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Harvard to Close Bureau of Study Counsel in December, Open New Academic Support Center

Bureau of Study Counsel
The Bureau of Study Counsel, located at 5 Linden Street, will close in December.

The College will open a new center for academic support in August and close the Bureau of Study Counsel in December, Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda Claybaugh announced in an email to students Monday.

The new office — dubbed the Academic Resource Center — will have a slightly different focus from the BSC, Claybaugh and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Sindhumathi Revuluri said in an interview Friday. The center will primarily offer tutoring in group classes — rather than in individual sessions — and peer tutors will schedule sessions differently. BSC staff will not automatically transition to the ARC.

Much like the BSC, the new center will serve both College students and students at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences — GSAS Dean Emma Dench also announced the change Monday.

The BSC’s Linden Street building will close, and the new office will be housed at an accessible facility at 1414 Massachusetts Ave. Revuluri said she does not know how the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which owns the Linden Street property, plans to use it in the future.

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The move to close the BSC comes after several years of changes to its mission.

In 2015, then-Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris announced that the College, rather than Harvard University Health Services, would oversee the office. At the time, administrators said they were unhappy with the BSC’s “hybrid model,” where students sought both mental health and academic support under one roof.

The new center will also have a more academic focus, Revuluri said.

“It came about at a time when we did not have institutionalized or robust mental health services. And so things like the Bureau of Study Counsel took on a much more kind of advisory, mentorship, pastoral role, which actually meant that there was a lot less focus on academic issues,” she said.

Revuluri said she thinks moving towards an academic focus will help students with class-related mental health challenges.

“We believe and we've seen evidence of equipping students with concrete skills and strategies being a real key to lowering academic stress,” she said. “Which is not to say that there isn't a place for processing those experiences as well, but we defer to our professional colleagues and CAMHS for that kind of support.”

Claybaugh and Revuluri said the transition would bring a number of other benefits. Revuluri said the new office will better serve an increasing number of undergraduates with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other learning differences.

She added that she hopes the new center will help level the academic playing field at the College, citing the different levels of academic experience freshmen possess when they move to Cambridge.

Academic inequality appears to persist at the College — a Crimson report recently found that the majority of early-round Phi Beta Kappa recipients hailed from private secondary schools and public schools located in the nation’s wealthiest areas.

Revuluri and Claybaugh said they met with College students from the Undergraduate Council and Honor Council when planning the change. They also met with some faculty, who may receive feedback on their teaching under the new system.

“If one student comes in and needs help in a class, that student needs a tutor, but if a lot of students are coming in from the same class, that faculty member maybe needs some advice,” Claybaugh said.

Some BSC programs will remain open during the transition, including English as a Second Language services and individual academic advising, according to the ARC’s newly launched website. The programs will then transition to the new office in December.

In addition to hiring new staff for the ARC, the College also plans to hire two new administrators — a director and associate director focused on peer tutoring. Revuluri said the College has not yet ironed out the number of new staff positions.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at shera.avi-yonah@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

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