A faculty committee tasked with reviewing potential changes to undergraduate course enrollment expects to deliver its recommendation to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in January, according to the committee’s chair.
The faculty committee, which began its work in September after the Faculty rejected a proposal to end “shopping week,” held three formal “listening sessions” to gather input from undergraduates in the succeeding months.
Under the current system, College students register for classes after “shopping week,” a weeklong period at the start of the semester when students can walk in and out of classes before officially enrolling.
Once the committee delivers its recommendation in January, Committee Chair and Philosophy Professor Bernhard Nickel said he and his colleagues expect a full Faculty vote on the committee’s recommendations in April.
If one or more of the recommendations pass, Nickel said he anticipates they will go into effect in the spring semester of 2021 at the earliest.
The move to potentially eliminate shopping week has stirred up controversy among the undergraduate population.
Ajay V. Singh ’21, an Undergraduate Council representative who attended all three listening sessions, said shopping week has been integral to his college experience. Singh said he has never met “a single undergraduate” who didn’t support shopping week.
Singh cited a recent UC survey of 1,883 undergraduates which he said showed “incredible” support for shopping week.
Nickel and Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda J. Claybaugh said that all the students who spoke in the listening sessions supported shopping week, and Nickel said his committee “take[s] that seriously.”
But Nickel and Claybaugh both said the system also poses problems for undergraduates.
“I’m responsible for making sure that students’ education is the best it can be,” Claybaugh said. “As a faculty member myself, and a number of our current faculty members believe that shopping week as it is may get in the way of that mission.”
Claybaugh cited uncertainty about class size, underprepared graduate teaching fellows, and a “lost” week of instruction time as downsides to shopping week for College students. Nickel also said the UC survey indicated students felt anxious about class lottery results late in the week.
Claybaugh said the current system is “not always fair” to graduate students.
“Their stipend on which they live depends on their teaching assignment and their teaching assignment is prone to the fluctuations of student enrollment, undergrad enrollment,” Claybaugh said.
The Office of Undergraduate Education plans to release a website this week to publicize the various proposed changes to shopping week and allow students to give input as they prepare to make a proposal, according to Nickel.
“We’re putting together a website right now to document and collect all the information that’s relevant to our deliberations that we want to make available to all the members of the University,” Nickel said. “All this information: How many TF’s had to switch courses? How many courses lost a section or gained a section?”
Nickel added that the website will have a place for students to give input “on the front page”.
Claybaugh said she was surprised at the level of interest this issue has drawn among students and faculty.
“I used to think I understood this issue really fully,” Claybaugh said, “I used to think, yeah, we’ll probably end up voting maybe to get rid of shopping period. And now, I don’t know.”
—Staff writer Cecilia R. D’Arms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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