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Op Eds

With Previous-Term Registration, Administrators Put Themselves First

Harvard faculty voted to eliminate shopping week in favor of a previous-term course registration system last year, ending a decades-old scheduling quirk that allowed students to sample courses before enrolling during the first week of each semester.
Harvard faculty voted to eliminate shopping week in favor of a previous-term course registration system last year, ending a decades-old scheduling quirk that allowed students to sample courses before enrolling during the first week of each semester. By Frank S. Zhou
By Ian M. Moore, Crimson Opinion Writer
Ian M. Moore ’26, a Crimson Editorial editor, is an Applied Mathematics concentrator in Quincy House and a member of the Quincy House Committee.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is consistently failing us as students. The move to previous-term registration is the latest such failure.

The manifest problems with previous-term registration have already been eloquently articulated by faculty members.

“The idea that students can make good informed choices about the next term before they have seen the last third of their current courses would already seem somewhat farfetched,” professor Marianna K. Linz ’11 told The Crimson in October. “Add midterms to the mix and it is hard to imagine they will be able to put in the amount of time reading the Q and talking to friends that they could at a less busy time.”

I agree with her wise insight. Why would administrators, well aware of these issues, forge ahead with previous-term registration?

There seems to be a clear pattern of Harvard administrators consistently and disingenuously choosing to put themselves before students.

It seems to me that previous-term course registration was never really about helping students, but about helping FAS bureaucrats and faculty members streamline course planning without regard to how it would complicate the lives of busy students in the thick of midterm season.

The FAS making sweeping, time-saving changes at the expense of students is nothing new.

As the FAS decided to move to previous-term registration in the spring of 2022, it also chose to strip students of shopping week — a move that was likewise protested by students and prominent faculty members for eliminating students’ flexibility to explore a wide range of courses.

This year, the Harvard College Dean of Students Office announced that it “will not recognize newly formed student organizations for the 2023-24 academic year.” The College admits students, in part, for their “leadership and distinction in extracurricular activities.” Depriving students of the opportunity to lead the College forward in new extracurricular pursuits is, in my view, detestable.

To justify this decision, the DSO cited insufficient resources to support the current number of clubs, claiming the freeze would enable “a thorough assessment of the independent student engagement environment on Harvard’s campus.”

I certainly understand the difficulty of supporting a large number of student organizations. But at the same time, the FAS reported a $84.9 million surplus for the 2022 fiscal year and has tens of millions or more available in unrestricted funds.

The FAS clearly has the capability to direct tens — or even hundreds — of thousands of dollars toward the resources that the DSO allegedly needs. Instead, it chose to disallow new student organizations.

As with previous-term registration, it seems this choice was driven not by necessity but convenience. Rather than allocating resources to support students, the College capitulated.

These events, in my mind, are a flagrant display of dishonesty. Does the FAS simply not care about students’ ability to freely pursue novel extracurricular activities? And is it at all surprising that a College spokesperson declined to comment to The Crimson on student criticism?

I am convinced that the FAS simply does not care what students think.

To its credit, the College is — like any good fiction author — consistent with its story. This week, the College cut funding for HoCos by five percent, claiming that the decision resulted in part from “an increase in students opting out of paying the student activities fee.” Again, the College recycles the tale of insufficient resources.

In the face of the FAS’s budget surplus, this claim strains believability. With millions of discretionary dollars at its disposal, the FAS should not need to cut funding because revenue from the student activities fee is down.

In the broader picture of the Faculty’s budget, the money taken from HoCo’s is hardly more than a rounding error — literally. The FAS’s financial statements round to the hundred thousand, while all the HoCos combined received $204,250 for the next fiscal year. In light of this, it is hard to see this cut as anything but a choice to prioritize administrative convenience over student life.

What does the FAS find money for instead? Fat salaries and big raises for top administrators. Go figure.

Ian M. Moore ’26, a Crimson Editorial editor, is an Applied Mathematics concentrator in Quincy House and a member of the Quincy House Committee.

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