Have you ever taken an 8 a.m. class? Probably not. In fact, if you’re like 99 percent of Williams students, you would balk at the idea of sitting through astrophysics at eight on a Friday morning. The problem here is not astrophysics – at a normal hour, we would all give up our left arms for the chance to plot the orbit of a satellite – it’s the fact that college students simply do not function before lunchtime. The coffee shop’s business model rests solidly on this premise, but after a late night at the Log, not even Cold Springs can prepare an Eph for an early Friday morning. Almost as good as two Advil and a big glass of water, the Calendar and Schedule Committee (CSC) has somewhat alleviated the pain of waking up at seven by creating a new schedule which, if approved at this Wednesday’s faculty meeting, pushes back the start of the day to 8:30. While this may reduce the number of bleary eyes each morning, other changes may have a significant effect on your campus activities.
Most importantly, in its proposal, the CSC has placed three blocks throughout the week during which committee meetings, tutorials, colloquia and review sessions can occur. As a Record editorial brought to light last year, the current committee schedule violates the College’s concept of the “Division of the Day.” The Division of the Day delineates separate time for academics and athletics – in line with the College’s commitment to both activities. Unfortunately, athletes, whose practices generally fall between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., are prohibited from serving on some of the College’s most important committees, which meet during the same time. The changes will hopefully serve to increase athlete involvement in committees and combat the general trend of athletes being underrepresented in campus decision-making. Though not stated in the CSC’s proposal, these time periods are also ideal for faculty office hours and student group meetings.
While the mid-day meeting periods have great benefits to the community, they do not come without a cost. In order to preserve the overall number of meeting times throughout the week, the CSC was forced to add an evening class block on Monday and Wednesday from 6:40 to 7:55. We find the increase in evening classes a disturbing development and hope that this aspect of the proposal is rejected by the faculty when it comes up for a vote this week. As mentioned above, Williams prides itself in the Division of the Day, promoting a well-rounded schedule which in turn produces well-rounded students. In contrast to rigorous academics in the morning and tough practices in the afternoon, the evening should be preserved for the intellectual development of students. Evenings in Williamstown are packed full with lectures, theater performances, Gaudino forums, art exhibits, film showings, student group meetings and hundreds of other activities from which students can choose. Presently, few organizations schedule events for Monday night with the knowledge that students may be in class. If the new schedule were to be approved, Wednesday night would also be eliminated as a time for cultural and intellectual development – a form of outside-the-classroom learning which the College has cherished since its inception.
We are also concerned that the proposal does not address a critical problem that plagues the scheduling process as it stands – the enormous over-subscription of certain time blocks. While the CSC identifies this as a dilemma, we believe that their solution does not adequately solve the problem. They believe that increasing the total number of available slots will reduce number of over-crowded time slots, but the proposal makes little effort to evenly distribute classes throughout the new time periods. As reported in last fall’s Record, 59 classes were offered in the most popular time slot â- 9:55-11:10 Tuesday/Thursday – versus 12 classes in the 12-12:50 Monday/Wednesday/Friday block. Even worse, the ratio between Monday/Thursday and Tuesday/Friday classes was 2:1 as professors and students hoped for an early start to their weekends. While the proposal does eliminate the 2:35 to 3:50 block on Fridays, it does not prevent faculty members from scheduling all of their classes in the Tuesday/Thursday slots. We fear that without any restrictions, students will find that many of the classes they wish to take will fall within the same time blocks. The CSC should find a way to restrict the total number of classes offered during specific time blocks, potentially allocating a certain number per department.
The CSC has taken on one of the most daunting logistical tasks at the College and come up with a fair and balanced schedule. We applaud them for fitting in the new committee meeting times and the later start to the day. We hope, however, that with some careful maneuvering, the CSC can eliminate the need for evening classes and more evenly distribute classes throughout the day.
A copy of the new class hour grid can be found at http://www.williams.edu/Registrar/calsched/newgrid.pdf