Friday seminars stifle shopping

Though shopping period ends today, for some courses it’s also the first day of class.

When the University began to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in 2002, administrators moved classes scheduled for Monday to the preceding Friday in the first week of shopping period. While this measure allows students to attend Monday classes more than once before they finalize their schedules, it leaves the 21 seminars that only meet on Fridays unable to convene until after shopping period ends and schedules are due to college deans. As a result, students and professors said they must devise alternate ways to allow shoppers to try these Friday courses on for size.

“There are just many more Monday classes than there are Friday,” John Meeske, associate dean for physical resources and planning, said, adding that more students would be disadvantaged by missing a Monday than a Friday. “One possible problem is that we have more Friday classes now than when this rule was passed.”

Students hoping to take a class offered only on Fridays can e-mail the professor for information, attend an information session if the professor offers one, or just put the class on their schedules and hope for the best. University Registrar Jill Carlton noted that students can add or drop classes after handing in their course schedules, but to add a class, they must petition their residential college deans and the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing.

Henk Van Assen, who teaches “Introductory Graphic Design,” which meets only on Fridays at 8:25 a.m., said he replied by e-mail to students’ questions about the course Web site, disseminating information that would typically be given out during the first class.

“It’s really not an ideal situation,” Van Assen said. “But we’ve tried as much as possible to communicate with students.”

Ever the graphic designer, Van Assen also created a physical flyer that he sent to students and gave to college deans to hang on campus bulletin boards.

Other professors held optional information sessions for interested students last Friday, regardless of the schedule change. This has become habit for Pamela Hovland, whose “Intermediate Graphic Design” class has been excluded from shopping period for several years now.

Van Assen said he has not lost students who might fear signing up for a course blindly ­— his Friday section was added to the course catalogue when an unprecedented 60 students showed up to the Tuesday of “Introductory Graphic Design,” taught by Julian Bittiner. But Hovland said she has seen her numbers shrink in recent years. She said she hopes for 10 to 15 students each semester, but that about eight students have taken the class in recent years. Her current section has 10 students.

“If the students were more able to shop it, I think more would end up taking it,” she said.

Students who do end up taking the class are those who already have a strong interest in the material, Hovland added.

Other affected classes include “Bioethics and the Law,” “Advanced Fiction Writing” and “Communities and Conservation in Costa Rica.”

Kevin Adkisson ’12, an architecture major, said signing up for last spring’s “Materials in Architecture” without shopping it first was a “nerve-wracking” experience.

“Probably the hardest part was being a freshman putting down a course, not knowing if freshmen were allowed in the class, if I would get cut, all the things you normally can assess within the first few minutes of normal seminars,” Adkisson wrote in an e-mail. “I e-mailed [the professor] beforehand to ask questions and ensure a spot in the course, but that is nothing like actually shopping it.”

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2001, 150 students rallied on Beinecke Plaza to protest the holding of classes. In response to student pressures, the faculty approved the current schedule effective January 2002.

Comments

  • Voice of Reason

    Has it never occurred to them to hold a normal week of classes, and then have Monday classes on the second Friday of the semester to make up for MLK day? That way, everyone can get a chance to shop a Friday seminar at least once. And then no one gets all stressed from the super-packed week that having two Mondays leads to.