Letter to the Editor: Class-time report merits attention

As co-adviser of The Rider News, I was proud of the students’ coverage of class times in last week’s issue. I also think their findings should run up a red flag for departments.

Faculty may be surprised to realize that the story grew out of student dissatisfaction with the lack of morning classes. The News found that more than one-third of all courses on the Lawrenceville campus next spring take place during just four periods — G, J, D and E. Only 19 sections will be offered during A period (8 a.m. M-W-F), compared with 74 sections during G, (1:10 p.m. M-W). And we say we have a shortage of rooms?

In my department, the constraints of teaching in labs mean we routinely offer 8 a.m. classes. But this year, thanks to the opening of an additional lab, we spared ourselves A period (we still offer B). But to be honest, this was not so much for student benefit as for faculty convenience.

I hate teaching at 8 a.m. It often means getting up at 5:30 a.m. in order to prepare, get to campus and test the technology. When I get in at 7 a.m., my hallway is dark and empty of colleagues, the library and help desk are closed, and there’s no secretarial support. If I need to duplicate a handout, I have to turn on the copier myself and wait for it to warm up.

But I will add that Dr. Pearlie Peters, who was quoted in last week’s article, is right: Most students do fine at 8 a.m.

The News also discovered that only two 300-level courses will be taught during A period, while 29 of them are taught in G. So juniors seeking the courses needed to complete majors and minors often find that the times conflict.

The only justification I have heard for limiting the under-scheduled A period is the belief that upperclassmen cannot wake up before 10:20 a.m. But as one of my colleagues also observes, we’d do students a favor if we taught them “early to rise” before they joined the work world.

The 199 “0”-period (odd-time) classes also need consideration. We can all come up with reasons to justify the times we choose to teach. But that doesn’t make it any easier for students or their academic advisers.

For example, the decision by the Philosophy Department faculty to schedule additional discussion sections makes perfect sense for them. But it’s hard when it means a student who is required to take a philosophy course can’t take some other class during popular periods like F, H or I, because one day a week philosophy discussion sections are held during those popular times.

My department’s Graphic Design students are required to take two studio art courses, meeting either Tuesday or Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. — again, meaning no classes in the popular H, I or K that semester.

I suggest departments take a close look at the choices they make when scheduling sections. For example, Philosophy might offer discussion sections in less popular times (perhaps A, L, or Tuesday-Thursday 5 to 6:30 p.m.). These are not favorite times for professors, but they would increase options for students. Similarly, three-hour classes that must be taught during the day could be timed so that they knock out only two sections, rather than three. A good solution could be to combine B and D, or D and the open period, or teach 3:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.

The potential benefits to students of any of these fine-tunings should outweigh any inconveniences to faculty.

-Dr. E. Graham McKinley

Professor, Department of Communication and Journalism

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