Faculty to Discuss Fall Courses, Simultaneous Enrollment; Extension School Courses Likely Online Only


In its first monthly meeting since faculty and students cleared Harvard’s campus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will vote over Zoom on course lists for the fall semester Tuesday, as well as a motion to simplify procedures for simultaneous enrollment.

Though Harvard has committed to holding courses in the fall, FAS has still not decided whether its classes will take place online or in person. It will reach a final decision on the format of the fall semester no later than July, FAS Dean Claudine Gay announced April 28.

Faculty will vote Tuesday on whether to approve a preliminary list of courses for both the Extension School and the FAS. The FAS course list will be made public on my.harvard in June.

Extension School courses will likely take place exclusively online in the fall, Interim Dean of the Division of Continuing Education Henry H. Leitner wrote in a letter to the Faculty Council, FAS’s highest governing body.


“These are not normal times, and it is hard to plan when we don’t know if we will be able to conduct courses on campus or if we will continue to work remotely,” he wrote. “It is likely that we will offer only online (web conference) courses in the fall, with the hope that we will be able to offer some on campus courses in January and spring.”

More than 70 percent of the courses the Extension School offered during the 2019-2020 academic year took place online, though some of these courses also featured on-campus components, according to Leitner.

He added the Extension School will likely offer no courses with required on-campus components in the fall, citing potential risks such courses might pose for students flying in from other locations.

Faculty previously discussed the simultaneous enrollment legislation during its meeting in March. Because the motion is considered substantive, voting was scheduled to take place during the meeting after it was first introduced; April’s meeting was canceled over insufficient business.

Currently, FAS allows simultaneous enrollment under one of three circumstances: when one of the course heads agrees to provide “hour-for-hour direct and personal compensatory instruction” for missed class time; when lectures are available on videotape, and a student will miss no more than one-third of them; or when a senior needs to take both courses to fulfill graduation requirements. Under all three circumstances, students must submit a petition to the Administrative Board to enroll.

Under the proposed revision, the Standing Committee on Undergraduate Educational Policy will grant three-year blanket waivers to courses that meet certain criteria, allowing students to simultaneously enroll in them without petitioning. In other cases, students still must petition as usual.

The new policy would be reflected in the College’s updated student handbook for the 2020-21 school year. Separately, the faculty will also vote Tuesday on a package of handbook changes submitted by Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.

Khurana’s proposed changes would extend the final deadline by which students can withdraw from courses from the 7th Monday to the 11th Monday of the term.

When students withdraw from a course, the course still appears on their transcript, but they do not receive credit for it — instead of a letter grade, the course is marked with the notation “WD.” Currently, students only have two weeks between the 5th Monday — the College’s deadline to drop a course and have it removed from a student’s transcript — and the 7th Monday withdrawal deadline.

“This change will bring Harvard College’s practice in line of those with peer institutions,” Khurana wrote in his proposal. “The withdrawal deadline of Ivy peers ranges from the ninth week of the term to the last day of classes.”

Within the handbook changes, Khurana also proposed prorating course requirements for students who conduct term-time study abroad in the same manner the College prorates grades for transfer and Advanced Standing students. Students who study abroad for two semesters would only need 96 credits to graduate and 72 to qualify for honors, rather than the standard 128 credits to graduate and 96 to qualify for honors.

Prorating requirements for students who study abroad is normal practice for the Registrar, but Tuesday’s vote would formalize the policy, Khurana wrote.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.