Melanie Skapinski has four back-to-back classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
While she was choosing classes for this semester, Skapinski, an undeclared freshman, tried to enroll in courses scheduled on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but she couldn’t find any.
Skapinski isn’t the only student with a heavy course load on two days of the week. A number of Binghamton University students had difficulty forming a balanced scheduled this semester, finding many or all of their classes fall on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Historically, Tuesdays and Thursdays have always been heavier class days at BU. A larger number of classes are also usually held on Wednesdays, because it is a popular day for discussion sections, while Friday tends to be a lighter day. In fall 2017, 963 classes were held on Tuesdays and 944 met on Thursdays. That number has jumped slightly for fall 2018, with 1,000 classes meeting on Tuesdays and 953 meeting on Thursdays.
The increase in classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays can partially be attributed to a rising number of classes across the board. In fall 2017, 2,784 classes met each week across the University, but this semester, 2,824 are being offered throughout the week.
However, the increase is also driven by an emerging preference for Tuesday and Thursday classes from departments and instructors. According to Michelle Ponczek, director of the Course Building and Academic Space Management (CBASM) office, there are several different reasons why professors may prefer the two-day schedule.
“Departments and instructors select the times that they would like to teach their courses and the CBASM office tries to meet their requested times,” Ponczek wrote in an email. ” [It’s] things like personal preference, wanting to teach on two versus three days, wanting to spread the material out over more days, wanting more time to present material in one class meeting, fitting within the established guidelines, classroom availability, needing to provide multiple options for students to get required classes, offering courses at times so that they don’t conflict with other required courses [and] multi-format courses that offer discussion or lab sections.”
Despite the preference, departments should not schedule more than 45 percent of their classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to the 2018-19 Faculty-Staff Handbook. The rule is supposed to ensure that classes are easily available to students and classroom space is efficiently utilized — but some departments are breaking it.
This semester, the English department is offering 264 sections. Some, like independent study, practicum and dissertation research sections, do not have set meeting times; rather, students and professors meet at times that are convenient for them, which may vary each week. Currently, 86 English classes are meeting at scheduled times. Of those classes, 45, or 52 percent, are on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
In the biology department, which is offering 196 sections with set meeting times, 51 percent of classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Other departments, including chemistry, are also over the 45 percent limit for this semester. According to CBASM reports obtained by Pipe Dream, roughly 30 departments are currently over the 45 percent limit on Tuesdays and Thursdays for their proposed spring 2019 curriculums. Departments have until Sept. 30 to finalize their schedules for next semester.
According to Ponczek, only some departments follow the rule because it is only enforced in cases where rooms are lacking for the classes during a specific day or period of time.
“The CBASM office sends out reports to the departments during the time they are developing their schedules showing their percentages for courses scheduled in general purpose classrooms,” Ponczek wrote. “Some departments comply better than others. We only move courses out of the requested times if we do not have a classroom at the time requested. So, if rooms are available, the percentages are exceeded in the final schedule.”
Celia Klin, senior associate dean of Harpur College, said there are multiple factors that impact how departments plan their curriculums, including a need to reserve certain times for graduate courses so teaching assistants and adjuncts can teach undergraduate classes at other times of the day.
“In Harpur, we keep an eye on this, as it’s an important goal,” Klin wrote in an email. “At the same time, there are often competing demands. Thus, this is a guideline, rather than a rule.”
Additionally, some departments see lower enrollment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, according to Joseph Keith, associate professor and chair of the English department.
“We want to teach classes that students take, so that’s a factor,” Keith said. “It’s a guideline to aspire to the best we can while also teaching as many students as we can. Some of the Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes, we’ll get 11 or 13 students, so although Tuesdays and Thursday are not always more popular, there does seem to be a trend.”
But busier days on campus come with other problems. In a B-Line statement released in August, Transportation and Parking Services acknowledged that students were encountering parking problems on Tuesdays and Thursdays and encouraged them to utilize the shuttle system if they had to park in lots farther away from the center of campus.
“Tuesdays and Thursdays are busy class days, so parking on campus may be tighter than other days,” the statement read. “If you are having trouble finding a spot, parking spaces are available in ZZ North [and] South, E1 and the new lot, Lot G1, which is adjacent to Glenn G. Bartle Drive.”
Nevertheless, the main issue for students remains unbalanced schedules and a lack of options. Denisa Salemovic, a senior majoring in history, said she doesn’t mind having heavier days on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but definitely noticed the abundance of classes on the two-day schedule when she was selecting classes for the semester.
“All of my classes right now are on Tuesday and Thursday,” Salemovic said. “I’m only taking 300-levels and it seemed like if it was a 300-level class for me, it was on Tuesday and Thursday.”