RECORD EDITORIAL: Why can’t we shop for classes?

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Perhaps you came to HLS as a 1L interested in criminal law and decided as a 2L that environmental law was in fact your true passion. Perhaps you thought you’d never be interested in corporate work, but after a summer at a firm came back interested in taking corporations as a 3L. Or, perhaps you show up to a class on its first day and find it to not be terribly interesting. What do all these scenarios have in common? In all of them you’re largely stuck with the class schedule you were assigned a year in advance and now find unable to change due to the courses you really want being filled up. Having switched over the class registration process and grade reports to an on-line system, HLS has demonstrated that it can make progress when it wants to. It is now time to move beyond the archaic registration system and allow students more flexibility in selecting their schedules.

In short, it is time to follow the example set by the rest of Harvard and allow students to “shop” for classes.

Imagine, if you will, returning from an exciting 1L summer that opened up your eyes to the world of international human rights law. Imagine wanting to take as many courses as you could in human rights, only to remember that your schedule is packed with courses you thought you should have taken and cannot get out of now because no human rights courses remain open. Imagine cursing at the school and enduring classes on corporate transactions and tax law that you now find yourself stuck in.

Now imagine returning to campus from the same summer, without a course schedule set in stone. Imagine going to different classes, picking up different syllabi, getting a feel for different professors, and registering for the classes you truly want at the moment you want them. This, folks, is how the rest of Harvard does it. Why can’t we have this as well?

There are drawbacks, to be sure. The shopping system requires more active participation, and certain classes will still be difficult to get into. The first week or two of classes will not be as focused due to a shifting student population in the process of figuring out whether or not to stick with the class.

But the benefits, in this case, outweigh the costs. There is nothing about law school scheduling that makes it unique at Harvard. It is time to abandon the tradition of making students construct their schedule a year in advance and allow HLS students the freedom to choose classes that go along with their interests.

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