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Faculty Council Hears Plans for Allston Scheduling

Faculty Council meetings are held in University Hall in Harvard Yard.
Faculty Council meetings are held in University Hall in Harvard Yard. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writer

The Faculty Council heard preliminary plans for course scheduling at the new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences campus in Allston at its biweekly meeting Tuesday.

Former Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris and SEAS Associate Dean for Education David Y. Hwang presented the update to the Council, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ highest governing body. Harris and Hwang serve on a faculty committee charged with anticipating potential scheduling issues to make the opening of the new campus in Allston next fall “as smooth as possible,” Council member Kirsten A. Weld said.

Specifically, the committee is trying to coordinate the SEAS course schedule to ensure that all students can travel between the two campuses and still have time to eat lunch, according to Weld. The committee hopes to arrange class times in such a way that most SEAS students will only need to take one round trip across the Charles River each day, rather than darting back and forth between Cambridge and Allston for classes.

Harris and Hwang provided an extensive report on a new algorithm their committee has developed to “control for conflicts between pairs of commonly sequenced courses,” Weld said. The tool aims to anticipate pairs of courses that the average SEAS student would commonly take during the same semester and ensure the course meeting times will not conflict.

“They're basically trying to do kind of predictive easing of the effects of the scheduling transition on the students who will predominantly be taking classes in Allston, which is not a majority of students by any means,” Weld said.

Earlier in the meeting, Dean for Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser and Dean for Administration and Finance Leslie A. Kirwan ’79 presented a preview of the Dean’s Annual Report to the Council. The report — which administrators will present to the full Faculty next week — discusses trends in faculty appointments and promotions and updates on FAS finances.

The Council also heard a one-year report from FAS Registrar Michael P. Burke on the rollout of the new FAS schedule, which debuted last fall. The Faculty voted in 2017 to standardize course start and end times and lengthen class periods from 60 to 75 minutes. With the new schedule came the elimination of “Harvard Time,” a College scheduling quirk that allowed students to arrive seven minutes late to class.

“It seems like overall that the new schedule has actually been implemented quite well and quite smoothly,” Weld said.

The full Faculty will convene for its first meeting of the 2019-2020 academic year next Tuesday.

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

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