able to go right in. This line is the biggest line I have ever seen for a course,” Kennedy said while inching forward in the queue.

Sometime Monday afternoon, students began experiencing difficulties logging into their my.harvard online accounts. Marissa G. Sumathipala ’22 said she was frustrated with the mass outage.

“My.harvard not working prevented me from sectioning in my class, which was annoying,” Sumathipala said.

Ong also experienced technical difficulties when attempting to check the syllabi of his courses but said he was able to work through the outage.

“It wasn’t too bad. I spent the last few days figuring out most of my stuff, so I was able to ask around through other people,” Ong said.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard University Information Technology is working to resolve the my.harvard malfunction. As of Monday evening, functionality had returned for many students.

“HUIT was alerted to an outage with the my.harvard system and took steps to resolve the issue as quickly as possible,” Swain wrote. “We are continuing to monitor the system and recognize the impact the outage may have had on students.”

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar Michael P. Burke emailed students Monday evening announcing FAS had extended the deadline for the check-in process — which requires students to update their personal information and read University documents — to 11.59 p.m. Tuesday due to issues with my.harvard. Students previously faced a deadline of 11:59 p.m. Monday and a fine if they did not check-in on time.

Several undergraduates said they are looking forward to beginning classes this week despite these challenges.

“We had a really long break,” Kennedy said. “I’m just excited to get after it.”

— Staff writer Elizabeth X. Guo can be reached at elizabeth.guo@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @elizabethxguo.

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