Every year, it seems, someone proposes a change in the Harvard calendar. Sometimes it's for energy conservation, sometimes it's because of the summer job market. But every year the proposal gets shot down when it reaches the Faculty.
The Faculty is usually an unpredictable body, but on this issue in particular it has always stood firm. It may just be conservatism that retains the College's late September starting date, but there is also some evidence suggesting that the underlying factor in the calendar question is the Faculty's desire to take advantage of September's low air rates to Europe.
Despite this history of failure, the University Committee of Life Scientists' proposal to move the whole schedule up a week seems to have a better chance for passage than earlier suggestions.
After a 1975 experiment with changing the calendar to save energy failed miserably Dean Rosovsky told the Faculty he would not endorse calendar proposals unless they had an intellectual basis.
The biologists' proposal fills that requirement. Not only would it facilitate cross-registration at the Med School, its proponents say, but it would allow undergraduates to cross-register at the Law School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in courses that they now enter several weeks late.
The change could cut down course duplication among the schools, administrators say--making the proposal a potential money-saver as well as an aid to students.
And moving Commencement up a week would let undergraduates join the summer job market earlier, so they can compete on a more equal basis with students from schools that let out in May.
"It's a minor change," Rosovsky said yesterday. "I can't see what objections there could be."
The major stumbling block to the calendar proposal appears to be the Med School faculty, which has to move its calendar back a week if the College is going to change its plans.
The Med School will discuss the question a few days before the full Faculty does, and at the moment it is hard to say what its response to changing the Med School to help a few pre-meds will be.
Manfred L. Karnovsky, White Professor of Biological Chemistry who will present the proposal to the Med School faculty later this month, said this week he has already heard some objections, centering on the scarcity of extra places in lab courses--the courses that would be most likely to attract undergraduates--and a belief that shortening the semester would adversely affect the med students' education.