Undergraduates rallied in support of shopping week in Science Center Plaza Tuesday afternoon, waving signs and distributing fliers that read “Save Shopping Week” and “Stop Course Preview Period” to students filing out of their classes.
The rally came on the first day of voting in an Undergraduate Council referendum on shopping week, the traditional period in which undergraduates can browse courses for a week before officially enrolling. It also coincided with a Tuesday vote by a Faculty of Arts and Sciences committee on a proposal to eliminate next semester’s shopping week over public health concerns, which would mark the fourth consecutive semester with early registration instead.
Some faculty and graduate students have pushed to eliminate shopping week permanently, arguing that it creates planning challenges and uncertainty for student workers. A separate FAS committee is scheduled to issue a recommendation on course registration reforms in the spring.
Shreya P. Nair ’24, a UC member who helped organize the rally, said although the pandemic provided Harvard with a “really nice excuse” to get rid of shopping week, it was important to organize in support of the long-standing tradition.
“It can cause administrative headaches, but students really enjoy it,” Nair said. “It provides students with the ability to really explore their intellectual curiosity, not having to take only classes that explore what they’re going to concentrate in or what they’re thinking of doing as a career.”
Freshmen and sophomores made up many of those rallying in the Plaza Tuesday. Nair said the UC and advocates have focused their outreach toward freshmen and sophomores, who have never experienced a shopping week.
“[Harvard is] counting on freshmen and sophomores to be disengaged, to not care about shopping because they’ve never experienced it,” Nair said. “They’ve never seen how lovely it can be, especially compared to course preview period.”
Adrienne L. Chan ’25, who participated in the rally, said she sees the potential loss of shopping week as an issue of “equity.”
“You’re presuming that students that are coming into the College already know what courses to take, how to do it, have access to the technology to get to my.Harvard, and do their course registration,” Chan said. “It’s just very presumptuous, and honestly, incredibly inaccessible.”
Sanjna Kedia ’25 said she joined the rally because she feels the lack of a shopping week this fall made it difficult for her to find classes that were the best fit.
“Personally, I had to switch half my schedule just a week in. And I do think that that wouldn’t have happened if I did have access to shopping week because it would have given me the opportunity to try out the classes I wasn’t that into,” Kedia said.
FAS spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to comment on the rally.
The rally and other recent advocacy in support of shopping week has drawn support from not only undergrads, but also graduate students, alumni, and professors, according to Nair.
“We’ve also talked to a lot of alumni out here who just live in the area, especially older alumni, who are absolutely flabbergasted that Harvard has even thought of this as an option during Covid,” Nair said.
—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.