Working Off the Grid: New times + midday crunch = scheduling bind
By Dalton Karwacki and Emily Landgraf
Kaitlyn Carter, an elementary education and psychology major, ran into a “big problem” trying to register for spring courses on the Lawrenceville campus.
“A lot of my classes overlap,” she said in an e-mail. “My special education classes are only offered 11:30 to 1 on Monday and Wednesday, which is inconveniently the same time a lot of psychology courses are offered.”
Because her special education classes overlap with the plentiful F period and effectively knock out the even more abundant G period (unless she wants to skip lunch), Carter’s choices were limited. Pyschology offers 13 classes during F and G, 11 of them 300-level, the kind juniors like Carter need.
Among other issues coming to light during the current course-selection period, the concentration of needed courses in preferred time slots became evident in a tally by The Rider News. For every dreaded A-period class (8 a.m. MWF), there are nearly four G’s (early afternoon MW). In spring 2010, the Lawrenceville campus lists 19 A-period classes and 74 G’s.
The “0” period
Still, the most plentiful “period” of all does not even appear on the Lawrenceville schedule grid. It’s called “0,” as in 01, 02, 03, all the way up to 09. When is it? That depends.
These “0” sections include independent studies and internships, which meet by arrangement; philosophy courses, which can have lectures in one time slot and discussion sections in other times; education practicums; and music, art and dance courses, as well as individual music lessons.
These off-the-grid sections now outnumber any regular period, totaling 199 next spring. At least 24 departments and programs schedule classes in “0” period.
Both of Carter’s choices for her psychology classes had limited spaces when she went online to register, and she did not get into the classes she wanted.
“I think it was a little ridiculous how I am registering for my spring semester of my junior year and I cannot get the classes that I wanted,” Carter wrote.
Sophomore Keith Warncke, a secondary education and history major in the Baccalaureate Honors Program (BHP), had an issue with the “0” period. He wanted to take two BHP courses — Issues at the New Jersey Shore and 20th Century European Ideologies. The Jersey Shore class is during an “0” period that conflicts with the Ideologies course.
“I ended up having to choose between the two courses,” Warncke said. “I need to take seven BHP classes and write a thesis in order to graduate as part of the program. I don’t have a science core, and the ideologies class fit into my history core so I went with that.”
With 24 of these unusual periods, the Philosophy Department has the most classes scheduled during the “0” period.
“One thing many of our courses, particularly our lower level courses, do is to have lectures two days a week,” said philosophy professor Dr. Joel Feldman. “They then break up into two or even three discussion sections on one day, usually Friday. That’s one of the distinctive aspects of our program. We do that so students can have real discussions about the material.”
Many philosophy courses are listed as meeting on two days in a normal period on the grid, such that two or three sections of the course meet in the same room at the same time for lectures. The third meeting of the week for each section will fall into a different slot on the grid than the others, allowing for smaller class discussion.
“This is the first time we’ve set up our courses like this,” said Feldman. “What we’ve done in the past was to have the courses described as being in a traditional period, then having the students break up and find times to meet for the discussion class. The problem with this was that some of the discussion groups would be much larger than others, which defeats the purpose of having small group discussions.”
Feldman explained that bigger schools are able to avoid this particular problem.
“At a larger university, a professor would teach the two lecture periods,” Feldman said. “Then the class would split up and the teaching assistants would teach the discussions on Friday. Here at Rider, [there are no graduate students teaching], so the courses have to be split up like this so we can teach each discussion group separately.”
The Fine Arts Department will teach its six studio art classes this spring in “0” periods.
“It’s necessary for studio classes to run in that kind of way,” said Professor of Fine Arts Deborah Rosenthal. “You can’t teach a studio class well, or as far as I’m concerned at all, in hour-and-a-half increments.”
It can take 20 to 25 minutes to set up materials at the beginning of class, and to clean them up once the class is over, Rosenthal said.
Students “are attempting to do what artists do,” she said. “You don’t work in tiny increments of time.”
Rosenthal said that painting and drawing is a largely meditative and contemplative exercise, and thus can take a large amount of time.
“Three hours I consider minimal really,” she said. “Anybody that takes a studio class would fully agree. They would feel it’s a necessity, not a burden. People don’t paint by the clock.”
There are several reasons that these studio courses are not taught in a three-hour night class.
“Daylight is fairly important to painting and painting color,” she said in an e-mail. “Also, museums, which we visit during class hours to look at paintings, are not open every night. The final answer, perhaps, is that the studio art courses are an integral part of the curriculum of the university, which is not a ‘night school’ primarily.”
