Shopping Week Sucks


Shopping Week Sucks

A Different Perspective on Shopping Week



This past Sunday, an email was sent out by the UC president and Vice President announcing the news that the faculty council voted to preserve shopping week on March 27th.

I have to admit that after reading that email, I was left feeling frustrated and, frankly, dreading the next Shopping Week ordeal that I’ll have to go through.

As a person who likes having a routine early on in the school year, Shopping Week was kind of my academic nightmare when it came to choosing classes my first year here, and that hasn’t changed. The uncertainty that I’ll be able to get into the classes I need to complete my Gen-Ed and concentration requirements, coupled with the stress of having packed classrooms and constantly interrupted class time, is not something I enjoy at the beginning of each semester.

Last semester, the schedule change made shopping week even more stressful to deal with (and I know I’m not alone on that one) and left me struggling with my insomnia the entire week while I worried about lotteries and how I would have time to get food in between classes. There were several points when I found myself shutting down and hiding in my room with Netflix or taking a nap so that I could avoid thinking about how my schedule was so screwed up by Shopping Week.

For me at least, it’s a burden to not have a set schedule at the beginning of a semester, because that just means I don’t know when I can put in hours for the multiple jobs I have on campus. I have to put in the most hours at the beginning of each semester because textbooks aren’t cheap, and I’ve never seen a Harvard book waiver. The fact that I can’t schedule my work hours properly, combined with trying to keep up with work from the multiple classes I shop just in case I can’t lottery into one of them, combined with the fact that I can’t even pre-order textbooks during that time because I don’t know what books I will need, all serve to compound my stress each semester. This isn’t the only reason I don’t like Shopping Week, however.

Last summer I severely sprained my ankle to the point where I couldn’t even stand up without an air cast and the help of my crutches. Getting to work was an ordeal, getting food wasn’t worth the effort of getting up sometimes, and there were points when I just chose to stay in instead of heading outside because so many of Harvard’s buildings were hard to move around in for me (including the building I was staying in). And that’s just with a sprained ankle. I can’t even imagine how hard it is to get around Cambridge and Harvard for people who require physical accommodations. I’ve realized that Shopping Week can really compound that difficulty for people, especially when it comes to registering for accommodations with the Accessible Education Office during it.

So, another reason why I don’t like Shopping Week is because I’m not a fan of the way it negatively impacts other people on campus. I’m not just referring to my fellow students with this one. Shopping Week screws with the job security of the Grad Students who work as Teaching Fellows for our larger classes. Why? Because student enrollment in classes is so unpredictable that it’s really difficult to get the correct number of TFs assigned to teach section. So when too many students enroll in a class, TFs have to step up and take on more sections or sections have to increase in size. This can have a huge impact on the quality of a class, not by the fault of the TF but simply because it’s hard not to burnout with so much work. On the flip side, classes with too few students enrolling have to cut sections, and TFs are let go. It’s no way to treat an educator, but that’s what Shopping Week does.

I don’t even want to dive into the strain it puts on Faculty and other administrators, but I guess it doesn’t matter as long as Shopping Week is preserved and students get to indulge in one of the many things that makes Harvard a unique educational experience.

I have a lot of friends outside of Harvard who would quite literally laugh in my face when I brought up Shopping Week. They’re used to having their classes chosen months in advance of the semester starting. I’ve heard everything from “Why?” to “that’s f***ing stupid” when it comes to Shopping Week, and I have to agree. It’s a pretty ridiculous concept when you think about it, and really only serves the purpose of indulging indecisiveness in classes. It sets our entire academic schedule back a week later than other colleges and is costly and stressful to students who have to juggle other commitments. Not to mention the burden it puts on people that require accommodations in the classroom and the fact that it endangers the job security of the people who TF for classes when too few students sign up for a class by the end of the week.

Shopping Week isn’t fair to a lot of people, and while I’m resigned to the fact that it’s staying, I’m not stoked about it.


Alaya Ayala ( really wants to put away her Crimson Cart before the semester begins.