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Students Rally to Save Shopping Week, Urge Faculty to Vote Against Previous-Term Registration

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A small group of undergraduates rallied to preserve shopping week in Harvard’s Science Center Plaza Monday, urging faculty to vote against a proposal for previous-term course registration at the next faculty meeting on May 3.

While many College students praise the flexibility of shopping week, which provides the opportunity to try out classes before enrolling, some teaching staff and administrators say it complicates course preparation and hiring. In December, a Faculty of Arts and Sciences committee recommended that the College swap out shopping week for previous-term registration, in which students would register for courses one semester in advance.

During the rally Monday, organizers passed out flyers urging students to encourage their professors to attend the monthly faculty meeting next Tuesday and vote against the plan for previous-term course registration.

William A. McConnell ’21-’22, an organizer of the rally, said the vote at the next faculty meeting is “the last stand” in the movement to preserve shopping week.

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“We’ve made a number of efforts and other people have made a number of efforts over the years to prevent the administration from moving forward with this that have not been met with that much success,” said McConnell, a former Crimson editor. “But this is a vote that we think we can win.”

Former Undergraduate Council President Michael Y. Cheng ’22, who helped organize the rally, said student advocacy efforts have managed to keep “the flame of shopping week alive” through the pandemic.

Earlier this semester, the student group working to preserve shopping week submitted a 40-page counterproposal to the Committee on Course Registration’s plan for previous-term registration. The counterproposal called for the preservation of shopping week but with reforms, such as a non-binding “pre-indication” form submitted during the previous term to help teaching staff gauge potential class sizes.

LyLena D. Estabine ’24, one of the student organizers, said in an interview after Monday’s rally that the authors of the counterproposal consulted faculty and graduate students while drafting their report.

“If the faculty vote no, it will provide students with an opportunity — it will provide the whole college, really — with an opportunity to look for true collaboration and create a new system,” she said.

Estabine is one of several candidates running for a position in the newly-formed student government, the Harvard Undergraduate Association, who have made the preservation of shopping week central to their campaigns.

Monday’s rally took place on the second day of Visitas, an annual program bringing newly admitted students to visit campus. Xander D. Patton, a prospective freshman, said shopping week is a “big draw” for him in deciding whether to attend Harvard next year.

Prefrosh Tahraji Milsap said that although course registration will not make or break her enrollment decision, shopping week is one of Harvard’s “little touches of magic” that makes the school “special.”

Physics professor Howard M. Georgi ’68 briefly spoke at the rally, advocating for students to talk to their professors in support of shopping week.

Following the rally, Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana said he appreciates hearing students’ “thoughtful concerns.”

“We all want the same thing, which is, ‘How do we create an environment for intellectual transformation?’” he said. “We share the same goals, but we also respect each other’s differences and points of view.”

Estabine said shopping week is an integral part of Harvard’s culture of exploration.

“It's about reminding the College that we are the lifeblood, and that as students who came here seeking out the best education that the country and the world has to offer, that we should and that we can take an active role in determining the details of what that education looks like,” she said.

—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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