Block scheduling not yet set in stone

In an attempt to alleviate some of the problems students have when putting together their schedules, Dean of the College Polly Radosh has proposed the implementation of block scheduling.

If the block schedule is approved, the changes will take place in the fall 2009 semester.

According to the newly appointed dean, this semester's classes started at 195 different times, while most universities have fewer than 20 starting times. Although many courses offered at Geneseo fit into standardized 50- and 75-minute slots, four-credit classes, science labs, and education blocks often fall in-between the traditional class times.

For example, a four-credit calculus class scheduled for the spring semester will meet Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. and Thursday 11 to 11:50 a.m. Any student enrolled in this class would not be able to take any classes meeting in the popular Tuesday, Thursday 9:55 to 11:10 a.m. or 11:20 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. slots.

"These overlapping times make it very difficult to fit a schedule together," said Radosh. She has proposed that a uniform block schedule would "lessen the stress that is caused by this very uneven system" and cited Syracuse University and SUNY Potsdam as institutions with well-defined, flexible schedules that could serve as models for Geneseo.

In a series of open meetings where Radosh explained the proposal, some faculty said that an overhaul of the scheduling system was unnecessary, as scheduling difficulties are the result of many issues, most notably understaffed departments. In the wake of the current hiring freeze and the unanticipated number of entering freshmen for the fall 2008 semester, many departments can only offer a limited number of course sections.

"More courses would reduce course sizes and provide students with more opportunities," said Daniel Strang, co-advisor to freshmen entering the School of Business.

If the new system were to be enacted next fall, it would have to be finalized early in the spring semester. "I don't think [the proposed schedule] is solving the problem," said Edward Wallace, chair of the math department. He pointed out that it would likely require four-credit math classes to run for 110 minutes one day a week, a notion he described as not "pedagogically sound."

"It solves some of the problems," said Ray Spear, chair of the biology department. He said that under the block schedule, labs would overlap with fewer class times, making them easier to fit into student schedules.

Almost all faculty and the dean agreed that eliminating the all-college hour would help free up scheduling possibilities. The all-college hour currently takes place on Wednesdays from 12:45 to 1:50 p.m. Critics have argued that conflicting events during the all-college hour defeat its purpose.

"I'm not sure it's been successful," said Strang, who pointed out that in addition to the all-college hour, most departments have their own reserve time for meetings, further compressing the window in which courses can be offered.

Students, in agreement with faculty, said they do not see a need for block scheduling.

"I don't really think it would make a difference," said freshman Courtney Gibson. Sophomore Alex Ruch expressed similar sentiments: "I think there are going to be problems no matter what," he said.

"[Changing the schedule] seems like an unnecessary amount of work," said freshman Joelle Lutz. "You can't always accommodate every student."

Radosh encouraged students to attend future open meetings, which will be held in order for students and faculty to give feedback and discuss the proposal and alternative solutions.