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2013 Spring Issue 5 (May 10, 2013)

Should Carleton Offer Night Classes?

May 11, 2013
By Ben Strauss

Carleton’s schedule has varied throughout the years: in the past, for instance, Carleton has had no common time and classes on Saturday. In the future, however, Carleton may have a new schedule, depending on the opinions of students and faculty.

In the past few weeks, every student has received in their e-mail inbox a survey asking for their opinion on changing the class schedule to include night classes after 7:00 pm, to merge 5a and 6a classes and to increase the time between classes to fifteen minutes.

Since January 9th, the Education and Curriculum Committee (ECC) has discussed the possibility of night classes and a “5a, 6a merge” period, and sought further input from faculty.  When surveyed, faculty split very evenly on once weekly and twice weekly night classes.  For both versions, slightly more than forty percent of faculty voted for night classes and slightly more than forty percent of faculty voted against night classes.

However, faculty voted overwhelmingly in support of the “5a, 6a merge,” with about sixty percent of faculty voted for it and about twenty percent of faculty voting against it.

Still, the almost equal vote for and against night classes does not reveal the complete truth. For night classes, “the [professors] in favor of it were of the opinion that flexibility is the good, most of the [professors] against were quite adamantly against for a variety of reasons,” said Laura Goering, Chair of the ECC.

For the “5a, 6a merge,” clear faculty support exists and “that could actually pass at a faculty meeting,” said John Cannon ’15, CSA Senate Liaison to the ECC.

The 5a, 6a merge is not officially under discussion, because the schedule for next year is already set but it could pass for the year after next’s schedule. “There is definitely a demand for that and there are people who asked if they could use that,” said Goering.

Still, the ECC has made no formal proposals.  “Anyone can bring an agenda item to the ECC and a faculty member brought [the night classes] idea to us,” said Goering. The discussion of the 5a, 6a merge followed from that.

The “5a, 6a merge” has its benefits and disadvantages, possibility creating more flexibility in the schedule but also possibly interfering with athletics.

“I know some people for example that might be able to benefit from the change (to night classes), because then they could go into the Twin Cities during the day,” said Muira McCammon ’13, a student representative on the ECC, “but there are a slew of people who have sports, music and extracurricular obligations.”

Now, the ECC will gather as many opinions from students, so it can to make a more informed decision. “I at this point am just trying to collect as many opinions and perspectives from students as possible,” said McCammon ’13.

The introduction of evening classes and the 5a, 6a merge ‘‘might unpack the schedule in terms of classrooms,” said Roger Lasley, Registrar. “This is to the advantage of students, because the more we can spread out courses the fewer decisions they have to make [due to conflicting classes].”

Common time, the most recent major schedule change, had a similar purpose. “It was felt that there was not enough time in the schedule to have ad hoc meetings, because [people were], so heavily scheduled with classes throughout the day,” said Lasley. As a result, the concept of “Common Time” was born.

Currently, according to Ann May, Transcript Coordinator and Senior Administrative Assistant to the Registrar, the 2, 3c and 4, 5c time slots are near-capacity. The introduction of evening classes could alleviate this but could also create capacity problems in the evening when students use classrooms for meetings, clubs and other activities.

If Carleton adopted evening classes, “we would have to change the regulations for how departments spread their courses out,” said Lasley. The Registrar’s Office could approve evening classes ad hoc, on a case by case basis, like what currently happens or develop an official policy on them.

The Registrar’s Office could potentially create a policy to limit the number of evening classes. “There will be checks put in place, so it doesn’t snowball, so that in ten years twenty percent of our classes are not night classes,” said John Cannon ’15, CSA Senate Liaison to the ECC.

Required classes for majors and large lecture classes also would not become night classes.“They would be smaller classes: not Intro Bio, not Intro Econ, not Intro Psych but upper-level classes where students know ahead of time and can plan accordingly,” said Laura Henry ’13, a student representative on the ECC.

In the end, the student survey will have an important impact on these two proposals. For night classes, “if it turns out that there is no strong mandate from the students, it is not likely to go further than the ECC,” said Goering. Students also will have an important impact on the “5a, 6a merge”

In the end, the ECC wants to know students’ opinions on the considered changes to the schedule. “I am looking forward to processing all of the comments and questions that might arise from this proposal,” said McCammon. “Students should not hesitate to e-mail [the student representatives] collectively or individually.”

Sample of Survey Responses

“No matter what happens with evenings, we definitely need the MW option. But why don’t we just go to semesters and stop bandaging a system that is not working?”

“I worry about introducing more conflict into the possibility of scheduling one-time activities, such as comps talks and visiting speakers.”

“These times would definitely NOT work in my department. But if other faculty feel they would be helpful, then it is reasonable.”

“Evening classes should be avoided for many reasons: (a) Music Ensembles rehearse some evenings (as they must avoid already scheduled classes and athletic practices, (b) the college’s reach on faculty time already extends to early mornings and some weekends; it would be good to draw a bright line somewhere, and (c) it is also good to have these times of the day for student-directed activities, from studying to theater to just goofing off.”

“The 7 pm start time for options 1 and 2 seems late, perhas even for students, and certainly for faculty with children. Many places, including Macalester, have a 5-8 pm slot. Is that not an option?”

“I disagree with the expansion of the teaching schedule. We already work seven days a week. The students already run all day long. Nights are the only time for common and extended library time with friends, downtime on the phone, roommate time. They all eat at different times now because of our teaching schedule during the day. I don’t want for them not to have nights to be with others to study ourside the classroom.”

“As someone with a family, the once a week option for seminars is very attractive even though the time isn’t great. Twice a week in the evening is the worst of both worlds!”

“I think it’s naive unless written somewhere in stone to say that these extra hours will be voluntary. Once set into the program, I can easily see that there could be pressure to offer sections of courses at these times and the demand that they be staffed.”

“I am strongly against any nighttime expansion, it is not voluntary and would be a new time with new conflicts against what already occurs. There is something wrong if we cannot fit in the academic day and solutions should be sought elsewhere.”

“One night a week seems preferable to two nights a week. The 5,6a proposal isn’t too much differerent
from studio art’s present 2,3a and 4,5a slots.”

“Opening up evening slots is long overdue--especially the 3-hr. variety. I would favor having options on both Tuesday AND Wednesday.”

“I like the idea of an evening seminar, although I would like to see some control over how appropriate that slot is for the course vs. how convenient for the faculty member. I would not want to see a regualr evening course schedule because of the impact on study time, social life and extra curriculars. The MW longer courses would seem to me to create a lot more competition for 5a rather than opening up the schedule in helpful ways.”

“The current MWF schedule has three class meetings for a total of 200 minutes per week. Why would the proposed MW classes meet for 210 minutes per week? As for the proposed evening classes I would support the idea in theory but in practice it is already all but impossible to schedule film-screenings etc. for class in the evenings with the students extra‐curricular commitments. Adding classes to the mix would make it entirely impossible.”

 

 

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