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Shopping Week To Stay — For Now

Harvard Yard.
Harvard Yard. By Amy Y. Li
By Jonah S. Berger and Molly C. McCafferty, Crimson Staff Writers

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to keep the Harvard scheduling quirk known as “shopping week” until at least 2022 at its final meeting of the semester Tuesday.

The Faculty also sparred over and ultimately approved a proposed Quantitative Reasoning with Data requirement for the General Education program. Students beginning with the Class of 2023 must now take a class that allows them to “think critically about data.”

The approval of Tuesday’s course registration legislation marks the end of a months-long debate over the fate of shopping week, a period at the beginning of the semester during which students sample classes before enrolling. Though some faculty and graduate students have said shopping week leaves teaching assignments uncertain, student leaders have praised the flexibility it offers undergraduates.

The legislation will establish a new standing committee tasked with creating algorithms to predict course enrollments, proposing improvements to shopping week, and coordinating course lotteries. If the committee favors abolishing shopping week, it could deliver a proposal to scrap it to the Faculty in spring 2022.

German Professor Peter J. Burgard asked at the meeting for assurance that the language in the proposal would leave open the possibility of retaining shopping week in its current form.

“I'm wondering whether this legislation, intentionally or unintentionally, turns this into a one-way street towards the abolition of shopping week,” he said. “I want to be assured that it doesn’t.”

Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh — who presented the proposal — said in response that studying the issue is “critical,” despite the pushback she has received from some colleagues, and that any proposal to abolish shopping week would be “extremely detailed.”

“It is my commitment to offer the faculty a clear and concrete sense of what they are voting for,” Claybaugh said.

The faculty also voted Tuesday in favor of adding a data requirement to the General Education program to replace the current Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning requirement — though the motion faced some dissent.

Echoing concerns raised at the last faculty meeting, multiple professors criticized the new requirement for not including mathematics courses which do not have a data component but currently fulfill the EMR requirement.

“I would like to weigh in on the side of inclusiveness in liberal education, and nimbleness in our requirements in the face of a rapidly changing world,” Mathematics Department Chair Curtis T. McMullen said.

Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Professor Salil P. Vadhan proposed an ultimately successful amendment to appoint a committee in 2022 or 2023 that will “deeply and thoughtfully” study the implementation of the new requirement to ensure its “identity” remains clear.

“The new QRD requirement seems to have a narrower scope than the requirement it replaces with a greater emphasis on data, but we have not discussed the rationale or what were the failings of the EMR requirement beyond those faced by the original Gen Ed requirement,” he said.

During the question and answer portion of the meeting, University President Lawrence S. Bacow fielded a question from History Professor Maya R. Jasanoff ’96 regarding student outcry over Winthrop House Faculty Dean Ronald Sullivan’s decision to represent film producer and accused rapist Harvey Weinstein.

Jasanoff said Winthrop has experienced an “unacceptable level of tension” since Sullivan’s announcement that he would represent Weinstein and asked Bacow to clarify how he understands faculty’s responsibilities to students’ education and well-being.

She cited a confrontation in Winthrop dining hall between Danu A.K. Mudannayake ’20 — an Eliot resident and Crimson design editor — and Winthrop tutors Carl L. Miller and Valencia Miller, the Millers’ plans to file a Title IX complaint about the confrontation, and the Millers’ defamation suit against Eliot House Faculty Dean Gail A. O’Keefe after O’Keefe called the Millers’ conduct “unprofessional” in an email to Eliot residents.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jasanoff called the events a “startling breach with anything resembling civility.” She also criticized the Millers’ attorney, George J. Leontire, for his negative comments on a recent sit-in in Winthrop dining hall.

“Students are hurting. House administrators and faculty members are stressed. Community values are cracking,” Jasanoff said. “What could have been a teaching moment has become a campus crisis.”

Bacow said in response that the issue is “largely” being handled by Dean of FAS Claudine Gay and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana.

“I’ve tried to be respectful of the locus of authority for dealing with these issues, which lies largely in the College,” he said.

Leontire called the remarks about himself and his clients “another example of tribal politics” in an interview after Tuesday’s faculty meeting.

“It is simply outrageous that people who are permitting the wrongful conduct attempt to turn themselves into the victims rather than address the behavior they’ve engaged in,” Leontire said. “Those who support that kind of tactic should recognize they have failed to critically examine the issue before making comments.”

The faculty also voted Tuesday to establish a joint master’s degree in biotechnology run by Harvard Business School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Medical Anthropology Professor Arthur Kleinman — who had raised questions about the program in the past — said he received assurance from Professor Mark Fishman, who helped design the new degree program, that it would place an emphasis on how technological innovations have adversely affected society.

The Faculty closed the meeting by voting to approve updates to the student handbook and FAS and Harvard Extension School course offerings for the 2019-2020 school year.

Khurana called the changes to the handbook, “non-substantive,” noting that most had already been approved by the Faculty in previous votes.

He added that in a copy of the updated handbook circulated in advance of the meeting, administrators mistakenly struck multiple pages of the College’s policies on drug and alcohol use from the handbook. Because of the omissions, it appeared that the College had overturned rules limiting the types liquor that can be served at social events, requiring tutors to check on parties, and specifying that event hosts must verify students are over 21 before serving them alcohol. In fact, those rules remain in tact.

— Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.

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