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Harvard Faculty Approve Proposals to Amend Simultaneous Enrollment, Language Requirement

Members of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences meet monthly at University Hall.
Members of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences meet monthly at University Hall. By Naomi S. Castellon-Perez
By Rahem D. Hamid and Elias J. Schisgall, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to amend the College’s language requirement and its policy on simultaneous enrollment during a virtual meeting Tuesday afternoon.

A large margin of the faculty in attendance approved both amendments, presented for discussion at last month’s FAS meeting: 93 percent of voting faculty chose to amend the policies on simultaneous enrollment and 78 percent voted to amend the language requirement.

At the meeting, FAS Dean and University President-elect Claudine Gay gave updates on the search for the next FAS dean. She also announced that she will not chair faculty meetings when she assumes her new role, calling it a practice, “I always found curious as a faculty member, and limiting as an FAS Dean.”

Gay’s announcement marks the end of the tradition of University presidents chairing faculty meetings. Earlier in the meeting, University President Lawrence S. Bacow said he no longer believed that the president should preside over the monthly assembly.

Under the first amendment, students will not be able to simultaneously enroll in two courses by receiving “hour-for-hour direct and personal compensatory instruction” from the instructor of the class they do not attend starting July 1 of this year.

According to the new language requirement policy, effective July 1, students who fail to complete two semesters of a foreign language prior to the end of their sophomore year will no longer be referred to the Administrative Board. Instead, students will have an advising hold placed on them and will be required to meet with an adviser at the end of their freshman year to determine how to fulfill the requirement.

German professor Peter J. Burgard attempted to further amend the language policy to include a deadline for students to complete the requirement before senior year. The amendment failed by one vote, but was held again due to professors saying they were initially confused by the wording. It failed a second time by 20 percent.

In a written statement, Burgard wrote that he moved to amend because he saw the initial proposal as counterproductive.

“This could lead to a substantial number of students saving their foreign language study for their senior year, which defeats the purpose of the requirement, namely for students to learn a language when they will have the opportunity both to study it further if they wish and to make use of the language while still students,” he wrote.

Classics professor Kathleen M. Coleman attempted to further amend the language policy to include a deadline of completing the requirement before the start of the junior year. The vote was tied, before Bacow voted to oppose the amendment, deferring to Gay’s recommendation.

In a written statement, Coleman wrote that “if a year of instruction in a foreign language is to have any benefit for the rest of a student’s education, it should come early enough in that student’s undergraduate career.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Gay also gave updates on the ongoing search for her successor — which was formally launched last month — saying she and University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 had already met with the Faculty Council, tenure-track professors, and staff leaders. The FAS dean said the search was “still in the very early stages.”

“I really can’t overstate the importance of your input in this process,” she told the faculty, later adding that she is “committed to the success of the next FAS dean.”

“If we are successful, the next person will be someone this school and this moment needs,” she said.

Clarification: March 11, 2023

This article has been updated to clarify that University President Lawrence S. Bacow deferred his decision on voting against a start of junior year deadline for the College’s language requirement to Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay.

—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at

—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @eschisgall.

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