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Faculty Course Registration Committee Proposes Keeping Shopping Week Until At Least 2022

Faculty Escape the Rain for a Meeting
Professors enter University Hall to attend a meeting of the Faculty Council on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in Sept. 2018.

The faculty committee tasked with recommending changes to undergraduate course registration proposed that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences keep “shopping week” until at least 2022 at the Faculty Council’s biweekly meeting Wednesday.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda Claybaugh and Philosophy Professor Bernhard Nickel, who chairs the committee, presented the proposal to the Council — FAS’s highest governing body — alongside a final report from the committee.

The committee proposed that a new group be formed to “look into registration” more broadly, according to Council member David L. Howell. The new committee will spend the next several years collecting data on course enrollment trends and studying the impact of factors like graduate student unionization, the College’s recent schedule change, and the new sciences campus in Allston on course enrollment. The new group will produce a report in spring 2022.

“The new committee will collect data to have a more robust understanding of the predictability of enrollment,” Howell wrote in an email Wednesday. “Until then, the current system of shopping will remain basically in place.”

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The committee also proposed reforms to the way courses with limited space conduct lotteries to choose enrollees — one of several “in-between” resolutions to the shopping week debate the Council discussed at their last meeting.

Faculty have debated the merits of eliminating shopping week for years. Some argue that the delay in finalizing course enrollments created by shopping week leads to job insecurity for teaching fellows and complicates the application process for loan deferments, fellowships, and scholarships. Others praise shopping week for the flexibility in scheduling it provides undergraduates.

The debate resurfaced in March 2018, when Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana brought the topic up at a meeting of the full faculty without making any formal proposal. In response, the Council voted in September to form a committee to consider possible changes to course registration.

In the months since its formation, the committee launched a website explaining the debate and encouraging student input. Claybaugh, who served on the committee, wrote in an emailed statement Wednesday that the committee hopes to solicit further feedback from undergraduate and graduate students, staff, and faculty before any changes are finalized.

“I'm not yet able to speak publicly about the committee's proposal, but I look forward to sharing it with the entire Harvard College community as soon as I'm free to do so,” Claybaugh wrote. “This is an important question, and we don't want to decide it before hearing from everyone in our community.”

The Council also heard two other proposals at its Tuesday meeting — one to create a new masters of science and masters of business administration dual degree program and another on the College’s quantitative reasoning requirement.

Professors Mark C. Fishman and Douglas Melton, Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology Director of Undergraduate Studies William J. Anderson, and Dean for Academic Programs and Diversity Sheila Thomas presented the joint degree program proposal, which aims to provide life sciences instruction to Harvard Business School students interested in entering fields like pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Prospective students will apply through the Business School, and the program will take two and a half years to complete.

Claybaugh and Dean of Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser presented the quantitative reasoning proposal. The proposed changes would allow students to count extant courses focused on “the ability to work with data” within different disciplines towards the requirement, Howell wrote.

All three proposals were well-received by Council members, according to Howell.

“My sense is that [the Council] was positively disposed to all of them,” he wrote. “We had questions, of course, but I personally felt that the people presenting the proposals did a good job of responding and allaying any concerns.”

The Council will vote on whether to endorse the shopping week proposal and the other two proposals at its next meeting on March 27, according to Howell. They will then go before the full Faculty for discussion and a vote.

Correction: March 21, 2019

A previous version of this article misstated William Anderson's title. Anderson is the Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology Director of Undergraduate Studies.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at molly.mccafferty@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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