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Students, professors vie for popular times

Brian McKenzie | Monday, November 12, 2007

While it may be obvious that students make all efforts to avoid 8 a.m. classes in favor of more appealing choices later in the day, it seems the faculty does the same. With rostering for next semester quickly approaching, students and professors hope to fulfill their education requirements while maintaining convenience and scheduling ease. The University, too, strives to meet these demands.

Still, convenience is one of many factors in the scheduling process.

“Notre Dame’s courses are scheduled with both efficiency and curricular needs in mind,” Assistant Registrar Chris Temple said.

“It’s no accident” that courses fall in neat intervals, he said. For example, on Tuesdays and Thursdays one class will last from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. and the next will start at 11.

“We have to find certain standard class times to use the class rooms efficiently. … The scheduling decision starts with the academic department,” Temple said. “Then each college dean assesses the situation and works with the departments to negotiate what schedule makes the most sense for the faculty and students.  

“Once the colleges are done, that information is forwarded to the registrar’s office. We handle it from the University’s perspective,” he said. “We look at the schedule primarily from a classroom-resources perspective, which means, ‘Do we have enough classes available for all the people that want to teach at a certain time?'” he said.  

That perspective is complicated because certain time-slots are “inherently desirable.” The time slot on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. through 12:15 p.m. is the most popular, for both students and faculty, he said. But only so many classrooms are available at that time.  

“There’s definitely competition for the popular time spots,” he said.

College deans decide which departments will have to shift their courses to less popular times, he said. The deans consider which courses require particular kinds of classrooms, such as a computer lab, a large lecture hall or a room equipped with a projector, he said.

Another consideration is that some courses, particularly in Arts and Letters, are “hard to teach in 50 minutes.”

“That’s a very room-resources orientated perspective, though, not a curriculum-driven perspective,” he said.

Sebastian Rosato, a professor of political science, said he wished the length of classes was uniform across all subjects.  

“It’s unnecessarily complicated to fit in 50-minute courses,” he said.  “You can’t impart any information in 50 minutes, anyway.”

Rosato said that he is “very happy” that he will teach a course at 9:35, but he says that it is “annoying” that his next course is not until 4 p.m.

Sara Maurer, an assistant professor in English, does not avoid early morning classes for fear of lack of attention by the students.

“I have honestly haven’t noticed that students are any less awake in morning classes,” she said. “But I’ve never taught an 8 a.m. class.”

Maurer said some classes have bad days, but that hasn’t appeared to be caused by time of day. She also was sympathetic to the registrar’s scheduling hassles.

“There are so many issues to consider, to offer a decent selection, to distribute required courses and then faculty commitments,” she said. “It’s very hard to accommodate everyone.”

The English department’s scheduling process is “very upfront,” so faculty do not feel so disappointed if they don’t teach at their preferred times, Maurer said.