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Harvard Graduate School of Education Affiliates To Review Comp Process, Provide Recommendations to DSO

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee on Student Life met in Lamont Library's Forum Room.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee on Student Life met in Lamont Library's Forum Room. By Sara Komatsu
By Sydnie M. Cobb and Declan J. Knieriem, Crimson Staff Writers

The Dean of Students Office has commissioned affiliates at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to produce a report on the comp process at the College, according to Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair in a Oct. 30 Committee on Student Life meeting.

During the Oct. 30 meeting, O’Dair introduced CSL members to Richard J. Light — a professor at the Graduate School of Education — and his team of graduate students. Over the coming weeks, the group will conduct interviews with College students and produce findings and recommendations to O’Dair and Assistant Dean Kate T. Colleran.

“Over the past years, the issue of comping has come up in one way or another – through the UC, student engagement, or via our discussions,” O’Dair wrote in an email to The Crimson. “This is a complex issue and there is no one experience that students have. Some dislike it, others see benefits. It has been identified as a contributing factor to students experiencing a sense of belonging, especially as they first join our community.”

Alexa C. Jordan ’22, who serves as a student-member on CSL, said she hopes the findings from the report will improve students' quality of life.

“The CSL has been interested in the uniqueness and potential negative impact comping may have on students’ quality of life,” Jordan said.

“Do I think that sometimes the comp process can negatively impact freshman experience? Absolutely,” she added. “Comps have its downfalls and benefits. The question is, do the benefits outweigh the costs?”

Light wrote in an email that he hopes to present the group’s findings to O’Dair and Colleran by the end of next week. He added that though his specific “clients” are O’Dair and Colleran, he anticipates presenting the report to the CSL should O’Dair request it.

“My students plan to share many results, and also to make some recommendations,” he wrote. “The recommendations haven’t been developed yet.”

O’Dair also touted the benefits of the HGSE team’s independence, and wrote that utilizing a group of graduate students will produce a high level of academic thoroughness.

“In general, the advantages of having an academic course look at an issue of importance for the CSL is that they are able to look at the problem from a research standpoint – identify the problem, benchmark good practices, conduct literature review, collect other evidence and make conclusions,” she wrote.

Jordan also said she appreciated how the report was being compiled by an entity independent of student groups.

“I think what's so striking about this report is they don't have any direct interest,” she said. “I was really struck by their methodology. They're doing lots and lots of interviews, they're comparing to other institutions, which I think will be really useful of course. Harvard is a unique place, but we want to make sure that our uniqueness does not hurt students.”

O’Dair also noted that if the CSL takes the report under consideration, their role would be limited to advising the College on any recommended courses of action.

“The CSL is advisory in nature, so depending on what they recommend, we might discuss and suggest to a dean or deans the adoption of the recommendations,” she wrote.

—Staff writer Sydnie M. Cobb can be reached at sydnie.cobb@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cobbsydnie.

—Staff writer Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

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