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Harvard College to Require Pre-Registration for Fall Classes

Harvard Yard is home to most of the first-year dorms on Harvard’s campus.
Harvard Yard is home to most of the first-year dorms on Harvard’s campus. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Kevin R. Chen and Juliet E. Isselbacher, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard undergraduates will pre-register for courses for the first time this fall, according to an internal email circulated to Government department faculty.

Administrators announced earlier this year that fall classes will largely continue to take place remotely, though the College has yet to announce which students will be able to return to campus.

The College will host a modified shopping period in early August before the pre-registration deadline, which is currently set a week before the beginning of the term, Government department chair Jeffry A. Frieden wrote to faculty. Shopping period, which traditionally takes place during the first week of the semester, allows students to sample classes before officially enrolling.

During this year’s virtual shopping period, however, students will not have the opportunity to dart in and out of live classes as they have in semesters past. They will instead select classes based on online course materials compiled by professors.

The Office of Undergraduate Education recommended instructors supplement these materials with short videos or hold drop-in zoom sessions to introduce students to their courses, according to Frieden’s email.

Shopping week has long been contentious among the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, some of whom have said the scheduling quirk generates undue stress around last-minute hiring and planning. In 2018, Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh wrote to students that the administration was “no longer certain that the benefits of shopping period are worth the costs,” and pitching a switch to early registration.

Students, however, have consistently supported the current system. The Undergraduate Council released a statement arguing that shopping week is a “quintessential, invaluable, and irreplaceable piece” of the College experience. After considering “in between” resolutions to the debate in 2019, FAS ultimately voted to preserve shopping week until at least 2022, though this year it will exist alongside Claybaugh’s pre-registration proposal.

In addition to the change to course selection, Frieden wrote that once undergraduates register for courses, they will be sorted into discussion sections of no more than 12 students.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales contributed reporting.

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

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @julietissel.

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