Smith Urges Students to Carefully Weigh UC Referenda

{shortcode-bc7696d6b8ed0c843f6b85cd6240deb08c08820f}Students will take to the polls this week to vote to extend Thanksgiving break and retain “Harvard Time”—but Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith said it’s not that simple.

Four referenda will appear on this week’s ballot for Undergraduate Council President and Vice President, and the UC will adopt passed referenda as its official stance.

One such referendum seeks to extend Thanksgiving break to the Monday and Tuesday before the holiday for all undergraduates. But in an interview last week, Smith said administrators arrived at the current schedule after in-depth discussions held nearly a decade ago.

“I would just encourage the UC voters, the appropriate people on the UC, to go ask the questions and know what happened in the past so they can understand what’s already been evaluated,” Smith said. “It’s not to say that it can’t be evaluated again, but this is a topic that has been discussed in the past.”

Originally, according to Smith, students had to attend school on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but a few years ago the University opted to observe Veteran’s Day and extend the time off for Thanksgiving.


“It’s not that we don’t value our veterans but it was the right thing to do from an educational point of view,” Smith said. “This whole question of, ‘Could I have the rest of the week off?’ was kind of discussed at that time too when we made that change.”

Another referendum demands that the College keep the informal seven minutes of passing time between classes known as “Harvard Time.” Starting in the fall of 2018, the College will transition to a more rigidly structured schedule: Professors will choose from a set of designated start times for their classes and there will be fifteen minutes of passing time between each class.

Smith said he was unaware this was a controversial proposal.

“We could just call that fifteen minutes ‘Harvard Time’ if you want,” he said. “Harvard Time was a sloshy seven minutes.”

Part of impetus for the new schedule is the upcoming expansion of Harvard’s engineering campus into Allston. Students will have 45 minutes of passing time between classes on the two campuses in Cambridge and Allston. Smith said the schedule is being rolled out before the move in fall 2020 to catch any potential bugs in the system.

“This was all done to ensure that no matter how mobile you are, you can get from place to place,” he said.

—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.

–Staff writer Mia C. Karr can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @miackarr.