Dr. Jerry Rife, chairperson of the Fine Arts Department, said that holding classes during times that are not on the standard grid can actually help students make their schedules more easily. He teaches a band course Mondays from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
“I offer Concert Band in the non-grid period so that any student can play in the band without conflict from other classes,” said Rife. “There is a new L period, that is Monday and Wednesday, [4:30 to 6 p.m.] so that will cut down on band enrollment, I am sad to say. I’m currently looking for a solution to this.”
Another issue affecting scheduling is that there are only 19 sections offered during the A period, almost all of them lower-level courses.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Halpern, professor of sociology and chief grievance officer of Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, fewer students are willing to take those classes.
“Departments, when they [set up the course schedule] are aware that students aren’t rushing in for 8 a.m. classes,” Halpern said. “I can open up the roster right now and show you I have seats at 8 a.m. classes, and there’s almost no seats left in classes in the middle of the day.”
According to Halpern, departments are given a workload by their dean that tells them how many sections are required based on student needs.
“Ultimately [an] agreement is reached between the department and the dean,” he said. “The needs of the student actually are what drives this, and then that becomes the official workload.”
According to Halpern, class scheduling problems can be linked to the growth of the student body.
“Things have gotten a lot tighter because the number of students at Rider has grown over the last five years fairly dramatically,” Halpern said. “The number of full-time faculty has not. The number of rooms has certainly not, and this has led to serious frictions in this process.”
Halpern also stated that the reductions in classroom occupancy by the fire marshal and the technology used in many classrooms have reduced space. Halpern asks students to remember that the faculty is on their side.
“I know students feel that nobody cares about these issues,” he said. “That’s not true. I think every department cares.”
Dr. Pearlie Mae Peters, a professor of English, is not so sure about who is unwilling to deal with early morning classes. She does know that she prefers teaching early classes, and that her morning students seem more productive and conscientious.
“By habit, I am an early morning person,” said Peters. “It has to do with the values instilled in me by my parents. You’re supposed to make the best of every day, and you can be more productive if you get an early start.”
Peters also enjoys teaching morning classes because of her students.
“Even if it’s a core class, it takes student initiative to take early classes,” Peters said. “I find that that makes my morning students more conscientious, more productive and more prepared for class. My experience has shown me that I can get more productivity from a conscientious student in an 8:00 class than I would from a student, say, in a 1:10 class.”
Of the 19 sections taught during A period, 10 of these are 100-level courses. There are only three 200-level and two 300-level courses, while there are no 400-level courses offered during this period. In comparison there are 11 courses at the 400-level taught during the G period. There are also 29 courses in this period that are 300-level and 15 that are 200-level.
This lopsided distribution of upper-level courses does not afford upper-level students much chance to take higher classes in the morning. Instead, these courses are compressed into a smaller selection of periods. This forces students, especially upperclassmen, to make decisions about which required course to take when they are being offered at the same time.
Next semester, only six classes are offered to meet the CLAES core literature requirement. Four of them are in the most plentiful periods, making it likely students face conflicts trying to schedule them.
The Department of Communication and Journalism dealt with the issue of conflicting upper-level courses this semester. This conflict would have been avoided if it were not for a misprint in the course catalog stating that Computer Assisted Reporting would be offered in the Spring 2010 semester. This is a course that students in the News-Editorial track must take to graduate. When the department realized that a good number of seniors had not taken the class, it opened a K-period section. However, this conflicted with an Advanced Speech class, another requirement for journalism majors. Another section of Advanced Speech was opened on Wednesday nights because of the conflict, but it was still stressful for seniors who had taken neither class.
Another issue students may face is restrictions on the courses they are required to take. According to several students, restrictions kept them from registering easily for required courses. Sophomore marketing major John Vassos said many students in the business school are advised to take the required Professional and Strategic Speech course in the second semester of their sophomore year. However, restrictions prevented him from registering for the section he wanted — even though he should have been eligible for the class.
“It kind of rearranged a bit of what I had planned because I had planned to take advantage of one of the other sections,” he said.
The same thing happened to sophomore Amy Crowe, who switched her major to elementary education and liberal studies with an emphasis in environmental science. Because MyInfo doesn’t recognize her as a science major, she now has to be signed in to all of her required science courses for the rest of her Rider career.
“It’s annoying and inconvenient because I have to have this extra process,” she said
Peters feels that the uneven distribution of upper-level courses should be taken care of so students can make the most of their time at Rider.
“Students shouldn’t have to choose between required courses,” said Peters. “I think there should be some type of body that looks over the courses for the semester to make sure that they don’t conflict. The students should be your main priority.”