Several of Binghamton University’s academic departments are violating scheduling rules, forcing students to stack their schedules and deal with overtaxed campus parking.
The Faculty-Staff Handbook states, “Academic departments are expected to schedule class meetings at standard times (see below). No more than 45 percent of a department’s sections each semester should be offered during the Tuesday/Thursday daytime meeting times and no more than 65 percent of their sections should be offered during of the prime times of the day, 9:40 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Monday/Wednesday/Friday and 10:05 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday/Thursday.”
A number of departments contacted by the Editorial Board claimed to be aware of the rule. Some said that they do strictly enforce it, while others did not respond. This semester, at least two departments are in violation of this rule. The English department has 52 percent of its classes scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the biology department has 51 percent. Clearly, this violates the statute outlined in the handbook.
According to tentative data for the spring 2019 semester, half of BU’s departments are in violation of this rule. A few departments even have 100 percent of their classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and/or 100 percent of their classes during prime time. The violating departments have until Sept. 30 to alter their scheduling distribution to fit into these requirements.
Michelle Ponczek, director of the office for Course Building and Academic Space Management, said her office generates reports that are sent to the violating departments. Though they are informed, she wrote in an email, “some departments comply better than others.” Ponczek also said that reports are also sent to deans, who “use them at their discretion.”
When the Editorial Board reached out to see how the Harpur College Dean’s Office uses these reports, Senior Associate Dean Celia Klin made it clear that though the office keeps an eye on the violations, it is not its top priority. She wrote in an email, “…this is a guideline, rather than a rule.” The fact that it is included in the handbook, however, implies that it is a rule. It seems that their “discretion” is to altogether ignore these rule violations.
Several problems have arisen as a result of the transgressions. Many students have been forced to stack their schedules so that they have all of their classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This uneven spread of the workload causes many students to have long and arduous days, even to the extent of having four classes back-to-back. Though the Editorial Board acknowledges that some students prefer to stack their classes in this way so that they can get a job and work on their days off, every student should have the choice to design their schedule in whatever way is most conducive to them. They shouldn’t be left with no other choice than to stack all of their classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Another issue is the difficulty of finding parking on campus. Earlier in the semester, Transportation and Parking Services even issued a B-Alert statement on parking availability, which stated, “Tuesdays and Thursdays are busy class days, so parking on campus may be tighter than other days.” This adds an extra layer of frustration to students simply trying to get to class on time.
There are some issues with holding classes outside of prime times. As Klin points out, “…some classes simply won’t fill if they are offered outside of ‘prime time.’” Many students do not want to take classes early in the morning. Some students work at night, and later classes would conflict with their work schedules. However, the 65 percent of classes allowed to be inside the prime hours should, being over half of classes, be more than enough room to hold pertinent classes during the day.
All in all, the fact remains that these departments are in violation of University rules and there appears to be no oversight or consequences for their transgressions. Rules are laid out for a reason, and it is appalling that the University has such blatant disregard for them. Why do these policies exist at all if they are not going to be enforced? University departments and offices must hold themselves to some kind of standard, or else risk falling apart completely.