Class schedule conflicts

By
October 16, 2003

Responding to student concerns about conflicts in class
scheduling, Mills College has restructured the course schedule in
an effort to eradicate scheduling conflicts which have frustrated
many undergraduate and graduate students in their quest for
classes. The changes will not be implemented this semester, as
classes are well under way, however, students will see the change
in the spring schedule.

For the past two years, students and faculty have been faced
with the challenge of coordinating classes needed for graduation.
The problem is, some classes offered in the same semester overlap
some by 15 minutes, some by an hour and a half forcing some
students to put off until next year classes they could otherwise
have taken this year. “I feel like it’s been a fight to get classes
at Mills,” said graduate student Jennifer Soloway.

New provost and dean of faculty, Mary-Ann Milford intimately
understands the frustrations of schedule conflicts: while teaching
a class, another professor and class arrived at her door 15 minutes
before her class ended and informed her that it was time for their
class to begin in the same room.

Yet, while these problems are frustrating, the biggest time
conflicts have been classes in the 6:00 p.m. time slot.

“They overlapped with the classes that were in the late
afternoons [3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.] and they overlapped with the
classes that start in the evenings [7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.],”
Milford said.

“When students have that overlap, it means they’re going to miss
the beginning or end of every class.” And those are the lucky
students.

Some, like Tanita Davis, a graduate student in the MFA program,
initially encountered problems with some professors refusing to let
students come to class 15 minutes late. This put her in the
position of having to choose between courses she ordinarily would
have been able to take, except for a 15 minute scheduling
error.

Kathryn Reiss, an instructor of young adult literature for the
English department empathizes, “As it is, students have to choose
between overlapping classes.”

Reiss understands what many students are going through as one of
the courses she teaches overlapped with that of another instructor.
“Professors shouldn’t have to feel as though we’re vying for each
others students,” she said. “We like to support each other.”

The 6:00 p.m. classes posed other problems. Many students who
attend evening classes have found themselves in back-to-back
classes from early afternoon until 9:30 p.m.

“A student cannot be sitting for six hours in class, it’s
exhausting, it’s draining, and students need a physical and
intellectual break they need down time,” said Milford.
Additionally, classes running continuously through the dinner hour
are disastrous for students who depend on Founders for their meals,
as they must choose between attending class or attending
dinner.

Scheduling courses that students will need for graduation is a
complex process. Scheduling takes place at the registrar’s office
where “the registrar slots in information that is given to that
office… by the faculty,” Milford explained, “the registrar does
not dream it up and say this is what you all are going to do it’s
very collaborative.”

According to Milford, scheduling conflicts have been a problem
only within the last few years “We’ve done it for years [and] for
years we’ve had it work out fine.”

When asked what she thought was responsible for the glitches,
Milford said, “I think it had to do with trying to accommodate
students in the evenings. People experiment to see if things will
work and we had a system that worked, people wanted to change it
and suddenly all these problems arose that nobody foresaw.”

Milford has been working closely with registrar Alice B.
Knudsen, among others, in her efforts to remedy the situation.

“I’m interested in conflict management and working with people,”
said Milford, who believes in the win-win model of management in
which both parties in a conflict come out winners. To this end, the
changes to be implemented are meant to help everybody win,
undergraduate students and graduate students, as well as
faculty.

The following changes will take effect as of the Spring 2004
semester: The seminar classes on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. have been
pushed forward to 4:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m., giving students both time
to change classes and half an hour in which to grab dinner at
Founders, before they close at 7:00 p.m. The seminar classes were
previously scheduled for 3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m., which conflicted
with the Monday-Wednesday classes in the 2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. time
slot.

In addition, all 6:00 p.m. classes have been canceled, and a new
time slot, Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 2:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. has
been added in its place.

Milford believes that removing the 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. classes
will benefit students and faculty, in that it will allow a dinner
break.


Class schedule conflicts was published on October 16, 2003 in News

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