When Martha Pollack, the University’s vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, told her son — a freshman at the University — that the University’s plan to restructure class scheduling would likely result in more early morning and Friday classes, he groaned in response, she said.

The plan to restructure the class scheduling process was initially announced at a meeting of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, the University’s leading faculty governance body, meeting on Jan. 9. Its goal is to reduce the over-scheduling of classes during peak hours — 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. — Monday through Thursday by raising the number of classes during non-peak hours and on Fridays.

With implementation of the new plan, the Office of the Registrar will be able to schedule classes in available rooms after departments with priority have selected their rooms — until 5 p.m. instead of noon.

In an interview last Thursday, Pollack said she was concerned that students may not be receptive to the changes. Still, she said she is excited about the plan, and is confident students will recognize that the advantages — like fewer scheduling conflicts — are worth the sacrifices or waking up earlier or having Friday class.

“If we can spread out the classes more, then it’s actually easier for students,” she said.

Pollack also said the change will allow for better utilization of campus buildings and prevent tuition increases by saving the University about $462 million. As more academic buildings, like the Dennison Building, are repurposed into office spaces, the University would have had to erect new buildings to compensate for the loss of classroom space until the policy was implemented. The University will also reclaim $18 million per year in electricity costs from the repurposing of the buildings.

Pollack added that she was glad that the savings could help curb recent rises in tuition without harming the quality of instruction at the University.

“We’re dealing in a time of very constrained resources, so if we do things like move classes around and, as a result of that, still have lower tuition increases or still have raises for faculty and staff and have these other benefits — less conflicts for students, more use of the nice classrooms — it’s kind of a win-win,” she said.

Amid rising tuition and an increase in operating costs for the University, Pollack said she has been examining all possible methods of saving costs. Through repurposing of campus buildings, she said the plan will slow the rush of construction that has persisted over the last decade, noting the University grew in square feet at more than 2 percent per year from 2001 to 2007.

According to data compiled by Frances Mueller, assistant vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, about half of classrooms are empty at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week.

Conversely, classes are often overscheduled during peak hours and professors have difficulty finding open classrooms, according to Pollack. She identified three or four classes in the School of Nursing for which professors were unable to schedule classes in the same room for every meeting.

“A lot of faculty think, ‘Wow, we must have a real shortage of classrooms because I can never get my class schedule,’” Pollack said. “Well, actually that’s not true. We have this oversupply, but the problem is everybody wants to teach their class at the same time.”

The plan hopes to resolve the time conflicts by scheduling no more than 35 percent of all classes during peak hours, no fewer than 35 percent of classes during off-peak hours — 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.— and 15 percent of classes on Fridays, according to Pollack.

Currently 39 percent of classes are held during peak hours, about 32 percent are during non-peak hours and 12 percent are on Fridays.

Kim Kearfott, SACUA vice chair and a professor in the Medical School and College of Engineering, said at last week’s meeting that the over-scheduling problem offered few flawless solutions, but the rise in the percentage of early morning classes may inconvenience students.

“The young adult mind of a freshman or sophomore doesn’t work well early,” she said at the meeting.

LSA junior Lars Johnson said the proposal’s potential to decrease scheduling conflicts may be particularly beneficial to underclassmen who are still determining their majors and enrolling in courses in multiple departments.

Overall, Johnson called the plan “reasonable” because it checks tuition increases and aims to prevent scheduling conflicts for students and professors. He said he wouldn’t be more inclined to skip class if it were earlier, but added that he thought other students may be prone to do so until they grew used to the changes.

“It’s tough to get people who are attentive in class at that time, and until an actual culture gets behind it, I’ll bet they get a lot of people who just skip class,” he said.

LSA junior Ray Stapleton said he would likely skip early lectures, since it’s something he does frequently already.

“I don’t like having early classes,” he said. “It sucks when there’s a class I want to schedule and I see it’s at 8:30.”

LSA junior Rebecca Lynn, an employee at the University Hospital, said she works early in the morning and therefore would not mind earlier classes since she would already be awake.

She added that she believes the plan is fair and sensible, particularly since she has had difficulty scheduling Psychology classes to fit her major in the past because the required courses are often taught at the same time, forcing her to choose between classes.

“The tradeoff is definitely worth it,” she said. “If it means lowering tuition, it’s not a huge commitment. It’s not like they’re asking for Saturday or Sunday classes.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.