The Columbia student’s Friday routine of heading downtown for an internship—or just sleeping in—may look a bit different starting in fall 2012.
That’s when more seminar classes will be held on Friday and more classes will start at 8:40 a.m., if recommendations from a recent faculty report are implemented.
According to the report, only four percent of seminar classes are currently offered on Fridays, an imbalance that has caused serious scheduling issues. Starting some classes at 8:40 a.m. would allow for the establishment of two new lecture periods on Mondays through Thursdays—enabling the same number of classrooms to serve more students.
The recommendations were released last week by the University’s Classroom Committee, a group charged with assessing scarcity of classroom space on the Morningside campus.
“Our use is far outpacing our ability to build classrooms,” said English professor Jean Howard, chair of the Classroom Committee, which includes representatives from Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Barnard College, the School of International and Public Affairs, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
The University’s overall enrollment has grown by 20,000 students since 1998, when the last major review on classroom space was conducted.
“For 12 years our basic stock of classrooms has grown static while the campus population kept growing,” Howard said.
“We have to try everything because the situation will only get worse over the next three to four years until Manhattanville opens up, at least,” Howard said, referring to the campus expansion that will open up some buildings on the Morningside campus as departments and graduate schools move north.
Currently, foreign language departments hold the most Friday classes, because many foreign language classes meet three times per week.
But the proposed solutions have some students anxious, since Friday classes have traditionally been kept to a minimum to accommodate internships and jobs.
“Columbia sells itself on the fact that students will have internships and a chance to explore the city on Fridays,” Rebecca Clark, CC ’11, said. “Putting more seminars on Fridays will cut the opportunities that a school in New York City offers.”
Kasia Kokoszka, BC ’11, said that she is concerned holding more classes on Friday will hurt students looking for work in a competitive job market.
“We’re told we need work experience and there’s an expectation we’ll get internships and jobs,” she said. “How do we do that with more seminar classes on Fridays?”
Peter Robertson, CC ’12, said that he’s already used to taking Friday classes.
“The students who don’t want classes on Friday just won’t take them,” he said. “I’ve taken Friday classes and they’ve been some of the best I’ve taken.”
But Robertson acknowledged that for some students, Fridays are religious holidays or time to earn money to pay for books.
“It’s not just a question of ‘wanting more free time’ on Fridays,” Robertson said in an email.
Howard said she realizes that many students will feel uneasy about more Friday classes, adding that the number of departments involved in scheduling—including Columbia University Information Technology, the Office of Registration and Financial Services and the Registrar’s Office—cause many difficulties in decision-making.
But it is not just students who are concerned about the changes.
Pascale Hubert-Leibler, the director of the French Language Program, recalled a year when she had to persuade faculty in the French Department to draw lots for who would teach a Friday class.
“It was a real battle because nobody wanted to teach on Friday, especially in the morning,” Hubert-Leibler said.
Some faculty members, though, remain unfazed.
“Frankly, I consider Friday a weekday,” said professor of Latin American and Iberian Cultures Graciela Montaldo. “The main question is not whether we teach on Fridays, but how to devise creative options to deal with the busiest semesters.”
The committee also stressed that its recommendation to add more seminars on Fridays is still relatively modest.
“It is a tiny proportion of those classes that [currently] meet Monday through Thursday” which would be affected, Howard said.
Kathryn Yatrakis, the dean of academic affairs at Columbia College, stressed that there is still time to discuss the changes before they are implemented.
“It is good that these changes are not coming until the fall of 2012,” Yatrakis said. “It gives us time to think everything through.”