Matt Denton ’24 and Sofia Malaspina ’26 contributed to this article.
One of the hallmarks of Haverford’s relaxed academic culture, Havertime, has been eliminated for the Fall 2023 semester. The phrase refers to students’ ability to come to class about five minutes after the official starting time. Historically, this has allowed students to informally chat with professors before class, or to ask questions they may not feel comfortable asking in front of their entire class.
On March 31, the whole student body was informed of the change in an email announcing pre-registration for next semester. In the email James Keane, the College’s Registrar, announced that Havertime has been added to official class times on Bionic. But “adding” Havertime to Bionic does not mean shifting class start times by five minutes; instead it means cutting the class five minutes short.
The faculty approved this change in a January meeting and Students’ Council was informed of the potential elimination of Havertime in early February. According to StuCo’s February 5 meeting minutes, the change was made to better accommodate the Blue Bus schedule. Currently students have just ten minutes to get to or from Bryn Mawr when they have back-to-back classes and need to take the bus to get to the second class. Eliminating Havertime gives students five more minutes to get to class in these situations.
However, according to Keane, Blue Bus schedules played “little-to-no role” in Haverford’s decision to eliminate Havertime, although he did say that commute time was “recognized.” Keane also argued that Havertime has not been eliminated, but has instead been “redefined” and made visible by the change. Nevertheless, professors will be expected to begin instruction at the scheduled start time, effectively ending the longstanding practice.
Keane mentioned the role that the COVID-19 pandemic had on Havertime, as during the 2020-2021 academic year, Havertime was completely eliminated. During this time the administration instead opted to space out courses to decrease contact between students on campus.
Although Havertime returned the following academic year, the administration began to question many of its practices, including Havertime, as a result of both the pandemic and the recent student strike.
Keane also noted that Havertime has “influence(d) our relationship with deadlines in general, both academic and non-academic,” which suggests that with this change, the College is seeking to instill a culture of punctuality. Some places on campus have already eliminated Havertime, such as the Center for Career and Professional Advising (CCPA). They start their events promptly as a reminder to students that Havertime does not exist off campus.
Keane believes that Havertime has been an integral part of student culture, embedded into Haverford’s “Hidden Curriculum,” which is a set of “implied norms” that have been passed down through student generations.
Havertime is not only an agreement between students but also between faculty as well. The practice appears in the Faculty Handbook, which states that “Classes begin at five minutes past the nominal starting time and end promptly at the designated ending time.”
Students expressed concerns about these changes. Though several acknowledged that the increased punctuality could help prepare them for post-Haverford life, they also felt that Havertime is a significant aspect of school culture.
William Harris ‘24 has found the practice to help build community on campus and is critical of its elimination. “Do we want to follow universal ‘best practices’ you can get anywhere or do we want to continue with the quirky, admittedly-inefficient traditions that have their costs, but also build a unique, localized sense of community here?,” he asks.
Seamus Flannery ‘23 noted that in the aftermath of COVID-19, Havertime has been an opportunity to socialize with classmates and professors before class officially begins. He is also skeptical about the adjusted timing, citing that “a significant fraction of professors struggle to dismiss their classes on time. Now we expect them to let their classes out ‘early’? That will never happen in practice.”
Keane anticipates that a transition period will be needed in the fall for students, faculty, and staff to acclimate to the new change, but students are skeptical. Time will tell whether students will miss this buffer period, or whether they will appreciate the incentive for promptness.