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Faculty Council Approves New Committee to Propose Shopping Week Replacement

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The Faculty Council voted Wednesday to move one step closer to eliminating “shopping week,” a Harvard scheduling quirk popular among undergraduates. 

The Council — the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ highest governing body — approved the creation of a committee to develop a proposal for early registration at its biweekly meeting Wednesday afternoon, according to the Harvard Gazette. An early registration scheme would eliminate shopping week, the current course registration system that allows students to try out courses during the first week of the semester before officially enrolling.

The Wednesday vote is the latest development in an ongoing discussion to alter the way students enroll in classes.

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The subject was first broached at a March meeting of the entire Faculty, when Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana introduced the subject without putting forward an official proposal. Multiple professors spoke in favor of an early registration system at the meeting, stating that such a system would allow professors and graduate students to better plan their courses.

Many undergraduate students, however, have praised shopping week for its flexibility in allowing them to try various options before finally selecting their courses.

Though an official proposal did not exist at the time of the March discussions, the Council heard a proposal to switch to early registration from Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh at its last meeting on Sept. 12. The proposal advocated replacing shopping week with a system that would require students to enroll in courses prior to the beginning of the semester. Students would then have time to add or drop courses if they wished. Under Claybaugh’s proposal, the new system would be introduced in the fall of 2020.

The Council typically votes on proposals the second time it hears them; the first meeting is reserved for discussion only. It is unclear if the Council voted directly on Claybaugh’s proposal at its most recent meeting. Regardless, the decision to create a committee to develop a proposal for early registration indicates the  Faculty is taking formal steps to alter the current course registration system.

The Council also voted Wednesday to change the wording of the undergraduate foreign language requirement, the Gazette reported. This vote follows a proposal introduced by former Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris at the Council’s last meeting, in which he advocated broadening the ways students could fulfill the foreign language requirement.

The Harvard College Student Handbook currently requires that students prove competency in a “language with a written component that is taught at Harvard” or a language for which “an appropriate examination with a written component can be given.” The new wording deemphasizes the writing component, allowing students to meet the requirement using languages such as American Sign Language and Ancient Greek.

The basics of the foreign language requirement, however, remain essentially the same. Students will still be expected to either take a year of foreign language classes or demonstrate competency in the language through test scores.

Activists have long advocated that Harvard allow students to use ASL to fulfill the requirement. Since Harvard first started offering ASL two years ago, the courses have attracted significant undergraduate interest.

Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 was present at Wednesday’s meeting and answered questions from the Council about general FAS affairs. The Council also had the opportunity to preview the Dean’s Annual Report to the Faculty.

The next full Faculty meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 2.

—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at angela.fu@thecrimson.com.

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