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Faculty to Consider Proposals to Retain Shopping Week, Establish Biotechnology Business Degree

University Hall.
University Hall. By Justin F. Gonzalez
By Jonah S. Berger, Crimson Staff Writer

The Faculty will debate a proposal to retain shopping week until at least 2022 at its monthly meeting Tuesday, likely setting up a vote before the semester ends.

The proposed legislation would establish a standing committee to review shopping week — the period at the beginning of each semester during which students can sample classes before enrolling — and course registration overall. The committee, which would have until spring 2022 to finish its work, will be tasked with creating algorithms to better predict course enrollment and trying to coordinate class lotteries.

The legislation is the latest in a debate over shopping week that has stretched for years. Faculty and graduate students have criticized the current system for creating job insecurity for teaching fellows, in some instances leading to late paychecks, and for reducing instruction time during the first week of the semester.

The proposal is the culmination of months of work by another committee, led by Philosophy Professor Bernhard Nickel — which determined that the elimination of shopping week, an idea supported by multiple administrators including FAS Dean Claudine Gay, was premature at this point.

“We had lots of conversations with other people in the University, listening sessions, one on one conversations, we had a website where we got about 400 comments through the commenting function,” he said in an interview Monday. “And then we discussed this at length within the committee and outside, to refine our reasoning.”

“Ultimately, what we found was that the issue of shopping period is really a very nuanced and very complex one,” he said.

The Faculty will also consider a proposal to establish a new degree program for Harvard Business School students, called the “Masters of Science in Biotechnology: Life Sciences,” at Tuesday’s meeting.

The degree, which will take two and a half years to complete, will be geared towards students seeking to work in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. The program will be reviewed after five cohorts have graduated.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the faculty will discuss a proposal to overhaul the empirical and mathematical reasoning requirement to the General Education curriculum. The new requirement — called the Quantitative Reasoning with Data requirement — will “ensure that students reach a level of quantitative facility involving mathematical, statistical, and computational methods,” according to the proposal.

The requirement aims to improve students’ ability to “think critically about data,” the proposal states.

Though the Faculty Council — the Faculty of Arts and Science’s highest governing body — approved all three proposals at its meeting last week, its vote is purely advisory.

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @jonahberger98.

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