Andrew Ghazi, SEAS ’13, doesn’t consider himself a morning person. But that didn’t stop him from enrolling in Applied Data Mining, one of the 8:40 a.m. classes being offered for the first time this semester.
“I didn’t have any other choice,” Ghazi said. “It was the only one that fit into my schedule.”
Before this semester, the earliest start time for lecture classes was 9:10 a.m. But as the University’s student body has grown over the last decade—there were about 61,000 course enrollments in 2011, up from 41,000 in 2001—classroom space on the already-crowded Morningside Heights campus has become scarcer, leading administrators to look for ways to distribute it more effectively.
In early 2011, a committee charged with examining the classroom space crunch recommended starting classes at 8:40 a.m., so as to allow for the creation of an additional morning lecture period. The committee also recommended creating a new lecture period at 7:40 p.m., adding a seminar period at 8:10 p.m., and scheduling more Friday classes. University Registrar Barry Kane announced in March that those changes would be implemented this semester, garnering mixed reactions from the student body.
Still, some students who chose to enroll in 8:40 a.m. classes have taken the early start time in stride. Ellie Kirk, CC ’16, said that she prefers to have earlier classes, because they enable her to use her day more efficiently.
“I know that if I took a later class I would sleep later and just laze around my dorm,” said Kirk, who is enrolled in an 8:40 a.m. class. “I think it’s important to get started with the day. Hopefully, this will motivate me to not go to bed too late during the week.”
Sarah Thompson, CC ’16, switched from Frontiers of Science into an 8:40 a.m. University Writing section. She said she was not excited about waking up early, calling it a “necessary evil” but adding that she wasn’t against Columbia offering classes that early.
“If people are willing to take a class earlier, they should be allowed to,” Thompson said.
Math professor Alexander Drewitz is teaching two sections of Calculus II, one at 8:40 a.m. and one at 10:10 a.m. He said he was surprised that more students signed up for the earlier class than for the later class.
“There were a bit more than 90, though I don’t know the details of what the previous schedule was like,” he said. “I mean, I’m hoping I’m not making myself unpopular here, but I think 8:40 is OK.”
Barnard French professor Isabelle Jouanneau-Fertig, who teaches Review of French Fundamentals at 8:40 a.m., expressed enthusiasm about students having more scheduling choices this semester.
“The more choices for students and the more choices for teachers, the better,” she said. “Students know what they’re getting into. Not once have I had a complaint about early classes.”
Kane, too, said that he hasn’t heard any complaints about earlier classes, noting that “the new schedule is all about creating more options, not requiring any particular scenarios.”
“Adding more official time slots to the academic day, regardless of when these are scheduled, is an action meant to spread existing courses over more times, thereby creating more favorable options for students,” he said in an email.
Still, Thompson said that continuing to expand the academic day—it now lasts from 8:40 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.—does not seem like a viable solution to the space crunch on campus.
“It’s not uncommon for universities to start at 8:00, so I can see it coming down to that,” Thompson said. “But I wouldn’t take that class.”
Ghazi agreed, noting that some students are still upset with the changes to the schedule.
“This is already making people mad,” he said. “Earlier classes would not be a good idea.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article’s graphic misstated two of the old class periods. The graphic has been fixed to reflect the correct former class periods.