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FAS Dean Gay ‘Satisfied’ with Vote to End Shopping Week in Favor of Previous-Term Registration

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay poses for a photo in her University Hall office in 2019.
Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay poses for a photo in her University Hall office in 2019. By Allison G. Lee
By Ariel H. Kim and Meimei Xu, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay said in an interview Wednesday she is “satisfied” with the faculty’s vote to approve of a new previous-term course registration system that will do away with shopping week, adding that she is “confident” the FAS can still provide a “transformative Harvard College experience.”

More than 60 percent of Harvard faculty voted last Tuesday to end shopping week — a decades-old scheduling quirk that allowed students to sample courses the first week of each semester before enrolling — in favor of the previous-term system. The vote came despite student and faculty efforts to preserve shopping week.

The new system will require students to register for classes at the end of the previous semester, starting with Spring 2024 classes. Until then, a committee of faculty, administrators, and students will create an implementation plan for the new system.

“I’m satisfied with the outcome and look forward to, first, the work of the implementation committee, and then the launch of the new system in two years,” Gay said Wednesday.

Faculty members, teaching fellows, and departmental staff had long voiced concerns that shopping week complicated course planning and left teaching assignments uncertain.

In spring 2019, the FAS Committee on Course Registration was tasked with reviewing the FAS’ course registration policies following months of discussion among faculty members. The committee released its final report in December 2021, recommending that the College replace shopping week with previous-term course registration.

Gay said Wednesday she feels the committee was dedicated to ensuring that students have “meaningful opportunities both to explore, as well as to engage with thoughtfully-developed, properly-staffed courses.”

“I feel confident that all the things that we aspire to make available to our students as part of the transformative Harvard College experience will still be there and available,” she said.

Shikoh M. Hirabayashi ’24-’25, the newly-elected Harvard Undergraduate Association academic officer, called for the implementation committee to have an equal number of faculty members, administrators, graduate students, and undergraduates in a statement sent to The Crimson.

“Shopping week meant a lot to all of us and we tried our best,” he wrote.

Hirabayashi wrote that he plans to call for a number of changes to promote “academic flexibility and accessibility.” The proposals will include publicizing student comments made on the Q Guide, the anonymous feedback tool for Harvard undergraduate courses; creating more questions on the Q Guide for student feedback; and facilitating contact between prospective enrollees and former students of each course.

Hirabayashi wrote that he will also advocate for students to be able to pre-register for five classes. He also plans to call on faculty to post recordings of their first few lectures on their course websites.

“These are practical policies which will prevent professors and graduate students from constantly refiguring their staffing arrangements while maximizing student opportunities to explore and change classes,” he wrote.

It remains unknown which course registration system the FAS will adopt until previous-term registration is in place for Spring 2024. Next year’s course registration schedule will be posted on the Registrar’s website this week, according to FAS spokesperson Rachael Dane.

—Staff writer Ariel H. Kim can be reached at ariel.kim@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu can be reached at meimei.xu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @MeimeiXu7.

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