Correcting Some Misconceptions About Scheduling

Academic Affairs held a meeting with Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education Harry Elam for students to voice their opinions about the recent proposal for schedule changes next year. Among other things, Elam dispelled many inaccuracies stated in the article published in the Daily February 27th, “Registrar proposes 8:30 a.m. starts, banning double-booked schedules.”

Firstly, Elam hastens to point out that double-booking will not become completely forbidden, it will just require permission, similar to taking over 20 units. This is a measure done to ensure that students are not simply missing half of their classes and can take the time to invest the care necessary for a good education. Classes that are available through video lectures, like most CS classes, will likely be easy to get this kind of permission for. Students who need certain classes to graduate will also likely receive leniency. But this will be the exception rather than the rule.

Secondly, the problem of classes that overlap by fifteen minutes is being eliminated by the new scheduling system, which hopes to eliminate the archaic and ridiculous system now that uses several different methods for class times. Currently, it’s estimated that about 1,000 students have overlapped classes. The new measure is intended to eliminate this by offering far more flexibility in class times.

Also, Elam and Registrar Tom Black are not able to dictate class times. That’s entirely up to the department, and ultimately up to individual professors. Black plans on going to each department, showing them the new scheduling system, and encouraging them to not plan classes that conflict with major classes of interest like CS 106A, Chem 31, etc. But each department will make the rules. It’s up to them whether or not they will take advantage of the 8:30 time slot. Black is also encouraging other changes, like moving classes later in the day or taking advantage of the noontime slot, which is currently relatively empty. 90% of classes currently are between 11 and 2, especially humanities classes, which are hurt as they get passed by in favor of core classes.

The HumBio core and language classes, contrary to what was reported in the Daily, are encouraged to start at 9:30, not 8:30. Still, this is up to the teachers themselves. While Black did say he wants to use major required classes to lead this movement, departments know the effects that this will have on students and on the likelihood that classes will be both present and dynamic. The issue really comes down to choice: Departments must choose if they should offer more flexible class times or stick to those in peak hours, and students must choose if they’re willing to show up to these morning classes or refuse to attend so as to have their voices (un)heard.

Many are outraged about this because it seems to favor athletes and negatively impact those in the arts who have rehearsals, meetings, etc. But the new measures are intended to give more options at all times, including later in the day. The goal is to encourage departments to think differently about the way they schedule and open up opportunities for students to take the classes they want to take, not just ones they can take.

Dr. Dement, the Stanford fixture and professor of the always popular Sleep and Dreams class, was in attendance, and voiced concern that early start times coupled with a student body that’s already near 100% sleep deprivation will only hurt student performance. Elam responded saying he is well-aware of this, and that departments are aware too. Most teachers can tell when their students are too sleepy to learn, and this will be reflected in their decisions on class times. Some might force students to make the call between being well-rested and taking the classes they want to, but with enough student voices this might not have to be the case.

One of the biggest problems most students have with this is what seems to be a top-down approach which fails to take student thoughts into consideration, and which has gotten too far without any voice from the students. The measure will not be passed until next week at the Faculty Senate meeting, where a delegation will read student complaints. And Elam says that though he sends out emails at the beginning of the year outlining desired changes in each school year, he has very low student response. He is working to correct this though, and he seemed open to implementing suggestions raised at the meeting including a listserve and one-click voting on issues.

A petition circulated recently gathered almost 1,300 votes by the time of this writing against the measures proposed. However, many of these students were misinformed. Doublebooking is not completely abolished; the measure has not been passed, merely proposed; classes, especially important ones, would not have to start at 8:30; these decisions are made on a departmental level with only insight from the Vice Provost and Registrar; scheduling will be simplified to eliminate confusion and contradictions; student voices are first and foremost, because students ultimately decide which classes they take. No one is forcing you to take early morning classes. The goal is simply to provide more options for the students who would have interest in opening up their schedules.

If you still feel strongly about this, vote with your feet and don’t attend these classes. And make sure your voice is heard by the Faculty Senate and by your teachers. Representatives of the ASSU will read student petitions and the views expressed already at the meeting, so either sign existing ones or create your own. Student opinions are the only ones that the departments care about, and widespread, informed discontent can help make a system that’s flexible and optimal for all parties. 

The ASSU representative is Shahab Fadavi, who can be reached at [email protected] if you have specific concerns to be addressed.

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