Schedule shift eases trek, adds downtime

Students heading from Islamic Theology to Molecular Ecology may be a bit less rushed this semester, thanks to five extra minutes between morning classes.

A semester after the University expanded the grace period between classes from 10 to 15 minutes, students and professors interviewed shared mixed reactions to the new schedule, as well as to other changes proposed by the Course of Study Committee in a report released last January.

Students walk on Cross Campus between classes. Scheduling changes this year include the inclusion of an extra five minutes between morning classes and the addition of Wednesday-Friday classes, though they are not common.
Pete Martin
Students walk on Cross Campus between classes. Scheduling changes this year include the inclusion of an extra five minutes between morning classes and the addition of Wednesday-Friday classes, though they are not common.

The recommendations included increasing the number of science classes that meet on central campus and offering professors the option of teaching classes on a Wednesday-Friday schedule.

Several students said the longer break between classes has made getting around campus easier, but some faculty members said they think the new scheduling option may produce lower enrollments.

According to the report — which was adopted by a faculty vote last February — the new policies are meant to ease pressure for students whose schedules force them to walk long distances in a short period of time, as well as for the University registrar, who struggles to schedule courses in a limited number of time slots and classrooms.

Although no official studies have yet been conducted to examine how the changes have affected enrollment, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said he will begin to solicit input from students and faculty later this semester.

Hannah Waldenberger ’11 said she finds the 15 minutes between classes useful, especially for her morning walk between classes in Silliman College and Sloane Physics Laboratory. But Elizabeth Smith ’11 said she thinks the period should be lengthened to 20 minutes.

“I’m always late to my second class,” she said.

Smith said she has a hard time arriving on time to her class in the Yale University Art Gallery after an earlier class in the Center for Language Study.

Although the transition from 10- to 15-minute passing periods went into effect at the beginning of the fall term, other changes will require more gradual transitions, said history professor Anders Winroth, who chaired the committee.

When the report was adopted, he said, most of the 2007-’08 schedules had already been finalized. Nonetheless, “a small handful of faculty” chose the Wednesday-Friday scheduling option for this semester, Senior Deputy Registrar Diane Rodrigues said.

Although Rodrigues said no official studies have yet analyzed the enrollment patterns in Wednesday-Friday courses, some professors said they think that setup scares away Yalies who want to finish their weeks by Thursday.

Amy Hungerford, director of undergraduate studies of the English Department, said enrollment in the Wednesday-Friday section of English 114 is noticeably lower than that in sections scheduled on other days.

Philosophy professor Susanne Bobzien, who is teaching Introduction to Ancient Philosophy on Wednesdays and Fridays for the first time, said her enrollment decreased by 18 percent from last semester.

“I wouldn’t rule it out that Wed/Fri instead of Mon/Wed got the numbers down somewhat,” Bobzien said in an e-mail.

Some faculty members, however, said they have not noticed any correlation between Wednesday-Friday classes and low enrollment.

Beatrice Gruendler, a professor of Near Eastern languages and civilizations, said the Wednesday-Friday section of Arabic 102 has 13 enrolled students — fewer than the 26 in a Monday-Wednesday section but more than the nine in a Tuesday-Thursday section.

Students and professors were also split on the potential benefits of “mixed scheduling” — the report’s term for booking science lectures in classrooms on central campus and humanities classes in rooms on Science Hill.

The recommendation is aimed to alleviate the problems many students and faculty members experience with lengthy commutes, according to the report.

Some students and faculty said “mixed scheduling” helps ease the strain of cross-campus commuting.

School of Medicine professor Paula Kavathas, who chose to teach an undergraduate course on central campus this semester, said she requested the new location so that she could walk from her office at the medical school to her classroom instead of driving.

Geology and geophysics professor Dave Bercovici, who teaches an introductory lecture in William L. Harkness Hall, said he thinks scheduling science classes on central campus increases enrollment, especially among non-science majors.

“If we taught on Science Hill, we’d get far fewer students,” Bercovici said. “It is a long trek, even with the change in the schedule.”

Rodrigues said the Office of the Registrar has not officially measured enrollment patterns in this category of classes.

But some students said class location did not seriously impact their course selection process. Philip Costopoulos ’10, who is enrolled in Bercovici’s class, said the location in WLH was “not much of an issue” in his decision to enroll.

Although student and faculty perceptions of the schedule changes are mixed, Hungerford — who is also the current chair of the Course of Study Committee — said the Committee would not be revisiting the scheduling issue this year.

“I imagine we will wait until we have some data to show how the changes affected classroom availability this year, and how the new scheduling guidelines sat with students and professors,” Hungerford said.

But Salovey said his office will examine the impact of the report’s recommendations throughout the year.

“[A] little later in the semester we will actively solicit input from students and faculty, and that will … provide data that’s more diagnostic,” he said.

Rodrigues said the Registrar’s Office generally conducts official studies of enrollment only when it receives a request from the Course of Study Committee. The committee usually revisits scheduling issues every two or three years, she said.

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