The Faculty Council has begun considering scheduling options for the new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences campus in Allston, due to open next fall. Unfortunately, past significant logistical changes, such as last year’s implementation of the new academic course schedule, cannot be said to have gone especially smoothly. Given that, we hope the administration has taken special care to learn from and avoid the mistakes of that process as it turns to scheduling for the Allston campus.
Integrating Allston into the College next year will require a number of complex logistical maneuvers to function well if it is not to worsen the learning experience of students attending classes there. As many students’ aversion over the distance to the Quad demonstrates, geography is not a problem to underestimate or under-plan for. And the Allston campus raises other problems, like guaranteeing students timely access to food and minimizing the number of trips necessary in a given day.
But ultimately, our biggest worry is that the College and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is spreading itself too thin. The geographic divergence of campuses, residential facilities, and disciplines runs counter to the liberal arts commitment that students have access to a broad range of opportunities and experiences by encouraging siloing between the various geographic spaces.
We are concerned the University has not adequately considered the possibility that the physical separation of the SEAS campus from the rest of the school will lead to a deeper psychological one as well. Scheduling choices will not just determine the times when students take classes; they will have effects on academic philosophies. To that end, the new scheduling system should not operate under the assumption that all SEAS students will necessarily spend most of their time in Allston, even if the faculty hope to arrange classes such that travel time between the two campuses is minimized.
It would be a shame if timing and logistical issues discouraged technical students who want to pursue and integrate other non-technical disciplines from doing so. Diverse combinations of classes and disciplines are exactly the ones we should encourage — combinations that would not be easily anticipated by a proposed new predictive easing algorithm to calculate conflicts between popular courses. Indeed, we have previously stated our support for initiatives which seek to join disparate fields together, as they fulfill the College’s professed mission of offering a premier liberal arts education.
That said, this proposed predictive easing algorithm is a positive indicator that FAS is looking to take these challenges seriously. It aims to anticipate pairs of courses SEAS students might take in the same semester and control for time conflicts. Such a tool would in fact be valuable not just for classes taking place in Allston, but all classes across FAS. Since the new scheduling system allows for fewer time slots in the day than the previous system, it appears that students of all disciplines are facing more conflicts between classes that prohibit them from taking courses they would ideally take together.
However, given the University’s prior technological fiascos, most recently with my.harvard during shopping week, our optimism for this algorithm is tempered with a healthy dose of caution. And of course, technological stopgaps that help alleviate the problem of geography, such as this predictive analysis tool or a desperately needed more timely shuttle system, can only be that — stopgaps.
As Allston’s opening date nears, the administration naturally must turn to these thorny practical issues. But we urge FAS and the University to keep in mind that effective scheduling for Allston is about more than logistical integration.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.