The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
LSA sophomore Lexi Michaels wasn’t expecting to be late to her Psychology 280 exam. In fact, she thought she was early. But when she walked into the testing accommodations room a few minutes after 2:30 — she’d run there right from her last class — she realized the exam was not being administered on Michigan time, and everyone else had already started.
“My expectation was that it would (start on Michigan time), because that’s what most of my classes and exams start on, even if they’re in a testing accommodations room,” Michaels said. “And it didn’t. I walked in really flustered. I was like, ‘Are they going to let me take the exam?’”
After the initial scare, everything turned out fine for Michaels. She was still given a full two hours to take her exam, and no one was angry at her for coming in late. However, start time confusion is common at the University of Michigan, and the administration has decided it’s time to take action.
Starting May 1, no University classes will run on Michigan time, the 10 minute late-start built into most undergraduate classes at the University. Michigan time is a University tradition that dates back to the 1930s. Students and professors used to time their classes according to the chimes of the Burton Tower at the beginning of each hour, and Michigan time was officially adopted to allow students to get from class to class without being late.Now, to allow for students to get to back-to-back classes, all classes will stop 10 minutes before the hour.
Though administrators have been talking about removing Michigan time for many years now — University Provost Martin Philbert said there have been conversations since he came to the University in 1995 — this is the first time anything conclusive has passed. The change will start in May for the Spring and Summer terms, so any unexpected kinks can be worked out before the Fall 2018 semester.
“The freshmen will come in not knowing a time we had it,” Philbert said.
According to Philbert, it was a “tradition born out of necessity.”
Now, however, some see the once-crucial tradition as a hinderance. Many newer University schools never adopted it, and Patricia Hurn, dean of the School of Nursing, told The Daily in an email Michigan time was never an option for the Nursing School.
“The major reason our classes have not used Michigan Time is because we are a clinical discipline,” Hurn wrote. “So we very early on aligned our class times, specifically the on-the-hour start time, with the time of our clinical partners. None of these partners recognize or utilize ‘Michigan time.’”
Problems arise when University units aren’t operating on synchronized schedules, and because programs like Nursing don’t have the option of Michigan time, Philbert thinks going to “clock time” is the most logical course of action.
One of the major issues the new system aims to fix is the shortage of classrooms. When some schools are on Michigan time and others are not, classrooms are unavailable for up to 10 minutes at the end of the hour.
“We have the need for more classrooms,” Philbert said. “We have more sections, which require more rooms, and some of these rooms require specialized services. So by aligning time, we free up the number and types of classrooms available.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the University is also hoping the switch will make collaboration among different schools and departments easier.
“I’d say one of the hallmarks of our campus is cross-University collaboration,” Fitzgerald said. “From school and colleges and departments and different units who are constantly cross-pollinating all of our efforts, and this really facilitates that… We’re just eliminating one of those stumbling blocks.”
Though there are clear benefits for faculty and administrators, students are uncertain about the upcoming change. Michaels, even after her exam confusion, thinks Michigan time works well. She’s concerned professors will have a difficult time stopping 10 minutes short of the hour.
“I really like Michigan time. I think it makes so much sense, especially when you have back-to-back classes,” she said. “It gets your day rolling. I think that (this new system) is just a cause for disaster. I think that professors are way more aware of starting 10 minutes late because they haven’t started yet, but if they have to end 10 minutes early, they’re not going to know to stop.”
While Michaels understands this could eventually be a good system, the thought of working through the transition next semester is daunting.
“It’s going to be a huge transition and it’s going to mess a lot of people up with their schedules,” Michaels said. “I don’t think this is a good idea, but that’s just because I’m used to Michigan time and I think that this is working well so I don’t see why you should change what’s already working and what people like.”
On the other hand, Philbert said he’s received a lot of positive feedback about the change from students and faculty.
“Especially through Vice President Royster’s office, we have worked with many student organizations,” Philbert said. “In my experience there’s been an enormous sigh of relief that we’re all going to be operating on the same expectations of starting and finishing.”