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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Univ plans new schedule structure

Published: October 29, 2010
Section: Front Page

The university is planning a package of academic changes that would alter the block schedule, hold more classes twice a week and make all classes begin on the hour.

Classes on Tuesday afternoons would hold their second meetings Thursday instead of Friday under the plans, Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe said. The proposed changes will be discussed at the Nov. 4 faculty meeting with the final decision being made by Provost Marty Krauss.

“The Block Scheduling Committee has been studying this for two years: there is more demand for two-day-a-week classes and the new system will accommodate more classes that we want,” Jaffe said.

Morning classes would remain the same, as would the schedule for three-day classes (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday). The current empty slots of time Thursday where there are no classes would be switched with Friday, when nearly all classes should end “by 2 p.m.,” according to the committee’s recommendation. (Any exceptions would entail special circumstances made for labs.)

“There seems to be some positive momentum for the latest Block Schedule proposal,” Professor Tim Hickey (COSCI) and the senate chair, wrote in an e-mail. He also added that the faculty recognizes difficulties of the current system and the benefits of the change. As opposed to other changes, Hickey wrote that “some faculty and students have asked for [Monday, Wednesday, Friday] classes but … the proposed Block Schedule leaves the MWTh classes unchanged.”

The reason for choosing the more moderate proposals rather than switching to Monday, Wednesday, Friday entails the more advanced idea’s not addressing the entire problem, Hickey wrote.

“It has become a little more difficult to schedule classes over the past few years as the student body has been increasing,” he wrote. “This has been aggravated by the fact that many faculty and students tend to avoid the late Friday afternoon block. There have also been complaints for many years by students and faculty.”

An equally large change would be the slight shift in class meeting and end times: Brandeis 50- and 80-minute classes would run from the start of the hour to the 50th minute.

The change from the current schedule’s ending on the hour, a difference between Brandeis and most other universities and professional organizations, will also be discussed the coming faculty meeting but ultimately decided by the provost.

Caps placed on classes when students register will now have to be approved by the dean, Jaffe said, in a decision that he said he could take unilaterally and he is certain will be effective with the next fall term.

“Right now, we have an ad-hoc mixture of different limits on courses,” Jaffe said, “and we’ve been looking at distribution of class sizes as we now have more students and less faculty.”

Jaffe said that some caps would still exist for labs or foreign languages, but that he wants classes to be realistically capped rather than for only a teacher’s preferences.

“Overall, I think that [with all the new changes] we will be slightly better able to offer the courses we want to offer and that students need to take,” he said.

Hickey cautioned that caps are both a tool to use carefully and yet necessary for proper teaching.

“The main problem is that a class that is capped too low can unnecessarily prevent students who really want to take the class from being allowed to enroll. Likewise, a class that is capped too high can decrease the effectiveness of the course for the students that enroll,” he wrote.