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Harvard Faculty to Vote On Advancing Deadline to Join Courses While Delaying Pass-Fail Deadline

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is expected to vote on a proposal to move up the deadline to register for new courses.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is expected to vote on a proposal to move up the deadline to register for new courses. By Michael Gritzbach
By Tilly R. Robinson and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is expected to vote next month on a proposal to move up the deadline for registering for new courses and push back the pass-fail deadline.

The proposed amendments to the student handbook, discussed at an FAS meeting Tuesday afternoon, would move the deadline for adding courses to the second Monday of the semester without instructor consent and third Monday with consent. The deadline for dropping courses would remain the fifth Monday of the semester.

The proposal also seeks to allow students to change a course’s grading basis to pass-fail as late as the eleventh Monday of the semester — a notable shift from the current fifth Monday deadline.

If approved, this proposal would mark yet another major adjustment to the FAS course registration policies, which were overhauled this semester to implement a new previous-term registration system. The decision to replace shopping week — which allowed students to easily switch courses during their first week on campus — with the new policies has divided Harvard’s faculty.

The proposal, presented by Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda Claybaugh, followed a 2022 report which suggested moving the pass-fail deadline to the last day of the semester while moving the add deadline up even further: the end of the first week without instructor permission and the second week with it.

During the meeting, Math professor Melanie Matchett Wood said freshmen often switch between introductory math courses covering overlapping content, meaning students may still be prepared to swap courses several weeks into the semester.

English professor James T. Engell ’73 added that he was concerned the proposed deadline to join new classes would be too early.

After the deadline, students seeking to add a new class would need to petition the Harvard College Administrative Board, which enforces academic regulations for undergraduates and levies disciplinary sanctions.

Engell said he has welcomed several students into his classes later than the proposed two-week deadline, but would have hesitated to present the case of at least one such student to the Ad Board.

The latecomer, he added, ultimately became a star student in his course.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

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