Campus & Community

Calendar reform at Harvard:

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A message from the president, provost, and deans of the faculties

Sept. 25, 2003

For decades, disparities among the calendars of Harvard’s faculties and Schools have made it more difficult than it should be for students in one School to cross-register for courses in another. Correspondingly, faculty members have faced logistical obstacles in making their courses readily accessible to students from other parts of the University. The prospect of carefully considered calendar reform holds promise to redress these problems and promote closer connections among faculty and students across the University, in an era when excellent education and scholarship increasingly depend on learning that extends across traditional academic bounds.

In this spirit, during our retreat this summer, we agreed that the University should develop, adopt, and implement a set of calendar guidelines that will place our Schools on a more consistent academic schedule and enable students and faculty members to cross Harvard’s internal borders with greater ease. While recognizing that each of our Schools’ calendars has evolved in light of distinctive purposes and pedagogical imperatives (as well as accreditation requirements), we believe that substantially greater consistency of calendars will serve a vital educational interest in wider cross-enrollment opportunities, and thus alleviate what has been a chronic source of student frustration. Precisely what the calendar parameters should be, and what level of commonality is needed to produce the desired academic benefits, are questions warranting thorough deliberation and care.

Therefore, we have together asked Professor Sidney Verba to chair a University-wide committee to consider and propose calendar guidelines applicable to Harvard as a whole. The committee will be charged with recommending to the deans, provost, and president a set of calendar guidelines that will substantially improve opportunities for cross-enrollment between and among the University’s different Schools. The committee will bring together members of each of the University’s faculties, including four members from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (in addition to the chair), two of whom sit on the Steering Committee of the College curricular review, currently under way. The committee will also include several students, graduate and undergraduate, who will be selected in consultation with the Undergraduate Council and the FAS and University-wide Graduate Student Councils.

We believe this effort holds real promise to expand educational opportunities for our students and to promote more robust academic interchange among the University’s faculties and Schools. We thank you in advance for your cooperation and help.